Having a good pair of duty boots is one of the simplest ways EMTs and paramedics can improve job performance. Buying boots can be daunting, but with a little information you can choose your EMT boots with ease and get exactly what you pay for. I’ve done the work and put together a list of the 10 Best EMS Boots along with the pros and cons of each one.
If you aren’t sure what to look for in a pair of EMS boots scroll down and check out our 2018 Boot Buying Guide. The guide will help you decide what features are important to you when choosing duty boots, because everyone has different needs.
It will provide information on deciding factors like the type of toe, height of boot, traction, and breathability.
Even if you don’t purchase your boots online today, hopefully the EMS Boot Buying Guide will help you pick out the perfect pair of boots.
1. 5.11 A.T.A.C. Storm 8 Inch Side Zip Boot
The first recommendation I’m making is for the 5.11 ATAC Storm 8 Inch Boots with Side Zipper. These are a high quality and very comfortable pair of boots. 5.11 tactical boots have a good reputation and if you ask for boot recommendations in any EMS community, there will be EMTs and paramedics recommending these boots.
The 5.11 tactical boots have a full grain polished leather toe, triple stitch construction and oil slip resistance. They are a durable EMT boot that can take a beating for years. Another good thing about the 5.11 tactical boots is that the sole isn’t too deep so you won’t track dirt into patient homes.
•5.11 = Popular EMS Boots•
A nice bonus about these EMS boots is that each one has a hidden side pocket, which I found to be a very cool feature. The boots are waterproof, but you might need to tighten the laces and make sure the lining overlaps correctly if you are going to be standing in deep water.
It’s a good idea to order these a 1/2 size larger than usual because the fit and waterproof lining can make them a bit snug.
Another great thing about the 5.11 side zip tactical boots is that Fire and EMS professionals were involved in the research and development that went into the design of these boots.
What’s not great about these boots? If you don’t have the 5.11 tactical boots tongue and interior lined up correctly, the EMS boots may leak when submerged in water. However, they are solid waterproof boots when worn correctly.
Another negative about these EMT boots is that they don’t seem to have good traction in truly icy conditions. Actually, many boots on the market were found to have issues in icy conditions – which is discussed later in the boot buying guide below.
→ 8 inches for added ankle support
→ Side zipper for quick on and off
→ Hidden side pockets (This is the only boot reviewed that has pockets)
→ Very comfortable EMS boots
→ Fire & EMS contributed to design
→ Full grain polished leather toe
→ Antibacterial lining
→ Oil & slip-resistant sole
→ Good price point for performance – $$
→ Cushioned ortholite insole
2. Bates Ultra-Lites 8 Inches Tactical Sport Side-Zip Boot
My second EMS boots recommendation is for the Bates Ultra Lite 8 Inch Sport Tactical boots with side zipper. The first thing you will notice about the Bates tactical boots is that they are lightweight and easily live up to the ultra-lite title.
They are constructed of leather and ballistic nylon with a breathable mesh lining (70% Leather and 30% Nylon). For traction, the Bates tactical boots have a slip resistant outsole and rubber sole that have passed the SATRA WTM 144 slip resistant testing.
Overall, the Ultra-lite Bates duty boots are breathable, lightweight, comfortable, and a good value.
These are a great pair of boots for EMT students and new EMTs who don’t want to invest much money, but still want high quality EMS boots.
These boots are not waterproof, so don’t get them if you need duty boots that stay dry in wet conditions.
→ Light weight EMS boots
→ Side zipper for quick on and off
→ 8 inches for extra ankle support
→ Leather & Ballistic Nylon
→ Cushioned removable insert adds comfort
→ Breathable mesh lining
→ Slip resistant rubber outsole for traction
→ Passed SATRA WTM 144 test for slip resistance
→ Non-Metal construction
→ Low cost offers a good value – $
→ Bates are also available with composite toe
→ Great for new EMTs & students
3.Danner Men’s Acadia 8 Inch Boot
The Danner Acadia 8 Inch Boots are top of the line EMT boots. These are the duty boots to look at when you are ready to make a serious, long-term boot purchase. They are Made in the USA and constructed of full-grain polished leather and 1000 Denier nylon, which makes the upper fully polishable.
