Engineer boots are by far my favorite type of boot. I currently own 6 pairs of them, have owned a total of eight pairs, and have tried on and handled quite a few more. Having worn engineer boots for 7 years now and with my opinions on them having been pretty set for the past couple years, I feel confident in finally releasing a list of what I strongly believe to be the best engineer boots on the market.
This list will be determined based on the design, construction methods, construction quality, and materials of the boots. I am extremely particular about engineer boots in terms of design. I have already written an article about why there are not more affordable engineer boots. One of the main reasons why is because most engineer boots are not very well designed. This style of boot is one of, if not the most difficult to design properly. In fact, I would actually say that only 8, maybe 9 of the boots on this list are actually well designed. Even then, I have complaints with some of the others.
To be clear, this is just my list and it isn’t meant to be some definite, inarguable list. This is meant to help people who are interested in or new to engineer boots get some real suggestions instead of getting their advice from random fashion sites who just look up “engineer boots” on Google and pick the most obvious and readily available options. If it weren’t for the fact that the top ten format makes things more readable for most people, I would have just made this an editorial article about what engineer boots I like and would suggest. I just think the top ten format will be more helpful for more people. With that said, let’s get into the list.
10. Onderhoud Handmade Engineer
Onderhoud makes fantastic boots. I said just as much in my review of my own pair of LCV01 boots from them. If this list was purely based on construction quality, Onderhoud would be much higher on this list. The reason that they are only number 10 is because I don’t think the design is quite right yet. To be clear, it’s not terrible. If they were a disaster in terms of aesthetics, they would not be on this list.
Onderhoud is going for a modern, sleek engineer look and they do this better than some. There have been a lot of new engineer boot designs coming out recently that look atrocious. However, there are a few issues I have with the design here. The instep is too gradual of an angle which makes the instep look too sloping, the strap is too short and rounded at the end, the toe box is too narrow and sloped down, and there is not enough spring in the toe. When I first saw this boot, I could tell that the last was derived from a derby last and Rizky confirmed to me that this is the case. Derby shoes and engineer boots have completely different toe profiles so this is a big reason why this design does not work for me.
With that said, the overall design is pretty good and certainly better than anything else coming out of Indonesia right now and better than a few American and Japanese designs as well. Also, Rizky has told me that he is still working on the design and I am excited to see what he comes out with because he has a lot of great leather choices and his craftsmanship is extremely good. If he gets the design right, Onderhoud could end up in the top 5 easily. The prices are also quite fair for the quality of construction and materials. Around $650-$700 is what I am told these run in vegetable tanned horsehide. For handwelted, beautifully made boots, that is more than a fair price. They can be ordered by direct messaging Onderhoud on Instagram. Thanks to my friend Jeff, AKA @thedenimdentist for the Onderhoud engineer photos. Check out his Instagram HERE and his review blog HERE.
9. The Real McCoys Buco Engineer
These have a bulbous toe and I personally do not like that aesthetic at all. I would almost certainly buy the Onderhouds before these. However, I think that these better achieve what they are going for. To me, these are the best designed engineer boots that have a bulbous, highly sprung toe. They are not as bulbous as some are and they look pretty well balanced to me.The leather is also really nice with teacore black Shinki horsehide being the standard leather. RMC quality is not always consistent, but when it’s good, it is extremely excellent. The pair that I tried on were nicely constructed and felt comfortable as well. I am not a huge fan of this aesthetic, but if you are, this is probably the best option. They cost around $1,500 in horsehide which is a lot, but that leather is really nice.
8. Wesco MP Toe Engineer
The Wesco MP toe engineer boots fit me extremely poorly. In fact, they are the worst fitting and most uncomfortable boots that I own. However, fit is subjective so they absolutely deserve a place on this list. The regular Boss engineer is bulbous and ugly in my opinion, but the MP toe version is a much nicer, more classic engineer look especially with triple stitching on the vamp and the v stitch on the back stay. It’s a good balance of having presence without being too chunky. The MP toe last is sleek by Wesco standards, but it’s not actually svelte at all.
