Steel Toe: Everything You Need to Know

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Steel toe is the classic safety feature that protects workers all over the world, especially hard working people in the United States use them more often. There’s a common myth: toe protection means steel toe. Even when we mean any safety toe, we search for steel toe. Why not? Steel toes are enough for forefoot protection. These are tested and trusted over a century. Failproof. Steel toes are the first ones in this class.

These are comparatively heavier, not metal-detector friendly and are not insulation friendly. They are not rust free unless the steel is stainless or the footwear is completely waterproof. However, you can easily buy a pair spending less. Big brands still make them. That’s because steel is a cheapest yet most popular material.

Table Of Contents

What did we cover in this article?

All types of steel toe related topics. We do not cover composite, soft, or other alloy toes here.

The 9 Article Safety Toe Series

This post is part of the safety toe series, 9 articles that mythbust, explain, suggest, and answer FAQs on:

  1. Safety toe
  2. [this article] Steel toe
  3. Composite toe
  4. The versus article (compares each type of safety toe)
  5. Carbon/nano toe
  6. Aluminum and other alloy toes
  7. Metatarsal guard
  8. Soft protective toe and abrasion resistant
  9. Soft toe

The Basic Queries

What steel actually is?

Steel is a altered from of iron mixed with very few components.

Is alloy toe the same as steel toe?

When you say `alloy toe’, you do not mean `steel toe’. The fun part is, steel is an alloy. But when you mention `alloy toe’, you mean other metallic toes such as aluminum and titanium. Toes other than steel.

Is carbon or composite toe the same as steel toe?

The second fun fact:

Just like nearly all comp toes and nano tech toes or carbon fiber toes, steel also has carbon as a basic prerequisite. Whenever melted iron and carbon is mixed (with or without other elements), they are called steel. Iron is more corrosive, ductile and soft. Carbon is the hardening factor. It holds everything together (just like all around our known universe). Only 2% carbon in steel do the due magic. But we do not call steel toes `carbon toe’.

Is safety toe the same as steel toe?

Now, steel toes are safety toes. Comp toes, alloy toes and all other fall under safety toe category. So, steel toes are safety toes but safety toe can also mean comp toe, alloy toe or carbon fiber nanotech toe etc.

When should steel toe boots be worn?

  1. Whenever your job requires you to wear them at work.
  2. Whenever your work has risks. If heavy things can fall, or roll over the forefoot- these are better.
  3. Some insurance may require you to wear them.

How much pressure or weight can a steel toe boot take?

Ever wondered how strong are they and how much pressure they can withstand? We do not ignore safety measurements. So, let us go for ASTM 75 foot-pound  compression resistance. This rating correlates to 2500 pounds (1,133Kg) of compression. This is fairly more than one metric ton.

Let us compare this with a car wheel.

A small car with a passenger weighs around 2,700lbs, a standard four seater car weighs around 3,300lbs. A standard steel toe (or any safety toe) boot or shoe can easily withstand these pressures. A wheel can run over your forefoot without you even noticing anything.   

Can they withstand a loaded truck wheel or even semi-loaded one?

God help us! This much protection will need much more steel and your feet will be badly chunkier unless they make composite or nanotech toes for that level of pressure. Your toes will get hurt badly but most of them will survive without much harm. Yes, the steel will most probably bend at this point. They are meant to.

How much do steel toe boots and shoes cost?

They cost between $20 to $450. At least, we’ve found the pricing that way. Most of the better steel toe boots and shoes are priced from $70 upto  $225.

How much extra cost steel toes add up then?

A fair question. The median will be from $5 to $25 (most have a difference of 10 dollars). That’s what we’ve seen in most of the cases. Many brands make the same shoes with a steel toe and another without. Plain soft toe. There we found this difference.

Why does some steel toes feel uncomfortable?

As steel is heavier and these boots and shoes tend to price less, manufacturers try to use less steel.

No, it does not mean that necessary hardness and impact protection is gone. What it means is, most of the steel toe capped shoes and boots do not come with ample wiggle room for your little toes. You see the equations, more steel means more stress while walking. This may cause soreness which means, the boot you are wearing is not comfortable.