•Danner = Best High Quality Boot•
These Danner tactical boots have a GORE-TEX lining that stops water from getting in while letting heat and sweat out. These EMT boots provide shock absorption and have good traction both when it’s dry and wet.
The Danner Acadia EMS boots are a higher priced boot, but you definitely get what you pay for with this purchase. With proper care these duty boots will last a long time and Danner can replace the soles and recraft the boots as needed.
If you are still hesitant because of the price of the Danner boots, I recommend reading the reviews to get an idea of how other customers felt about their purchase.
Another great thing about Danner is they offer the option to purchase a lace-in boot zipper for any first responder who prefers a zip up boot.
Here is a quick (2 minute) tutorial (embed) showing how to add a lace-in boot zipper to ANY regular boot.
There is also a link to a longer and more visually descriptive explanation on how to add a zip kit to your EMT boots in the 2018 Boot Buying Guide below.
The Danner EMS boots don’t have many negatives but they are a more expensive pair of duty boots. They won’t be in everyone’s budget. However, I included them on this list because they are high quality EMT boots and are worth the cost, if you can afford them.
Another characteristic some EMS workers may not like about the Danner boots is the weight. These are not lightweight boots as each pair weighs in at around 65 ounces, which is heavy for a boot that does not have a steel toe.
→ Made in USA
→ 8 Inch height for support
→ Waterproof & Breathable with GORE-TEX liner
→ Lace-in front boot zipper available
→ Top of line comfort
→ Fiberglass Shank
→ Vibram Kletterlift for great traction
→ Stitchdown construction which can be redrafted
→ Full-grain polishable leather, upper is fully polishable
→ Higher priced boot – $$$
4. Magnum Stealth Force 8 Inch Side Zip Waterproof & Composite Toe
The Magnum Stealth Force 8 Inch Composite Toe Waterproof boots with side zipper are good quality boots at a reasonable price point. They are comfortable boots with solid durability.
Magnum Stealthforce are a good pair of EMS boots constructed of polishable full grain leather and denier nylon. They feature a slip resistant rubber outsole for good grip and traction, and the 8 inch height provides extra support on uneven terrain.
I’m recommending the waterproof side-zip EMT boots with lightweight composite toes. However, a great thing about Magnum boots is that they are versatile and offer a lot of boot options.
The Magnum stealth force is also available as a non waterproof boot for first responders in hot weather who need a more breathable boot. I like the side zippers because they allow you to gear up quickly, but these EMT boots are also available without a zipper.
First responders who prefer a front zipper can purchase a zipper kit and add a zipper using the shoe’s laces. Other varieties of Magnum boots available are steel toe, 6 inch, and they also have a good selection of women’s tactical boots.
Whats not great about these Magnum EMT boots? These waterproof boots can make your feet heat up on hot weather days. They are breathable, until it gets too hot. If you are regularly in hot weather consider getting the Magnum 8 inch composite toe EMS boots that are not waterproof.
→ Side zipper for quick on and off
→ Breathable moisture-wicking waterproof membrane
→ Light-weight composite toe
→ Agion anti-microbial treatment
→ I-Shield Water and stain repellent
→ Deep lugged outsoles for traction
→ Removable M-P.A.C.T memory foam for comfort and support
→ Full grain leather and Denier Nylon
→ ASTM rated Electrical Hazard protection
→ ASTM f2413-11 approved safety composite toe.
→ Good value for price – $$
5. Original S.W.A.T. Classic 9 Inch Duty Boots with Side Zipper – Mens
The Original SWAT brand has garnered a loyal following in the EMT community so it’s difficult to make a best EMS boots list without mentioning the SWAT brand. The Original SWAT Classic 9 Inch Duty Boots with Side Zipper are my recommendation for first responders looking for a good pair of tactical boots.
