Best Wildland Firefighting Boots: Stay Safe While Going Through The Fire

I would like, if I may, to roll down this fourth wall a bit and connect as writer and reader. I really don’t like writing about myself, so I don’t do this often, but here it goes. Before I took this writing assignment, I assumed that a firefighter’s boots and all other equipment were paid for by the municipal treasury, probably with taxpayers’ money.

I was quite surprised to learn that firefighters have to pay for their boots out of their own pockets. The average firefighter makes $22.53 an hour (depending on where they live) and a quality firefighter’s boot costs on average about $330.78.

Crunch the numbers and that comes up to nearly fifteen long hours of difficult, dangerous and very necessary work just to cover the price of the boots It has also come to my attention that a lot of new firefighters have to make do with hand me downs until they can get their own boots. If you are a firefighter, I salute you.

I do recall seeing firefighters at intersections and public gatherings passing around a boot and asking for charitable donations. These donations aren’t even for themselves! The money goes to MDA or to help burn victims. I could almost understand firefighters panhandling if it was the only way to pay for necessary equipment, but even here, they’re thinking more of others.

Well, with that in mind, I’m going to do my best to inform whoever’s reading this just how difficult it is to be a firefighter in need of a good pair of boots. If you are a firefighter who already knows this, then you might want to read the reviews of the five best boots for firefighting.

Alright, let’s put that fourth wall back up now….

What is So Special About Firefighter’s Boots?

Every firefighter must have what’s called bunker gear or turnout gear. Our friends in the UK and Ireland call it a fire kit. In Hong Kong it’s known as incident gear. It’s also known as Personal Protective Equipment or PPE. It consists of trousers, helmet, gloves, boots and a jacket made of waterproof material with reflective safety stripes.

With an air pack, this could all weigh about forty-five pounds. Put on a few extra tools like a flashlight, axe, walkie-talkie, etc. and a firefighter may be carrying as much as seventy-five pounds. Keep in mind, at some point a firefighter may have to drop everything to pick up a grown man and run for it.

At one time, firefighter’s boots were made of leather or rubber, generally with a steel toe. Typically, they usually measured from twenty to twenty-six inches high. More modern boots are constructed from synthetic materials such as Nomex which is more heat resistant to better protect the firefighter.

Other standards to which these boots are held include offering protection from electrical conductivity, compression, impact, and sole penetration. They are worn with the full turnout gear to protect the firefighter while spraying water or chemical foam on the fire. The turnout pants are worn over the boots to keep the water from getting inside the boots. This also provides a barrier to heat.

With all the hazards one could run into at the scene of a fire, a firefighter’s boots have to be ready for anything. Safety toes and a puncture-resistant midsole plate are vital. There is no way these boots can be breathable, but it’s more important that they’re waterproof and puncture-resistant.

Recent innovations have resulted in boots that can hold up in temperatures of 800° Fahrenheit for short stints without experiencing significant damage. (Of course, exposure to these temperatures is in no way recommended!)

The Reviews:

And now, let’s take a brief look at the five best boots for wildland firefighting. Here are the features, benefits and pros and cons. Do some comparison and figure out what would be best for you.

1. Danner Men’s Wildland Tactical Firefighter Work Boot

The NFPA-certified Danner wildland fire boots are tops in this review. This is by far an incredible smokejumper wildland firefighting boot. It has a fire-resistant outer leather exterior along with a comfortable inner mesh lining. The tough Vibram outsole is built for slip-resistant traction over rugged land.

The boot’s reinforced stitch construction gives the wearer the best in comfort from upper to the outer sole. A unique heel shape seals the heel in place for a better fit overall. What’s more, there is much more room in the toe area with not so much pinching or binding. The whole thing is lightweight, yet supportive.

Features and Benefits:

A moisture-wicking lining makes this boot more breathable than many firefighter boots. The Vibram S587 outsole makes the boot more slip-resistant. The lack of break-in period makes them ready to wear right away. It is made of waterproof leather.

Pros:

  • The boots have an athletic design for better performance.
  • The open-cell polyurethane has an Ortholite footbed.
  • The design was inspired by mountaineering boots, making them perfect for rugged terrain.
  • The boots are extremely strong and durable.
  • For firefighter boots, they are incredibly breathable

Cons:

  • They tend to wear out quickly.
  • The laces are made with cheap plastic.

2. Hathorn Men’s 110V Smoke Jumper Fighting Boot

This boot has a lot of flash plus some substance to go with the style. They more than meet the National Fire Protection Association standards for protective clothing and wildland fire fighting. They’re durable enough to take on forest fires and can handle anything.

Premium, full-grain leather makes up the ten-inch uppers. The untreated leather keeps its natural softness and flexibility. It’s pliable and tough all at the same time. The rugged logger laces go all the way to the top. These boots are strong, safe yet gentle on your feet. It’s very good quality for the price.

