I’ll admit it, my original plan never involved buying an expensive pair of steel-toed boots, ever. I’d been using a $25 pair of steel-cap rubber boots forever. In Australia, en route to a research cruise, I was made aware that my current pair were not going to be appropriate for the cruise, so I wandered into Brisbane and bought my first pair of Blundies.
My apologies to the domestic and laboratory goddess, because the first thing you notice about these boots is that they are ugly. Not just regular ugly, but ugly enough that someone who wears Keen sandals with socks knows they’re ugly. We call them shit-kickers for a reason. That fact becomes irrelevant as soon as you try them on. Steel-toed boots have a reputation for being stiff, uncomfortable, and heavy, but not these. From the very first day they were soft, flexible, and comfortable. They quickly became my primary form of footwear whenever sandals weren’t appropriate.
For many research cruises, steel-toed boots are mandatory, especially when working with heavy, overhead loads, such as coring equipment or robots. Even when not required, they’re a good idea. One of my grad school colleagues recently spent a whole field season out of commission from a broken foot. The treads are grippy without being too think, they’re reasonably waterproof while still breathing well, and they use elastics instead of laces so you can easily slip them on and off while moving from deck to dry lab without spending all your time tying and untying your boots.
For the animal conscious, you can get them in synthetic leather as well, although I don’t know how durable those are compared to the real leather. You can also get a non-steel-toed version or ones with a full steel shank for extra protection.
Utility – 5/5 (steel-toed boots are mandatory for certain projects)
Durability – 4/5 (mine are 3 years old and still solid with good tread, though the elastic has lost some spring)
Comfort – 5/5 (even without socks they feel great)
Price – $$$
Statement of use: I wore my Blundies during a 3 month cruise in Papua New Guinea, on several backpacking trips, whenever I go out into the field, multiple times for travel (watch out at security checkpoints), and during the winter they are my primary shoe.