Anyways, comfort is hereby limited by a less roomy toe box.

The way to go over it?

Use other toes or buy from good old reputed brands. They sell `big toe’ or in case of Red Wings, `king toe’ boots. ASTM, ANSI and other testing measures can always help you ensure the protection.

How to tell if boots or shoes are steel toe?

If you are going to buy a pair, you must trust the manufacturer (and you should pick the right cobbling company). You can never be 100% sure of it unless you cut the toe out and test the cap components (unless you reach a handy cutting edge scanner). They may have some sort of marking on the footwear but it varies from brand to brand. However, you can easily presume it’s a steel toed one by seeing the toe and forefoot area. These tend to be bigger and the leather usually shows the end line of the toe cap. You can also tap on the toe cap and feel the sound and vibration.  

What to wear with steel toe boots?

Jeans, originating from the french region of nim- is the most widely used pants with steel toe shoes or boots. Jeans are followed by cargo (baggy) pants. You may or may not prefer specialized socks but a good insole always helps.

Are steel shanks the same as steel toe boots?

Nope, these are completely different things located in different and unrelated areas of a footwear. Shanks are like shortened backbones or chassis.

When and who invented steel toe boots?

The earliest safety boots were wooden sabots (from where the word `sabotage’ came). Steel was a natural replacement of wood for foot safety. It was pretty obvious and inevitable. Perhaps the first mass production of steel toes in the western hemisphere was started by Red Wing shoes in the early 1930s.

Can you bend back steel toe boots or shoes? How flexible they are?

Bending does not necessarily depend on toe itself. They can be flexible, semi-flexible or rigid depending on the boot construction. Glued or cemented steel toe work boots and shoes are very flexible. Nevertheless, you do not intend to perform ballet while wearing them… yes, the forefoot will always be a bit rigid (and this rigidity is negotiable).

Can you wash steel toe boots in the washer?

Tell me, should you? They have huge metal parts which can damage the washer or the boot itself.

Why are steel toe boots so heavy?

That’s a sad question. Steel is heavy. You must choose bigger brands and smaller products. Preferably comp toes.

Safety Issues and Steel Toe

Are steel toe boots and shoes bad or even dangerous for your feet? Are they safe enough?

Generally speaking, steel toe boots are not bad for your feet and they are far from being dangerous. They’re rather safer. They can be bad, when:

  • The steel is not OSHA complaint.
  • The steel puts on significantly more weight.
  • The shoes are not electrical hazard and your work environment has a electric risk.
  • Keep in mind that it is good to change them before they are too worn out.

Can steel toe boots and shoes cause foot problems?

Yes, some of the steel toe boots and shoes can cause foot problems when:

  1. You have narrow toe box area.
  2. The steel toe is not tested to withstand pressure.
  3. They’re heavy like a couple of rocks.
  4. They’re not flexible enough.
  5. The leather as well as other components in your shoes are not sturdy enough to contain the steel caps.

How can you solve these issues?

  1. Simply go for a renowned brand and product line.
  2. Then, figure out these issues for that product.
  3. Give comp toe a try.

Do steel toe boots cut toes off?

No. It is nothing but an urban myth. Accidents are accidents. Exceptions are expectations. And it is mostly a rumor- just like kentucky fried mouse. Whatever, you need to stay along the safe side, buy from renowned brands, see whether your shoes are safety measure passed or not. Steel toes are so hard that they may take upto 3 ton pressure.

Are steel toe boots designed to cut off toes?

Nope, absolutely not. These are designed to save your toes.

Are steel toe boots deadly weapons?

Nope, not really. However, you can kill anyone with a thin plastic sheet if you wish to. There are a number of cases where steel toe is used to kill people. That can be done with soft toe boots as well.

Wearer Specific

Do I need steel toe boots? When should steel toe boots be worn?

Yes, you need steel toe/ comp toe/ met guard shoes or boots whenever these chances are frequent:

  1. -Wheels can run over your feet.
  2. -You have to carry heavy things every now and then.
  3. -People who do the same thing as you do wear them.
  4. -Your job requires safety boots and shoes.

Can diabetics wear steel toe shoes and boots? Should they?

