Published Jun 28, 2022 11:37 AM
A good pair of farm boots will dramatically improve a rancher’s day. Farmers seldom stand still for long. They carry heavy loads and wrestle with reluctant animals. It happens in blazing sunshine, pouring rain, snow and ice, and on dirt, muck, concrete, and asphalt.
Farm boots don’t just need to be strong, they need to be warm, and comfortable. Sore feet will end a day in no time. If fatigue affects concentration then there is the potential for accidents, and on a farm that can result in serious injury. Fortunately several footwear makers offer excellent solutions. We’ve been looking at the best farm boots on the market for all the different challenges farmers and ranchers face.
Things to Consider Before Buying The Best Farm Boots
Before we look at our top picks for best farm boots it’s worth spending a couple of minutes to consider the key elements. Many people know what they want from their boots, but a quick recap may point out valuable features that have been overlooked.
Cowhide and full-grain leather remain the hardest-wearing boot materials available and are still widely used in farm boots. Although, they have a couple of drawbacks. Cowhides are usually stiff when new, which results in a longer break-in period. Although water-resistant, natural leathers are not fully waterproof without either some kind of treatment (polyurethane coating is sometimes used) or a membrane on the inside.
Rubber is a popular alternative. Synthetic compounds are used because natural rubber wears too quickly, and can start to break down when it transitions from heat to cold. Synthetic rubber doesn’t have the abrasion resistance of leather, but offers great waterproofing, so it’s ideal in heavy mud and muck. However, it isn’t breathable, so feet can get sweaty. Liners help manage the problem, and we’ll look at those in a minute. Some of the best rubber hunting boots could also do double-duty as a farm boot, potentially saving money. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) boots are also available. They cost less and offer equal levels of waterproofing, but may not have quite the same flexibility or durability.
Construction is another key area. Multiple rows of stitching can be very strong, but each of those holes is an opportunity for water to leak in. Seam sealing is sometimes used as an additional waterproof barrier. On some farm boots, a cement construction is used for the sole. This effectively glues the parts together so there are no holes to leak. Another popular method is the Goodyear welt construction that puts an additional interlocking layer (welt) between sole and upper, thus providing an effective seal. Farm boots made with a Goodyear welt can also be resolved by any competent cobbler should they wear out.
The type of farm or ranch will have an impact on the level of safety needed. Farm boots usually have a reasonably tall shank to prevent liquids, and debris from getting into your socks, and leather boots also provide good protection from abrasion. However, they can reduce mobility so shorter work boots may be preferred, particularly if the ground is usually dry.
Where heavy weights or farm machinery are used, safety toes are a good idea. Steel toe boots are common and very strong. Safety toes may also be made of aluminum alloy or composite materials (carbon fiber, fiberglass, or kevlar). Both of these are lighter but more expensive. The important thing to look for is an ASTM F2413 rating, which certifies the toe as complying with the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards for workplace protection.
Having sure footing in wet and slippery conditions is another key feature, so sole structure and lug pattern should be checked to see if they offer good traction. The best farm boots don’t necessarily need deep, aggressive tread. It should be appropriate to the surface conditions normally faced.
Rollover ankle injuries are quite common. Although a strong leather boot gives reasonable support, some farm boots also have a nylon or steel shank that runs through between midsole and sole. This prevents lateral twisting, while still allowing normal forward and back flexing.
Waterproof membranes like those from GoreTex are often used with leather farm boots to keep feet dry. These are breathable to help manage sweat, and prevent blisters. Moisture-wicking liners also draw sweat away from the feet. If cold is a problem there are insulated options. In fact, our top rubber farm boot is made by a company that also features a boot in our best winter hiking boots story.
Apart from wet and cold, there is also the level of cushioning and foot care to consider. Insoles vary from those that are quite basic, to those that follow orthotic principles. Many are removable so if they don’t meet expectations they can be upgraded. Midsoles may also offer cushioning and are frequently designed to absorb impacts.
Why It Made The Cut
Justin Boots have been making high-quality farm and ranch boots for over 140 years. This model demonstrates that skill, and experience with its durability, comfort, and easy-to-wear style.
- Material: Cowhide
- Size Range: 6 to 13 (including wides)
- Weight (each): 24 ounces
- Excellent durability
- High comfort
- Very good value
- Not fully waterproof
- Only available up to size 13
Justin Boots has been around since 1879, so few brands offer that kind of experience when it comes to making farm boots. In fact, the brand claims to have invented the roper-style, a western boot with a lower, more stable heel for groundwork. The Justin Boots 3001 Farm & Ranch boot is a good example.
The upper is traditional cowhide. It does take a few days to break in but offers outstanding durability. There is also good water resistance, though it is not 100% waterproof. The round toe gives plenty of space while also being ideal for riding. The low heel gives it that renowned stability.
There are no fancy liners inside, but there is a triple-density insole that provides excellent cushioning. The memory foam midsole is designed to conform to the individual foot shape, giving good support and preventing friction. Justin Boots claim that the J-Flex Comfort System makes these “the most comfortable boots you will ever own”. A synthetic rubber sole offers good multi-surface traction, though the tread isn’t ideal for thick mud.
