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Western Work Boots vs Cowboy Boots

Let’s get back to the comparison of cowboy boots.

In previous articles, we have discussed riding heel vs walking heel, square toe vs pointed toe

Today we come to a new topic: western work boots vs cowboy boots.

Cowboy boots are already familiar boots, but what about western work boots? What are the features that make many people love them so much?

Let’s check it out!

Cowboy Boots 1

Western Work Boot vs Cowboy Boot

First, we will compare the differences between western work boots and cowboy boots.

How these differences affect their comfort, durability, style, and safety

Finally, we will come to the conclusion.

Design of western work boots

Toe shape

The toe shape of western work boots normally includes round toe, square toe and wide square toe.

Many western work boots have steel toes to protect the toes of cowboys completely.


The outsole of western work boots is usually thick and made of rubber, so it has very good elasticity and durability.

Besides, the outsole is very flat with good skid resistance on slippery surfaces. The outsole of western work boots creates a sense of balance and stability for the wearer.

The inner sole of western work boots is one of the highlights of this cowboy boot. It is extremely comfortable with a very good cushion insole.

Besides, the insole of western work boots has very good arch support for people with high arch or flat feet. Arch support is rarely found in other cowboy boots.

In addition to the highly appreciated smoothness, the soles of many western work boots also have steel shanks to ensure absolute safety for the wearer’s soles, suitable for those who do heavy or dangerous work ( ex: working at a construction site). This is a big plus compared to traditional cowboy boots


The western work boots’ soles are thicker than other cowboy boots but their heels are low.

The heels of western work boots are usually only about 1″ tall (some pairs of western work boots don’t even have heels).

Western work boots heels are wide, flat and upright. With such design, western work boot heels are very flexible and balance very well when walking (the heel isn’t high at all).


Western work boots’ shafts are similar to cowboy boots in design, but they usually reach mid calf or slightly above mid calf (11″ to 12″). The shaft retains the delicate, beautiful and artistic look of cowboy boots.


Vamp of western work boots does not have many decorative patterns and motifs, partly because western work boots are used to do many outdoor jobs (picnic, farming). Therefore, the vamp of cowboy boots are very easy to be affected by external forces and it might be badly affected if there are many motifs.

Design of cowboy boots

There are many different types of cowboy boots, but we will compare western work boots with traditional cowboy boots.

Toe shape

The specialty of traditional cowboy boots is pointed toe, or maybe snip toe. Very few traditional cowboy boots have square toes.

Read more: Cowboy Boots Square Toe vs Pointed Toe


The outsole of traditional cowboy boots is not as thick as the sole of western work boots, they are thinner and made of leather. However, you need to know that an outsole made from leather is also very soft and comfortable.


The heels of traditional cowboy boots are quite high, from 2″ and up.

Unlike western work boots that prioritize walking comfort, the heels of traditional cowboy boots are often high and inclined so they can be easily hooked into the stirrup and balanced on horseback.

Read more: Riding Heel vs Walking Heel


On every shaft of a cowboy boot is art pictures. And traditional cowboy boots always have these art pictures on their shaft.

Traditional cowboy boots have very sophisticated and detailed shafts. Besides, their shaft height is also higher than western work boots.

Cowboy boots have shaft height ranging from 11″ to over 14″.


There are many patterns on the vamp of traditional cowboy boots, and it is also the biggest highlight to distinguish traditional cowboy boots from all types of boots in this world.

Summary of the design of western work boots compared to cowboy boots

Boots part / Boots typeWestern Work BootsTraditional Cowboy Boots
Toe shaftRound toe, Square toe, Wide Square toePointed toe, Snip toe
SoleInsole: Has arch support, wide

Outsole: thick, wide flat, mainly made of rubber

Insole: Don’t has good arch support

Outsole: mainly made of leather

HeelLow: 1” to 1.5”

Vertical with the ground

High: 2” or more

Tilt 60 degrees to 70 degrees above the ground

Shaft10” to 12″ tallHeight from 11″ to 14″
VampThere are less motifsThere are many motifs

* Note: There are some boots that still have different features than the ones we mentioned. But just a few.

