What makes a good Firefighting Boot?
Any firefighter understands the importance of looking after their feet. Long hours on duty can take their toll on them so finding the right boot is vital. Comfortable, safe footwear will really make a difference to your shift.
So what makes a good firefighting boot? They have to offer support, protection and comfort. From climbing over rough ground and debris, the risks of falling objects and dealing with extremes of heat and cold, a firefighter’s boots have to be able to cope with a lot. They need to be strong enough not to be punctured and tough enough to walk on molten metals. A fire fighter also spends a lot of time on their feet, so comfort is a top priority.
What to look for in a firefighting boot
The most important feature of a firefighting boot is sufficient protection. Ordinary boots will not withstand the heat from flames so it’s important that they are made from the right materials.
- Outer boot soles should be tough and able to withstand temperatures of up to 300 degrees Celsius, they are mostly made of nitrile rubber.
- The mid-layer of the sole needs to be long-lasting, polyurethane can be used as it is a very supportive midsole material mostly found in mountaineering boots.
- The best fabric for the upper part of the boot is something that will protect from penetration but also be breathable and lightweight. Gore-Tex is a good option, such as the Hades 8 inch Front Zip Fire Boot made by Goliath Footwear.
- Some form of toe cap is essential to protect the delicate parts of your feet. Traditional steel toe-caps offer effective protection and are resistant to melting but can add a lot of weight to a boot so will not allow you to be light on your feet. Aluminium toe-caps are 50% lighter than steel and offer the equivalent strength. Another choice is a toe-cap made from composite like carbon fibre or fibreglass which offer great thermal protection and strength whilst being light-weight. They do tend to be pricier however.
- The material needs to protect against chemicals, oil and petrol, like the Jolly Fireguard 2.0 Boot from Jollyscarpe.
- Firefighter Boots should be tall to protect the calves from flames as well as the feet.
- They should ideally also contain protection for ankles, on both sides of the boot.
- Some fire boots, like these from FAL contain a puncture resistant inner sole. This is made from a non-metallic fabric that is stronger than steel to protect your feet from nails, splinters or glass that might penetrate an ordinary sole. It is also heat resistant up to 400 degrees Celsius.
Working as a firefighter involves not only lengthy periods on your feet, but also the need to jump, crawl, run and climb. Boots need to be comfortable enough to allow these actions without causing problems. Good foam cushioning within the sole will help provide high levels of comfort. High quality boots have a Dual Density Rubber injected soling system (DDR) which provides long lasting high abrasion resistance performance, flexibility and comfort. The injection method inserts rubber at high pressure into the sole mould at two different densities to produce a permanent high strength bond between the upper and sole as the two parts are combined. The midsole is a lower density rubber compound that has been injected with air bubbles. This material provides flexibility and shock absorption not found in direct vulcanized rubber soles.
Tied to comfort is the fit of the boot. Firefighting boots must fit well to allow the necessary range of movements. Luckily, most manufacturers understand this, so you’ll find lots of brands offering slip-on boots fitted with combinations of side zippers, front zippers, stirrups, and laces. So boots can easily be customised by loosening or tightening the different methods. The UK fire services wear pull-on boots however without these fastenings.
Firefighting boots need to be strong enough to last. You don’t want to have to worry about them falling apart in the middle of a job. Choose reliable brands like Goliath who have been making boots since 1880 so you know you can rely on the best quality materials and stitching.
Firefighters spend a large portion of their time crawling on hands and knees through buildings. Boots need to have sufficient flexors around the ankle and top of the metatarsals to enable crouching and crawling to be able to be done for long periods in comfort. These Jolly Fire guard 2.0 boots have padded 360 degree flexors on the front and rear, allowing for greater range of movement.
Firefighting boots need to be able to keep your feet cool in the harshest of situations. They need to be made of strong, heat resistant material that won’t get too hot or perish. You will be wearing them for lengthy periods of time, so your feet need to be able to breathe in them. Some boots are treated to minimise heat absorption. Haix injects colour pigments to increase reflection of heat by 40%.
As a firefighter you will find yourself clambering over debris, climbing ladders and negotiating rough terrain. Therefore it is vital that your boots grip well to allow you to do this. There may also be slip hazards from oil, petrol or chemicals so reliable brands like Jollyscarpe can easily withstand these hazards.
The highest slip rating is SRC rated. This means that the sole has been tested on a wide range of surfaces including metal and ceramic and is proven to be slip resistant.
Firefighting boots do not only need to be resistant to heat, but also to repel the water that you will often find yourself wading through. A well-stitched, waterproof fabric is therefore essential to your comfort on the job. A boot that absorbs water will be uncomfortable and add extra weight. Having damp feet can also cause bacterial and fungal infections so an anti-bacterial lining is a benefit.
There are a range of factors to take into account when choosing the best firefighting boot. They need to be able to withstand high temperatures, adequately protect you from sharp objects, repel water, grip well and be comfortable. We have provided links in this article to the makers we believe provide the best quality boots on the market.
What makes a good Firefighting Boot? is written by Caroline Grey Contributing Editor at Marcus Media.