I have tried and worn a number of pairs of station boots since I began volunteering with my local fire department back in 1982 (took a break from ’85 to ’96, then returned in ’97), and have learned a few things.
First of all, the cheap Chinese knock-offs (such as made under the 5.11 brand) are bad. They are uncomfortable and quickly fall apart during daily wear. The soles are not well-made, either.
I settled on Chippewa Firefighter Boots when I discovered them in 2007 and these boots quickly became my #1 choice to wear when I ride my Harley on long rides, especially when lots of walking or standing is involved.
Chippewa Firefighters are comfortable, durable, and maintain an excellent appearance even after years of wear. They have an oil-resistance non-marring Vibram sole that provides comfort for the foot, and excellent traction when I wear them while riding my Harley.
The All American Firefighters model 401 are good, also, but for some reason, they are not nearly as comfortable as the Chippewas. They are good-looking and have the same Vibram lug sole as the Chips. But for some reason, the footbed seems to be harder and therefore less comfortable when walking or standing. Otherwise, these are also fine boots.
Contrast these boots with Thorogood Uniform (Station) boots that I just received. I laced in the zippers, pulled them on, and have worn them more-or-less regularly for the past two weeks.
Not so good points about these boots: they are made with two different leathers. The foot (vamp) is the typical hi-shine, and the shaft (upper) is made of grain leather of a duller finish. The combination, at least in my opinion, is weird.
Further, the Thorogood boots are lined, but the lining is not nearly as good as in the Chips. The lining seems to be an after-thought.
Finally, the soles of the Thorogood boots claim to be oil-resistant and non-marring, but are not marked as such. The soles are not made by Vibram. I slipped at least 3 times on oil patches in parking lots when riding my Harley. I noticed a few black marks on some tile in my kitchen, so I do not think the soles are non-marring as claimed.
While the Thorogood boots are less expensive (by some $80/pair MSRP) than Chippewa boots — and you just can’t find All American Station Boots anywhere any more — in my opinion, the Chippewa boots remain a better value. They are better made of higher quality materials, and it shows.
All of the boots mentioned in this post are made in the USA. There are other Firefighter boots made by Haix and Pro Warrington that I would like to try sometime, but have not (yet).
In summary, I still recommend the Chippewa Firefighter Boots over all others I have tried for their comfort, design, style, and quality construction and materials.
Life is short: know your boots!