'Comfort' seems to be a Google query men often make about boots; or to be precise, 'What are the most comfortable men’s boots?’
The question is perfectly reasonable and a good place to start. Unfortunately, the listed results on Google don't get you any closer to answering your question.
These boots are the MOST comfortable.. because... they're on our list, dummy!
Blog style lists dominate page one results for this search term. We all like a good list, e.g. 'Top 10..blah blah.' The problem with lists like these is that that they tend be full of affiliate links and brand recommendations while lacking any breadth of detail.
As was the case with these results, the reader was given a litany of brand recommendations but moved him no closer to understanding what are the most comfortable men's boots? In other words, the lists were too subjective, jargon heavy and lacked reasonable explanation.
Comfort is subjective
Boot comfort is subjective. It depends on many physical and psychological factors. Your physical structure, supporting muscles, prepotency to fatigue, how you walk, where you walk, brand perception and status are all examples of factors that affect your relationship with your boots.
Boot comfort is also objective. Boot design provides us with an objective look at the relationship between material components of a boot and comfort for the wearer.
The most comfortable men's boots:
1. Allow normal range of motion between the foot and the ankle
You've heard it before. 'Boots offer better protection against ankle injury.' Unfortunately, researchers found little evidence to suggest boots decreased the risk of ankle injury (See studies here, here, here, and here).
The height of the shaft should allow the normal range of motion between the foot and the ankle. Studies have found that boots with a high or stiff shaft (the upper part of the boot) actually decreases the foot-ankle range of motion. (Whittle, 2007).
With high-shaft boots, studies found that they caused subjects to experience discomfort, or worse, the onset of stress fractures. Subjects who work boots with stiff shafts had unnatural pressure placed on their knees, as it compensated for the restricted foot-ankle motion. (Boehm and Hosel, 2010).
Some support is good, however. In a study of underground coal miners, it was revealed that lace-up boots offered better perceived 'comfort,' 'fit', and 'support' than gumboots.
Gumboot wearers were also more likely to state that their work boot comfort was either ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘indifferent’, their work boot fit was ‘poor’ and their current boot did not provide enough support
2. Does not cause fatigue after a day of wear
The weight of the boot is one of the main elements that causes fatigue for wearers who spend a lot of time on their feet, e.g. miners or hikers.
- Heavier boots alter the way an individual walks and increases energy expenditure and oxygen consumption (Jones et al., 1984; Majumdar et al., 2006).
- In a study of two boots 500 grams apart, the heavier pair was found to cause significantly more localised fatigue in the subjects after a series of physical exercises. (Garner et al., 2013).
3. The sole is flexible but not too flexible
The amount of flexibility in a boot's sole is primarily determined by the materials used to construct it, and is also directly related to thickness, elasticity, and padding. Studies have determined the following:
- Flexible soles reduce oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production (Chiou et al., 2012).
- More flexible soles increase the risk of metatarsal stress fractures than less flexible soles (Arndt et al., 2003).
- Excessive cushioning in athletic shoes has been found to make wearers feel they are reducing joint impact, when in fact it is just reducing the sensation of the impact.
4. The materials that make up the boots should allow the foot to 'breath' when the boots are worn
For leather shoes, using real leather materials, such as full leather lining and cork, offers a lot more breathability and comfort than commonly used synthetic materials.
- It was found that shoes with polyether lining and polymeric foam based insoles restricted water vapour permeability and water absorption, resulting in dampness in the shoe caused by perspiration, negatively affecting foot comfort (Bitlisli, B., 2005).
- One of the biggest breakthroughs has been the development of one-way, water permeable materials such as Gore-Tex, which repels water while allowing sweat to escape to the surface and evaporate.