Features and Benefits:

An aggressive tread pattern means firm traction and less likely to slip and fall. It includes a lace in tongue guard and nylon laces for ease of wearing. They’re tough on the outside but soft and comfy on the inside. The Goodyear welt stitch will keep this boot solid for a long time.

Pros:

  • This completely rebuildable model will increase the boot’s lifespan.
  • The metal hooks and eyelets are very sturdy.
  • They are a good fit for people with high arches.

Cons:

  • The collar is not padded.
  • There is no insulation.
  • It is water-resistant rather than waterproof.

3. AdTec Men’s 1964 10″ Fireman Logger Black Work Boot

AdTec exhibits a long line of top of the line footwear. Their patterns and planning of boots for firefighters jump-started a new epoch for the company. First established in 1964, the innovative styling of this modern line of boots offers advanced comfort.

This particular style is a ten-inch wildland firefighting boot that is also used by loggers. As loggers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, they appreciate the superb quality of these AdTecs. The tough and strong leather construction is ideal for wet and muddy conditions.

They clean up easily with a damp cloth. The high two-and-a-half inch heel gives the wearer a better sense of comfort. As AdTec prides themselves for high-quality footwear, all of their boots are thoroughly inspected before shipping. Adtec aims for zero tolerance, no defect policy.

Features and Benefits:

Brass eyelets and steel hooks are firm enough to keep this boot tight. The full-grained oiled leather is heat resistant. The Goodyear welt stitch will keep this boot solid for a long time. The price is unusually low for a firefighter boot. The one-piece lug sole will work in any environment. The ten-inch shaft will keep the ankles in place.

Pros:

  • The boots have a padded insole and have very good arch support.
  • Steel hooks and solid brass lace eyelets keep laces in place.
  • Fire-resistant laces are a very good idea.
  • Goodyear welt and triple stitching make a long-lasting boot.
  • No break-in period is required.

Cons:

  • Sizing has proved difficult. Go for one size larger.
  • There seems to be very little ankle support.
  • They don’t seem suitable for heavy-duty use.

4. White’s Boots Men’s 400V Smoke Jumper Boot

As said before, a smokejumper is the Rambo of firefighters. These all-stars hit the ground running and really break the mold. They dive into hot places that just get hotter until they stamp it out. A day at the office for them starts in a helicopter hovering thousands of feet above a blazing inferno.

Smokejumpers need dependable boots in order to absorb the initial impact from landing in a burning forest. The balls of the feet particularly need protection. The White’s Men’s 400V Smoke Jumper boots fulfill this need to a tea. The boot’s ten-inch height offers superb ankle support with plenty of shock absorption.

It not only meets but exceeds NFPA requirements for wildland firefighting equipment. Black Vibram lugs offer sure footing in difficult conditions. They are flexible yet comfortable. These hardy, no-nonsense wildland firefighting boots last.

Benefits and Features:

They are completely rebuildable for a long time of extended life and value. They include lace in tongue guard and leather laces for a secure yet comfortable fit that keeps debris out. They are fairly lightweight at less than two pounds.

The stitch work is high-quality craftsmanship. The design is perfect for people who need some extra arch support. The premium full-grain oil-tanned all leather manufacture makes a protective yet comfortable boot.

Pros:

  • A padded collar makes wearing the boot more comfortable.
  • An aggressive tread pattern makes slips and trips less likely.
  • The Goodyear welt and stitch down mean a boot that will stay in one piece for a long time.
  • They are heat and water-resistant, just what a firefighter needs.
  • The boots are also puncture-resistant.

Cons:

  • They are rather pricy, but you’ll get what you paid for.
  • They tend to run on the large side.

5. Thorogood Men’s 10” Wildland Fire Boots

Here is something made in America by a company that has a lengthy, prominent reputation for top quality boots. The Thorogood Men’s 10” Wildland Fire Boot is a single-piece composition.

The Goodyear welt construction makes for tightly secure seams. It is also resistant to both fire and punctures and comes with a removable kiltie. The felt soles are removable for comfort in all types of weather conditions.

This boot satisfies all NFPA protective equipment standards necessary for wildland firefighters and is constructed for the extreme conditions that all wildland firefighters come in contact with.

Features and Benefits:

The oil-tanned flame and cut-resisting logger leather upper will keep the wearer’s foot safe. The Dri-lex tongue with moisture-wicking sees that the feet stay good and dry. The composite Vibram heat-resistant sole shank offers superb stability and ankle support. The deep, Vibram rubber heel keeps the feet aligned. The pliable outer leather exterior adds to mobility and comfort.

Pros:

  • The ninety-degree heel is just right.
  • They are abrasion-resistant.
  • They are also slip-resistant.
  • The boots are constructed with a Goodyear welt/stitch down.
  • Overall, the boot is very supportive.