Yes, diabetics can wear steel toe shoes and boots. You should not think of wearing steel toe unless your work requires so. But you should keep the following in mind:

  1. Steel is heavier. You would like to pick lighter steel toe shoes instead of bigger and heavier shoes or boots. This will help soreness keep away. After all, extra weight means fatigue.
  2. Consider aluminum and other alloy toes instead of steel. They will provide the same safety.
  3. Composite toe and carbon/nano toe is the best for you. These are the lightest ones. You would not feel any colder due to lack of metal.
  4. Choose a wider toe box. Diabetics can regularly suffer from foot swelling. You need wiggle room.
  5. Pick loosely comfortable fitting.
  6. If your shoe insole does not satisfy you, pick better inserts for your relaxed fit footwear.
  7. Consider tactical boots that are comp toe. They are way too light, more flexible and they have much breathability. Sweating can cause discomfort for diabetics.
  8. If you have troubled physical conditions, it is always safer to go for the renowned brands.

Are steel toe boots good for hiking?

Yes, many of these can be good for hiking. You need these features in your steel toe boots and shoes in order to hike in them:

  1. roomier toe box.
  2. Lighter pair.
  3. More breathable ones.
  4. Grippy, non slip outsole.

Do hiking boots have steel toes?

Yes, some of hiking boots have steel toes. There are very few though. Most of them use protective soft toes. Then they tend to use comp toes.

Can you wear steel toe boots and shoes on a plane? Are they allowed through airports?

Yes, chances are, you can fly with steel toes on. Most viable answer is, you should not try to. Let us explain why:

  1. You have bags! Why risk embarrassment?
  2. They will set the alarms off. There are so many checkpoints en route. Steel is anything but metal detector friendly.
  3. Most of the time, you must put your shoes off while passing through a detector. Frankly, this sucks.
  4. TSA officers usually allow people wearing steel toe boots and shoes. They always have the power to decide on their own.

However, people usually fly wearing steel toe boots and shoes. Seemingly, it is not a big issue. They will let you on board. You better go for metal free ones. Composite toe and carbon/nano tech toes are as safe as steel and you can travel with them anywhere.

Now, can you bring steel toe boots on a plane?

Yes, it is not a big issue (if you are carrying them on a bag). it depends on the country, airport authority and the airliner. Most of the time, they will let you carry these boots and shoes in your luggage. Transport Security Administration (tsa.gov) says so. Needless to say that they can eventually check the bag. Moreover, TSA officers decide whether you will be able to carry steel toe boots or not.

Are steel toe boots allowed in court?

No. Most likely not, it may vary though. Just wear something else. Steel toe boots or shoes are not going in with you as there are metal detectors and other factors.

Are they allowed in school?

Whether these are allowed or not, a kid should not be wearing those to school. Young men can cause unexpected brutality.

Are there any steel toe boat shoes?

Yes, there are. Rockport makes a number of steel toe boat shoes. These look good and are not that pricey. Let’s see a few of them:

Rockport Shoes Women Womens’ Steel Toe Tie Boat Oxford Shoes RK676

Rockport Shoes: Men’s Steel Toe EH Boat Shoes RK6745

Work Specific

Which are the most common professions requiring steel toe boots and shoes?

Construction, manufacturing, oil and gas sectors, warehouses, seaports and the list goes on.

Are army and tactical boots steel toe?

Military men rarely choose safety toes and all of them are not steel toe. There are many steel toe army boots which are better, safer and lighter. People currently tend to prefer composite toe tactical boots as these are metal free. If you are concerned about your toes, you can always choose them and it is rather a better decision.

Are steel toe good for law enforcement?

They can be useful for you as these are safer. Yet, you may want to consider comp toe in order to reduce the deadweight.

Are steel toe boots safe for electricians?

Yes, many of steel toe boots and shoes are safe for electricians. You must make sure that your steel toe footwear are electrical hazard certified from authorities like ASTM, ANSI and OSHA.

Do electricians need steel toe boots?

Not all electricians need safety toes. Electricians in factories, warehouses and construction sites may need safety toes. If your job requires you to wear them, you can choose EH steel toe boots or shoes.

Do plumbers need ST boots?

Not all plumber need steel toe boots. Just like electricians, you will need safety toe in special occasions.