As the name indicates, these boots are made to be used by professionals and can get you through long shifts. They are built for performance and are field tested by professionals. SWAT are good EMT boots because they are comfortable, flexible and provide great traction for first responders.
The Original SWAT boots have a rubber outsole that exceeds the ASTM F2913-11 test standards for oil and slip resistance to provide traction in the field. These EMS boots are immediately comfortable, have breathability and antimicrobial protection.
SWAT classic EMT boots have scotchgard protection from water and stains along with rust proof hardware, but they are not waterproof.
→ Loyal EMS following
→ Side-zipper for easy on and off
→ Outsole is oil and slip-resistant
→ Water resistant with scotchgard protection
→ Full grain leather & 1000 Denier nylon construction
→ Durable and comfortable EMS boots
→ Removable custom fit EVA midsole
→ Exceeds ASTM F2913-11 standards
→ High Quality EMT boots at good price – $$
→ Keep dirt and debris out with gusseted tongue
→ AEGIS antimicrobial protection & moisture-wicking lining
→ Has steel shank for safety and support
→ Immediately comfortable without breaking in
6. Thorogood Gen-flex 8 Inch Duty Boots With Side Zipper
A list of EMS boots just isn’t complete without mentioning Thorogood Gen-flex 8 inch duty boots with a side zipper. The Thorogood brand has been around since 1918 and is known for making high quality boots that provide comfort, safety and performance.
These genuine leather duty boots are rugged and smooth and both the toe cap and heel can be polished to a high shine. The sturdy leather and Goodyear welt construction makes these EMT boots durable in the field.
The Thorogood boots are not only strong but also comfortable. The EVA midsole with 300g gel heel insert, removable insole, and composite shank all contribute to comfort and support which make these duty boots a good fit for any EMT.
Traction is always an issue for EMS workers and the Thorogood boots don’t dissapoint. They have the Gen Flex rubber outsole in a lug pattern which is made to be non-marking, oil and slip resistant.
Overall the Thorogood Gen Flex boot is a reasonably priced and tough boot that will leave you, and your feet feeling good at the end of your shift.
One negative is that these duty boots will start off feeling stiff and thick. Unlike many of the other EMT boots on this list, the Thorogoods will take time to break in. I recommend buying them early so you can wear them around for about a week off duty to soften them up.
Also the Thorogood duty boots are not waterproof.
→ Made in USA
→ Oil-tanned Leather construction
→ Durable & reliable EMS boots
→ 8 inch with side zipper for support and speed
→ Mesh lining for breathability
→ Goodyear storm welt construction
→ High shine toe protector and heel counter
→ Gen-Flex soles are slip and oil-resistant
→ EVA midsole with 300g gel heel insert for shock absorption
→ Lightweight composite shank
→ Rugged high quality boots at a good price – $$
→ Removable insole with EVA cushion flex for comfort
→ Abrasion-resistant duty boots
7. Rocky 8 Inch 1st Med 911-113 Puncture Resistant Boots – Mens
The Rocky brand is another brand with a small following in the EMT community. Ask around and there will usually be a first responder who will recommend Rocky EMS boots. What I really like about the The Rocky 1st Med 911-113 Puncture Resistant boots is that they were designed specifically with the EMT in mind.
This EMT boot is blood borne pathogen resistant, has reflective highlights for nighttime visibility, and provides protection from accidental electrical injuries.
The Rocky duty boots are 8 inches tall with a side zipper and are all about safety for first responders.
The Lenzi puncture-resistant plate protects against penetrating objects from below, while the carbon fiber toe protects from compression and impact injuries from above. These EMT boots are waterproof, slip resistant and weigh about two pounds per boot (depends on size). The Rocky EMS boots are also constructed of full grain leather and Cordura nylon along with a waterproof lining that extends to just below the collar of the boot.