There are certainly more heavy-duty farm boots around, but the Justin Boots 3001 Farm & Ranch boot is a versatile all-rounder for work and casual wear. It is also very affordable.
Best for Women
Why It Made The Cut
The Carhartt Women’s Work Boot has a host of features that make it ideal for farm and ranch work. This is not a small man’s boot, but one specifically designed for women.
- Material: Leather and Nylon Mesh
- Size Range: 6 to 11
- Weight (each): 30 ounces
- Durable but supple
- Completely waterproof
- ASTM-rated safety toe
- Not the lightest
- No wide fit options
Carhartt is one of the few leading boot makers that instead of expecting women to choose a smaller man’s size, actually produces a work boot designed for the female foot. This is not a western-styled fashion boot. It is a tough farm boot for hard-working women.
The upper is full-grain leather that has been oil-tanned to make it more supple. The shaft uses Carstrong fabric, a nylon mesh intended to reduce weight where less protection is required. It is a good idea, but the Carhartt Women’s Work Boot is very rugged, and remains relatively heavy.
Inside there’s Carhartt’s own StormDefender breathable membrane to provide waterproofing. A moisture-wicking liner combats sweat and odor. Insole and midsole are both PU, providing cushioning and absorbing shocks. There is a non-metallic composite safety toe that meets the important ASTM standard, and also offers secondary protection against electric shocks.
The composite rubber sole has aggressive lugs that cut through muck and mud to provide sure-footing when the ground is slippery. It is joined to the upper using the high-quality Goodyear welt method.
Some find the opening of the Carhartt Women’s Work Boot a little narrow, so it isn’t the easiest to put on. A few also feel that the sizes run small. A number of half-sizes are available, but there are no wide fittings.
Why It Made The Cut
The Dunlop DuraBoot is high on safety features, and low on cost. It makes an ideal partner for leather farm boots, or for part-time use.
- Material: PVC
- Size Range: 3 to 16
- Weight (each): 48 ounces
- Good safety
- Made in the USA
- Low cost
PVC is a low-cost alternative to rubber that is used for an enormous variety of products. Dunlop employs injection-molding techniques to create the upper of the DuraBoot in a single, seamless piece that is then bonded to the sole for a completely waterproof shell. The enthusiastically-described ‘360° pull tab’ for getting the boots on is basically a round hole. It works fine though.
Inside there is a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) insole that provides comfortable cushioning. An ASTM-certified steel toe provides a high level of protection in that area, and a steel shank prevents the boot from twisting. However, there is no moisture-wicking liner, and the boots are not breathable so feet can get hot. The soles are resistant to oils, grease, and chemicals. The Safety-loc tread is designed to shed muck and mud, while also providing excellent traction on all surfaces.
The Dunlop DuraBoot is described as lightweight, but frankly isn’t. While they are certainly flexible they are not well adapted to situations where rapid changes in direction are needed. In our view, they are at their best as an extra pair for those who usually wear a leather farm boot. They are also a good choice for those who need waterproof boots around the farm and garden, but wouldn’t wear them all day, every day.
Why It Made The Cut
The Muck Chore Classic is a design that has been proven for over 20 years. This tall version offers excellent protection in conditions where leather farm boots struggle.
- Material: Neoprene Rubber
- Size Range: 5 to 16
- Weight (each): 35 ounces
- Tall, waterproof protection
- Good all-surface traction
- Competitively priced
- Feet can get hot
- No half sizes
Muck Boots have long been recognized as having some of the best farm boots available. The synthetic neoprene rubber is strong, very flexible, and completely waterproof. It is triple-layered at the toe, and quadruple-layered at the heel to provide extra durability in high wear areas. A stretch-fit top closes the top of the boot against the leg to keep out water, cold, and debris.
Inside the shell is a 5mm (1/5”) neoprene foam bootie that conforms to the foot shape for added comfort. It also helps absorb shocks. The basic insole is removable should buyers want to upgrade it. A breathable, moisture-wicking lining helps with sweat management that can be a problem with rubber farm boots. A steel shank runs through the foot providing good support, and resistance to twisting. The sole has deep lugs for good traction in wet and muddy conditions. It also meets the ASTM F2892-18 standard for electrical shock resistance.
The Muck Chore Classic rubber farm boot is very good at retaining heat, and the company gives the comfort rating as anywhere from sub-freezing up to 65°F. It is a large boot and has substantial weight, but for a tall boot, they are relatively easy to get in and out of. As is common with rubber boots there are no half sizes. Muck Boots recommend going up one rather than down. However, foot space is generous, so an additional insole might be required to prevent rubbing.
Why It Made The Cut
The Ariat Groundbreaker has long been popular as a farm and ranch boot because of its durability, and comfort. This model is waterproof, and has a steel toe for added protection.
