Laying tile on top of a two-story house is the last place you want to be wearing some beaten up old pair of tennis shoes - one wrong move and you could find yourself tumbling towards the edge. With roofing in mind, we compared over two dozen work boots and shoes based on their support, stability, and mobility. We also talked to several local roofers about their preferences on the job, and everyone agrees the Thorogood Roofer Boots are the best roofing shoes around. They're definitely not the cheapest option, but they have great grip, they'll last for years, and with comfort like this, your feet will thank you forever. Article Summary
Roofing is one of the most popular contracted jobs out there, and the work is year-round for those in warmer climates. However, no matter what weather you find yourself working in, one thing you’ll absolutely need is a good pair of shoes. If you’ve already got experience working on rooftops, you know how easy it is to lose your balance because of the angle or to slip because of loose materials. Heck, even relatively flat roofs can be challenging to stay completely stable on when performing hard labor atop them.
Roofing requires a superior set of shoes that you can trust to keep you upright and walking confidently along the rooftops while you work. You’ll need high grip, tough durability, and something that won’t make you sweat so much it feels like you’re taking an afternoon dip. While there are a fair number of shoes that fit that description, there are more that don’t – and this incompatibility isn’t always the most obvious thing in the world to spot. And with your safety, efficiency and several other factors riding on your footwear, there is a bit of added pressure on your decision of which shoes or boots to buy.
To find the best shoes for roofing, we started by gathering a number of options that fit the description of “work boots” and then narrowing down the list through comparison and contrast. We looked at things like upper materials and grip patterns to determine each shoe’s durability and breathability, and we also spoke to a couple of local roofers to get their opinions on each brand. After several days of research, we’ve concluded with three options that we believe are perfect for roofers and created a guide to help you choose the perfect pair for your specific work conditions.
The best roofing shoes overall
If we had to pick a shoe that was best for nearly all situations, we’d have to say the best roofing shoes are Thorogood’s Lace-to-Toe Roofer Boots. Thorogood is a highly-respected footwear brand, especially by those in the industrial and construction sectors. They offer a wide array of boots and shoes in different niches, and they all rival the top competitors in their respective categories. This particular boot happens to be made specifically for roofing, so it’s not hard to see why so many roofers love it.
The upper of this roofing shoe features durably-stitched, riveted construction from tough, thick leather. While most boots have single or double stitching on classically-worn areas, these features triple stitching, giving them an added layer of longevity. The rivets on the shoe will also help extend their life simply based on any materials that may bump your boot hitting the rivet and being deflected before they even have a chance to come into contact with the leather.
Another great feature of the upper is the speed lacing system on top with the very top featuring an eyelet. This makes it faster and easier to get your boots on and secure, while the eyelet on top provides added security and support (should you choose to use it). The laces on this boot also extend nearly to the toe, allowing for a much tighter fit on the top of the foot, which is one of the features most applauded by its customers and ultimately something that’s important for support on a roof. Speaking of the top of the boot, this boot is ankle cut, which not only gives your leg more airflow than a traditionally-cut boot, but it increases ankle mobility without sacrificing a ton of protection and support.
The sole of this shoe is also special and worth noting. The sole is not made in-house, but it is instead sourced from Vibram, a well-known brand which manufactures soles for many of the top boot brands. Vibram has their own line of athletic shoes, but they leave manufacturing industrial footwear to those who do it best, such as brands like Thorogood. The sole on this boot has very defined ridges on the bottom, giving a secure grip that lasts a long time. It’s very thick and securely fastened to the upper via multiple layers of stitching.
For a solid pair of shoes that are going to give you superior grip and durability, help you stay mobile and cool and last pretty much forever, the Thorogood Lace-To-Toe Roofer Boots are the way to go. These would be great to use on metal roofs, tiles, shingles, and pretty much any roofing material out there.
A great bang for your buck
Timberland is a knockout boot brand that has a top-tier boot in every category. This classic brand features some of the toughest boots on the market, and that certainly includes the Timberland PRO Barstow Wedge Work Boot. This boot’s design and superior construction make it a serious contender for the best roofing shoes, and at a slightly lower price than the Thorogood’s, it offers a great bang for your buck.
The Timberlands are claimed by many to be the “most comfortable boots they’ve ever owned.” This is due to Timberland’s “anti-fatigue technology,” which involves a padded tongue and a specially designed insole to provide comfort and support. The wedge sole is also a key feature in this boot because a wedge sole, unlike a traditional sole with a heel, provides more surface to come into contact with the ground, and thus increase friction and grip. The sole is specially ridged with their anti-slip design, so you can remain sure-footed on the job. The upper of this boot features speed lace rivets, although only two rivets per side.