Cons:

  • An extended break-in period is required.
  • The boots tend to be uncomfortable around the laces.
  • At five pounds, they’re rather heavy.
  • There is no insulation.

Wildland Firefighting

There is a special breed of firefighters, the wildland firefighter, who specifically goes after wildfires. Such a thing reminds most people of the old Smokey the Bear ads or the climactic scene from Bambi. This is where the wildland firefighters get called in. It’s not just the little squirrels and bunny rabbits getting saved! If an airplane goes down in the middle of nowhere, it’s the wildland firefighters to the rescue.

Campers, hunters, hikers, and nature photographers need to be herded to safety. Not long ago in Hawaii, this included tourists who thought it would be a good idea to take a selfie with the lava running right towards them. There are firebreaks to be built to keep the wildfire from spreading to residential areas. And then there’s the smokejumpers, the Rambos of firefighting who parachute right into the fire to take it out.

Until recent years there was little to no difference between logger boots and wildland fire boots. However, recently, they have become specialized by silicon-tanned leather, Kevlar thread, and Vibram® soles. All of these are more fire-resistant, making a boot that’s not only useful for tramping through wooded areas but wooded areas that are currently on fire.

Wildland fire boots are among the most rugged boots on the market. Fire boots are constructed for the purpose of navigating the most demanding of terrain. The different kinds of lands are not at all easy to navigate through. However, this is land that is reserved to perpetuate our wilderness. Without our stalwart firefighters and smokejumpers, we would not have the glory of the forests that we enjoy today.

Leather Shank Vs. Steel Shank

The leather shank has its ups and downs. It gives the instep a higher profile, but sometimes too high. The toes are soft but a bit lacking in the wiggle room. The traditional steel shank is stiff but springier than you’d think. The steel shank protects the foot from punctures and is particularly useful for people who often have to climb ladders and trees.

However, steel is very sensitive to both heat and cold. The leather shank is lighter than the steel shank. Both types of shanks have their own pros and cons that seem to balance each other out. See which one works best for you.

Leather Vs. Rubber

Nomex or a similar synthetic is best, but sometimes your choice comes to good old-fashioned leather or rubber. The modern rubber boot retains many benefits, for example being simpler and quicker to put on as opposed to leather. It’s also completely waterproof. Leather boots or those fabricated of a combination of leather plus other resistant materials tend to fit more appropriately and give better ankle support and comfort.

Auburn University and the University of Mississippi concluded in their studies that firefighters are four times more likely to hurt themselves as a result of slipping and falling while wearing rubber boots as opposed to wearing leather boots. Another upside to leather is that leather sloughs most chemicals when rinsed off with water in comparison to rubber boots.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) did a study that compared different boots on firefighters. They also discovered that firefighters are more apt to be hurt while wearing rubber boots rather than leather boots. The average rubber boots turned out to be two and a half pounds heavier than leather boots. It was also found that the heavier the boot, the more apt the wearer was to trip.

Heavier boots make firefighters exert more energy. Another finding was that a more flexible boot’s sole meant less consumption of oxygen. In fact, the metabolic rates were lowered by as much as seven percent. The one flaw of leather is the cost when compared to rubber. Leather boots can run twice as expensive as rubber boots.

Do Your Boots Meet the Standards of the NFPA?

Firefighting boots are quite different from ordinary work boots. The standards put in place by the NFPA, (National Fire Protection Agency) for boots are easy to understand. Boots that fail to live up to certain standards are not allowed for firefighting. These standards are there for the protection of all workers who must fight raging fires. The necessary features for boots for firefighters include the following:

  • There must be a bare minimum of eight inches of the height measuring from the bottom of the heel to the top of the boot.
  • They must be lace-type exterior leather work boots that come with non-slip and melt-resistant Vibram soles.

These features satisfy the NFPA standards for boots and are absolutely mandatory. The boot must be tall enough to protect, support and cover the ankle plus the lower leg. Firefighting boots do not need to be waterproof (but it helps) or made of leather. Rubber and synthetics will suffice.

The NFPA demands that boots used by firefighters satisfy all standards regarding punctures, cuts, and heat. Being flame-resistant is an excellent idea given the work involved. The manufacturers of firefighting boots have to be approved by the NFPA. Suppliers must submit samples for testing as well.

It is important that you comprehend all government restrictions before buying a pair of boots for firefighting. In this way, you can save time and money while making sure that you have plenty of protection for your feet while you’re on the job.

The NFPA 1977-certified firefighting boots are required to include FR (fire-resistant) materials. It is a great idea to look for the NFPA label on the inside of the boots before buying. There are some cheap boots out there that may look like authentic firefighting boots but simply do not offer as much protection.

