Reading though all this and feel compelled to speak-up.
If permitted, get boots with composite toes instead of steel toes. The composite is lighter and doesn't absorb temperature like steel toes do. IE After an extended perioud outside in very cold weather, steel toes get cold and stay cold, its like having an ice block on each boot lol.
There is a product called "K-Guard" that you can use to extend the life of your boots and most good work wear stores carry it ($15-$20 a bottle). Its like a spray on truck liner for your boots and it has bits of Kevlar in it. You apply it to the toe and heel of your boots to keep the leather from wearing away.
As far as water proofing goes, it has never lasted on any boots I've ever owned. Surprisingly, I have found that the best thing to water proof them is to wipe them down with used motor oil. Works better than mink oil or silicon both of which are probably as flamable lol.
Boot driers are AWESOME !! I bought one two years ago and wish I had bought it five years ago lol. There are all kinds out there. Research them, shop around, and you'll easily find a good one at a modest price.
Along with that, you need to get you some good thick white socks. If you haven't worn work boots much before, be warned that until your feet toughen up and your boots get broke in, you will get blisters.
As for brand, all I can tell you for certain is that I own what will likely be my last pair of Redwings. My last two pair have just not held up the way I feel they should, within four months they were pretty well worn out, and I can't afford to spend $200 on boots three times a year. Unsure what I will go with next though.
Ask around, find out where guys usually go to buy boots, usually there is usally a good work wear type store that most of the guys go to and whose staff will treat you right.
If your feet hurt, it really makes life miserable. So for me personally, I spend the extra money for high quality boots and always carry extra socks in my gear.
Hope this helps some people.
Buckeye born, Buckeye Proud.