Work boots keep you comfortable on the job and protect your feet from dropped tools, bad weather, and grime. These shoes and boots have steel caps in the toe box, preventing a falling item from crushing a toe.
There are a few things to consider when choosing the best steel toe shoes or boots. The right pair for you depends on the type of work you do and where you do it. If you work outdoors in the winter, you may need an insulated shoe. If you work in a hot commercial kitchen, you may need shoes made of breathable mesh. Materials and construction of boots varies, and some have job-specific features like waterproofing.
This guide will help you choose the best steel toe shoes for your work.
- BEST OVERALL: KEEN Utility Men’s Flint Low Steel Toe Work Shoe
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Skechers for Work 77055 Cankton Steel Toe Sneaker
- BEST UPGRADE: Thorogood Men’s American Heritage 6″ Moc Toe
- BEST WATERPROOF: Skechers Men’s Greetah Construction Shoe
- MOST COMFORTABLE: Timberland PRO Men’s Disruptor Safety-Toe Work Shoe
- BEST BREATHABLE: Keen Utility Atlanta Cool II
- BEST INSULATED: Carhartt Men’s 10″ Waterproof Insulated PAC Boot
What to Consider When Buying the Best Steel Toe Shoes
Before you start shopping for a pair of the best steel toe shoes, these are some factors worth considering.
Comfort is the most important consideration while shopping for the best pair of steel toe shoes, because spending all day on your feet in a pair of uncomfortable boots can be a nightmare. Be sure to find a pair that needs minimal break-in, has a comfortable sole, and fits you well.
If your employer doesn’t require work boots, steel toe sneakers are a more comfortable option. While bulkier than standard sneakers, they are similar in design, down to the soft rubber soles and flexible uppers.
If you’re looking for women’s steel toe shoes or women’s work boots, buy footwear designed for women so you will get the best fit.
Leather is the most durable choice for the upper portion of a shoe or boot, while nylon mesh keeps your footwear lighter and airier. The best steel toe shoes and boots are made of full-grain leather. This material is strong, durable, and will conform to your foot shape after regular wear. Leather absorbs moisture, so it can begin to smell after a while.
Mesh, on the other hand, breathes well, keeping your feet from sweating and reducing odors. Nylon mesh isn’t as durable or long-lasting as leather, though.
Some boots or shoes offer the best of both worlds, mixing leather and nylon to provide durable, lightweight, breathable footwear.
Most steel toe shoes and boots feature rubber nonslip soles.
Actual steel toe boots have a metal toe cap, while composite toe shoes have a cap made from Kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic, or fiberglass. Composite toe shoes can offer the same level of protection but with a lighter-weight design; however, they are newer and some workplaces don’t allow them.
Many makers of the best steel toe shoes and boots prefer to use steel toe caps. They’re an age-old option, and a lot of brand loyalists expect steel in their shoes.
If your work takes you outside during the colder months, you should consider purchasing a pair of steel toe shoes or boots with insulation. Even 200 grams of insulation can keep your feet warmer. If you work in a hot environment, like a kitchen, refinery, or boiler room, you may prefer shoes or boots made with breathable material instead of insulation.
Many of the best steel toe shoes and boots have some waterproofing, so you can walk through a puddle or hose down machinery without soaking your work socks. But, as you might guess, waterproof shoes and boots don’t breathe well and dry slowly. If you prefer waterproof footwear, consider buying a boot dryer so you won’t face soggy shoes the morning after working in wet conditions.
You want your work boots to last a long time, so durability is important. Well-known workwear brands that use better-quality materials and construction practices generally make the most durable shoes and boots.
To extend the life of your boots, look for brands you can resole. Then, when the soles wear out, you can take them to a cobbler for a new sole, which is worth the effort for shoes that can cost a few hundred dollars for a premium pair.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know more about choosing the best steel toe shoes or boots, you’re ready to start shopping. Some of the work has already been done for you below, so you can choose from among the best steel toe shoes in several categories.
If you’re looking for a steel toe shoe that can do a little bit of everything, consider Keen’s Utility Flint Work Shoe. This low-top features a hiking boot style with uppers made of nubuck leather and nylon mesh on a nonslip rubber sole. While other manufacturers use one-size-fits-all steel toes, Keen uses left and right foot-specific steel toe caps for better comfort. While it’s not a waterproof shoe, it is breathable, allowing your feet to stay comfortable in hot workplaces. This is a men’s model, but Keen Flints are also available in women’s sizes.
- 100 percent nubuck leather
- Nonslip rubber sole
- Foot-specific steel toe caps
Protecting your feet doesn’t have to blow the budget. Skechers for Work 77055 Cankton Steel Toe Sneakers offer protection without a steep price tag. This sneaker looks like it belongs in the gym, but it’s suitable for most workplaces. The Cankton Steel Toe Sneaker blends protection, durability, and comfort. It has a steel toe cap and electrical hazard protection, with a suede and mesh upper that keeps your feet comfortable. The memory foam sole supports your feet. The Cankton has a relaxed fit, so there’s room for thick winter socks when you need them.
