The question of whether to get lace up or pull on work boots really depends on what kind of jobs you expect to be working.
Each type of boot has its benefits and its drawbacks. There are certain jobs where you should absolutely get one type over the other. I’ll try and cover as many scenarios as possible so you leave knowing the exact type of work boots that’s going to help you get the job done.
Pull On vs Lace Up Work Boots: Which is Best?
I’m going to use a few boots from one of my favorite work boot brands, Ariat, to demonstrate what you can expect from a lace up boot vs a pull on boot.
The Benefits of Lace Up Boots
Probably the biggest benefit of a lace up boot is that you get the best possible ankle support.
For work boots, I always recommend at least a 6” shaft as that’s going to offer more security for your ankle and keep your heel set back in the boot. A great example is the Ariat Endeavor.
This 8-inch boot has firm arch support and a thick nylon shank, plus very little drop in the heel, which makes it an excellent choice for anyone looking for relief from plantar fasciitis or lower back pain.
Ariat’s work boots have a ton of shock absorption and I think Ariat is the most comfort-focused work boot brand I’ve ever personally tried.
With a lace up like the Endeavor, the tighter you make the laces, the more ankle support you get.
But a second major benefit of a lace up work boot comes with the fit. Everyone has different shaped feet. And even your two feet can have different shapes (for instance, my right foot has a taller instep than the left, which makes my boots crease differently).
So with laces, you can tighten or loosen certain parts based on your comfort level. You get a much more customized fit in your boots.
And not only that, you can also try several different lacing methods to achieve different levels of security in the various parts of your foot. Check out my video below to see six ways to lace your boots (some are looser for more flexibility, some keep your heel set back, some just look cool).
So to summarize, the biggest benefits you get with a lace up boot are:
– Best possible ankle support (this only increases if you get a 6”, 8”, or even 10” boot).
– More flexibility in sizing, which is ideal if you have differently shaped feet, or if your feet tend to swell throughout the work day.
The Benefits of Pull On Work Boots
Pull on work boots are a necessity for ranch workers. And the reason why is also applicable to a lot of other trades.
If you’re working a ranch, there’s a lot of mud, muck, and debris. If you have lace up boots in that scenario, all that crud will get stuck in the laces and eyelets and be a total mess.
Your life will be much easier with a pull on, which you can just hose off at the end of the day.
Obviously, ranch work isn’t the only kind of dirty work. So if your job has you regularly standing in mud, or really any job where your boots get seriously dirty, then I recommend pull on boots.
A great example is the Ariat Intrepid western style work boot. Unlike a lot of pull on work boots, the Intrepid (and all of Ariat’s work boots to be honest) is really easy to pull on. I once threw out my back putting on a pair of cowboy boots, so this is a special feature to me.
Ariat boots feature what they call a U-Turn Entry, which is something no other boot brands I know of have. It’s a flexible piece of elastic hidden in the back of the shaft, so the opening expands a little as you slip the boots on.
This essentially makes them as easy to slip on as a pair of Chelsea boots, but they retain all the rugged durability of a traditional work boot.
On the flip side, Ariat boots are also really easy to pull off because of the U-Turn Entry. It might not sound like a major benefit, but anyone with a bad back knows how painful it can be to struggle with a pair of boots.
A lot of guys give up on boots completely because of this. The level of comfort Ariat provides is a major reason I recommend them often for work boots.
To summarize the main benefits of pull on work boots:
– They’re easier to clean, so if you work a dirty job, pull on boots are much better.
– They’re easier to slip on and off, which is great for everyone, but particularly helpful if you struggle with lower back pain.
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.
Drawbacks of Lace Up and Pull On Boots
Lace up boots take longer to put on, and if you want the benefit of that extra ankle support, you need to re-lace your boots every day. It might not sound like a big issue, but if you have lower back pain, every moment hunched over your boots is a struggle.
Laces also undergo wear and tear, so they can start to fray and can snap. If you bust a lace in the middle of the work day, you just end up going around with a floppy boot all day. At best, it’s annoying. At worst, it’s dangerous.
So if you work any job where your boots get dirty often, I’d stick with a pull on.
However, pull on boots aren’t always the best choice for a few reasons. They don’t have as much ankle support, and they tend to have more heel-slip in them, especially when you’re breaking in new boots.
Because the boots feel a bit looser, you might not have the total security needed when you’re climbing a ladder or a pole.
Climbers, arborists, and line workers should always wear lace up boots for the best support.
On the flip side, if you size down to compensate for the looser fit, you may end up with pull on boots that feel too tight and crowd your instep. This can just feel uncomfortable and even painful as you go through your day.
Should You Get Lace Up or Pull On Work Boots?
If you’ve read all the above and you’re truly still on the fence, I recommend a lace up work boot like the Ariat Endeavor.
The reason is that if you’re shopping online, the increased leeway you get with a lace up’s sizing is going to come in handy.
A pull on work boot needs to fit perfectly to give you the support you need to work difficult jobs. So it’s always better to try those on in person if you can.
If you want more ankle support (especially for climbers and linemen), then a lace up boot is a must.
If your feet swell throughout the day, like in hot weather, then I recommend a lace up.
If you work a dirty job and your boots are regularly in mud and dirt, then a pull on work boot is a much better choice. You can just hose them off and skip dealing with all the crud that clogs up the eyelets.
If you struggle with lower back pain, I also like pull on work boots—particularly Ariat boots like the Intrepid or WorkHog because they have a piece of elastic in the shaft that makes them really easy to slip on and take off. That way, you don’t have to spend any time hunched over your boots, which can be a major pain.