Most Comfortable Steel Toe Boots for Standing All Day
After researching 39 pairs of boots, the KEEN Flint 2 (men) and Caterpillar Mae (women) are the most comfortable steel toe boots for standing all day.
Before researching and testing, we spoke to 42 people who wear safety boots most days. This included warehouse workers, factory workers, a few local mechanics and more. We even got to speak to a welder to ask about uppers that handle heat well. We reached out via social media and by talking to people locally.
We made note of the features and boots the people we spoke to recommended. Afterwards, we went out and tested the recommended boots in-store. The best ones, we cover in-depth below. We also made a buyer’s guide that lists key features like cushioning, ankle support and safety toe shape. You can read the buyer’s guide later on in this article.
We chose the KEEN utility because it’s versatile and comfortable. It has an asymmetric, ergonomic steel toe with plenty of wiggle room. It has an athletic sole that’s good for both standing and walking. The insole and midsole are supportive enough to make standing for long hours easy on the feet. The boot is slip-resistant and electrical-hazard resistant. It’s surprisingly breathable and has a toe section that makes kneeling easy. In short, there’s nothing this boot can’t handle.
For women, we chose the Caterpillar Mae for similar reasons. Its athletic, supportive sole and footbed make standing for long hours easy. Its steel toe cap is wide and roomy; perfect for both standing and walking. The boot is waterproof but surprisingly breathable. It’s slip-resistant and electrical hazard-resistant. It provides excellent ankle support when laced up. It’s also very stylish and fairly priced!
To be fair, other boots excelled for specific use cases. If you’re mostly standing, we like the Doc Martens we recommend in the “best steel toe boots for standing all day” section. The brand’s soft cushioning, especially in the heel, is tough to beat. Both the men’s and women’s models are soft and supportive on the foot. If you need waterproof rubber boots, then get the Dunlop DURAPRO (men) or the FAST 14” (women). Both models are comfortable, slip-proof and highly waterproof. They’re also inexpensive.
To see the rest of our top choices, keep reading!
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Table of Contents
Most Comfortable Steel Toe Boots for Standing on Concrete All Day (Men)
These shoes are very comfortable underfoot. The lightweight, compression-resisting EVA midsole provides plenty of cushioning. Like some athletic shoes, it also gives some ‘energy return.’ 50% more energy return, in fact, than standard EVA foam. Theoretically, this should help combat fatigue as the day wears on.
There is a removable metatomical PU footbed. This means the footbed is designed with human anatomy in mind, with particular attention to supporting the first metatarsal joint – your big toe. Many safety toe boots compress the forefoot, but this one won’t. Perfect for standing and walking all day. The fact that the insole’s removable is nice and keeps the boot comfortable longer.
The steel toes are asymmetrical. That means the left and right side are not the same. They have more space around the big toe without being unnecessarily large. Having said that, the safety toe is also a little wider than usual, offering added comfort. Safety-wise, the boots conform to ASTM F2412 and F2413 EH compression and impact safety standards. The EH at the end stands for Electrical Hazard. This mean’s the boot’s both impact and electric hazard-safe.
The thick rubber sole underfoot is puncture-resistant, according to the sales assistant we spoke to. It’s also oil- and slip-resistant. You’ll see on some of their marketing material that these boots meet two separate safety standards for traction: ASTM f1677-96 and F2913. Basically, this is two versions of the same thing. F1677 is the old testing method, withdrawn in 2006, and f2913 is the new one. Suffice to say, the rubber does not slip. It’s also non-marking which can be important for warehouse work.
The upper is both waterproof and breathable. It combines waterproof leather with porous, breathable, stretchy mesh. The holes in the mesh are too small for water to enter, but large enough to let hot air escape. Also on the upper, we liked the reflective webbing near the heal. This should make you more visible at night, or in dark conditions. The locking metal lace hooks feel solid. Tight laces keep your ankle in the right place, and therefore safe.
All told, we love this boot. It has an athletic sole, a waterproof but breathable upper, and is safe all over. Couldn’t think of a better steel toe boot to spend all day in. Good value for money, too. Lastly, we believe this is an excellent choice for warehouse workers. Namely, you get ultimate comfort, support, durability – you name it.
- Fatigue reducing
- Meets impact and electric hazard safety standards
- Oil and slip-resistant
Most Comfortable Steel Toe Boots for Standing on Concrete All Day (Women)
This is one of Caterpillar’s less-known models for women. The working women we spoke to recommended this shoe often, though. It has a lot going for it. Safety-wise, the steel toe has strong compression and impact resistance (ASTM F2413-11 I/75 C/75).