Are steel toe work boots and shoes safe for welding?

That’s a great question. Yes, steel and alloy toes are safe for welders if you have EH. Abrasion resistant is a prefered feature. You should not be wearing them after wear and tear.

Do project managers need to wear steel safety toe?

Definitely. If your project workers wear safety toes, you need to wear them whether they are steel or comp toes. A project manager keeps moving on, which is riskier.

Should you get steel toe boots for riding horses?

You know what? You should get safety toe capped footwear while dealing with a horse. Firstly, you should never go near a horse barefoot. Horsemen continue to break their toes while taking care of the animals. Why let it happen? No horse can crush a good steel toe cap or any other ASTM cap.

Physical Properties

How much do steel toe shoes & boots weigh?

That’s a good question. Steel toe shoes and boots are usually heavier than their comp toe, nano toe or soft toe counterparts. Each pair tend to be 1 kg to 2.5kg. Some of the pairs weigh as much as 2.7-3kg. A good pair of 6/7 inch boot will weigh around 2kg. There are some lightweight steel toe footwear. We are happy to recommend these. Moreover, why don’t you pick comp/nano tech toes? You just need to make sure that they are tested by companies like ASTM.

Are steel toe boots good for winter?

Yes, ST boots and shoes are good for winter only if:

  1. The boot or shoe is made by a reputed brand,
  2. They are properly insulated for your environment (there are many insulations: from 200g to 1200g)
  3. The boots are not badly worn out.

However, steel is a fierce heat conductor. People suffer from cold in their toes just because they are using crappy steel toe boots or their good boots are not properly insulated. On the contrary, try non metallic toes like

How to make steel toe boots and shoes more comfortable?

The easiest way if you already have a pair: find a pair of insoles that suits you.

If you are going to buy a pair, go for a big brand and find their most comfortable pair. Just look for their premium boots and shoes with ample cushioning. Go for the most reviewed and praised pairs. We have a huge article on most comfortable boots.

How to stop steel toe boots from hurting?

That’s bad! You need to do any of these:

  1. Try inserts (if they are not hurting toes)
  2. Try soft and fluffy socks.
  3. Buy a bigger toe box pair.
  4. Buy lighter ones.
  5. Buy boots with energy return technology.
  6. Buy fluffy ones.

Are soft toe boots more comfortable than steel toe?

Nope. Not necessarily. A heavier steel toe pair can be the comfiest ones. Reputed steel toe boots and shoes are incredibly comfortable with plush materials, energy return and wide toe box.

Are steel toe boots comfortable for standing?

Yes, they can be. Go for a big brand and popular product.

Do steel toe boots run big?

That’s a great question. Yes, good steel toe boots and shoes may look or seem bigger. The steel is not supposed to fit in your normal toe box. Then you will lose toe wiggle room. Moreover, they may hurt you and constrain your flexibility.

Just buy your regular size steel toe boots from a good brand and only then they will decide how much extra space you need. It is not good to go for a size smaller.

How should steel toe boots fit? How to size them? Should they be loose?

Roomier toe box is preferable. These may tend to fit lose. Just go for your regular size. The rest will be done by a good brand.

What to do if the steel toe is rubbing your big or small toe?

Just change the boots or shoes. You can change a pair but you can’t withstand deformed toes. Go for big toe box boots and shoes.

Buying Them

How to buy steel toe boots and shoes?

You need to consider the following things while buying steel toe boots and shoes:

  1. That they pass tests like OSHA/ANSI.
  2. The footwear is lighter.
  3. The toe box is roomier.
  4. They are electrical hazard rated (not always needed to be).
  5. They meet other requirements of your work- e.g. waterproof.

Or, you can just rely on boots recommended by shoeask. We go through every aspect of a pair before recommending them.

Where to buy steel toe boots?

Wherever you buy them, do not try to save money. It may backfire. We do have a lot of recommendations all over shoeask.com. We are more than cautious while picking and suggesting a pair. You can always go to stores and choose a pair. Amazon.com is an ocean of steel toe boots. You can return them if they do not fit. Just pick a pretty good brand and well reviewed pair of boots.   