For example, cheap boots may fall to pieces when exposed to high heat levels. It is not a very wise choice to purchase boots based solely on price. Faux leather boots may disintegrate in extreme heat conditions and that can cause severe burns on your feet.

You have only two feet so you should protect them. Experienced firefighters never take unnecessary chances. Cheap firefighting boots are a ticket to a disaster with life-threatening injuries. Firefighting is not some Sunday afternoon game. Fire, even when controlled, should be treated with respect all the time by being properly equipped.

What to Look for in a Firefighter Boot

Here are some things you can’t afford to overlook when shopping for firefighting boots.

• Safety features Firefighters must be on their feet for hours at a time. Safety is a key matter when it comes to this job. Firefighters need the correct safety equipment in order to safely fight the hottest of fires.

All fires can reach extremely high heat levels in a matter of minutes and only real firefighting boots can defend the feet. And so, these boots are indeed one of the most vital pieces of firefighting equipment.

• Heat resistance and durability Firefighters fight fires in a variety of terrains from stony mountains and hillsides, to wooded areas, to dry prairie land to collapsing buildings. Life-threatening dangers follow in all of these places.

That means your boots must have the ability to stand up to these harsh conditions. Boots that don’t offer any high heat resistance just up the overall danger level ten times over.

• Support Climbing up steep hills and over fallen trees while fighting forest fires requires boots that offer ankle support. Forest terrain is difficult and hazardous, requiring the firefighter to be able to move quickly and easily.

Taking out three-alarm fires in buildings requires the firefighter to have boots with proper support and stability. Sprained ankles are the most commonly reported injury among firefighters. Supportive boots reduce your chances of spraining an ankle or worse.

• Traction All that water and foam make for slippery surfaces. Leaves on a forest floor make things even more slippery. Slipping on a wet surface can cause a severe injury to a firefighter. Traction plus the ability to get proper footing is crucial for firefighters.

As they also work at extreme heights, slipping on anything can mean a dangerous fall resulting in injury or even death. Firefighting boots need to be equipped with Vibram outsoles in order to increase traction. Lugs on outsoles are also a good way to increase traction.

What About Steel Toes?

Firefighting is a perilous job. Falling trees and sharp objects cause injury to hundreds of firefighters every year. They face extreme heat conditions as well with temperatures that exceed 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of this, firefighters should look for boots providing the most heat protection to feet. While steel-toe footwear is utilized in much of the tactical boots, it is in no way an acceptable choice for firefighters.

Here is why. Steel, like most metals, is a conductor of heat. What’s more, steel-toe boots have this tendency to trap heat inside boots. The trapped heat inside boots paired with steel toes can raise heat to dangerous and agonizing levels. You may as well be putting your feet in an oven. All this trapped heat can give you blisters and even more serious injuries.

Every firefighter should have boots that are lightweight, heat-resistant and comfortable with a superb fit. Toe protection is not a priority concern. Mobility, comfort, and safety are more pressing with protection from excessive heat being the major issue. Search for boots that provide this type of protection.

How to Take Care of Your Firefighter Boots

According to NFPA 1851, it is required that you perform a thorough inspection and cleaning once a year. Clean your boots with a soft cloth and warm water while gently scrubbing any dirty areas. If you are cleaning leather boots, you should avoid using harsh soap or detergents.

Such chemicals can lower the water-resistance of the leather. You can take out stubborn stains by using a silicone liquid. However, make sure the leather is completely dry before you apply it.

The ideal method to ensure the longevity of your boot is to read and follow the directions on maintaining and cleaning your boots from the boot manufacturer. Don’t forget to perform regular inspections, particularly after an incident that involves any hazards that you might have exposed them to.

Conclusion

Firefighting is one of the toughest, and most dangerous jobs out there and also one of the most necessary. The people who work so hard keeping people safe deserve the best footwear. The boots portrayed in the body of this review are the best boots for firefighters ready on the market today. It is the purpose of this review to emphasize the features of these supreme boots.

While there is no way to guarantee any protection while faced with roaring fires, these firefighting boots lower the risk of possible debilitating injury. They were crafted and designed by some of the world’s best boot manufacturers. It is believed that the firefighting boots reviewed here are the ones best equipped to provide you with much-needed protection and comfort.

From rampaging forest fires to burning urban and suburban structures, our brave firefighters deserve the very best in protection with superior comfort in regards to firefighting boots. The boots shown in this review provide you everything that you need in order to best fulfill your duty.

Resources:

  • https://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2016/03/know-your-gear-fire-boots.html
  • https://www.firerescue1.com/career-1/articles/193819018-How-much-does-a-firefighter-make/
  • https://www.hotboots.com/bootinfo/fireman.html
  • https://patch.com/connecticut/thehaddams-killingworth/bp–whats-it-weigh-firefighter-gear-piece-by-piece
  • https://sportsly.net/best-wildland-firefighting-boots/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunker_gear

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