Wildland firefighting is among the most harsh and physically demanding jobs you can do.
To do it properly, you need the best equipment – and that includes your boots.
But wildland firefighting also has particular challenges when it comes to finding the right pair of boots. For instance, most outside workers go immediately for steel toe caps in their boots to prevent their feet from any accidental crushing accidents.
If you’re working in wildland firefighting though, it’s not that you don’t need to protect your feet from crushing hazards – you do, more so than in some other jobs – but you also have to consider the potential effects of heat and fire when choosing a boot with a highly heatable steel section relatively close to your skin.
That can lead to what is essentially a toe-oven effect.
So, finding the best wildland firefighting boots is not as simple as finding the best boots for other purposes. And who has the time to go investigating model after model?
We do. We’ve lined up five of the best wildland firefighting boots available right now, to make your choice a lot more straightforward. Have a quick read, make our choice, and protect your feet this week.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
Best Wildland Firefighting Boots
It’s an old gag that a Smith & Wesson beats four aces.
When it comes to wildland firefighting boots though, it’s true that a Smith & Wesson beats all comers.
Now, it’s true that you can get boots that are technically more protective, but the reason the Smith & Wesson makes it to the top of our list is because it delivers impressive protection at a price that doesn’t make you want to throw the boots in the fire and go and live by the sea.
There’s a balance here, between protective features and sensible pricing, that helps explain why Smith & Wesson became such a popular brand in its other main line of work.
It does everything you need, doesn’t charge you the earth, and puts competence and protection in the hands – or rather, on the feet – of everyone who needs a good pair of wildland firefighting boots.
What are we looking at here? First of all, the Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0 boots are long-term comfortable.
Why is that important? Simple – if you’re involved in a wildland firefight, you need to give it your focus for hour after hour. The last thing you want is a pain in your foot distracting you, pulling your mind off the job in hand.
The Breach 2.0 combined leather with nylon to give you a comfortable boot boot with an impressive, never-quitting upper. Go ahead, it seems to say. Do hour after hour of firefighting – I’ve got this. The upper is flexible but supportive, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing rigid boxes on your feet and dragging them around through the wildland terrain.
There’s a slip-resistant outsole here too, which can be incredibly important in the wildland environment. Again, when you’re firefighting in that environment, you want to be focused on the job, not on whether the place you put your feet will slip or slide out from underneath you.
With the slip-resistant outsole, you barely need to give that a thought, because the boot will grant you traction on most outdoor surfaces.
And finally, let’s talk about breathability. You get a sequence of breathable mesh panels on the Smith & Wesson boots, so that you don’t cook your feet and get sweaty and uncomfortable, even after hours of firefighting.
Again, you can call this a comfort feature, but in this context, it’s also a performance aid, because firefighting in a couple of sweatboxes is nobody’s idea of a good time – or an effective one.
You might well find boots more tailored to your wildland firefighting needs than the Smith & Wesson Breach 2.0s.
You won’t find them for anything like as reasonable a prince point as Smith & Wesson offers, and in the sheer construction competence of the boots, these are hard to take on head to head, or feet to feet. That’s why they’re our #1 pick.
- Flexible uppers mean you have a boot that keeps going hour after hour
- Comfortable construction lets you keep your mind on the job
- No steel toe cap means you’re not baking your feet
- Breathable mesh panels stop your feet from getting sweaty and uncomfortable
- The price is right on these boots
- Arguably, the lack of the steel toe cap means they’re less protective than some boots on the market
Got a little more to spare in your boot budget? We can take care of that for you. Thorogood is one of those companies with a happy accident in their name, in that Thorogood has a reputation for being… thoroughly… good.
Reliability is the company’s watchwords, and the Gen-Flex2 series of boots brings that home to you in a meaningful way.
Durability is key in a long-life wildland firefighting boot, and – as with the Smith & Wesson – durability is built into the Gen-Flex2 boots. In particular, the Thorogood accommodates your gait, rather than forcing you to walk like a Martian from a 50s sci-fi B-movie.
Flexibility is what we’re talking about here, so the boot serves your feet when they’re moving around, rather than acting just like a suit of armor.
Ever had to negotiate tricky terrain in a pair of those ‘armor’ boots? Nightmare. That’s where the Gen-Flex2 comes into their own – they’re kiiiiind of like wearing a pair of highly protective sneakers.
Reliable, flexible, waterproof, last all day and keep on going firefighting boots from a company with a strong reputation in serving the firefighting community? What’s gonna be wrong with that?
Not a damn thing, as it happens. Sure, the price is a slight advance on the Smith & Wesson, but for a comfortable, durable boot, you’re gonna pay it without a qualm, because it’s going to treat you right – and you more or less know it the minute your foot goes in.
As with the Smith & Wesson, the long size zip on the Thorogood also helps you feel like you’re not trapped in an inflexible boot nightmare, but more or less hiking with attitude.
The Thorogood Gen-Flex2 is a boot which feels simple, but is actually well engineered and built to take away some of the cares you would otherwise have while out firefighting. That’s a feeling worth paying for any day of the week.