The full grain leather upper is waterproof and slip-resistant. It starts out a little rigid but gets very comfortable over time, according to consumers. The boot’s construction gives it open circuit protection of up to 600 volts (in dry conditions). Inside, the nylon mesh lining and sock liner make the shoe soft on foot – and breathable. Being realistic, this isn’t a mesh boot – we’ll get to those later in the article – but it doesn’t run hot.
We really like the sole on this boot. The slip-resistant outsole is firm but has some bounce to it. It has a rocker shape that gives you an easy heel-to-toe transition for walking. It has an arch frame in the middle, giving you strong arch support for all-day standing and walking.
It has a steel shank for durability. It’s slip-resistant, even on low-traction surfaces (read: water). Above the outsole is an EVA footbed. This footbed offers some cushioning and lots of support. It has good shock absorption for walking. More importantly, it gives you good foot posture. This energizes the feet, preventing foot fatigue and flat feet. Important if you’re walking and standing a lot.
The steel toe is asymmetric. It takes up less space and weighs less while giving you more wiggle room. The eyelets go all the way up to the top of the shaft. When laced up, they keep the ankle stable and prevent heel slippage. The padded collar means the foot doesn’t rub against the back of the shoe when you’re sitting, squatting or kneeling.
The heel is reinforced for durability. The boot looks stylish, and is available in several colorways. Our testers prefer the Bay Leaf version. The only downside to this boot is the cement construction. This means the boot cannot be resoled.
- Fatigue reducing
- Promotes good foot posture
- Available in various colorways
- Cannot be resoled
Best Steel Toe Boots for Standing on Concrete All Day (Men & Women)
The male and female models look slightly different but have the same feature set. The men’s version has a little more padding around the ankle. The women’s model has a more pronounced rocker sole that makes walking easier and distributes weight more evenly. Both are comfortable for walking and standing on concrete. The first reason is the world-famous Doc Martens heel cushioning. Walking and standing places most of the load on the heel. With a thick, rubbery heel and the world-famous Doc Martens footbed, these cushion it well. You can stand all day without feeling any discomfort.
The shoes are also supportive. They elevate the arch and stabilize the heel and ankle. This prevents foot and ankle fatigue. It makes it easy to stand and walk all day without getting flat feet. Thanks to its excellent support levels, this shoe is suitable for overweight walkers.
Additionally, each shoe has a rocker sole. These distribute weight when you stand and give you an easy heel-to-toe transition when you walk. This makes concrete easy on the feet. Safety-wise, the shoes we tested have hard steel toe caps. Both comply with common safety standards. In addition to this, both shoes are slip-resistant and electrical hazard resistant. Handy if you work around live currents or on smooth, slippery concrete.
The upper is made of industrial tumbled leather. It’s tough; naturally breathable and water resistant. Something we were very much surprised by is how breathable these shoes are. Both have moisture-wicking, breathable padding on the inside. Both feature SoftWair sockliners that promote air circulation underfoot. Our testers and consumers both report that these feel surprisingly cool on the feet. The leather itself is a little rigid at first, which is the case with most Doc Martens. It gets softer after a week or two or wear. Make sure to wear long, thick socks until the leather softens up. It can definitely rub on the ankle. Less so with the padding on the ankle collar of the men’s model, but still.
- Fatigue reducing
- Electric hazard resistant
- Requires a break-in period
Best Boots for Working on Concrete All Day (Men)
These Wolverine’s have a Vibram outsole which is hard wearing and has great traction. It’s also soft with some bounce to it, which is good for concrete. At the same time, the lugs are substantial enough to handle uneven outdoor terrain. This makes the boot good if you want to stay comfortable in different work environments. The boots have a rocker sole up front for an easy heel to toe transition. When you’re standing, the same rocker sole helps distribute weight evenly.
The outsole is slip-proof, which is good for slick, wet concrete. The full cushioned anti-fatigue footbed is removable. If you need to replace it, Wolverine sells them separately. The midsole is rubber, which gives plenty of cushioning and bounce for concrete. Arch support is good enough for a healthy foot, but if you need more of it, remove the footbed and use a custom orthotic.