Another great thing about the Rocky 1st med boots is that they are true to size, so you can order the same size you always wear without worrying about fit.
Rocky isn’t the most popular or most expensive boot available, but they do make high quality EMS boots and have a loyal fan base. It’s also nice having a boot that is made with EMTs in mind. They have a lot going for them and I’m a big fan of these boots. Overall, the Rocky EMT boots are great boots.
What are the negatives? The first negative is that the Rocky 1st Med boots don’t have a polishable toe. If you require a toe that can be polished to a high shine, these aren’t going to be EMT boots you want.
Another issue is that the Rocky boots are not oil resistant tested. For many EMS workers this is no big deal, but if you are frequently dealing with slippery oily conditions, you will want different EMS boots.
→ Created with the EMT in mind
→ Bloodborne pathogen resistant
→ Reflective highlights for visibility at night
→ Guaranteed Waterproof construction
→ 8 inches tall with side zipper
→ Full-grain leather and CORDURA nylon.
→ Comfortable EMT boots at a good price – $$
→ True to size makes online ordering easy
→ Rubber EVA outsole is slip resistant for added traction
→ Lenzi puncture-resistant plate protects from below
→ Carbon fiber toe cap protects from above
→ Non-metallic boot is metal detectors safe
→ Complies with the following standards:
• ASTM F2413 protective toe classification
• ASTM F2413 electrical hazard standard
• I75/C75 Impact and compression testing
• ASTM F2413 puncture resistant standards
→ I’m Recommending Rocky as Overall Best Boots for EMTs
8. Smith & Wesson 8 Inch Breach 2.0 Tactical Boots with Side Zipper
Smith & Wesson is a familiar name in tactical gear so it’s no surprise they put out high quality duty boots that EMS can enjoy. The Smith & Wesson 8 Inch Breach 2.0 Tactical boots with side zipper are surprisingly comfortable, durable and affordable.
These EMS boots have a leather and nylon construction along with a gusseted tongue to keep out dirt and debris. The S&W tactical boots also have an EVA midsole that provides support and lightweight comfort.
Another feature of these EMS boots are the non-marking rubber outsole which provides slip resistance for first responders in the field.
These EMT boots are a budget friendly option for buying high quality boots at an affordable price.
The insole has been reported as a weak point in some S&W boots and it tends to be the least comfortable part of wearing these EMS boots. For this reason, I recommend getting and inserting a separate insole into the Smith & Wessons to solve this problem.
Any work boot can benefit from a high quality comfort insole like Superfeet (which can be expensive), but the S&W EMT boots will benefit from any level of insole. Without adding an insole long shifts may lead to sore feet, luckily this problem is easily fixed. I recommend Dr Scholls for a low-cost insole that will add an extra layer of comfort while protecting your new boot.
→ 8 inch boots for ankle support
→ Side zipper for easy on and off fit
→ Budget friendly quality EMS boots – $
→ Comfortable boot: Improve by adding your own insole
→ Durable leather and nylon construction
→ Good breathability and solid protection
→ S&W duty boots are slip resistant with non-marking rubber outsole
→ EVA Midsole for lightweight comfort
→ Steel shank for support
→ Gusseted tongue will keep dirt and debris out
→ Board-lasted construction creates a torsional rigidity to reduce foot fatigue during long shifts
→ Smith & Wesson reliability
9. HAIX Airpower XR1
No list of EMT boots is complete without mentioning the Haix Airpower XR1 or XR2 EMS boots. Haix are known for being both expensive and high quality. If you ask around, you will probably find you know first responders who are loyal to Haix.
If you are ready to invest in the highest quality EMS boots, you will likely be deciding between buying Haix or Acadia boots.
In my experience EMS personnel wearing Haix tactical boots are usually customers for life or they had the boots supplied for free through their agency.
Either way, the only complaint I have heard about them is that they can be heavy, due to the steel toe, especially in the winter months.