DIY and Fixing

Can you stretch steel toe boots?

You can stretch the boots and shoes. Extreme stretching is not recommended. Not safe enough. If the material holding steel toe gets lose or stretched, the toe cap can hurt your feet.

On the contrary, you can not significantly stretch steel toes. It has high risk.

You rather need to buy a new pair with loose fitting and wide toe box. Maybe this time you would prefer comp toe boots as they are usually wider, lighter and more comfortable.

Breaking in quickly: how to stretch steel toe boots or shoes a little bit?

However, if you want to stretch a little bit, just to break in, you can do any of the following things:

  1. Prepare a zip plastic bag full of water. Make sure that water can not leak. Put the sac into your boots. Make sure that the bag touches your desired parts. Now, use another polybag to wrap your footwear. Put it into the deep freezer for 24 hours. The water will turn into ice and expand the desired areas.
  2. Put excessive leather softener like mink oil or conditioner in your target area. Let them stay overnight. Wear the boots after rubbing off some of the oil. You can do it for a couple of days or more.
  3. Pick a better steel toe boot stretcher.  

Can you take the steel toe out of boots and shoes?

Yes, you can take the steel cap out of your boots and shoes. But, it is most probably not a good idea. Let me explain why:

You must cut through the uppers of your shoes. Or, you can do it by dissecting them just above the outsole line. Only then, you can get it out.

Now, the problems are:

  1. You can not restore its original look and feel.
  2. Your toe box may tap into or even collapse.
  3. You may not be able to retain certain crucial features like waterproof, breathability and electrical safety.

Still want to do it?

Just bring it out and then use super adhesives with caution so that your boots do not look ugly. For a solid feel in toe box, you can use thin plastic sheets (like x-ray sheets) in steel toe’s place. If you can successfully mimic a steel toe with semi-hard plastic sheets and a super glue stick- insert it and try the pair (they will not be the same again and you lose toe safety).

Can a cobbler remove steel toe?

Yes, they can and it is better not to do it yourself. Restoring the boot or shoe to the original state would be the tougher part of that job.

Should you fix a bent steel toe work boot?

Nope, it’s not safe. It might result into extreme discomfort. You rather should buy a new pair.

How to keep your toes warm in steel toed boots?

If they are for winter, you better go for the insulated ones. The best way to keep your toes warm is to buy a pair of safety approved comp or carbon toe footwear which are at least water resistant. If you already have a pair of steel toe shoes and you want to resist the cold, you can try adding some thin memory foam into the toe box only if your shoe has toe wiggle room.

How to make regular boots steel toe?

Yes, you can turn regular boots and shoes into steel toed ones- or you can at least do something like that, but it is not the best idea. Let us explain why:

Whenever you need a pair or safety toes, you have a high risk. Otherwise, you would not have considered steel toes.

Now, is it wise to manually do it?

Steel Toe Boot Covers: The External Toe Protection

External safety toes like safgard safety toe, osha toe are creating a buzz. But we can not recommend these for the following reasons:

  1. “the ASTM standard does not allow for the use of add-on type devices (strap-on foot, toe or metatarsal guards) as a substitute for protective footwear.”
  2. A busy workman can’t carry strapped add-ons with his boots; it is not practical.
  3. Another layer of add-on outsole will make it tougher for you to walk around.
  4. They will put on a huge weight. Imagine how big it would be or how much extra parts you must carry.
  5. They can never be as stable as pre-inserted boots. Stability is a huge factor, impact may displace it pretty quickly.
  6. Are they hard enough? That’s a constant question.
  7. Would they fit properly with your boots or shoes? Not really. Your boots or shoes are not made for them.
  8. All of them look very ugly, if not clowny. They may make you look `not so prepared and dependable’.

You can not buy toes, neither can you buy reputation. Rather, invest on a new pair with proper arming.

Brands

Does Nike make steel toe boots, shoes and/or sneakers?

No. Nike does not make any steel toe boots, shoes or sneakers. They did not make or at least continue any ST products as of today (May, 2018). We haven’t found any steel toe boots or shoes in Nike’s official site or in amazon.com.

How can the `Nike steel toe’ rumor live for so long?

