A year ago, I picked up the Ariat WorkHog because I was helping my brother build a brick oven in his backyard.
I beat those boots up nicely, and they were my go-to work boots. Until I cut one of them in half with an exacto-knife for a YouTube video.
So now that I’m about to get a place of my own, there’s no shortage of work ahead of me. I picked up the Groundbreaker, Ariat’s budget-friendly pull on work boot.
After testing it out, I have some thoughts and opinions. Keep reading to find out what I’ve learned.
Ariat Groundbreaker Work Boot Overview
While most Ariat boots are right around $200, the Groundbreaker can be found well under $150.
In this review, I’m looking at the non-safety-toe version, though there’s a steel toe version available for a slightly higher cost (still under $150).
The Groundbreaker meets the ASTM F2892 safety rating for electrical hazard protection and has a 1.5cm thick sole at the thinnest part, so it’s a solid boot for general labor (light construction, factory, warehouse, and ranch work).
Things to Consider Before Buying the Ariat Groundbreaker Work Boot
But to get such an inexpensive boot, some corners were cut. This isn’t just true of Ariat, but pretty much all boots under $200. The Groundbreaker features a cemented sole construction, which presents some durability and water-resistance issues.
If you work a lot in the mud, you’ll be much better off with something Goodyear welted like the Ariat WorkHog. The Goodyear Welt will help keep your socks dry and will help keep the sole attached to the upper, which is another issue cemented soles often struggle with.
On the positive side, Ariat has their focus on comfort. And this is a super comfortable boot. Because of that, I recommend the Groundbreaker more for folks who stand on their feet a lot, but aren’t exposing their boots to really rough treatment.
The Groundbreaker can take some hits, but if you’re often in muddy terrain or hazardous conditions, you’ll want to invest more in something like the WorkHog.
Ariat Groundbreaker Review
I picked up the standard Groundbreaker, which has a round non-safety toe.
What drew me to the Groundbreaker was the style, actually. Previously, I owned the Ariat WorkHog (until I cut one in half), and the Groundbreaker has a much smaller profile. It’s still not a slim boot, but the toe box is about a half-inch shorter, and the details are more subtle.
The boot shaft is suede and features western stitching, and the toe box is a full grain leather that also has a western stitch detail.
It’s a standard western boot, which I like. There are some modern elements to this boot, but Ariat has kept them all on the inside and left the design classic and simple.
Leather Quality and Care
The Groundbreaker uses a full grain leather upper for the toe box and heel, plus suede in the shaft.
The upper is 1mm thick, which is quite thin, especially for a work boot. To compare that to other boots, the WorkHog has 1.5mm leather, the Thorogood Moc Toe has 2mm thick leather, and the Red Wing Classic Moc has 2.5mm thick leather.
Full grain leather is the best classification of leather, and it’s very soft and supple right out of the box. The leather is good quality, but it’s just a bit thin, which can lead to durability issues down the road if you’re tough on your footwear.
The entire boot has a cloth lining, which helps a lot with breathability. That’s one thing Ariat has done a great job with all their boots: allowing the heat to escape while you’re working.
If you’re planning on using the Groundbreaker year-round, you’ll be pleased with its performance in the summer. That lighter leather and cloth lining become a bonus during the hot months as it allows the moisture to escape through the shaft.
Caring for the leather is easy—I use Bick 4 leather conditioner, which is inexpensive and keeps the leather refreshed. The only downside with Bick 4 is that it doesn’t penetrate very deeply into the leather, but the Groundbreaker doesn’t have thick leather, so it’s not an issue.
Bick 4 is an outstanding addition to your leather conditioner collection. It’s inexpensive and perfect for giving your boots a pick-me-up without changing the color at all. It doesn’t penetrate deep into the leather, so you should use a liberal amount, and you may want to do several layers, but the price is right.
The Ariat Groundbreaker is outfitted with what the brand calls 4LR technology. To me it didn’t seem much different than most other cemented sole boots.
One thing I really like about the Groundbreaker is that it has a removable insole. The standard insole they ship with the boots is plenty comfortable for me—this is something Ariat always does a fantastic job with.
But if you struggle with plantar fasciitis, or you just need extra support from your boots, you’re able to add your own custom insole.
The midsole is a riveted piece of fiberboard, which is to be expected from a low-cost boot. The Groundbreaker features a synthetic shank. With the shank, you’ll get extra stability and arch support. This is great if you’re climbing on ladders, fences, or motorcycles as you don’t want the center of your boot sole to bend at all.
The outsole is a custom Ariat job with decent traction and oil resistance. It’s a soft rubber, especially compared to the waterproof WorkHog, which has a much tougher sole.
On the plus side, the softer rubber offers better traction on wet cement, ice, and snow. But what you get with traction, you lose in durability. However, I doubt the sole will wear out before the cemented construction or leather do—or they’ll all wear out at the same time. So I’m happy with the softer rubber sole and added traction.
Fit and Sizing
This is now my third pair of Ariat boots, and the Groundbreaker lives up to how comfortable my other two pairs are.
