These Boots Were Made for Walkin' and Light Carpentry
October 5, 2009 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I need to buy a pair of steel-toe work boots. The problem: I am a woman with large-ish feet -- large enough that I have some trouble buying sneakers. Depending on the manufacturer, I wear a women's size 10 - 11, inclusive, with a medium width. Any tips on finding a pair that fits well? If I can't find well-fitting women's boots, are narrow men's boots a viable alternative?

I'll be doing the purchasing in Northern Virginia. I've heard from multiple sources that Red Wing is a good brand for work boots, so I was going to head down to the Red Wing store in the Springfield Mall. Can I expect to find large enough women's sizes there?

I'll be using them for carpentry and occasional welding in a scenery shop.
posted by Commander Rachek to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to whether or not they'll have boots in your size, but as a fellow woman-with-huge-goddamned-feet (a solid 11), I wouldn't even THINK to look for women's workboots, I'd save myself the frustration and head straight to the size 9 men's. It's not worth the hassle if they're, like, masculine shoes anyway.

(I've worn men's shoes/boots all my life [in addition to women's], it's never occurred to me NOT to!)
posted by tristeza at 5:16 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

According to Red Wing's website, they sell up to Women's 11. But yeah, for this kind of thing, you may want to also look at the Mens styles.
posted by radioamy at 5:21 PM on October 5, 2009

Have you looked at the Working Person's Store? I have a pair of steel-toed hiking boots from here that I love.
posted by olinerd at 5:23 PM on October 5, 2009

Men's and Women's feet aren't really different in shape, just average size - especially as these are purely functional, I'd just go straight to the equivalent men's size.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:30 PM on October 5, 2009

I have wide feet as well, and I wear steel-toe work boots just 'cause. They're men's because I just can't find a women's work boot that fits. Try the men's sizes. Mine are Brahmas, I got 'em at Wal-mart (yeah, evil) because I can't afford anywhere else.
posted by patheral at 5:50 PM on October 5, 2009

Sears/Kmart online has 12 pairs that seem to work. Zappos shows 25 pairs, but I don't know how many of those are in your size.

(I'm not sure how high you want them.) You might be able to see a pair or two at a local store, but sometimes getting your size is a bitch.

I feel your pain. Women's 11, slightly narrow.
posted by sperose at 6:03 PM on October 5, 2009

The mil spec steel toes from belleville shoes run narrow, and are made in the U.S. They seem to be about half the price of comparable Red Wings (which imports a lot of their product now).

A mens 43 size is an 8.0 in the belleville world.
posted by buzzman at 6:19 PM on October 5, 2009

I recently bought a pair of Red Wing work boots (these ones) and didn't have a problem finding them in a women's 10 (and the site says they go up to a 13). I doubt you'll have a problem finding women's Red Wings to fit, although as other folks have said, there's not that much of a difference in any case.

(In case you're put off by the fact that those particular shoes have a "non-metallic" toe cap and not gen-u-wine steel, I can tell you that I have dropped a lead brick on my foot and been basically none the worse for wear.)
posted by dorque at 6:22 PM on October 5, 2009

Two weeks ago I bought my lovely wife a pair of Red Wing hiking boots and we marveled over the fact that they had a pair of linesman boots (you know, for climbing telephone poles?) in a women's size 12. Red Wing will have what you need. I own three pair of Red Wings (hiking boots, no-slip waiter's shoes, and steel-toes) and I swear by them.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:33 PM on October 5, 2009

If you go to a real shoe store, you ought to be able to put your feet into one of those sizing devices and find your sizeā€”in both men's and women's. If the store has multiple widths as well as sizes, it seems likely that you'll be able to find one in the mens section to fit.

According to this conversion chart, 10 to 11 in womens is about equivalent to 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 or 10 or so in mens. Those aren't super-uncommon sizes or anything, so any good boot store ought to stock them.

I'm not convinced that there's really any difference besides labeling between "mens" and "womens" shoes. Some brands may only even have one set of sizes. (Issue military boots, for instance, don't have gendered sizing, so some brands of work boots may not, either.) There's lots of information on boot sizes available here.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:46 PM on October 5, 2009

A men's medium width is D, while a men's narrow is a B. A women's medium is a B. A women's 11 will be about a men's 9.5. So! Try on a 9.5 narrow in Men's boots, if you can find those. I would suspect that a women's 11 medium would be just as easy to find, though. Red Wing stocks lots of sizes.
posted by zinfandel at 9:01 PM on October 5, 2009

Yes, Red Wings. They are absolutely top-notch: very comfortable, very well-made, good-looking, and durable. (And not cheap: ~$100-150) They have half-sizes and several widths, and they fit you using a computerized gizmo they have that detects pressure points, arch height and who knows what all. So the shoes will fit. I wear 10W's and my favorite shoes are Birkenstocks, but my Red Wings are not far behind.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:53 PM on October 5, 2009

when i worked as a tradeswoman, i just bought men's workboots and wore those.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:19 AM on October 6, 2009

I wear women's 10 1/2 or 11 shoes, and I've bought Red Wings before. I don't know about the particular store you're thinking of, but I went to a small Red Wings store and they had shoes in my size.

When I buy men's shoes I wear a 8 1/2, medium width (not narrow).
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:23 AM on October 6, 2009

Be very aware of any pressure on your toes due to the edge of the steel cup. This will not decrease with time and has resulted in my tossing out a perfectly good pair.
posted by digsrus at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2009

Thanks for your input, eveyone; I just made the purchase this afternoon. Much to my surprise, the medium width wound up being too narrow in the toe, so I got a pair of men's size 9 wides with a non-steel toe and shank. They look like clown shoes but they fit great. I can now kick stage weights with confidence.
posted by Commander Rachek at 12:27 PM on October 11, 2009

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