Although these roofers are tough as bricks, they don’t quite measure up to our top pick in terms of durability. They are durable, don’t get us wrong, but the leather is soft, which contributes to their extremely high comfort level but sacrifices a bit of toughness. In addition, these boots have some triple stitching, but the leather panel on the side isn’t as close to the toe as with the Thorogood’s. The reason that this matters, is that the bottom of these panels, when they end on the side, are a very quickly worn area on work boots, especially when they’re going to be subjected to harsh conditions. Also, there are no rivets in the Timberlands, giving more potential for contact between the leather and damaging agents.
Despite its minor drawbacks in the durability department, the Timberland PRO Barstow Boots are still some of the best roofing shoes out there, especially when it comes to comfort. If comfort is a top priority for you, these are definitely a viable alternative to Thorogood’s Roofers. Like many reviewers have said, these may just be the most comfortable pair of roofing boots you ever own.
A more versatile style to try
It might be against classical schools of thought, but hiking shoes make for excellent roofing footwear. Arc’teryx is an authority on durably-constructed hiking shoes that are jam-packed with features, and their Acrux FL Approach Shoe is highly versatile and capable of handling most rooftops. Many roofers swear by hiking shoes due to their low profile, light weight and soles with tread patterns that will both provide necessary grip and leave hot tiles mark-free.
First, let’s talk about the unique advantages of this shoe over a heavy boot like our top two. This shoe is light – during an 8+ hour workday, the weight of a shoe is going to make a big difference. In addition to their lightness, these shoes were designed with breathability in mind, which goes a long way in keeping your feet cool. The breathability combined with the moisture-resistant liner are going to ensure that sweat doesn’t pool up, which will end your days of working in damp socks.
The sole of this shoe also has distinctive ridges and lugs, but remains low-profile to ensure grip without being bulky. Just like the Thorogood boot, this shoe’s sole is made by Vibram, which means awesome grip and great comfort. However, just a forewarning that the sole is not as thick as our top two boots, which means that if you’re roofing in a super hot climate, that heat is going to transfer to your foot rather quickly.
Although this shoe’s design brings some unique advantages over traditional boots, it also does bring a couple disadvantages. First and foremost, the Arc’teryx shoes fall short in durability. These have a synthetic upper which isn’t going to be as strong or long-lasting as leather. Also, their low profile does detract a bit from support and protection, and its thin laces may tend to rip more easily if you’re often hitting your feet on materials.
They’re definitely different from the common roofer’s footwear, but the Arc’teryx Acrux FL Approach Shoes can really hold their own throughout a regular work day. If you like the idea of cutting out the bulk of traditional boots to maximize breathability (while still maintaining good comfort and grip), these could be the best roofing shoes for you.
Other roofing shoes worth mentioning
Because footwear is so often chosen based on personal preference, we wanted to mention a few models that didn’t quite make our top three, but are still popular choices among other roofers.
Cougar Paws boots have been hotly debated among roofers – there are hordes of roofers who swear by them, and others think they’re a gimmick. The Cougar Paws Performer Roofers feature a pretty standard upper – like a classic work boot – but the magic lies within the Cougar Pads. These pads adhere to the bottom of the soles (they are removable) and they are made for the purpose of absorbing heat, avoiding leaving scuff marks on the roof and providing the best grip available. These are highly rated for their slip-resistance, and that feature alone make them an attractive buy for the safety-conscious.
Irish Setter, a sister brand to Red Wings, makes some pretty incredible footwear. Their Ashby Leather Work Boots are durable and feature a wedge sole, which increases grip by increasing surface area in contact with the roof. The sole is melt resistant, being able to withstand heats of up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit (let’s hope you don’t have to do any roofing on Mercury). The Ashby’s don’t feature any speed laces and they have a softer construction than our top 2, but these are very solid roofing boots nonetheless.
Things to consider before buying
There is a lot resting on the type of shoes you wear roofing – both literally and figuratively speaking. Deciding which ones to buy isn’t as simple as walking in the mall and heading to your local shoe store. You’ve got to think about a couple of key factors in choosing the best shoes for roofing, such as the ones we’ve mentioned below.