The upper is waterproof leather. It sits comfortably on the foot. The ankle collar eyelets hug the foot comfortably thanks to the extra padding in that area. The heel section is reinforced for durability. The outsole is attached using Goodyear welt construction, which means you can resole the boots. The toe box is nice and roomy; perfect for both standing and walking. The shoe is available in both wide and extra-wide, which means you can get a wider version to accommodate high-volume orthotics.
These boots are not insulated. They’re not Winter work boots, but as long as you’re not working in ice and snow you should be fine.
- Good traction
- Suitable for various terrain
- Can be resoled
- Not insulated
Best Boots for Working on Concrete All Day (Women)
Skechers are best-known for comfort footwear. These Workshire Perils are no different. They’re sturdy but comfortable. That’s why we picked them as the most comfortable work boot for concrete.
The gel-infused footbed is comfortable and supportive. The memory foam cushioning feels great underfoot. These are a dream to walk in. The footbed is removable, which suits people who prefer to use their own insoles. It also means you can replace the footbed with a fresh one when yours wears out. The roomy relaxed fit only adds to the comfort level, our testers appreciated that; many steel-toe boots constrict the feet.. The shock-absorbing midsole has good arch support.
The leather is spill-proof, although it’s not marketed as such. Consumers we spoke to it can handle a little water without a problem. The leather is also sturd, and triple-stitched in most places. The boot has a relaxed fit, a wide toe box and is available in wide sizes. This means you can find a size option that suits your foot without a problem. The heel is reinforced and the ankle collar and tongue are both padded. This means you can lace the boots up tight without cutting off circulation around the ankle.
Beyond that classic work boot look, with its traditional lace-up design and sturdy metal eyelets, these boots have work ready safety features. They have a steel toe and meet ASTM F2412/2413-2011 I/75 C/75, EH standards. That’s compression, impact, and electrical hazard protection. These Sketchers are a great option for light or heavy duty work that involves a lot of walking
- Removable footbed
- Meets compression, impact, and electrical hazard safety standards
Most Comfortable Work boots for Indoor Concrete (Men)
The Peltons have Caterpillar’s new ease midsole. It’s soft but supportive, with pronounced arch support and a bouncy feel. This makes them feel more like a walking shoe. The midsole is molded EVA, so it continues to provide support for a long time.
Multiple consumers reported this is a surprisingly long-lasting pair of boots. Under the midsole is a slip-resistant outsole. The sole has a rocker shape up front, giving you an easy heel-to-toe transition and distributing weight when you stand. The insole is dual-density EVA, giving excellent shock absorption. Our testers tried jumping in the shoe and reported it does soak up impact well.
The upper is full grain leather. The leather is thick and double-stitched in most places. The shoe has a tough, rugged feel as a result. The heel overlay in particular feels sturdy. The toe box is nice and wide and the boot has a relaxed fit to begin with. If you have a wide foot or a high-volume orthotic, you can always go a width up.
Something we really liked were the stretch panels on either side of the boot. These provide breathability and make the shoe nice and comfortable around the mid-foot and ankle. Other steel-toe boots can get tight after a long day of work, but not the Peltons. The panels also increases foot mobility, which is handy if your work involves moving around a lot.
These boots are surprisingly light despite having a steel toe. They’re extremely comfortable. They’re also ESD rated, which is a required component in certain workplaces. We loved the high-tech, athletic midsole. We can’t wait for Caterpillar to produce lace-up shoes with a similar feature set going forward. The big downside to the shoe is that it cannot be resoled, which testers and consumers regret.
- Cannot be resoled
Most Comfortable Work boots for Indoor Concrete (Women)
Our testers couldn’t get enough of this boot. The molded EVA midsole is supportive and bouncy. It has extra arch support which makes it easy to stand and walk.
Consumers say the foot doesn’t get tired in these, even through long hours on your feet. There’s a nylon shank running through the midsole, giving extra support and stability. The footbed is cushioned PU for even more cushioning and shock absorption. The rocker element in the front of the sole gives you good weight distribution and a smooth heel-to-toe transition for walking. The heel is wide, which gives you excellent stability for lateral movement.
The upper is full-grain leather. Inside, you have engineered mesh (nylon) that’s breathable and well-padded. The faux-fleece ankle collar and tongue both have extra padding. Using the high eyelets, you can lace these up tight without constricting the ankle. The shoe is double and triple-stitched all over for durability. The overlays that make up the upper are stitched together in a way that makes walking and moving easy.