What do the designs of these two kinds of boots say?

Western work boots

Through the design of western work boots, you can see that these boots promote durability, comfort and flexibility. The proof is that the low, wide heel is easy to balance with a thick sole made of rubber for good stability.

Besides, most of the toe shape of western work boots are square toe and wide square toe, this type of toe shape is very comfortable for the wearer’s feet.

Another plus point of western work boots lies in their insoles. These insoles have always been rated as the best among that of cowboy boots, with good arch support to help you comfortably work throughout the day along with support for people with flat feet or high arch feet.

According to our assessment, western work boots are one of the great innovations of new generation cowboy boots.

Western work boots’ shafts are similar to cowboy boots, they are beautiful and artistic. One can buy a pair of western work boots instead of work boots because of this difference.

The cowboy boot shaft is a mix of Van Gogh and Picasso artworks.

In a nutshell, western work boots are considered more comfortable than traditional cowboy boots.

If you are an adventurer, traveller or farmer working on the farm or the one wearing work boots all day, western work boots seem to be a great choice for you.

Read more: 10 Best Looking Square Toe Boots

Cowboy boots

Traditional cowboy boots mainly have pointed toe and snip toe, this toe shape is narrower than square toe, so it can be said that it is difficult for the wearer’s feet to be as flexible as when wearing cowboy boots with a square toe. (I know that by saying this, there will be many people who are not satisfied)

However, it should be fair to recognize that cowboy boots manufacturers are smart enough to recognize that and overcome this problem.

The heel of a traditional cowboy boot is usually an underslung heel (tilted above the ground) and a height of 2″ and up.

Aesthetically, it can be said that cowboy boot heel is the best heel. They increase the wearer’s height, making them look taller, confident, masculine and stronger – all of things that real cowboys own. This is something western work boots cannot get, and neither do most boots in the world.

Besides, the heel of cowboy boots has been proven to be good for your gait, knees and back. (If the heel is not higher than 2.5″)

In terms of flexibility, it seems that the heel of a traditional cowboy boot is still a bit behind the heel of western work boots.

It is understandable that traditional cowboy boots were born not for the purpose of walking, but for horseback riding. Cowboy boots with pointed toe easily slip into the stirrup and underslung heel to keep the boots firmly attached to it.

Besides the rubber outsole for good balance and stability, the outsole made from leather is also highly appreciated for its comfort and durability.

Insole of cowboy boots is a strong point when used for people with normal feet, but for people with flat feet or high arches, it seems that you should consider using more products supporting the arch of the foot on the market (such as socks, cushion insole) – or use western work boots.

The cowboy boot shaft and vamp are the ultimate highlight of cowboy boots. They are always decorated with a masterpiece on them.

That explains why the new generation work boots and sneakers are very good but customers still need a pair of western work boots. Because they love the shaft and vamp of cowboy boots.


Interestingly, cowboy boots and work boots both appeared in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They are only different in their birthplace.

In the western United States, cowboys need sturdy, durable boots to protect their feet while working on the farm and easily help them balance when riding horses at an affordable price. And cowboy boots are born for that reason.

At the same time of the industrial revolution, workers in the UK needed a pair of boots to ensure their safety so they could work in factories. And they wore wooden boots, also known as sabots.

Not only do sabots work in factories, but on farms, the presence of sabots is also frequent.

It can be seen that the reason that cowboy boots and work boots appear to be very similar.

But it was not until the early 20th century that we had the most complete and similar work boots today (metal toe boots appeared).

No one knows when western work boots came out, but based on the data above, we can guess that western work boots date back to the 20th century.

A great pair of boots between the cowboy boots and the work boots.

This is not uncommon, historically, there have been many boots that have been bred between the wilderness of the American West and the exquisite beauty of the British, such as Roper Boots.