- Flexible uppers mean you never feel trapped in the boot
- The boot accommodates your gait, so you can walk naturally
- Waterproof boots mean you can go anywhere you need to during firefighting
- A long side zip means you feel free to use them to the limits of their capabilities
- They’re a little more expensive than the Smith & Wesson boots
- BREATHABLE BBP WATERPROOF BOOTS for men and women on the job and off, keep liquids at bay while wicking away moisture and allowing your feet to breathe. Meets ASTM F1671-13 BBP Waterproof Footwear Standards
- ELECTRICAL HAZARD RESISTANCE - these non-metallic athletic work boots keep your feet protected and meet ASTM F2413-18 EH Resistance Test Standards
- REMOVABLE SINGLE-DENSITY FOOTBED made of strategic concentrations of polyurethane and Impact 300 heel insert protect your foot’s strike zones, absorbing impacts and wicking away moisture to help these police boots feel comfortable right out of the box
- GOODYEAR STORM WELT CONSTRUCTION for superior wear resistance and moisture seal between the upper and midsole, for dependable and long lasting work boots
- COMPOSITE SHANK CONSTRUCTION gives these survival gear boots the flex and strength to maintain their shape under heavy duress
When you compare the Danner Wildland Tactical to either or our list-leading boots, there’s a certain hardcore seriousness that comes across in the Danner immediately.
This is a boot that has a more mountaineering, lace-up, let’s-go-to-work look and a feel that’s a little more rigid, so you have to be prepared for the step up, otherwise you’ll convince yourself the boot must be less comfortable.
It’s actually been engineered within an inch of its life not to be less comfortable though – simply more hard-wearing and prepared for anything you might encounter.
The boot is fire-resistant, so you can walk over embers without fear of compromising your boots. The uppers and the soles are made of highly durable leather, so you’ll get some good movement out of them. As much movement as the leather/nylon combination boots that top our poll? Well, no, but a feeling of more fire-resistance mixed into the flexibility trade-off.
You get a Vibram S587 outsole here, made for oil, ice, and fire slip-resistance. If you’ve ever looked at an environment and thought it was mocking you with its impassibility before, these are the boots to take your revenge in, because the likelihood is you can just stride on through.
There’s an OrthoLite footbed for breathable comfort underfoot, and a moisture-wicking mesh-lining to keep you comfortable rather than sweaty and rubbing, no matter how long you’re out there firefighting.
Overall, this is a boot that feels like it has less time for a sense of humor, but more time for some hardcore firefighting, and all the science and design it needs to get the job done.
- Fire-resistant uppers add a level of confidence to your firefighting
- The Vibram S587 outsole gives you slip-resistance that’s tough to beat
- The OrthoLite footbed makes the boot comfortable underfoot
- A moisture-wicking mesh layer helps keep you cool under pressure
- There’s no escaping the comparative rigidity and heaviness of these boots
- Mountaineering-inspired, lightweight, athletic design
- Breathable, moisture-wicking mesh lining
- Cushioning open-cell OrthoLite footbed
- Full-length polypropylene board with integrated steel shank for optimal rigidity and stability underfoot
- Handcrafted, opanka-stitch construction for strength and stability
Many people have a penchant for the White’s Boots 400 VLTT Smoke Jumper boot. That’s great if a) you can afford it, and b) you can find it – after early success, the White’s boots (a definite contender for our list, were they commonly available), appear to have gone into hiding in the wild.
We can’t find ’em, otherwise we’d be telling you about them right here and now. But if you like the White’s Smoke Jumper, but want a less bashful alternative, you can’t do much better than the Ad Tec Fireman Logger boot.
100% grain oiled leather uppers with a rubber soul give you a boot that’s all about the action and the protection. The whole boot has been treated to make it heat- and fire-resistant up to 500 degrees without sustaining any damage. That treatment also keeps your feet safe from the effects of the heat all the way to that point – and you have to remember, if your feet are being exposed to more than 500-degree and more, you probably have other things to worry about too.
Another reason to go Ad Tec is that compared to the Smoke Jumper, it’s one hell of a bargain. Will you get years and years of active service out of the Ad Tec? Probably not. But the months of hardcore service it will give you will be comfortable, protected, and will give you the confidence to stride through a fire scene and do what you have to do.