Safety-wise, the steel toe is ASTM F2413-11 I/75 C/75-compliant. This means it can withstand up to 75 pounds of impact; enough for most workplaces. Electrical hazard protection is ASTM F2413-05 1/75 EH. The T1260 slip-resistant outsole does well on oil and water. Consumers working in industry say it’s heat and abrasion-resistant, meaning it stays bouncy, supportive and slip-resistant through months and years of use. We really liked the laces on these shoes. Testers say they feel like they could last a while. The full grain leather, made at Gold Rated Tanneries, is another nice touch.
One thing we did not like about the shoe is the sole construction. It’s cement, meaning you can’t resole the shoe. Given the quality of the leather, this is a bit of a letdown.
- Fatigue reducing
- Provides stability for lateral movement
- Safety compliant for impact and electric hazard
- Cannot be resoled
Best Boots for Standing All Day and Working (Men)
Caterpillar Footwear is based on the same principles as their heavy equipment. Reliable, durable, no-nonsense. This is what we want in a work shoe for concrete. The leather upper is rugged. It features multiple inlays and overlays that toughen the shoe up while keeping it flexible. Many boots make the foot rigid by constricting it. The Caterpillar lets you move around easily, and redistributes weight effectively thanks to the upper’s construction. The leather is waterproof. Further protection is given with seam sealing waterproof liners.
The boot has a nice, rubbery midsole. It’s bouncy and flexible, making it good for walking and standing. The rubber outsole is tough and rugged. It has strong traction and deep lugs that can handle snow and muck. It’s slip resistant against oil and water. It’s also pretty tough, with strong resistance to abrasion.
The EVA inserts on these boots are perforated for breathability, and use gel technology for shock absorption. They’re also removeable, in the event that you require specialist inserts. Something we really like is the reinforced toe section. It’s designed in a way that makes it easy to work kneeling. This is something you don’t see often in other steel-toe boots.
The collar on these boots is soft and supportive, our testers commented on how secure their ankle felt in them. The tongue on these boots is also very soft, probably due in part to the insulation. We thought it was a nice touch, making them that little bit more comfortable. These boots’ steel toes conform to US safety standards. They are ASTM F2413-05 1/75 EH rated.
This safety boot is insulated with 200 Grams of Thinsulate. Thinsulate is a patented thermal technology from 3M, it’s been used by the US army since the ’80s. When Thinsulate first arrived on the scene, 3M claimed it was twice as warm as any equivalent natural material. Consumers agree; this is a warm but surprisingly thin, light boot.
- Effective redistribution of weight
- Good traction suitable for any terrain
- Designed to support kneeling work
- Well insulated
Best Boots for Standing All Day and Working (Women)
You can tell this model means business by looking at the triple stitching all over the upper. The insole is nothing special; moderate cushioning, not much support. The midsole, though, is stellar.
It has anti-fatigue tech built into it. It’s bouncy and rubbery, perfect for both standing and walking. It has best-in-class shock absorption and energy return. It keeps the arch elevated. It features a rocker design that lets the foot roll through easily when you walk. The same feature distributes weight as you stand. Under the midsole is a tough, rugged outsole. The outsole is tougher and more durable but soft enough to be comfortable. It’s abrasion-resistant and has incredible grip. It can handle water, oil, slippery ice roads and mud. Best in class, just like the midsole.
The upper is classic Timberland. Waterproof, full grain leather. The upper is waterproof, made of quality full grain leather. The seams are sealed for waterproofing. Both the upper and the base are specifically made for women’s feet. Our testers liked this a lot. Many other boots for women are really men’s boots sized down. Not the case here. These are comfy and appropriately sized. They use Powerfit tech to improve foot mobility. This basically means they let the foot move as freely as it needs to. The padded ankle collar means you can lace up for ankle support without constricting the foot.
The solid steel toe protects against impact and compression (ASTM F2413-11 I/75 C/75) . They also have electrical hazard protection rated to protect against open circuits up to 600 volts in dry conditions. The boots use 200 grams of insulation. The insulation used is Thermolite. It’s moisture-resistant and quick-drying. It offers more insulation than its weight suggests, and will keep your feet nice and warm in cold environments. If you want even more warmth, combine with cotton socks.
- Fatigue reducing
- Effective weight distribution
- Improved foot mobility
- Meets impact and compression safety standards
Best Premium (Men)
When we see these boots, we can’t help but think “style” and “quality”. The upper is made with Crazyhorse leather. Crazyhorse leather looks better as it ages. Oils, bumps and scratches all add texture to it. It’s also tough, made by treating cowhide with a coat of natural wax. That’s what gives it that funky, unique finish. The detailing on these boots is stylish.