The material of the upper is extremely important in relation to the durability of the shoe and its comfort level. The most popular material is leather for its longevity and moisture-wicking properties, but there are boots with nylon and synthetic uppers that have increased airflow and lower levels of durability. Generally speaking, we’d recommend leather for roofing work conditions due to its durability and protection, since safety is one of the top concerns on our priority list. However, if you’re going to be working in extremely hot conditions and a full leather upper is going to be unbearably hot, going the synthetic route is a good alternative, as long as the shoes are durably crafted.
Sole material and design
The sole might just be the most important part of a roofing shoe or boot, seeing as the amount of grip the shoe provides is going to determine how sure your footing is when you’re working on the roof. There are many different materials that soles can be made from, including rubber and plastics. Different patterns on the sole, as well as the material used, will determine the level of grip you have. Most shoe and boot companies use their own soles, but several of the top-tier roofing shoes outsource their soles to specialized manufacturers, the most common being Vibram. Each of the models in our guide were specially picked due to their superior grip patterns and materials. However, if you shop around for other options that we didn’t cover, make sure you pay close attention to this aspect.
Working on your feet all day can take its toll. Boots without arch support can eventually lead to fallen arches, which can lead to pain while walking, and the last thing you want while shingling a roof with a 30-degree incline is to not be sure of your feet. Choosing a pair of boots with proper arch support is supremely important to your comfort and safety, so make sure to research the interior of the shoe so you don’t end up with flat feet. Any mention of a supportive insole, a padded instep or comfort technology will usually be a good hint that the shoe has a good amount of support.
Why you shouldn’t use regular shoes or shop boots for roofing
If you do a lot of work around the house, in the garden or in your workshop, you might wonder why you can’t just wear your knockaround boots on the roof. If they’re good enough to protect your feet from a damp vegetable patch, a falling wrench and a hot exhaust pipe, why could they not protect your feet from roofing nails and hot asphalt? Well, they may, but there are many more considerations to be made that your shop boots might not measure up to – these considerations are for your safety and comfort during the workday.
The main reason to leave your shop boots in the shop and get yourself some true roofing shoes is grip. If you’re stripping a roof, it is going to be a relatively smooth surface peppered with debris, which will certainly not render it the grippiest surface in the world. Shop boots that have worn-flat soles will provide you with little to no rooftop grip. Buying a pair of roofing shoes with defined ridges on the sole will make sure that there’s no slipping and sliding that could end you up in the hospital.
Shoes vs boots for roofing
The preference of shoes versus boots for roofing varies from person to person, and there isn’t necessarily a better option – the answer is going to depend a lot on your circumstances and personal preferences. There are a few distinct advantages and disadvantages to both, and choosing the right style will certainly make a difference in your workday. Let’s take a look at the comparison of each style and break down why one could be better than the other to suit your personal needs on the job.
Shoes, being of a less rigid construction than most boots, have a lot more potential for arch support. Most specially-designed shoes have insoles that can provide a lot of comfort, and this is difference is easily felt after 8 hours on your feet.
Although most boots don’t offer the same kind of cushioned insoles some specially-designed shoes do, there is an aspect of support shoes can’t offer, and that is ankle support. Due to their higher raise on the leg, boots will provide support to your ankles to prevent rolls and sprains – this is a big safety feature to consider.
Shoes, with the low profile offered by their construction, offer a lot of mobility. This lack of ankle restriction will help you move around better, which is the same reason that boots are a bit safer for the ankle by offering support and protection.
This is one of the main areas that boots fall short in – the same properties that give boots good ankle support and protection wrap the ankle in a strong, durable material which limits their movement, especially when the laces are tied tight.
Shoes are almost always, in terms of heat management, more pleasant than boots. This is solely due to the fact that you don’t have extra material around your ankles and they can be hit with a cool breeze. However, this same principle decreases protection and support, so it is a definite compromise.
Breathability is pretty wide ranging for boots, depending on the material. Popular leather boots have a bit of natural breathability, but they can get quite warm. Those that have synthetic patches with mesh have increased breathability, but durability takes a hit with those synthetic sections.
Wrapping it up
Finding the best roofing shoes took a lot of careful consideration to ensure we had pairs that met all of our expectations in terms of support, stability, and mobility. At the end of the day, these are the three things that matter most to ensure your safety and efficiency on the job. We think the Thorogood Roofer Boots offer the optimal balance of all priorities and expectations, but if you’re looking for something a little more unique, make sure you keep those three areas in mind while shopping.