One thing I can say for sure is that Haix EMS boots are definitely a good-looking duty boot.
•Haix = Best Looking EMS Boots•
These boots are available on Amazon, however I’m recommending you go straight to the Haix website because the Airpower XR1 boots can be found under the clearance tab for $179 right now. (Updated as of August 2018)
This is a very good price for Haix boots and I don’t think you will find them for less anywhere else.
→ 8 inch with front zipper
→ Steel toe with exterior rubber toe cap
→ Leather construction
→ Bloodborne pathogen resistant
→ Bacteria and chemical resistant
→ Steel Toe duty boots
→ Crosstech liner for breathability and resistance
→ Steel puncture protection from below
→ Heat resistant rubber sole
→ Higher quality EMS boots
→ Higher priced boot – $$$
10. Any EMS Boots You Can Afford
My tenth recommendation for EMT boots is mainly for anyone who just can’t afford to buy quality boots right now.
Sometimes this is how it is and don’t worry, we’ve all been there. You can get a cheap pair now and handle your boot situation later. The important thing is that you show up for school or work and do your best to get through each shift.
Where can you get a cheap pair of duty boots in the meantime? You can try used boots at thrift shops or military surplus stores. However, in my area these shops tend to have items way overpriced.
Another option is to go to a store like Walmart and find a pair of inexpensive boots you can use at work. You won’t get a pair of high quality EMT boots at Walmart, but check out the EMS boot guide and see if you can at least find boots with some of the characteristics you prefer. For example, do you want 6 or 8 inch height, side zipper, etc.
You probably won’t be able to get the exact EMS boots you’re looking for at stores like Walmart, but hopefully you can find something close. I looked for links to Walmart duty boots to include here for convenience, but I couldn’t find many low-priced boots ($25-30) from the actual Walmart store. However, your local store might have low-priced boots that aren’t listed in the Walmart online store.
Another option is to shop online for a low-cost pair of boots. This is the more convenient version of shopping at stores like Walmart because you can do it from home. Make sure you shop at reputable websites that you are familiar with.
There are websites that offer really low-priced products, but they won’t send you the boots in the photo. For this reason, I recommend only shopping at well-known and legitimate websites.
Set a Goal to Get EMS Boots
Having good boots isn’t the most important thing for an EMT, but I do recommend that you make getting quality EMS boots a work related goal for the near future. A good way to do this is by finding a pair that you want and setting a goal to get them in the next 12 – 18 months if possible. Then every month try to take $10 and put it aside for your EMT boots. Make it $5 if you have to, but the important thing is that you make a goal and move towards it.
I hope one of these ten options for EMS boots is the perfect fit for you and your feet. There are many different boots with a lot of features because when it comes to work boots, we all have different priorities. Hopefully, you can find a quality boot that fits your top priorities. If not, use the buying guide below to learn what to look for when purchasing duty boots. Then go out and get yourself the best pair of EMT boots for you.
2018 EMS Boot Buying Guide
Now that you have seen 10 great options for EMS boots, here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing the best duty boots for you. There are a lot of different options available in boots and I know what I like, but you will have to decide which options are the most important for you.
For example, I like my boots to be around 8 inches tall, with side or front zipper, and traction is a must for me. I prefer water-resistant boots with increased breathability over waterproof EMT boots. Finally, I don’t like the weight of a steel toe boot.
You may have completely different requirements, especially if you live in a wet area. Here is a list to help you decide which factors are most important to you when purchasing new EMS boots.
Why You Need High Quality EMS Boots For Work
Having a good pair of boots is one of the simplest ways EMTs and paramedics can improve job performance. Having a boot with good traction, breathability, and ankle support that stays dry can affect how well you perform and how confident you feel while doing it.
A bad pair of boots can make a 24 hour shift torture for your feet, and this becomes more true as we age.