- 100% grain oiled leather uppers give you some surprising flexibility
- Rubber souls let you stomp confidently through w wildland environment
- Heat and fireproofing treatment keep you safe up to 500 degrees
- For those who love the White’s Boots 400 VLTT Smoke Jumper, this is an affordable, available substitute
- Compared to some boots, you might find the Ad Tec has a limited lifespan
- 𝐅𝐔𝐋𝐋-𝐆𝐑𝐀𝐈𝐍 𝐋𝐄𝐀𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐑 𝐔𝐏𝐏𝐄𝐑: Our top-grain leather is treated to be heat resistant to up 500 degrees; This leather upper is extremely durable, while offering a comfortable break in period
- 𝐖𝐀𝐓𝐄𝐑𝐏𝐑𝐎𝐎𝐅 𝐌𝐄𝐌𝐁𝐑𝐀𝐍𝐄: 100% waterproof and breathable, waterproof membrane liners ensure that no water gets in, while allowing sweat and moisture to get out
- 𝐆𝐎𝐎𝐃𝐘𝐄𝐀𝐑 𝐖𝐄𝐋𝐓 𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐔𝐂𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍: Hyper strong thread is used to triple stitch our toughest boots. Reinforced stitch to provide a more secure platform, our Goodyear welt construction offers increased stability; Many of our Goodyear welt boots can be recrafted
- 𝐄𝐋𝐄𝐂𝐓𝐑𝐈𝐂𝐀𝐋 𝐇𝐀𝐙𝐀𝐑𝐃 (𝐄𝐇) 𝐏𝐑𝐎𝐓𝐄𝐂𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍: Electrical hazard (EH) footwear is manufactured with non conductive electrical shock resistant soles and heels
- 𝐍𝐎𝐍-𝐒𝐋𝐈𝐏 𝐑𝐔𝐁𝐁𝐄𝐑 𝐎𝐔𝐓𝐒𝐎𝐋𝐄: For superior traction in extreme cold and hot environments, this exclusive outsole features a 90º heel, an oil and slip resistant rubber compound, and a non-linear lug pattern for superior traction and debris release
Let’s not pretend all wildland firefighters are men, shall we? It’s 2023, after all. And if you’re a woman with a wildland fire to fight, you probably can’t do better than the Danner Flashpoint II.
We’re not going to lie to you, this is a lot of boot for your money – it feels pretty rigid on the foot, but it’s rigid with protection, so it at least justifies the feel it gives.
Also, the rigidity of the 100% leather upper means enhanced durability of the boot, so you’re not paying out again six months down the line. Chances are, you can get a decade out of these boots, which, quite apart from anything else, is more than enough time to wear them in.
You also get a Vibram sole here, so you’re buying some confident striding to where you need to be to fight the fire, and there’s an extra 7-ounce leather layer in the toe of the boot – rather than the pizza oven effect of a steel toe cap – to give you extra cushioning and help cut down the abrasion of a long-working firefighter boot.
Fire resistant, water resistant, and puncture resistant, these are the boots you’d need to kick the Devil in the shins and get away with it.
Is there a downside to the Danner? Mm-hmm, some might say so – the price is enough to make you reach for an inhaler, whether you’re asthmatic or not. But again, if you spend now, you’re probably getting a decade of hardcore wildland firefighting out of these boots, so it’s an expense you have to aggregate over time. Y’know… like the car they almost rival in price.
If the whole “Buy once, firefight for a decade” vibe makes a good deal of sense to you, then the Danner Flashpoint II might have your name on it.
- Rigid all leather uppers mean these boots shrug off the environment
- Vibram sole gives you a confident stride in the wildland
- An extra leather layer in the toe protects against abrasion
- Durable enough to last ten years
- Fire-resistant, water-resistant, and puncture-resistant
- Also poverty-resistant – the price is something to behold
- On the stiffer side, with less give than you might like
- Fire, puncture and water-resistant 8 oz full-grain leather upper
- Triple-stitched with Nomex fire-resistant thread for superior fit and protection
- Additional 7 oz leather layer in toe for abrasion resistance
- Cushioning PU footbed
- Steel shank. Recraftable
When you’re buying boots for wildland firefighting, there are a few things to take into consideration before you make your choice.
How stiff do you like it?
The stiffness of the uppers on your boots works on a sliding scale – the stiffer they come, the more likely they are to protect you in the event of falling, possibly flaming, debris.
But on the other hand, the stiffer they are, the less natural they’ll feel, so you may feel hampered by them, as though they’re the boots from a suit of armor. Pick your stiffness comfort zone.
Resistance is not futile
If at all possible, make sure your boots are resistant to as many of the hazards you’ll find in a wildland firefighting scenario as possible. If your boots are going to let in water the first time you take them out, they’re just money wasted.
Similarly, if they don’t at least give you some degree of heat and fire protection, they may be good boots, but they’re the wrong boots for the job. Think about what you actually need the boots to do, and look for confirmation of their capabilities before you click.
There are boots, and then there are boots. Price, like every other component, will play a part. Are you more minded to pay once and get boots that will last you a decade, or pay less now, and wear the daylights out of the boots for six months? There’s no ‘wrong’ answer as such, just make sure you know what you want, and buy accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I just use hiking boots as wildland firefighting boots?
You try fighting some wildland fires in your hiking boots and let us know how that works out. Wildland firefighting boots are frequently treated to give protection against heat and fire. That… really helps get the job done. Because of the fire.
How long should a pair of wildland firefighting boots last?
That tends to depend on how much you pay for them. The sliding scale is like many in life – pay more now, you can expect a pair of boots to last you a decade. Pay a lot less now, you might be paying again in six months.
What do wildland firefighting boots do?
Bottom line, they’re there to protect your feet while you do the brave thing and fight wildland fires. They’re built to take extremes of use and temperature.
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