Are Doc Martens Good Work Boots? A Controversial Opinion on this UK Classic

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People have long used doc Martens for both work and play. Designed by a German doctor in post-war England, the brand became associated with the UK. 

It quickly became a favorite for people who needed a more comfortable, durable shoe to get around in.  

While it’s suggested that these boots are kind to feet and workers, today I’m going to explore if that’s true.

Are Doc Martens Good Work Boots?

No. Doc Martens are not good work boots. There are many brands better suited to protect the foot while providing durability and mobility. While the outsole of Doc Martens is particularly kind to the foot, it doesn’t have the lifespan of other brands and isn’t recommended for work. 

The reality of the Doc Martens brand is that it has become fashion-focused. 

There’s nothing wrong with fashion, but our focus at Best Work Boot Ideas is, well, work boots! Go figure!

Why Aren’t Doc Martens Good Work Boots?

Doc Martens aren’t good work boots for a handful of reasons. First, their outsole is not very durable and will quickly wear away. Second, the height of the outsole makes it easy to roll your ankle. Third, they’re imbalanced and hard to navigate. Lastly, they have few options for workers.

Just reading their history page on the Dr. Marten website, the ethos seems to have transformed from a work wear boot to something that focuses around music.

“Without music, Dr Martens would have remained a workwear boot.”

Doc Martens Outsoles Wear Away Quickly

The outsole found on Doc Martens boots quickly wears away, exposing the bottoms of the air pockets that make up its design. While this unique design is great when the seal exists, the functionality is completely ruined after these pockets are opened.

What about how they fit?

We’ve written a whole article on whether Doc Marten’s run big or not so be sure to read that too.

Doc Martens Have Fundamental Design Flaws

The height of the outsole is quite substantial and it can make it difficult to navigate one’s feet while on a work site. 

This outsole height to boot ratio also makes it easier to roll your ankle when standing on uneven terrain.

While the weight of Doc Martens isn’t notably heavier than any other boot, the balance of this design feels off. 

While wearing them, it’s very noticeable that there’s a boot between your foot and the ground. 

In my opinion, this is the opposite of what I want from a work boot.

Doc Martens Don’t Have a Good Selection of Products for Workers

Beyond everything else, there simply aren’t many options for workers. 

There are only a handful of options for work boots on the official Doc Martens site, and the three I checked weren’t available in my size. 

None of the boots offered have options for alloy toe or composite toe caps

That means if you’re working as an electrician or go through a metal detector for your work, Doc Martens has very few (if no) options for you.

The official website at the time of writing only displayed 7 steel toe shoes, with only 5 being boots.

I did find a boot like the 1460 slip resistant steel toe boot that was not only ASTM-F2413 compliant but had features like a cushioned sole made for comfort.  

I even found slip resistant, electrical hazard and even anti-static options.

However, I still feel there are better options with other brands.

From an economic standpoint, this lack of supply and selection tells me that they’re not heavily focused on producing these because they’re not selling many. 

They’re not selling many because they’re not in high demand. 

They’re not in high demand because those that buy them aren’t recommending them to friends.

Believe it or not, but word of mouth is still huge. 

Using Doc Martens for Work: My Personal Experience

I had been a Doc Martens enthusiast due to positive experiences with the brand. Even then, I wouldn’t have recommended the boots to construction workers due to their clunky design, but they were great for casual wear. After buying a modern pair, my opinion changed. 

I understand some Doc Martens fans will argue with me on this point, but I’m speaking from personal experience when I say these things. 

While I don’t have photos of the pair I trashed in 2016, these reviews on Amazon have photos that depict my experience well enough.

In 2003, I inherited a pair of Docs from a friend’s older brother purchased in the early 1990s.

These boots were worn but were anything but worn out. 

The outsoles were still entirely intact, with a bare minimum of decay. 

I wore those boots until they were eventually lost while moving around 2010.

In 2014 I decided to get a new pair of Docs because my inherited pair had performed so well.

Boots that lasted 13 years, unheard of! 

Yes, I’d like another pair!

What I experienced was extremely disappointing.

Instead of the traditional Doc Martens outsoles that I had loved with my inherited pair, something was different. 

I noticed within a month that there was already wear on the outsoles that outpaced the wear on the last pair after 13 years.

Within six months, many walls of the outsoles’ air pockets that made contact with the ground had worn away. 

This noticeably reduced the bounce in my step, figuratively and literally, and made the boots far less comfortable.

Within a year, the outsoles had actually split right at the ball of my foot. This resulted in my feet getting soaked as soon as I stepped in any amount of water.

What Type of Work Ruined My Doc Martens?

I understand that many might be wondering what type of abuse I put my Docs through that they wore out so quickly. 

I wasn’t on an oil rig, I wasn’t a union pipefitter, I was working in a restaurant at the time. 

That’s right, Doc Martens’ outsoles were destroyed by a diner.  

Using Doc Martens as a Non Safety Shoe

If you’re using Doc Martens for pleasure then you have an array of options.

Whether they’re a Chelsea Boot, Oxfords or Ankle Boots you’re likely to find something.

What I did find intriguing were the selection of vegan work boots that Doc Marten have on their website.

What Happened to Doc Martens?

During the early 2000s, the Doc Marten Brand began to outsource their production, and the product’s quality declined. 

For those that would like to know more about this reality or who don’t believe my experience, check out this article in The Guardian that says much of the same.

I don’t relish in sharing this information, but I feel obligated to tell the truth with something as important as footwear. 

Boots aren’t cheap, and their purpose is extremely important. 

Sorry Doc, Just My Experience

It’s always a shame to realize that an icon has fallen, but I believe this is exactly what happened with Doc Martens. 

Perhaps there will be a time that this British classic improves its quality, but currently, it seems that’s not what’s happening.

Sadly, for the time being we can’t recommend them as good work boots although there are options available.

If you’re looking for a brand of work boot then look at Red Wing, Carhartt or Thorogood to name a few.

Or use the search feature on this website.

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