Wedge Sole vs. 90-Degree Heel: What’s the Difference?

Wedge Sole vs. 90-Degree Heel: What’s the Difference?

There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a pair of work boots. Do you need an upper made of leather or breathable textile? Do you need steel safety toes or carbon fiber? Maybe even no safety toes at all? Do you need waterproof protection?

One of the most important considerations is the boot’s outsole type. There are two basic types of outsoles, each suited to different surfaces and different kinds of work. Having an outsole that’s designed for your job will make you more comfortable and make the day’s work go more smoothly.

KEEN Utility makes work boots with outsoles that fall into two basic categories: wedge outsoles and traditional 90-degree heels. A wedge sole is made for working on hard, flat surfaces like roofs, warehouse floors, and paved roads. Work boots with a 90-degree heel are better for outdoor work, extended ladder work, and moving between a wide range of jobsites and surfaces.


Why Choose a Wedge Work Boot?

Wedge Sole work boot

Wedge sole boots are all about ground contact and support. They’re designed with a flat bottom, which enables full contact with the ground, from toe to heel. The increased contact improves friction for the best possible traction. The wedge sole also evenly distributes your body’s weight across the entire boot sole for consistent cushioning and shock absorption. Whether your job requires walking on concrete floors, standing on I-beams, or carrying heavy loads between your truck and the building site, wedge work boots offer all-day support and cushioning.


Why Choose a Work Boot with a 90-Degree Heel?

90 Degree heel work boot outsole

A 90-degree heel is useful for those who spend a lot of time on ladders, like tower workers or those who spend their days on scaffolding, because the heel catches the ladder rung, which keeps your foot from sliding forward and off. It’s also a great choice for those who work on soft ground. The distinct heel block acts like the lugs on a truck tire, digging into mud and uneven surfaces to provide bite. That makes these boots ideal for outdoor work like forestry, landscaping, or excavation.

KEEN Utility offers a wide range of work boots and shoes, tailored for a variety of jobsite applications. With so many options, sorting through them can sometimes feel overwhelming. Read on to find out more about the different KEEN Utility wedge and 90-degree-heel work boots and which pair might be best for you.

Wedge Sole Work Boots

San Jose

If you’re looking for a lightweight, light-duty boot you can wear right out of the box, we recommend the men’s and women’s San Jose work boot. Unlined leather means no break-in time, and the air-infused KEEN Luftcell midsole gives them a sneaker-like feel. The flexible, siped outsole keeps you sure-footed on roofs, concrete floors, and wet surfaces.

The San Jose work boot is available with a soft toe or with aluminum safety toes. KEEN Utility aluminum safety toes are 35% lighter than steel toes, which means every step takes a little less energy. If live circuits are part of your job, the outsole offers Electrical Hazard (EH)-rated protection that meets or exceeds applicable ASTM EH standards. For those who have to work through wet weather, it’s also available in a waterproof version that’s equipped with a KEEN.DRY waterproof and breathable membrane.

If a work shoe is more your speed, the men’s San Jose oxford has all the same features in a low-cut style that transitions from the jobsite to client meetings with ease.

San Jose Wedge work boot

KEEN Utility fans say:

“I work commercial construction with various flooring, from gravel to rough, poured cement to terrazzo. They grip well and feel good after a long day of walking. I have plantar fasciitis and wear these boots without insoles and won’t buy another brand.” — Sean W.

“I work in a prefab warehouse on concrete and am on my feet 12 hours a day. This time my feet weren't hurting by the end of the day. Long story short—super lightweight, love the flex on the soles of the boot, and super comfortable. They feel like running shoes!” — Thomas A.

Fort Wayne

When your jobsite puts more wear and tear on your shoes than most, the men’s Fort Wayne work boots rise to the durability challenge. These 6” boots blend traditional moc toe work boot design with modern KEEN Utility technologies to take on wet conditions where safety toes, flexibility, and extra-durable construction are required.

Whether you need the protection of carbon-fiber safety toes or you prefer a soft toe boot, the Fort Wayne adds the extra durability of KEEN.PROTECT abrasion resistance, including a wrap-over rubber toe cap that provides unmatched moc toe durability.

Our KEEN.FUSION construction fuses the upper and sole without the use of glue, offering more flexibility than a welted construction and more durability than cement.

Carpenters, framers, and road construction workers will appreciate the waterproof, breathable KEEN.DRY-equipped upper to seal out wet weather in addition to the boot’s mesh liner for keeping feet cool on warm days. Anyone who is on their feet all day will appreciate the KEEN Luftcell midsole technology that reduces foot fatigue and lets you focus on the work at hand.