That’s because a number of sites (and sellers on the sites) are using the term ‘Nike steel toe’.

Zappos do have pages and products on this topic, but the result shown there do not have steel toes which is clearly misleading. We had to read through a handful of sneakers before we could say anything. Pretty discouraging. A number of third party sellers are also doing this in popular platforms like ebay.

Why Nike doesn’t make steel toe footwear?

That’s because Nike is not a work boot or work shoe brand. Steel toe is somewhat a sole property of work footwear. Nike deals with lightweight shoes and sneakers and steel toe goes the opposite direction. Steel is heavy.

Does Converse make steel toe shoes?

No. Converse does not make ST boots or shoes. This company is owned by Nike, none of them make steel toed footwear.

Are Timberlands steel toe boots?

Yes, Timberland has a number of steel toe boots and shoes. There are currently 38 steel toe boots and shoes. Three of them are hiker and athletic shoes, two of them are oxfords and slip ons. All other, 33, are steel toed boots.

Are all Timberlands steel toe?

No, not all of Timberland shoes and boots are steel toe. Timberland has other safety toes like alloy toes (namely, titan), comp toes. They also have a number of soft toe boots.

How much are Red Wing steel toe boots?

There are 63 Red Wing steel toe boots and shoes.

Red Wing WORX is the cheapest series. Worx steel toe boots usually start from around $90/$100. You can get a bit cheaper products from RW’s sister concern Irish Setter.  On the contrary, their main stream boots may cost somewhere between $200-$450. Smaller work boots tend to cost around $200 while the bigger pull ons hover around 300 dollars or more.

Does UGG make them?

No, ugg does not make steel toe boots which is somewhat disappointing as they are the best snow boot brand.

Does Under Armour make steel toe boots and shoes?

No. under armour does not make steel toe boots or shoes. Don’t be confused by the 11 steel colored pair they have.

Does ecco make steel toe boots?

No, ecco does not make steel toe boots or shoes.

Does Dansko make steel toe shoes?

No, unfortunate for us, this great brand does not cobble steel toe capped shoes.

Does adidas make steel toe shoes?

No, adidas does not make ST shoes.

Do Vans make them?

No, vans does not make these shoes or boots.

Does Merrell make steel toe shoes and boots?

Merrell has taken a smart move. They have at least 54 comp toe footwear. However, they no longer make any steel toe boots and shoes.

Does New Balance make steel toe shoes?

Yes. NB has very few steel toe shoes. Only seven for now. All are included into 627 shoe series. Their leather, suede, textile from v1 and v2 feature steel toe caps.  

Does Oakley make steel toe boots?

No, Oakley does not make steel toe safety boots.

Does Salomon make steel toe boots?

Nope, they do not make ST boots or shoes.

Are Asolo boots steel toe?

No, this specialized Italian brand does not make any steel toe boots or shoes. However, they would have gone for carbon fiber if they had to. Asolo makes rubber protective toe boots.

Do Propet boots have steel toes?

No, they do not have ST.

Does Sperry make steel toe?

No, They do not make these safety shoes.

How good are steel toe boots and shoes on amazon.com?

Amazon.com has the largest collection of steel toe work boots and shoes. You will get the best ones there. Best brands, top features and flagship products- all are available on amazon.

Does Target sell steel toe boots and shoes?

Yes, target sells steel toe boots and shoes.

Does Payless sell steel toe shoes?

Payless have a huge collection of steel toe boots and shoes. However, you need to be careful about the ANSI/ASTM measurements. These are very important. Moreover, steel weight may make you more tired if the toe is chunkier.

How much are steel toe boots at Payless?

Prices vary. You will get these safety boots and shoes in the range of $30 to $50. Going below or above may limit your choices.

Does Walmart sell steel toe boots and shoes?

Yes, walmart sells steel toe boots and shoes. Within 2 day shipping, you will get a few.

Does Kmart have steel toe boots?

Yes, Kmart has a huge array of ST boots and shoes. You will get hundreds.

Does Kmart have steel toe boots for girls?

Yes, Kmart have girls’ ST boots. However, they feature men’s steel toe boots first.

Does Tractor supply sell steel toe boots?

tractor supply has many. A number of these stay on sale.

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