Read more: The 15 most Comfortable Western Work Boots

Comparison table: Western Work Boot vs Cowboy Boot

We will give the fairest remarks about western work boot vs cowboy boot.

Western work bootsCowboy boots


When talking about history, cowboy boots are certainly the winner. Over the centuries, cowboy boots have been in the hearts of western people.

Western work boots have only appeared in the past few decades. Though they bring many outstanding features in terms of design, use… but not yet able to give a clear impression like cowboy boots.


Traditional cowboy boots can bring comfort for the wearer while riding with their pointed toe and square toe designs.

However, western work boots are more comfortable than traditional cowboy boots when used for walking, running, hard work,…

This is not too difficult to understand, as western work boots are cowboy boots developed later. They are designed to provide comfort.

Whereas, traditional cowboy boots are made to support cowboys, they have pointed toe and slippery outsoles. So they cannot provide the good comfort as western work boots.

Western work boots with square toe, wide square toe or round toe will provide more wiggle room for the feet.

In addition, the western work boots with thick rubber or synthetic soles have a better shock absorption to bring a more balanced and stable feeling. Leather soles cannot don’t have such feature, but they are very breathable and sweat absorbent.


Cowboy boots and western work boots both have the upper with a very high durability. However, cowboy boots with leather soles will need to be resole more often than ones with rubber soles or synthetic soles.

Western work boots with soles are usually made from rubber and synthetic soles. It takes 4 or 5 years to resole them.

Besides, western work boots were born to serve from light to heavy jobs. They have modern design and hybrid structure with work boots, so it is understandable that western work boots are more durable than cowboy boots.

In fact, Western work boots are built to last.


In terms of style, cowboy boots are definitely the winner as they offer a unique style. Cowboy boots are history, a lifestyle, and irreplaceable.

As for western work boots, this is hybrid boots so they don’t have the distinctive look and style like cowboy boots.

So we don’t need to discuss much about the winner in this category.


Western work boots are more secure than cowboy boots. They are used for many different jobs such as farming, ranching, construction sites and heavy operations. Therefore, it is undoubted that western work boots are more durable than cowboy boots.

Many western work boots are also reinforced with steel toe or steel shank for added safety.  These features are very rare in traditional cowboy boots.

Cowboy boots are also structurally strong and robust, but western work boots still outweigh them when it comes to safety.


We need to consider two aspects: handmade boots and factory-made boots

Compare factory-made cowboy boots and western work boots (definitely factory-made), western work boots usually come with a higher price.

On the other hand, if you bring handmade cowboy boots to the game, western work boots are certainly not the opponent.

So this round ends with a draw!

The 5 best western work boots

1/ Ariat Men’s Groundbreaker

As its name implies, Ariat Men’s Groundbreaker can flatten any terrain.

Ariat western work boots have a cool appearance and are extremely comfortable inside.

To recommend a standard pair of western work boots, I choose Ariat Men’s Groundbreaker, with 1″ high heel, 11.5″ high shaft, sole made from rubber. Plus, this boot is all made from 100% leather.

What we like

  • Fit: True to size
  • 100% Leather
  • Rubber sole
  • Slip-resisting duratread outsole
  • Great longevity
  • No need to break in

2/ Durango Maverick XP Ventilated

In addition to Ariat, you can look for a pair of western work boots in Durango.

Many people have told me that, of all types of cowboy boots, Durango cowboy boots are the boots that create the most comfortable experience for the wearer.

And indeed, Durango Maverick XP Ventilated is a pair of boots that will bring the best experience you have ever worn.

What we like

  • Full-Grain leather upper
  • Air mesh lining
  • Slip and oil resistance
  • High abrasion heel counter

3/ Rocky Dakota Ridge

If I choose the cowboy boots brand with various western work boots, I will choose Ariat.

If choosing the cowboy boots brand with the most comfortable western work boots, I would choose Durango.