Fort Wayne Wedge Work Boot

A KEEN Utility fan says:

“The best boot there is. Plain and simple. This is, hands down, the most comfortable boot I've worn in my life. If you haven't tried these boots, please bite the bullet and spend the money. They are totally worth it.” — Austin

Cincinnati

A hard-working, rugged work boot, the men’s and women’s Cincinnati waterproof work boot is made for tough jobs. It’s a solid choice for carpentry, roofing, landscaping, road construction, and warehouse work. A lightweight KEEN Luftcell air-infused midsole supports long days on your feet, and a full grain Barnyard-Resistant leather upper with a KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane keeps feet dry in wet weather. KEEN Utility safety features like lightweight, asymmetrical carbon-fiber safety toes and an Electrical Hazard (EH)-rated rubber outsole offer protection for the jobsite.

If your job requires extra ankle support, the men’s Cincinnati 8” waterproof work boot is available with a higher cuff that features locking metal lace hooks, so you can tightly lace up the boot for enough support to handle heavy loads.

From farm work to service calls, the men’s Cincinnati Wellington work boot is designed to make it easy for you to quickly get in and out of your boots. The pull-on style features a durable, Barnyard-Resistant full grain leather upper, an air-infused KEEN Luftcell midsole, and an oil- and slip-resistant outsole. It’s available with soft toes or carbon-fiber safety toes to match your work needs.

Cincinnati Wedge Work Boot

KEEN Utility fans say:

“I do HVAC and climb up and down ladders all day. I live in Minnesota, so the boots are exposed to snow and cold. Feet stay dry and warm. I would recommend these boots.” — Chris

“I have used these boots for one year in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. They held up great! Soles never came apart, though they were worn for six months in temperatures ranging from -40 F to -25 F. Laces never frayed or came apart, eyelets are still in place, and the boot still functions like the day I bought them. No complaints whatsoever.” — Wes

90-Degree-Heel Work Boots

Camden

The most extreme jobsites call for extreme-duty footwear. The men’s Camden waterproof work boot steps up as the most hardcore boot in the KEEN Utility lineup. The Camden looks and performs like any of our heavy-duty boots, but we’ve stripped away as much bulk as possible, so it’s lighter than it looks. Great for extra-abrasive jobsites with a lot of muddy ruts, jagged rocks, or sharp metal, the Camden is equipped with a burly 90-degree heel and carbon-fiber safety toes to protect against impacts.

With a KEEN.DRY waterproof and breathable membrane, a KEEN Luftcell midsole and an oil- and slip-resistant, Electrical Hazard (EH)-rated rubber outsole, this is a work boot that’s comfortable over an eight-or-more-hour shift, capable of working in all types of weather, and fully equipped to handle the gnarliest of day-to-day worksite hazards. Camden work boots are available with a range of performance and safety features and include the puncture-resistant CSA 6” waterproof boot, the 6” waterproof INT MET work boot with an internal metatarsal guard, and an 8” insulated, waterproof work boot that kills it in the cold and wet.

Camden 90 Degree Work Boot

Cincinnati 90°

The men’s Cincinnati 90° waterproof work boot may look familiar to fans of the original Cincinnati. It shares the same Barnyard-Resistant leather, KEEN.DRY waterproof and breathable membrane, and an air-infused KEEN Luftcell midsole. The only difference is the 90-degree heel that helps stabilize your footing on ladders and on soft, uneven ground. It’s available in a soft toe or carbon-fiber toe. There’s also an 8” version for those looking for extra ankle support.

Cincinnati 90 Degree Work Boot

Independence

When you work hard, you need a boot that just works. That’s why KEEN Utility created men’s Independence waterproof work boots, a series of hardworking boots with get-it-done grit. Like the rest of the styles in the American Built lineup, the Independence features a 90-degree heel. A KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane keeps feet dry when the job takes you outside in wet weather. An air-injected KEEN Luftcell midsole with a weightless feel provides all-day support for construction workers, plumbers, and anyone who spends long hours on their feet. An oil- and slip-resistant outsole offers secure grip, and an Electrical Hazard (EH)-rated outsole makes them a good choice for engineers, electricians, and maintenance workers.

Independence work boots are available in 6” and 8” heights with lightweight, asymmetrical carbon-fiber safety toes, or in a 6” model with a KEEN.PROTECT soft toe cap. Other options include the Independence 8” insulated waterproof work boot, great for keeping your feet warm and protected if your work takes you outside in frigid temperatures, and the men’s 6” waterproof INT MET work boot that includes an internal metatarsal guard for top-of-foot impact protection.

If you like the look and feel of a low-cut style, the men’s Independence Oxford waterproof shoe has all the same safety features in a versatile shoe.

Independence 90 Degree Work Boot

A KEEN Utility fan says:

“This is the best boot I have ever worn. It’s comfortable, breathable, and rugged.” — Josh M.

Whether you work in construction, landscaping, or on an assembly liner, choosing boots with the right outsole for your job is key for both support and safety. No matter where you work or what you do, KEEN Utility has men’s and women’s work boots with the right outsole for the job.

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