- Material: Full-Grain Leather
- Size Range: 7 to 14 (including wides)
- Weight (each): 31 ounces
- Tough but very comfortable
- ASTM-rated steel toe
- Very stable with high traction
- Need breaking in
- Run a 1/2 size small
The Ariat Groundbreaker is our pick as the best waterproof boots for men because it is very good in that area, but it actually offers high-performance in just about any category. It is extremely durable, very comfortable, and provides great protection.
The upper is hard-wearing, full-grain leather. It does take a little while to break in, but is highly resistant to abrasion, and should last years. The boot is often called the Groundbreaker H2O because of the breathable waterproof barrier. A mesh lining allows air to circulate, and dry out sweat.
Inside the Groundbreaker, Ariat’s 4LR (four layer) system provides cushioning, shock absorption, and support through the insole and midsole. There is also a steel shank that gives additional arch stability and prevents twisting. The combination gives all-day comfort in difficult working conditions. The steel toe is ASTM-rated for impact and secondary electrical hazards. The DuraTread composite sole offers good flexibility, and is oil-, acid-, and slip-resistant.
It is difficult to criticize the Ariat Groundbreaker, though the heavy-duty construction does mean they aren’t the lightest farm boot around. They also carry a higher price tag than many.
Why It Made The Cut
Wellington’s have long been popular as a farm boot, and this Irish Setter model shows why. It combines heavy-duty materials, and construction with high levels of safety.
- Material: Nubuck Leather
- Size Range: 8 to 14 (including wides)
- Weight (each): 34 ounces
- High standard of protection
- Excellent all-weather traction
- Easy pull-on style
- Premium price
- A little heavy
Irish Setter is well known for high-quality work and outdoor boots and was also featured in our best hunting boots guide. Their men’s Wellington makes a great choice as a farm boot for its durability, waterproofing, and ASTM-rated steel toe.
The upper is made of nubuck leather, which is the outer layer of cowhide. It has a lot of the toughness of full-grain leather, but isn’t too stiff. As a result, they need little or no breaking in. The UltraDry waterproofing, and 11” shaft height offer protection from mud and muck well up the leg.
The UltraDry layers also provide breathability, and sweat management inside the boot. A removable PU insole offers cushioned comfort, and a nylon shank runs through the midsole for added foot support, and boot stability.
The sole comes from Italian specialists Vibram and combines high abrasion resistance with excellent all-surface traction. Interestingly it is fixed to the upper using two different methods. There is a Goodyear welt type construction in the heel area, and cement construction across the remainder. Irish Setter claims this maximizes durability without restricting flexibility. Like the Ariat this is a heavy-duty option, and definitely not a cheap farm boot.
How We Made Our Picks
I was brought up on a dairy farm. Being ankle deep in mud and muck was a daily occurrence. A lot of the land was pasture, but around the buildings, there was plenty of concrete. Boots had to work on different surfaces, in all weathers, and to be frank, they never got much more than a quick brush off or hose down at the end of the day.
When making my picks I tried to step outside my own experience, and consider the needs of the many different farmers, and ranchers across the country. The considerations at the top of the page had a big impact. That led to a varied selection, and I hope solutions for pretty much every need.
Cost is also a major factor, and farmers tend to have a keen eye for value. I have avoided the very cheapest farm boots that invariably fail to stand up to the tough conditions they face. However, I have found options from across the price range, and I am confident they deliver the performance expected while remaining competitively priced.
Q: What company makes the most durable farm boots?
It is impossible to say which company makes the most durable farm boots because workplace conditions vary so much. Brands that have a particularly good reputation for durability include Ariat, Carhartt, Georgia Boots, Irish Setter, Justin Boots, and Lacrosse.
Q: How high should farm boots be?
How high farm boots should be depends on the type of farm work you do. A tall boot offers more protection, but can restrict movement. The article above should help you identify the best farm boots for your needs.
Q: How do you clean leather farm boots?
You usually clean leather farm boots by brushing off dry dirt, or by washing with a nylon bristle brush and soapy water. Always allow them to dry naturally, never in front of a fire. Oiling or waxing may be recommended, but you should check manufacturer’s recommendations.
Q: What kind of farm boots last the longest?
Full-grain leather farm boots last the longest in most situations, though if they consistently get wet it can reduce durability. If you are regularly standing in muck, mud or water, rubber farm boots might be a better choice.
Q: What color work boots are meant for farming?
You can wear whatever color work boots you like for farming. Animals have limited color perception. Rapid movements, and loud noises can startle them, colors do not. A bullfighter’s red cape could be white or blue, and it would make no difference. It’s the motion that excites the bull.
There is no single best farm boot for every situation, but the Justin Boots 3001 Farm and Ranch Boots are perhaps the closest to an all-around solution. They are tough and comfortable and the western style has long been popular because it works equally well whether on foot, horseback, or tractor.
The Dunlop DuraPro may be best for those people who help out on the farm in evenings and weekends. There isn’t really anything wrong with it—the waterproofing and safety toe is certainly valuable features, and the price is appealing—but for all-day, everyday wear we would recommend investing a few dollars more.