Whether working several feet below ground or 100 feet in the air, power line workers have a challenging job. They can’t afford to be wearing inferior lineman work boots that compromise their comfort and safety. Here’s a quick rundown of the features to look for in lineman boots, along with some examples of the best lineman boots for working safely and productively.
Features of a great leather lineman boot
First and foremost, utility line workers need a work boot that enhances their safety. OSHA’s standard for foot protection, 29 CFR 1910.136(a), requires an employer to ensure that employees wear protective footwear when working in areas that present danger of foot injury due to falling or rolling objects, piercing of the shoe sole, and electrical hazards. When it comes to utility line workers, that’s all of the above.
When shopping for leather lineman work boots, look for the proper ASTM stamp of approval. ASTM F2413-18 is a work boot standard that defines requirements for everything from impact and puncture resistance to conductive protection and electrical hazard (EH) resistance.
In addition to being EH-rated, there are some other key characteristics to look for:
- Good traction, even in wet conditions
- Good for climbing
- Taller height (8” to 10”) to fit snugly and provide good ankle support
- Arch support for durability and comfort
Good traction is an essential benefit to look for. With many leading work boots, you’ll often hear the phrase “Vibram sole”. While there is a fascinating backstory to the Italian company and inventor behind this commonly used outsole, the bottom line is that a Vibram sole offers outstanding tread. Additionally, since it is made of rubber, it is waterproof and more flexible.
Speaking of rubber, sometimes a lineman needs a fully rubber work boot.
Rubber boots and overshoes
There are times a utility company will require workers to wear footwear that meets the ASTM F1117 dielectric standard. This standard requires every boot and overshoe, left and right, to be tested per the ASTM F1116 method. The boot or overshoe must pass a 20 kV test before it is released. If it doesn’t pass, it is destroyed. Compliant footwear will always be labeled ASTM F1117.
ASTM F1117-compliant footwear is considered secondary protection. It provides additional isolation or insulation if a worker comes into accidental contact with energized electrical conductors, apparatus, or circuits.
In addition to providing an extra layer of protection, dielectric overshoes provide an additional layer of convenience. Linemen can slip on their overshoes right over their regular boots. When removed from the hazardous environment, linemen can pull the overshoes back off and properly store them until needed again.
“When given a choice, most linemen are probably going to want a traditional pair of leather work boots because they’re more comfortable,” says Mike Mehaffie, national accounts, and business development manager for utilities and infrastructure at Skellerup Footwear, a provider of dielectric over-the-sock boots and overshoes. “That said, it really comes down to what is required for keeping the lineman safe on the particular job, such as setting a pole.” If a utility company or contractor requires workers to wear compliant ASTM F1117 footwear, the utility or contractor typically must pay for it.
Although leather boots might be preferable to a lineman, companies like Skellerup Footwear have taken feedback from linemen to make their rubber boots more comfortable. Skellerup has actually been making rubber boots for over 80 years.
“Our first over-the-sock dielectric boot order was in January of 2015, and we’ve made changes in the seven years since then,” Mehaffie points out. “Each Quatro Dielectric Boot comes with a replaceable, durable insole with extra padding. In early 2018 we introduced the Thermal Boot that had neoprene added to the lining to make it even more comfortable.
“You also have to recognize that no two feet are the same,” Mehaffie continues. “For a lineman with a tall foot, he might end up with a blister from rubbing against the boot if there’s no give to it. Since Skellerup makes everything beginning with the raw materials, we’ve been able to make changes to our formula and design to make the rubber more pliable and comfortable.”
Whether constructed of rubber or leather, the best work boots for a lineman always balance comfort and safety.
Best lineman boots from top brands
Skellerup’s Quatro Dielectric Overshoe, Slip-on & 2 Buckle: The outsole of this boot is aggressively designed for excellent traction in mud and other challenging terrain. Reinforcing scuff and abrasion guards are placed in high-wear areas to improve durability. Also, the grey upper allows for easier visual identification during in-service inspection. Meets ASTM F1117.