Buying EMS boots will likely be the most expensive item you buy for yourself at work, so it’s important to know what you want. Getting high quality boots has many benefits and the money you spend now will pay off later. In fact, buying one good pair will last a long time and you will save yourself the hassle of buying multiple cheap pairs over and over again.
EMS Boot Buying Guide
→ Height & Ankle Support
Do you prefer your EMT boots to be around 6 inches tall or 8 inches tall?
First responders often prefer taller work boots to prevent ankle injuries in the field. A taller duty boot provides extra ankle support which can stop you from rolling an ankle when it counts. While this is especially important in rural areas, woods, and mountain terrain it also applies to city terrain.
There can be uneven terrain when responding to calls in residential and city areas. There are alleys with old pavement, rocky driveways, yards with holes and even maneuvering steps can require extra ankle support at times.
EMTs in both rural and urban areas are frequently at risk for ankle sprains and strains. It’s important that you can feel confident walking backward with your patient while on uneven terrain. If you can do that in 6 inch duty boots and those are what you like, than buy a shorter boot.
Another benefit of the taller EMS boot style is that rain water usually has a harder time dripping in through the top of the boot.
→ Waterproof & Breathability
Do you want waterproof duty boots?
It seems obvious that everyone will want their EMS boots to be waterproof. So why is this even a question? Because keeping water out will also tend to keep heat and moisture in.
You want work boots that stop moisture from coming in but allow moisture to escape out. Technology has come a long way and waterproof tactical boots have pretty good breathability now, but there are limits.
If you are working hard and creating a lot of heat and sweat, some waterproof boots will make your feet hot, trapping the heat and sweat more than other EMS boots. For this reason, EMTs working in hot and dry climates may not want to wear waterproof boots all year-long.
The ability to let out heat and sweat is often referred to as moisture wicking, freshness or breathability when discussing duty boots.
EMTs and paramedics in cold weather, rain and wet snow conditions should be willing to trade some breathability to have truly waterproof EMS boots. First responders don’t get to choose the weather conditions when responding to calls, and it’s not uncommon to be out in the rain and standing in puddles while assessing patients.
When choosing duty boots it’s important to keep in mind what kind of weather conditions you will be working in and decide how important waterproofing is to you. After all, finishing out a 24 hour shift with wet socks not only sucks, it puts you at risk for trench foot.
→ Side Zipper & Quick Release Functions
Having EMT boots with a zipper or other quick release device is great. The side or front zipper allows first responders to tie the boot ahead of time and then zip to get the boots on and off quickly.
This feature is great at night because it allows you to wake up, throw on your boots, and go when responding to calls. It’s also useful for new EMS, because there is nothing worse than feeling like you’re always making your partner wait. Personally, after using a zipper boot I can’t imaging going back to a normal pair of EMS boots.
So why doesn’t everyone use zipper boots?
The only downside to the side zipper is that it can be the first thing to fail on a pair of EMT boots. This is not always the case, but it does make some people hesitant to purchase side zip boots. For me, the convenience and usefulness of the side zipper is worth the risk.
However, if you are concerned about the zipper failing there are a couple of options available.
A good option is to buy the regular style of the EMS boots and then purchase a zip kit which allows you to tie a front zipper into your boots. This option allows you to have a zip up work boot without fear of the zipper failing.
Here is a link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhKQqPoizZg to a long video showing how to add a zip kit to your EMT boots.
The second option is to plan on repairing the zipper if it breaks and the shoe is still in good shape. It’s not uncommon for EMTs to buy a great pair of boots and then get zipper repairs and sole replacements over many years.
Overall, front and side zippers are great for EMTs because they allow you to get your EMS boots on and off in a matter of seconds. I highly recommend trying them out if you have never had a pair.
→ Traction & Slip Resistance
Traction is an important safety issue for many EMS workers and should be considered when buying a pair of boots. Anyone working in icy conditions, on slippery surfaces or in wet wilderness will need to seriously consider traction.
A pair of EMS boots with bad traction will slow you down and take your concentration away from providing quality patient care.