The contrast stitching, the brass eyelets, the Thorogood logo, even the laces. It all works together to make these boots look a cut above other steel-toe options. As you can tell from the American flag on the side, they’re made in the USA. The lining on the inside of the shoe is very soft to the touch, and leather is naturally breathable.
The steel toe meets most workplaces’ safety requirements. It’s made to withstand up to 75 pounds of impact. The MAXWear90 slip resistant outsole handles slick, wet surfaces well. It’s good on concrete as well as mud, grass and snow. The soles are made to withstand up to 18,000 volts at 60hz for a whole minute (under dry conditions). This makes these some of the best EH-resistant boot pairs we reviewed. These boots are waterproof all over thanks to Thorogood’s X-Stream tech. They’re constructed using a Goodyear Storm Welt, which means they can be re-soled, which means they’ll last a lifetime – if you take care of them.
The footbed is memory foam, and removeable. It offers great shock absorption and comfort. The fiberglass shank makes these boots lightweight and flexible. They feel like a heavier pair of walking shoes in motion. The upper feels luxurious and is double and triple-stitched all over for durability. There’s a little soft padding around the ankle which means you can lace up for ankle stability without hurting yourself. The rocker sole makes walking and standing easy. The elevated heel is offset by the high toe box, and gives extra impact absorption under the heel.
One thing to note with these boots is that they do require some breaking in. They feel a bit like Doc Martens. A bit stiff and rigid, but soft and supple once broken in. You’ll want to wear them at home before wearing them out for a full day of work.
- Suitable for various terrains
- Can be resoled
- Require a break-in period
Best Premium (Women)
Danner Bull is an outstanding steel-toe boot. It can be a little hard to find in the right size. If you can afford it, though, there’s no competition. The rubber sole is bouncy, with good energy return.
It makes walking and standing all day easy on the feet. It has a rocker element up front. This gives you an easy heel-to-toe transition for walking. It also provides good weight distribution when you stand, reducing foot fatigue. It features two layers; a softer one right under the upper and a tougher one underneath. The tougher, lower sole layer has flex grooves and lugs for better grip. it’s non-marking, oil and slip-resistant. The insole is an OrthoLite footbed that’s removable. It works with the ergonomic midsole to give you all-day arch support and foot cushioning.
Safety-wise, the shoe features a standard steel toe that can withstand up to 75 pounds of impact. It meets or exceeds ASTM F2413-11 I/75 C/75 EH. The last standard means the boot is also electrical hazard-resistant. The leather is thick enough to take a bit of a beating. It’s also oiled, which means it has some spill-proof quality to it. The upper is roomy, with a wide moc-style toe box. The panels of leather are shaved down prior to stitching. This gives the boot a more secure fit. Little details like this add up, and give these work boots that premium feel. There’s a mix of contrast stitching and normal stitching. Places that tend to see the most wear are double and triple-stitched.
The sole of these boots is sewn on by hand. As a result, it tends to be sturdier than Goodyear welt construction. It can also be restitched. The leather is a little rigid at first, but gets soft and supple after a couple of weeks. Testers liked the combination of a snug, lightly padded ankle collar and a roomy heel area. This provides ankle support without constricting the ankle or heel.
- Provides good energy return
- Meets impact and electrical hazard safety standards
- Require a break-in period
Waterproof boots (Men)
It’s rare to find a Wellington-style boot that’s waterproof, protective and comfortable enough for all-day use. This Dunlop Durapro is the exception to that rule. Let’s start with its safety features. The steel toe section is tough and protective enough for most workplaces. It’s ASTM F2413-11 certified. This means it gives moderate protection against impact, chainsaws, and other workplace hazards. The upper is 100% waterproof and spill-proof. It’s also fuel-oil resistant, meaning fuel oil won’t eat through it. It’s high enough to protect the whole foot and ankle. It provides moderate chemical protection.
The TPU insole gives solid support. It’s not too soft, but its ergonomic quality helps the foot cushion its load better. Testers and consumers say the foot feels energized and cushioned, even during long hours of standing. This kind of ergonomic support is surprising for a boot like this at this price point. It’s something you usually find in Birkenstocks and Vionics. The outsole is firm with a little bounce to it. Its rocker shape is comfortable for walking, with good weight distribution for standing. The heel is extra thick, which cushions the foot when you stand and walk. The outsole is fuel oil-resistant, meaning fuel oil won’t burn through it. It has deep treads and doesn’t slip, even on water or oil.