I ordered my sneaker size (10.5). With other boot makers like Red Wing and Thorogood, I order a half-size smaller (10), but Ariat sizes their boots much like Nike or Reebok size their shoes.
The fit and sizing is the greatest strength of the Ariat Groundbreaker in my opinion. They’re super comfortable and the thinner leather make it so that you never feel any rubbing on the instep or heel.
I picked mine up in a D-width, though there are plenty of sizing options for EE-width wide Groundbreakers, too.
If you’re ever worried about that, the best thing you can do is wear a pair of thick wool socks the first few days of breaking in a new pair of boots. Here are our favorite work boot socks if you want some recommendations.
What do Other Reviewers Say?
At the time of writing, the Ariat Groundbreaker tallies up a 4.3-star rating with over 50 reviews on the Ariat site.
All the reviews that mentioned sizing felt they were true to size, so if you own a pair of sneakers, you’ll want to get the same size for your Ariat boots.
There were several reviewers who’ve had their boots for multiple years, worn them through all kinds of light-duty work, and say they’re still holding up well, so that’s promising.
Ariat Groundbreaker Alternatives
I’ll start with what’s similar: they’re both extremely comfortable and breathable in hot weather. They’re on even ground there.
But the WorkHog is 100% waterproof, features a Goodyear welt, has thicker leather, and has a harder sole that’s more puncture resistant than the sole of the Groundbreaker.
If you’re planning on being rough with your boots, I’d be willing to bet that you’re getting a better price-per-wear with the Ariat WorkHog compared to the Groundbreaker.
Sure, the Groundbreaker is less expensive, but the cemented construction and 1mm leather isn’t going to be able to take the same beating as the WorkHog.
Ariat gave these an apt name. These waterproof work boots are tough. Combine that with Ariat's ATS comfort system, and suddenly working on your feet for 10-12 hours straight is much easier.
Wolverine Hellcat Ultraspring Wellington
The Hellcat Wellington from Wolverine uses a Goodyear welt construction, which adds water resistance and will ensure that the upper and sole stay attached for longer.
Wolverine also uses 1.5mm thick leather for their uppers, so you’ll have increased durability and foot protection there.
The biggest downside with the Hellcat Wellington is that it’s a huge boot and doesn’t really look all that great.
The Ariat Groundbreaker is a much better looking boot, and it’s one of the few work boots I think you can actually get away with wearing to the bar on Friday night.
Also, the Groundbreaker is more comfortable if you’re standing in place for many hours of the day.
So if you need more durability from your boot, can’t go above $150, and you’re willing to sacrifice a little comfort and a lot of style, the Wolverine Hellcat Wellington is worth a closer look.
Wolverine's new Ultraspring insole technology makes these rugged work boots one of the most comfortable options on the market. If you're regularly standing on your feet for eight to ten hours a day, you'll want to look into these.
My Thoughts Overall On the Ariat Groundbreaker
What I Like
It’s a modern work boot, decked out with the latest tech, but it still has that classic western style.
They’re super comfortable, and a great pick if you stand in place for 8+ hours a day.
There are square toe and steel toe options available.
What I Don’t Like
The cemented sole construction presents durability issues, especially compared to any boot with a Goodyear welt.
Because of the cemented sole, they’re not very water resistant.
Who is the Ariat Groundbreaker for?
If you need an inexpensive boot for light-duty work and want it to still look stylish, the Ariat Groundbreaker is a fantastic choice for you.
Budget-friendly boots are always going to have trade-offs.
I like the Ariat Groundbreaker—it’s one of my favorite slip on work boots because it’s so comfortable and the price is right.
But it’s impossible for any boot maker to check off all the boxes with a boot under $150.
The drawbacks to the Ariat Groundbreaker are that the leather is thin at 1mm, and the cemented sole construction leaves the boot vulnerable to water and might not hold up well to tough work.
For these reasons, I’d spend the extra $50-60 and get something like the Ariat WorkHog. Sure, it’s about 30% more expensive, but the WorkHog has a Goodyear welt, is fully waterproof, and has more puncture resistance in the sole.
If you’re going to be working in your new boots, the Groundbreaker won’t be able to handle the tough work like a WorkHog will.
Now light-duty work is a different story. And I’d much rather wear Groundbreakers to the bar on Friday night than my WorkHogs.
Only you know what plans you have for your new boots, but I’d be honest with how much punishment you have planned for your footwear and invest accordingly.
Are Ariat Groundbreaker boots waterproof?
There are some versions of the Groundbreaker that are waterproof. The standard Groundbreaker isn’t waterproof, but Ariat does a good job of clearly indicating which boots are waterproof and which aren’t.
Are Ariat boots good quality?
Yes, Ariat boots offer good quality for their cost
How long should Ariat boots last?
Ariat boots should last at least two years. This depends on what kind of treatment you give your boots, and which models you buy. But if you clean and condition your boots a few times a year and don’t subject them to extremely rough conditions, they should last several years.