EMTs and paramedics need to feel confident transporting patients down sloping terrain and on wet surfaces, without falling.
The answer is not to get EMT boots with a deeper tread. In fact, I don’t recommend a really deep tread because you are more likely to track dried dirt and mud into patient homes.
High quality EMS boots are slip resistant and often will have passed slip resistance safety testing.
The truth is most boots will have a problem in truly icy conditions, but good duty boots can handle bad weather conditions, wet leaves and many are even oil resistant.
Traction is one of those areas where you often feel the difference between high quality and cheap EMT boots.
It doesn’t matter if you buy the best EMS boots on the market, if they aren’t comfortable you won’t wear them. Comfort matters!
With the long shifts and so much time spent on your feet, having comfortable duty boots feels great. In fact, when buying EMT boots you are frequently paying for comfort. Most people will usually feel the difference between a lower cost boot from Walmart and a name brand pair of duty boots.
Some brands have begun adding gel insoles to their EMS boots for additional comfort. This is a great strategy and it’s something you can do at home to improve any pair of work boots. Adding a great pair of comfort insoles can improve how duty boots feel on your feet.
→ Resists Blood Borne Pathogens
There are EMS boots available with blood borne pathogen (BBP) resistance, which sounds great to me. I would like all my socks and uniforms to have this standard too please.
BBP resistance means the boots have a lining which resists blood borne pathogens. Honesty, it’s difficult to nail down exactly what this means in the field, or even in a laboratory setting. I’ve done research and reached out to companies, but still can’t get a statistically significant answer about BBP resistant footwear. For this reason, I recommend treating it as a useful addition to any pair of EMT boots, but don’t let it guide your decision-making.
Blood borne pathogen resistance is useful for EMTs and paramedics because they are frequently dealing with patient body fluids. It’s a great feature and I’d like to see it used in more shoes, boots, and uniforms.
However, it shouldn’t be your number one deciding factor. After all, if you can’t stand wearing the boots because they hurt your feet, it wont matter that they resist blood borne pathogens.
Also let’s be honest, next time a patient bleeds on your EMS boots you will still give them a serious clean no matter what the shoe manufacture says.
Now if only they could make EMT boots that deflect vomit.
Does your EMS Agency or School have Footwear Requirements?
Does your job or school have any policies that you need to consider when purchasing duty boots?
Some examples of requirements are: steel toe boots, black EMT boots, and EMS boots that can be polished to a high shine.
Make sure you know if there are any agency policies about duty boots before making a purchase.
Many EMT schools and EMS agencies require students and first responders to wear black duty boots. Personally, I always purchase black boots to cover any stains caused by splashed body fluids. All of the boots on my list are black for this reason, but some of them are available in other colors.
→ Polish to a High Shine
Do you want to polish your EMS boots? For many first responders this is not an important factor when choosing a boot. However, some EMS Agencies and many EMT schools do require a boot that can be polished.
There are boots that can not be polished so if this is important for you, make sure you know whether the boot you’re purchasing is polishable. Nobody wants to buy EMS boots and have to return them due to a polishing issue.
→ Type of Toe
Another significant decision to make when purchasing EMS boots is what kind of toe do you want? Some agencies will mandate first responders to wear a steel toe boot for the extra toe protection. Know whether your employer has policy requirements before purchasing duty boots.
EMS boots have some great options for toe protection and it’s basically a personal preference about which toe you want in your boot. If you want extra toe protection you can get a steel toe boot or a composite toe instead of a regular boot toe.
Deciding Between Steel Toe & Composite Toe
Many EMS personnel would never buy a boot without having proper toe protection. If you are at risk for heavy objects falling on your feet or are worried about the stretcher running over your toes, than you should consider a reinforced toe box.