Some nice details on this boot make your life easier. Check out the 360 degree pull tab for yanking them on and off. It’s big enough to grip, even when you’re wearing heavy gloves. The steep slope at the back means the boots don’t cut into your legs as you walk or squat. The safety-loc tread is makes decontamination easy. The boots themselves are made in the USA, so you can trust their quality. The bottom line is that these are a serious boot for serious work. In our opinion they’re grossly underpriced for the level of protection and durability they provide.
The one downside is that these tend to run a little large. They’re also not available in wide sizes. They do run wide to begin with, but still. Options would’ve been nice.
- Suitable for all-day use
- 100% waterproof
- Deep treads make it slip-resistant
- Sizing tends to run large
- Not available in wide sizes
Waterproof boots (Women)
You may have never heard of FAST, but they’ve been producing work shoes out of Hong Kong for 30-odd years. This steel toe model comes with a steel toe, steel shank, and steel plate(in the mid-sole).
It may be the most protective shoe model we’ve seen on our whole list. The boots pass EU safety standards EN20345 S5 ISO20345-2004 and ISO20345-2011. To qualify, work boots must be resistant to water, static, and up to 150 pounds of force. American workplaces usually ask for protection of up to 75 pounds, meaning the boots pass with flying colors. This makes them suitable for light, heavy duty and/or wet work. Think fishing, food processing, oil fields, mines, metalworking, construction, chemical plants etc. In a word, these are tough.
The lining is made from easy-dry polyester, which dries quickly. You can leave these in a warm, dry place and they’ll dry in 12-36 hours – even if they were drenched the day before. The 14 inch sleeve is tall enough to keep the water out in even floods or heavy snow. The upper is resistant to oil, erosion and puncture. Key features for anyone working in heavy industry. The rubber is extra thick and tough. It’s resistant to erosion, puncture, abrasion, alkali and acid.
The boots are pretty comfortable to begin with. The outsole is moderately soft and bouncy. The rocker element upfront gives you an easy, natural gait. It also redistributes weight when you stand for long periods of time. There’s some light arch support. One thing we felt was lacking was extra arch support from the insole. You may want to get a quality insole designed for standing all day. The outsole has deep treads and is slip-resistant on wet and dry surfaces. It’s oil-resistant too. One thing we didn’t like is that these boots don’t have pull tabs.
- Passes both EU and American safety standards
- Resistant to erosion, puncture, abrasion, alkali and acid
- Promotes a natural gait
- Lacks extra arch support from the insole
Alloy Toe (Men)
Steel is heavy. It’s also thick. Some people find steel toe boxes to be quite cramped and heavy. Safety toes made from alloys tend to be lighter and thinner. This means your toes have a little more room, and your feet feel a little less tired at the end of the day. Not all workplaces let you wear alloy toe boots – but if yours does, consider these models.
These work boots from Keen feel unusually light and breathable. Their alloy toe is tough and asymmetric. It’s light to begin with; extra weight is shaved off because it’s smaller around the pinky toe. All in all, the toe caps weigh 35% less than standard steel toes. At the same time, they meet ASTM F2412 and F2413, M I/75, and C/75 EH Standards. The sole is air-injected, which means it puts a layer of air between you and the ground. This makes the shoe easy on your feet for walking and standing. It also makes the shoe lighter. After testing steel boots all day, our testers could really tell the difference.
On the bottom we have a siped outsole. Siping involves cutting thin slits across a rubber surface. This improves traction in wet or icy conditions. The shoe is slip-resistant to begin with, but the sole’s shape means it’s also oil and water-resistant. As a result, the shoe meets ASTM F1677 Mark II and ASTM F2913 SATRA non-slip standards. Just don’t use it on deep mud or snow; it’s not made for those environments. The midsole is nice and bouncy. It has good energy return for walking and is soft enough for long periods of standing. It’s extra-thick in the heel, cushioning that part of the foot best. It has a rocker element, which gives you an easy heel-to-toe transition for walking. The nylon shank improves durability and foot support. The removable insole is supportive and soft, but can be replaced if necessary.