- Budget-friendly price
- Electrical hazard protection
- Suede and mesh upper
- Memory foam
Thorogood Men’s American Heritage Moc Toe boot is a staple in the construction industry and trades. Its upper is oil-tanned, full-grain leather, and its sole is a MAXWear slip-resistant wedge that’s good for working on ladders, stepping across joists or beams, or climbing stairs. The uppers on these boots will outlast the soles, but Thorogood assembles them with Goodyear welts (a seam connecting the sole to the upper), so you can get a cobbler to replace the soles when they wear out.
- Oil-tanned, full-grain leather
- MAXWear slip-resistant outsole
- Removable shock absorbing footbed
- Goodyear storm welt construction
Working in wet environments can get old, and wearing wet shoes constantly can lead to foot health issues. The Greetah Construction Shoe from Skechers keeps your feet dry, thanks to a waterproof design. The low-top shoe features a composite toe, electrical hazard protection for safety, a memory-foam footbed, and a rubber sole for comfort. The composite toe means they’re a bit lighter than steel toe boots, and they have nylon mesh uppers so they’re breathable. They come in two colors, so you should find one that fits your workplace’s policies.
- Electrical hazard protection
- Memory foam footbed
- Composite toe
- Breathable nylon mesh
You don’t have to break in a stiff leather boot or wear an ugly pair of safety shoes. The Timberland PRO Disruptor Safety-Toe Work Shoe pairs the comfort and style of an old-time athletic sneaker with the safety of a steel alloy cap. The Timberland has a canvas upper and uses anti-fatigue technology to keep your feet comfortable. This shoe also features electrical hazard protection as well as heat- and oil-resistant soles. And while a pair of leather high-top steel toe boots can weigh up to 5 pounds, putting the clod in clodhopper, this pair weighs just under 3 pounds.
- Canvas upper
- Anti-fatigue technology
- Oil- and heat-resistant outsoles
- Electrical hazard protection
Finding a shoe that can protect your toes while keeping you comfortable in hotter weather is no short order. Luckily, Keen’s Utility Atlanta Cool II gets the job done. It features a breathable leather and mesh upper as well as asymmetrical left and right steel toes for comfort. It also features a moisture-wicking lining to pull sweat away from your feet. The Atlanta Cool II fights fatigue with its Regen midsole that’s lightweight, compression resistant, and provides up to 50 percent more energy return while walking.
- Leather and mesh upper
- Asymmetrical steel toes for comfort
- Moisture-wicking lining
- Oil- and slip-resistant
Carhartt’s Waterproof Insulated Toe Boot features LiteFire technology, an aluminum-based waterproof and breathable insulation that reflects body heat back to your feet. This boot has 1,000 LiteFire, equivalent to 1,000 grams of insulation, and will keep your feet warm in frigid temperatures. These composite toe boots don’t get as cold as quickly as boots with steel toes, which means you’ll stay warmer. The uppers are made of leather and feature electrical hazard protection and a high-traction rubber sole. The boots also have heel guards for added protection and support.
- Composite toe
- Aluminum-based waterproof and breathable insulation
- Electrical hazard protection
- High-traction rubber sole
- Not 100 percent waterproof
Based on construction material, nonslip sole, insulation, durability, breathability, and foot-specific steel toe caps, KEEN Utility Men’s Flint Low Steel Toe Work Shoe is our top pick for the best steel toe shoes.
How We Chose the Best Steel Toe Shoes
Steel toe shoes protect your feet and keep you comfortable while on the job. The best pair of steel toe shoes for you depend on your work environment and job-specific features. To determine the best steel toe shoes on the market, we focused on comfort, construction material, soles, steel toe versus composite toe, insulation, durability, and waterproofing. Our top picks for the best steel toe shoes will protect your feet when it’s time to get to work.
If you’re still having trouble deciding on the best steel toe shoes or boots or have some general questions, this section is for you.
Q. What is the difference between a steel toe and a composite toe boot?
As the name suggests, steel toe boots use a steel toe cap. Composite toe boots use materials like Kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic, and fiberglass to protect the feet.
Q. Are there any differences between the ANSI and ASTM standards?
ASTM (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials) standards replaced ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards in 2005. If you’re looking for a certified safety shoe, you need to follow ASTM standards.
Q. How long do steel toe boots last?
Most boots or shoes last about a year. Then, typically, the soles wear out, making them dangerous to wear in industrial environments. If you buy a pair you can resole, you can get many years from a quality leather shoe.
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