Wesco builds a solid boot, but don’t expect immaculate stitching. I have also been seeing them make a lot of major mistakes on boots lately so make sure you look your boots over carefully when you receive them. All pacific northwest have issues in this area, so i’m not just singling out Wesco here. They do use solid materials and the boots should last you quite a while.
There are many different versions of this boot and most of them have different specific names. A lot of them are collaborations with Standard and Strange. You can also design your own with Wesco, but I think the collab boots tend to have the most interesting leathers. The price is also not too bad for an engineer, with the range generally being from around $550 – $775. I have reviewed these and I plan on doing an updated review soon.
7. Viberg 2005 Last Engineer
Why oh why did Viberg ever make their engineers on any last other than the 2005 last? They’ve tried a couple other versions, one of them utilizing a Chelsea boot last which looked really awkward. Chelsea boots aren’t engineer boots. I don’t know why I need to explain that, but apparently it’s not clear to everyone.
The 2005 last is quite nice in my opinion. I would own a pair of these if they offered them regularly in anything vegetable tanned, but they were pretty much only available in Chromexcel.
My biggest complaint is that the shaft was usually too short, but otherwise I really like how the design looks. It’s not sleek, but it’s not overly chunky or bulbous either and I think it looks well balanced, even if I do generally prefer flat toe engineers.
Viberg quality control is in the same boat as Wesco: they build a tough boot, but they make way too many mistakes. Even with that, I like the design enough to buy a pair if they ever bring these back in a nice leather. Even though these are not readily available now, I still have them on the list because I love how they look and I hope that Viberg brings them back.
6. Attractions Lot. 444
This is my most recent pair of engineers that I have gotten. They are quite simple with a nice design, good last, and gorgeous leather. The construction quality is solid, but it’s not as nice as Onderhoud, Motor, Lofgren, Role Club, or Clinch. The big reasons why these boots are on the list are the leather and the overall design. The leather is a wonderful black teacore vegetable tanned horsehide.
In terms of design, these are pretty simple with only double row stitching in most places that other boots on this list would have triple stitching, but the shape of the last is great. These aren’t quite as flat in the toe as others on this list, but they still have a beautiful classic look to them. There are many examples of these being worn and they usually look absolutely incredible after being beat up. I unfortunately have not been able to wear them too much because of COVID, but they still look fantastic when new. They can be ordered through email from Attractions directly and at around $900, I would say they are worth the price for what you get.
5. Motor Dress Engineer
This is probably the pair of engineers that I don’t have that I want the most. My pair of Motor lace up boots are fantastic and I really love them. They are well designed and so are these. I do think that the back quarter piece of leather is a little too tall on this model and I think the instep strap is too thin, but the last is nice and overall, these boots look great. I actually tried on a couple pairs of the first run of these boots a couple years ago and they were very well made and neatly finished.
A big draw with these boots is the leather. The vegetable tanned horsehide is gorgeous with some wonderful grain. Don’t forget that aside from the natural color, these boots are all hand dyed and the colors are all gorgeous in my opinion. The hand dyeing also gives the leather a unique look. The price makes these even more attractive. At $712 USD at the time of the writing of this article, these boots are an exceptional value for money given how nice the overall design, leather, and quality are. The only issue is that they aren’t available very often and usually they only fit up to US 10.5 on a brannock, though they said they are offering larger sizes now. You can order through email from the store though so it is possible to get them even without going to Japan and I believe that they would absolutely be worth buying.
4. Mister Freedom Road Champ
These are legendary boots. Along with another pair of boots on this list, they could be credited with the recent engineer boot revival in the west (engineers have been popular in the Amekaji niche in Japan for a long time). The leather is a vegetable tanned cowhide that really varies depending on the batch and how people wear them which is pretty cool. I love the flat toe last on these and there are many great examples of these after some wear. I have tried these on and the quality is good and certainly better than Wesco and Viberg, but not elite.