Skellerup’s Quatro Dielectric Regular & Thermal Boot: These 15” boots offer electrical protection over the entire boot, 3” from the top. For additional warmth, comfort, and insulation properties, the Thermal Boot also features a full thermal sock liner. Linemen will appreciate the generous fit while locking the ankle and preventing heel slip. Other features include a ComfortForm steel toe cap, fiberglass shank, toe scuff guard, and heel kick lug. Meets both ASTM F1117 and F2413. Puncture Resistant (PR) soles will be added beginning in May 2022.
Ariat Linesman Ridge 10" Gore-Tex Boot: This boot features a reinforced steel shank that enhances climbing stability. What it’s really known for, however, is its aggressive outdoor traction. Outdoor traction lugs with debris-releasing tread keep workers safe on the ground. Plus, a unique oil- and slip-resisting Vibram Fire&Ice sole allows for maximum wear resistance. Linemen don’t have to worry about working in bad weather, either. The Gore-Tex membrane is waterproof, yet breathable, and the full-grain leather construction further keeps moisture out. A non-metallic composite safety cap provides excellent protection.
Timberland PRO 8” Rigmaster Steel Toe Waterproof Boot: These boots are built for the hardworking essential workers in the oil and gas industries and are a perfect fit for utility line workers, too. Rigmaster boots are designed for exceptional traction and slip resistance. For enhanced comfort, Timberland’s Anti-Fatigue Technology is based on a geometrical, shock-absorbing design that returns energy back to the foot for added support. These boots really deliver on water resistance, too. The leather undergoes a special tanning process to better repel moisture, and the waterproof membrane protects against not only water, but also bloodborne pathogens for another level of safety.
Georgia 8” Comfort Core Logger Boot: Just as its name implies, this waterproof low-heel logger boot delivers multiple levels of on-the-job comfort. The patented CC7 Comfort Core insole is comprised of three layers. The first polyurethane layer provides cushioning and absorbs shock. The second layer supports the arch and heel. The third layer is memory foam that customizes to the foot. If that wasn’t enough, Georgia’s unique heel-stabilizing double-ribbed tempered steel shank and high-performance mesh lining for air circulation add to the comfortability of this boot. Traction and stability are pretty good, too, thanks to this oil- and slip-resistant rubber Vibram sole.
Danner 8” Steel Yard Boot: These boots feature a steel toe and full-grain leather upper for safety and durability, complemented by several features to enhance comfort. Let’s talk about working in nasty weather. First, the 100% waterproof barrier allows moisture to escape without letting water in, keeping feet dry and comfortable. Second, the 400G Thinsulate ultra insulation keeps workers warm in the snow and rain without weighing them down. For everyday comfort, the patent-pending, plush, dual-density footbed provides superior cushioning with underfoot venting for maximum airflow.
Red Wing 8” SuperSole 2.0: These boots are designed to keep workers comfortable and productive in demanding environments. A soft inner sole provides cushion and comfort, while a puncture- and chemical-resistant outer sole and steel toe offers superior durability and protection. The full-grain, Gore-Tex waterproof leather upper and 3M Thinsulate insulation withstand cold weather. A special weave pattern helps channel the energy caused by walking, and the arch is curved to enhance comfort. For breathability, the ComfortForce removable footbed features unique Venturi air perforations to help keep feet cool and dry.
Thorogood 9” Brown Studhorse Waterproof Boot: Part of the company’s Logger Series, these boots are made with a steel safety toe and steel shank to deliver the support and protection linemen need. The Vibram outsole with reinforced tip stitch provides the slip- and abrasion-resistance linemen require. Inside, the waterproof membrane and Ultimate Shock Absorption footbed keep feet dry and comfortable in all working conditions.
Carolina Linesman 10” Steel Toe Boot: This boot features a heavy-duty steel shank and a Vibram sole for solid support. To take comfort to another level, the heat- and moisture-managing footbed works in tandem with a cushioned, antifungal insole. For durability, the boot features a full-grain leather upper and welt construction.
Wesco 10” Highliner Lineman’s Boot: This boot is designed specifically for climbing, so it’s sure to give linemen a lift when working on highline poles. There’s no steel toe, but there is a non-corrosive steel shank that is slightly arched to provide maximum comfort. For linemen who climb with stirrups, recessed metal breastplates on the heels provide added wear protection. These boots are also designed for durability with full-grain 7-oz. leather, solid brass studs and eyelets, and heavy white-threat stitchery.
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