Leather Firefighter Boots vs Rubber Fireboots

You would think that leather firefighter boots wouldn't necessarily be as good a choice as rubber. After all, hard rubber boots are issued by many departments and hard rubber is surely a better material...or so you'd think.

Many firefighters actually switch to leather boots when given the choice. Some insist they'll never go back.

Granted, it is wholly your choice, and you need to pick the right gear for you, your specific job and what works for you, but here are some reasons why you might consider leather fire boots.

Wildland Firefighter Boots Have To Be Leather

Wildland firefighter boots have to be leather in lieu of rubber. The National Fire Protection Association requires wildland fire boots be made of leather, at least 8 inches in height, and have a lug sole that is melt-proof and either a Vibram sole or Vibram-like. If you're a wildland firefighter or a firefighter in a rural or semi-wilderness area, you don't have a choice.

If you work on uneven ground in the course of your duty, leather fire boots are going to be a vastly better choice than pull-on rubber boots. Your feet will not have the support they need in the arch or the heel, leading to discomfort or even injury.

That's why a pair of quality wildland firefighter boots are a crucial investment for a person in this line of work to make.

Leather Boots May Result In Fewer Injuries And Easier Work

leather boots are best for firefighting

A number of studies have found that pull-on rubber boots actually created more risk of injury and made firefighter's work harder compared to leather boots.

According to the CDC, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study found rubber boots constricted movement, slowed and altered subject's natural gait, and also caused higher heart rates, oxygen consumption and hastened fatigue in lab tests carrying a hose on a treadmill, as well as navigating a circular staircase. Leather boots allowed a more natural gait, enhanced stability and decreased cardiovascular stress on test subjects compared to rubber boots.

Other studies have found a higher rate of injuries due to falls in rubber boots compared to leather boots, and that leather boots are also easier to clean toxic chemicals from if the leather has been adequately treated with a leather preservative product like boot grease.

What Should I Look For In Leather Firefighter Boots?

strong wildland fireboots

If you're considering a pair of leather firefighter boots, there are a few key things you should look for.

First, make sure that a pair of boots is NFPA-certified. Boots are personal protective equipment (PPE) and must be rated as such in order for you to use them.

Fireproof stitching should be used to attach the sole to the welt, as this is a vulnerable area when in high-heat environments. Additionally, the sole should be abrasion-resistant as well as melt-resistant. Structural firefighting requires a protective toe cap as well, so make sure to look for that feature if structural firefighting is part of your job.

A good thing to look for is boots that can be made to order. The more precise the fit, the better your feet will be protected while wearing the boots. Additionally, this will help reduce fatigue, your feet will be more comfortable, and reduce the chance of injury to your ankles, knees, hips and lower back.

You also need to be aware of what kind of sole is most appropriate for your specific application. Wildland firefighters need a lug sole for maximum traction on uneven ground. You may require a different sole design depending on what type of environments you fight fires in, so make sure that the right kind is available for you and your specific needs.

You should also make sure to select a boot maker that has a reputation for making a quality, durable product that firefighters in many different environments keep coming back to.

One of those companies that have made just that kind of reputations is Nick's Boots. Firefighter boots are the core of our business. Our job is to make it easier for you to do yours, and that has kept firefighters on wildland fire lines and in urban departments both coming back to us year over year for decades.