The reason these are not higher, despite being so iconic is for two reasons. Firstly, the quality is good, but there are engineers with higher quality and better construction methods (these are goodyear welted, not handwelted). Secondly, while it does have a nice flat toe last design which sort of kicked off the revival of that style, I do think there are better versions now. The top two on this list especially are in my opinion, nicer flat toe lasts than this one. There are some examples of this boot that look pretty strange due to how big and sloping the instep can look. In some cases, the boot looks like it’s 90% instep which isn’t great. Most of the time, it’s a beautiful looking engineer boot and a certified classic. It comes in just under $1,000, but is rarely available. When available, they can be purchased from Mister Freedom’s own store.
3. John Lofgren Engineer
The John Lofgren engineer boot is a modern classic just like the Mister Freedom Road Champ. These two are considered by many to be the boots that kicked off the engineer revival outside of Japan. However, the Lofgren model is higher than the Road Champ on my list for two reasons.
Firstly, the quality control is a little higher on the Lofgrens in my personal experience. Secondly, the design is more unique and in my opinion, hasn’t been done better by anyone else. The Lofgren silhouette is distinguished among engineer boots for its use of a storm welt and its toe shape which is neither flat and sleek nor bulbous and bulky. It’s an impressive balancing act. In fact, it’s proven to be so successful that there have been a few shameless rip offs made, though none match the elegance of the original.
My biggest gripe with these beauties is that they are usually only available in Chromexcel, a leather I really do not like. However, there have recently been some pre-orders in some much more interesting leathers which is fantastic. The materials, quality, and design are all just about as good as a Goodyear welted boot can get so these earn third place on my list. At just around $1,000 for the CXL version, these are not cheap, but I think they are worth it. I reviewed these not long ago and still love them just as much now.
2. Role Club Engineer
Numbers 6-3 could all be interchanged in my opinion. If you don’t care about the history and importance of the Lofgren and Road Champs, then I could see any of those 4 boots at number 3. However, I believe that the Role Club engineer is clearly in the #2 spot.
The design is fantastic to start off. The woodsman heel, sleek shaft, buckles, and lasts are all extremely well thought out. What’s great about Role Club is that there are two great lasts to choose from. The 2307 last is the original and the one that I have. It is a gorgeous flat toe last. The 1940 last is not as flat, but is still beautiful in its own way and a very classic look. Don’t forget that these are also hand welted, which is one reason that these and Clinch are clearly above the rest.
The materials are solid, especially now that Brian is offering more vegetable tanned leathers, including shell cordovan. The only thing I truly dislike about my own Role Club boots is the Chromexcel horsehide. Still, I absolutely adore these boots. I went to have my feet measured by Brian and as a result, these are my best fitting and most comfortable engineer boots. The price is high and the wait is long (over 2 years now from what I’ve heard), but if you love engineers and don’t have these yet, you should get on the list no matter how long the wait is. They are worth it even if prices have been going up lately (I hear they’re around $1,500 now, but don’t quote me on that. Brian doesn’t publish his prices).
1. Clinch by Brass Tokyo Classic Narrow Engineer
No surprises here. I’ve already written a review of my custom Clinch horsehide engineer boots in which I proclaimed them the best engineer boots that you can buy. That belief has not changed. My Clinch engineers are the only boots in my collection that compete with my White Kloud boots in terms of how much I like them.
Everything is top notch on the Clinch engineer boots. The quality, the fact that they are hand welted, the beautiful upper leathers that they use, and of course the design are all wonderful. The design is especially impressive. The original classic narrow last is easily my favorite engineer boot last ever created. In fact, it is easily my favorite boot last of all time. It is beautifully proportional, flat, not too narrow in the toe, and ages wonderfully. This last is specifically designed to get the leather to roll rather than crease and it does this well. These boots age wonderfully.
There are other lasts available, including the cn wide last which is a wider version of the original, but they don’t look as good. The classic narrow was designed in its original form for a reason. However, even the other versions of the Clinch engineer still look great.
I have already written a review on one of my custom pairs and a review of my old latigo pair that I had to sell due to sizing issues. If you want to learn more about why these are number one, you can read those articles. Brass Tokyo charges a lot (just below $2,000) for these boots in horsehide. They also don’t seem to be taking fully custom orders now (maybe they take them still in person?) which makes me glad I got my pairs when I did. Even so, I would say these are worth it and are a must own for any engineer boot enthusiast.