And if the cowboy boots brand has the toughest and most solid work western boots, that would be Rocky.

Having a pair of Rocky western work boots, you won’t be afraid of any gravel roads any more.

What we like

  • Full-Grain Leather
  • All-around durability
  • Waterproof leathers
  • Intricately detailed upper shafts
  • Oil & slip resistant standards

What we don’t like

  • There are no other colors to choose from yet

4/ Durango Women’s Rebel

Durango Women’s Rebel is one of the very famous western work boots of the Durango brand.

Not only outstanding with ruggedness, durability on the outside and smoothness on the inside. But the design and color of the Rebel boots are also very beautiful and diverse.

It is not necessary to do outdoor work in order to wear these boots, but you can also own a great impression when you wear these boots for picnics, adventure …

What we like

  • 100% Leather
  • Cushion Flex insole
  • Mesh lining
  • Full-grain leather upper
  • Slip-resistant
  • EVA midsole

What we don’t like

  • If you have wide feet then boots need time to break in

5/ Ariat Women’s Workhog H2O

If Rebel is Durango’s favorite product, then Workhog boots are Ariat super product.

Workhog boots have a beautiful appearance, durable and strong structure with non-slip soles and waterproof leather. It is diverse in colors and trendy.

You will have a headache to choose between Ariat workhog boots and Durango Rebel!

What we like

  • 100% Leather
  • Six-row stitch pattern
  • Waterproof
  • ATS technology
  • Leather Lining

What we don’t like

  • Need break in period

4 thoughts on “Western Work Boots vs Cowboy Boots”

  1. This is a great article. I haven’t purchased a pair of cowboys in since the 80’s, when I bought my last two pair of Dan Post boots. My teenage son wanted a pair, and in searching for him, I discovered that Abilene Boots are made locally and guaranteed against defects in material and workmanship for life. I found sales on both Dan Post and Abilene boots. I wear much more black than brown, so I narrowed my choices to Dan Post Milwaukee boots with a pointed toe (I like traditional) and Abilene 2100 boots. Yesterday, I spoke with a representative at Country Outfitters, because they had the best price. She clearly inferred that the Dan Post boots would last longer, and I ordered them. Then, I started wondering about the advice I’d been given and decided to call Abilene directly. I discovered that the representative’s product knowledge was inaccurate. I told the nice lady at Abilene about my conversation with the representative at Country Outfitters, who also answers calls for Sheplers and Boot Barn – sister companies. Next I phoned Dan Post and asked about a lifetime guarantee against material and workmanship. The lady I spoke with said, “Well, I don’t know about lifetime.” I told the lady that I think the Dan Post boots I purchased in the 1980’s were Milwaukee boots but they are now too small. I asked where they are made. She replied, “We’ve changed factories. They are now made overseas. You may find these different than the ones you bought in the 1980’s.” I just ordered a pair of Abilene boots. In my search for information I found your article. Your article clearly explains the differences between the two models of boots I’ve ordered. The Abilene boots are Western Work Boots and the Dan Post boots are Cowboy Boots. The comparison you’ve made is perfect for these two models. I’m sure that fit will help me decide, but this article really is helping me think about how I would wear boots and which may suit my needs the best. I’ve worn boots casually and mostly when I’m outside not inside. Also, it’s too warm in the summer for jeans, let alone high boots, so I wear them when the weather gets cooler or is cold. That usually means wet or even icy conditions. I remember times when I wanted to wear my old Dan Post boots but opted not to wear them, because of ice or snow. Your article is the best I’ve seen written about this subject. Thank you for this fine comparison. I’m a bit surprised at the lack of information on the internet about this subject. Please keep up the good work!

    • Thank you, Lukacs, for your sharing and experience.
      I’m glad I could help.
      Your praise and encouragement are our motivation! We always attempt to give the most relevant, accurate and specific information about cowboy boots. We’d love to heard your experiences with cowboy boots so we can hone our knowledge.
      Once again, thanks for sharing your experience with everyone!