If you want extra foot protection and don’t have a mandated steel toe, I recommend getting the composite toe because they are lighter than the steel toe, but stronger than a leather dome. Many EMTs and paramedics don’t recommend a steel toe EMS boot because they are a heavier boot. Over a 12 or 24 hour shift this weight can contribute to foot fatigue and overall tiredness.
If your priority is lightweight boots and you aren’t worried about foot injury than you will want a regular toed pair of EMS boots.
Here is a quick run down on the pros and cons of steel toe and composite toe boots.
Pros of Composite Toe Boots
• About 30% lighter than steel toe boots
• Handle extreme temperatures well
• Don’t dent or shatter
•No issues with metal detectors
• Resistant to electricity
Cons of Composite Toe Boots
• No puncture protection
• Usually more expensive
Pros of Steel Toe Boots
• Protection from heavy objects and crushing injuries
• Added space inside
• Puncture resistant
• Will dent rather than shatter
Cons of Steel Toe Boots
• Heavier and can cause fatigue
• Dangerous in electrical hazards
• Not ideal for smaller feet due to extra bulk and weight
→ Safety Testing
High quality boots have a number of safety features available that help keep first responders safe while working in the field. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets the standards and testing procedures for safety footwear. Here are some common tests that first responders will be interested in while shopping for EMS boots.
ASTM F2413 Electrical Hazard Standard (EH)
Electrical Hazard (EH) footwear is made to reduce electrical injuries from accidental contact live electricity. EMS boots with an EH rating have non-conductive, electrical shock-resistant heels and soles that can withstand the application of 18,000V at 60 Hz for one minute without any current flow or leakage current exceeding one millampere (mA). This is done under dry conditions. Steel plate boots will not pass EH standards. Having EMT boots that are EH rated is beneficial to EMS because electricity can travel through the ground making many situations dangerous for first responders.
ASTM F2413 Puncture Resistant standards (PR)
Puncture-resistant (PR) footwear is made to protect your feet from items you step on that can puncture the bottom of the shoe and injure your feet. EMS boots that meet PR standards have a puncture-resistant plate permanently placed between the insole and outsole of the boot. The duty boots must have a minimum puncture resistance of 270 pounds and show no signs of cracking after 1.5 million flexes in order to be PR rated. Anyone who has stepped on a nail understands the value of having puncture resistant EMT boots while in the field.
Impact and Compression Testing
Impact (I/50, I/75) – EMS boots can be impact tested for either 50 or 75 pounds. The impact test drops a 50 or 75 pound weight from about 18 inches high at a designated speed on the toe cap. The Impact rated boot must safely protect the toes inside the boot or it will not pass. I/50 means the duty boots are impact tested with a 50 pound weight and I/75 means they are tested with a 75 pound weight. I/50 will protect your toes from impacts of up to 50-pounds.
Compression (C/50, C/75) – EMS boots are tested for compression by applying a heavy load to the toe cap and assessing whether it breaks, is crushed or remains intact. Duty boots with a C/50 rating have endured compressive loads up to 1,750 pounds and remained intact, and boots with a C/75 rating withstood 2,500 pounds.
Having boots that pass impact and compression testing are beneficial for any EMS workers at risk for falling objects or crushing injuries on the feet.
→ Ask Other EMS
If you still aren’t sure about which EMS boots to get for yourself, ask around. You can’t go wrong asking other EMTs and EMS professionals about their favorite boots. If you are in school, ask your instructors. Use social media, online groups, and ask first responders during your field experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask people what it is they like about their favorite boots too. If you are working as an EMT, ask co-workers and EMS you meet on calls. If you don’t want to ask, then just check out their boots when on scene.
Want more EMT topics? Check out:
Christina Beutler is the creator of EMT Training Base. She is a former EMT and a current Registered Nurse. Christina’s path changed after taking a Basic First Aid class while in Community College, and a career in healthcare opened up. Working as an Emergency Medical Technician led to a passion for nursing and a job working in the Intensive Care Unit and Critical Care Unit right out of Nursing School. To learn more about Christina’s story, head over to the About page.