Both versions of the shoe are well-ventilated. The non-waterproof version – more so. The waterproof version uses a KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane. This will keep your feet dry in serious weather. It doesn’t feel hot and stuffy, like most other membranes. The shellback heel really locks your foot in place. Our testers said these boots felt very stable. No heel slippage or ankle rolling here. The upper is responsibly sourced leather. It’s tough, double-stitched, and well-ventilated. The lining has moisture-wicking properties, and all Keen products are treated with their Cleansport Nxt technology. This probiotic-based product fights bacteria and therefore keeps your boots smelling fresher for longer.
- Unusually light and breathable
- Oil, water and slip-resistant
- Odor resistant
- Not suitable for deep mud or snow terrain
Alloy Toe (Women)
The Merrel Sirens are a great option for women who need tough shoes for all-day use. The toe meets ASTM F2413-18 I/75 C/75 EH safety standards. That means it can handle impact, compression, and electrical hazards. It also makes the boot significantly lighter than any of the steel-toe versions we tried.
These boots have a COMFORTBASE™ footbed, which you’ll find in a lot of casual Merrell shoes – even sandals. Made of breathable foam, it’s contoured in a way that cradles your foot. It’s very comfortable for both standing and walking. The consumers we spoke to love it. The air cushioned heel absorbs impact shock and adds stability. A molded nylon arch shank supplies good support, without the added weight of a metal shank.
The M Select™ GRIP rubber outsole on these boots is good for all but the most extreme weather conditions. They can handle snow or mud with lug depth of 5mm. If you look at the bottom of these boots you’ll notice lugs around the outside of the sole which give added traction when moving laterally. If you work in industry, you should know this outsole can take the heat. It’s heat-resistant for brief periods of direct contact with temperatures that meet or exceed 500°F. It’s also oil and slip resistant and is Mark II tested.
The upper is made of waterproof nubuck and breathable mesh upper. The porous mesh has holes small enough for air, but not big enough for water. This will keep your feet dry no matter the conditions. It will also stop you from sweating inside the shoe. We liked that a lot; most safety shoes are not breathable. A nice detail we noticed was the bellowed tongue. There are no gaps either side of the tongue for debris to slip into your shoe and ruin your shift.
- Meets impact, compression, and electrical hazard safety standards
- Suitable for all weather terrain
- Heat, oil, and slip-resistant
Like we said in the intro, we ended up hearing from 42 people who wear steel-toe boots all day long. Most stand and walk most of the time. Some of them also kneel a lot (e.g. roofers, mechanics). Here are the features they consistently said were most important
Safety Toe Shape
As far as protection goes, most steel toes are about the same. They have to measure up to the same US safety standards. They use the same material: steel. But what does make a difference is the shape of the steel toe cap. The best toe caps have an asymmetrical shape. They allocate more space to the big toe area, less to the pinky area. This means they can give you more wiggle room and weigh less at the same time. A less desirable option is a wide, symmetrical toe cap with lots of wiggle room. This will weigh a little more. Still, we want the extra space – and here’s why.
Soft materials move together with the foot. They stretch to accommodate the toes when they splay out or bump against the front of the shoe. This happens a lot when you’re standing and walking. If the steel toe cap is tight or restricting at any point, you’re in for a world of pain. You’ll get blisters, you might hurt your nails, you could hurt your bones. If the toe cap is way too tight, you could end up with bad foot posture. This, in turn, can lead to flat feet, inflammations, and other serious conditions.
In short… We want roomy toe caps, and we want asymmetrical toe caps where possible.
Whether you’re walking or standing, you’re spending all day on your feet. Since you’re wearing safety toys, you’re also lugging heavy boots around. What do you think that does to your feet? If you said “wears them out”, you’re right. Feet get tired when you’re wearing boots all day. That’s why the consumers we spoke to brought up foot support.
Good support is important for two reasons. First, it puts your foot into its best posture. It prevents feet from going flat. This is important in and of itself. Flat feet can lead to hard heel strikes, make standing difficult, and cause joint pain. We don’t just mean foot joint pain; we’re talking full-body pain.
The second reason we want support is this. Your feet are naturally designed to act like bouncy little springs. When they tire out, they don’t do this very well. This sends more impact up your body; into the knees, hips, back, etc. So we want your feet to work properly all day long. The best way to make sure this happens is through foot support. We’re looking for quality insoles, midsoles that have an ergonomic, elevated arch. We’re also looking for removable insoles that can be replaced with better orthotics.