      • The Rest of the Story – You’re most welcome. I had to follow-up with the outcome. I purchased a pair of Dan Post Milwaukee boots in 10.5 D, my dress shoe size, like the lady at Country Outfitters suggested. Also, I purchased a pair of Abilene 2100 boots in a size 11. As you pointed out, those boots were simply made differently, because they’re designed for two different purposes. The Abilene boots fit perfectly, but I could only get the Dan Post boots on with dress socks, and they still felt too small. I called Dan Post again to ask about the fit. I spoke to a lady there who was very knowledgeable. She advised me to move up to a size 11. She explained that when your foot “pops” into the boot and you hear that sound, you’ll know they’re on right and you can check for size. She added that if I still had a problem getting my foot through the throat, I could heat the throat of the boot with a hairdryer to help the leather become more pliable. Also, I asked about where they were made, because it said Mexico inside my boot. She confirmed that model is made in Mexico, not overseas. Also, she explained that the boots I purchased in the 80’s were made in El Paso, and they moved to a factory across the border. She told me that the process of making that model has changed very little over time. She helped tremendously.

        When I called Country Outfitter, the man I spoke with told me that they did not have a size 11 in stock, but directed me to a Boot Barn store located about an hour’s drive away from me in Uniontown, PA. I called and spoke with the store manager. They had an 11 D, 11 Wide and an 11.5 D and would expect me. I drove there yesterday afternoon, and although the manager left, she informed her assistant manager, who was waiting for me. I purchased a packet of boot socks and tried on a size 11 D, which fit perfectly. I was able to exchange them for the same sale price, and I purchased a set of cedar shoe trees for round-toed boots.

        In addition, I called Abilene Boots and spoke to the very nice lady. She said they only make boots out of leather. I asked how to care for the 2100 boots. She provided some advice and explained that the lady who can best answer was off this week, but I can speak with her next week.

        I’d love to keep both pair, but I settled on keeping the Dan Post Milwaukee boots for now. They smell like leather, and the lady at Dan Post and nice young lady at Boot Barn both advised me that I can care for these like I care for my dress shoes. That begins with cleaning them with saddle soap, applying a leather conditioner and then a cream, buffing, and finishing with a wax polish following by more buffing. I learned to use on Saphir products on my dress shoes, which are calf leather. That may be overkill for these boots, but I think that Saphir makes the best products in the world – Renovateur, Medialle D’ Or Natural Creme 1925 and Pate de Luxe Polish. Their products are expensive, but when you use them (a little goes a long way), you can tell how well they’ll protect your investment.

        The Abilene 2100 boots are very nice western work boots. They are similar to their 2014 model, which is in brown, and they sell a 2104ST, which has a safety toe. Actually, I like the traditional heels on these models better than the heel on the Dan Post Milwaukee boots. Also, the people at Abilene Boots are nice. I will follow up with them on caring for their boots, because I purchased their 6724 model for my son, which is made from bison. The lady I spoke with there told me that you treat it like suede. Also, I want to ask about their other models like their 6461, which looks more like the Dan Post Milwaukee, but is made in Black Cherry Cowhide. Burgundy is a very versatile color and can be matched with blacks and browns.

        Based on my experience with both Dan Post and Abilene, I would absolutely recommend both companies. Thanks again for your fine work.

        • Wow, I’m really impressed by your passion and experience of cowboy boots.
          Saphir is also one of the products I use a lot, but to be honest, I often use them for my dress shoes and traditional cowboy boots, and Saphir indeed overkill for western work boots.
          Nowadays I often use BickMore products to take care of my western work boots.
          I also really like Dan Post boots, they are a very famous brand with very good quality boots from the inside out.
          But I don’t own any Abilene boots. Perhaps after your story, Abilene’s boots will be my next targets.
          Sorry for the late response, we are really grateful for your comments.
          Hope we will have more great stories in the future!


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