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Putting the boot in

Footwear

Rusty nails, broken glass, uneven concrete, shards of metal - when on site engineers need a lot of boot for their money. And boot it is, as few engineers would consider a shoe as the potential for injury is not just to feet but also to ankles.

Health and safety regulations demand a steel toecap and midsole as essential - the steel prevents the danger of any item penetrating the bottom of the boot or your toes being crushed. Sadly, these features are not found in most popular 'fashion' boots so you'll do well to steer clear of those tiger print Dr Marten's you had your eye on.

Spending time choosing the right boot for you is however crucial, particularly if you are going to spend your entire working life wearing them - the wrong boot can ruin your day.

Key features to consider when buying a boot include:

Water resistance: Most boots need some water resistance (ie. good quality leather uppers), but is it really worth forking out for a fully waterproofed Gore-tex boot if you are only visiting site once a month? A cheaper pair, that you waterproof yourself, may be the perfect answer.

Comfort: A badly fitting, or uncomfortable boot can make life miserable on site - the sole type often affects this factor.

Warmth: Cold feet in the winter are as bad as sweaty feet in the summer - linings can help.

Breathability: If you live in your boots it really is worth giving your feet some environmental control. But breathable fabrics can push up prices considerably.

Price: Decide how much you want to spend but make sure you get all the features you are paying for. Less than £30 is cheap, £50-60 is average, more than £90 is expensive.

Heat/chemical resistance: Construction sites are harsh environments. Make sure your boots are not going to melt or dissolve on your feet - a rubber sole can stand temperatures of 300degreesC, polyurethane gets tacky above 120degreesC.

Weight: Again, this factor is often affected by sole type - generally rubber soles are the heaviest.

What makes a good boot good?

Soles: Boot soles are particularly important as they affect comfort, shock absorption, amount of waterproofing and also how well your feet are shielded from chemicals.

Soles come in two types, rubber and polyurethane. Rubber tends to be heavy with little shock absorption but is extremely tough. Polyurethane is lighter - some say too light - very comfortable with good shock absorption, but may not cope with chemical or heat attack.

One solution might be to opt for a polyurethane-rubber mix with a spongy polyurethane inner and rubber outer offering both heat resistance and comfort.

All soles are water resistant with one key exception. Goodyear Welt Construction boots - such as those made by CAT - stick to the traditional method of shoemaking and sew the sole to the upper. The advantage is a flexible insole that moulds itself to the wearer's foot, the disadvantage is that they are heavy and can leak through stitches.

Uppers: Most boot uppers are made from leather but vary in quality and cut. The quality of the leather used dictates the amount of water resistance and breathability of the upper.

The better quality the cut, the more water resistance offered but even the best leather can only offer at most two hours of dry comfort - more if you keep them well cleaned and polished with dubbin. So called 'rigger' boots which go higher up the ankle without laces may be better, but the only way to be really certain of dry socks is to buy a boot that has a waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex. This has the added advantage of being breathable.

Some boots also offer extra linings for added comfort. Gore-Tex boots have a Dri-Lex lining, that draws additional moisture from the feet to keep them cool and dry. Insulation such as 3M thinsulate can give extra warmth in cold weather - or a simple wool lining may suffice.

Cat Dunlap Boot

Price: £68.00

Comfort: Cambrelle lining (absorbs foot moisture).

Waterproofing: Not water resistant.

Sizes: 6-12

Sole heat resistance: 300degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'Weighty product with little shock absorption. You're paying for brand name - also non-waterproofed.'

Terra Gore-Tex Boot

Price: £105.00

Comfort: Removable footbed, thinsulate insulation and a shock absorbing midsole. Includes shock absorbing insole for extra comfort

Waterproofing: Waterproof breathable Gore-Tex lining. Full grain water resistant leathers and a Gore-Tex bootie ensures that the boot is fully waterproof while still being breathable.

Sizes: 7-12 Half sizes available.

Sole heat resistance: 300degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'Deluxe model - comfortable, hardwearing boot with full waterproofing and breatheability. Pricey, however.'

268 ARCO Trojan Welted Boot

Price: £49.95

Comfort: Good leather uppers and a thinsulate lining. Little shock absorption. Goodyear welted style sole.

Waterproofing: Not water resistant

Sizes: 6-12

Sole heat resistance: 300degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'Good quality uppers and lining but little shock absorption and non-waterproofed sole. Good heat resistance and all at a reasonable price.'

E82 ARCO Trojan Ladies Boot

Price: £39.95

Comfort: Cambrelle lining and a padded seat sock together with a generous width fit and a lightweight sole add to comfort. Rivetted at stress points.

Waterproofing: Quality leathers offer some resistance to water penetration.

Sizes: 3-8 Half sizes available.

Sole heat resistance: 120degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'Good comfort option, lightweight, some water resistance and reasonably cheap. Also a large range of sizes. Good all-rounder, but sole is less heat-resistant.'

406SI ARCO Rigger Boot

Price: £42.95

Comfort: Warm pile lining for winter warmth and comfort plus a Nitrile rubber sole with traditional Rigger boot styling.

Waterproofing: Not water resistant.

Sizes: 6-12

Sole heat resistance: 300degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'The rubber sole offers great heat protection, but can lead to foot fatigue if worn for prolonged periods due to weight and no shock absorption. Comfort is reduced but the warm lining helps, especially in winter. It is non-waterproofed - but reasonably cheap and hardwearing.'

376 ARCO Black Chukka Boot

Price: £29.50

Comfort: Combines collar and tongue padding with a shock absorbing lightweight dual density sole unit.

Waterproofing: Not water resistant.

Sizes: 3-12

Sole heat resistance: 120degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'Chunky boot, with a good range of sizes and reasonable comfort. Non-waterproofed, and lower heat resistance, but great value for money.'

Terra S.O.G. Boot

Price: £75.95

Comfort: Features such as a removable footbed, thinsulate insulation and a shock absorbing midsole. Includes shock absorbing insole for extra comfort. Waterproofing: Resists water penetration and absorption with full grain North American leathers.

Sizes: 6-12. Half sizes available.

Sole heat resistance: 300degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'Makes for a comfortable option. Hardwearing and less pricey than Gore-tex version, although not as well-waterproofed.'

629 Black Gore-Tex Boot

Price: £77.54

Comfort: Lightweight shock absorbing dual density sole unit.

Waterproofing: Offers full waterproof qualities due to Gore-Tex membrane and good quality leather uppers.

Sizes: 6-12

Sole heat resistance: 120degreesC

Steve Hall says: 'Very comfortable, light, fully waterproofed. Slightly costly however, with lower heat resistance.'

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