Breathability and odor control
Alright, so you’re wearing steel-toe boots all day. You’re standing and walking. In most cases, the boots will have a thick upper meant to withstand impact and abuse. That’s a recipe to have your feet marinating in their own sweat for hours on end. We definitely don’t want this. That’s why we’re looking for a few specific features. Breathable liners are one. Breathable uppers are another – although this is rare in most safety boots. Breathable insoles and footbeds that provide air circulation are third.
On top of all this, we want solid odor control features if at all possible. Natural leather doesn’t absorb much (if any) smell. Other surfaces should ideally be treated with anti-odor particles. This will make sure they don’t become a breeding ground for bacteria.
A uniform sole
You wouldn’t spend all day in steel-toe high heels, right? Right. Same logic applies to boots. We don’t want them to have an elevated heel or drop heel. We want them to be nice and uniform. That way, we’ll be able to stand and walk in them with a natural posture that’s easy on our joints.
An elevated heel, on the other hand, puts the body into an unnatural position. It shortens the achilles and reduces the foot’s ability to cushion and support the body. Again, have you ever heard anyone say high heels are comfortable? Probably not. So, uniform soles only.
A Comfortable Upper
A comfortable upper is always important, but especially so in a steel-toe boot for standing and walking. First, if the upper is constricting, your foot could bump up against the steel toe. This can injure your foot and lead to long-term problems like plantar fasciitis. Second, steel-toe boots are heavy. If they’re heavy and unpleasant to wear, you’re going to spend a lot of time being miserable. Imagine lugging 2 pounds of boot with each step you make while boot leather chafes against your skin. Probably not what you want.
We like leather. Some leather can appear stiff and uncomfortable at first. We’re specifically thinking Doc Martens and some Timberlands. But once you break that leather in, it’ll often feel nice and buttery on your feet. It’s best to read our article or go through customer reviews on sites like Amazon if you’re in doubt. Some boots will use mesh or have internal padding. This is usually a good thing. It can prevent chafing and blisters. Padding around the ankle collar and in the tongue is especially useful.
If you work outside or with liquids, you’ll need a waterproof work boot. When it comes to traditional methods of construction; a goodyear welt is good, a storm welt is even better, and stitchdown is the best of all. For materials, waterproof mesh and leather plus a membrane on the inside are best.
Speaking of membranes… About 10 years ago, the Goretex patent ran out. This significantly lowered the cost of using a waterproof membrane in shoe construction. A waterproof membrane works the same way as if you were wearing a plastic bag over your sock, before putting your foot in the shoe. It’s completely waterproof. The membrane has one significant advantage over a plastic bag; it lets air out. The membrane is dotted with tiny holes. They’re big enough to let air out, but not big enough to let water in.
In cold conditions, you’ll need more than a padded collar to keep your feet warm. That means insulated padding. We recommend you look for shoes with Thinsulate or equivalent insulation. This will keep your feet warm without making the shoe thick and stiff.
Electric Hazard Protection
If you work with electricity you need electrical hazard protection. To tell if a work shoe has electrical hazard protection, look at the ASTM number. If it has an ‘EH’ at the end, the shoe has electrical hazard protection.
Steel vs Alloy vs Composite Toes – what’s the difference?
For toe caps, steel is the accepted, universal standard. It’s thick, it’s protective, it does a good job against all types of impact. The downside is that it can be a little heavy. Still, many workplaces that require safety boots insist on steel. This is for good reason. Alloy and composite are lighter and thinner. However, they don’t have the same resistance to crushing and cutting impact that steel does. If you’re around saws, robotic arms, etc, you’ll want the extra protection steel gives you.
Alloy is a lot like steel. It’s thinner and lighter but just as tough and protective. Unlike steel, alloy’s thinness means it can be torn apart more easily. It can also be cut through more easily. So even though alloy is good for impact and blunt force protection, it has its disadvantages. The upside is that it is a lot lighter. If you’re not around sharp, moving parts or parts that can tear a toe cap open, alloy is good.
Composite is the lightest toe cap material. The downside is that it’s also the least protective, by a long shot.
Call to Action
Toe protection is a must for many jobs, and a legal requirement in most jurisdictions. You simply won’t be allowed to work without the right footwear.
We’ve tried out a whole bunch of work boots so you don’t have to. We’ve categorized them, and picked out our favorites for each category.
Now it’s down to you, which work shoe is the right one for you? Find the category that fits your job best, and click the link.