Safety is always a top priority. That’s why steel toe boots are a must have at many jobs from construction to carpentry and everything in between. The extra protection guarantees that you’re covered when it comes to many common jobsite hazards.
Many people worry that steel toe boots are uncomfortable. It’s a natural assumption considering steel is a heavy, rigid material. Admittedly, there are tons of steel toe boots out there that really are hard, clunky, and uncomfortable,
But that doesn’t always have to be the case. As long as you start off with a quality pair of boots, break them in well, and keep up with regular maintenance, your steel toe boots will serve you well.
Here are our tips for finding and maintaining the perfect pair of steel toe boots:
Get the Right Fit
As with any pair of shoes, take the time to make sure you get the right fit. Too small, and your feet end up cramped and can lead to serious issues over time. Too big, and there’s too much room for movement, causing blisters and hot spots.
Be mindful of the steel. The toe cap and heel shank make the boots thicker than your conventional workboot. So you may want to go a half size up to account for that difference. If you’re able to try the boots on in store, make sure to bring your usual insoles and socks to get a better idea of how they’ll actually fit when you’re at work.
Take the Break In Period Seriously
Almost all shoes, especially boots, require a break in period before they’re actually comfortable or wearable even. The process can take up to a month, but if you are diligent and consistent with following these steps, you might be able to get a comfortable fit in just a week.
Step 1: Wear them around the house during your off hours. Be sure to use the same insoles and socks you’d be wearing during work. Walking, bending, and standing in them will help soften and stretch the leather in all the right places. This is arguably the most important break in method because it trains your shoe to bend and flex in a way that’s natural to your gate. Wear them for as long as you’re comfortable, then repeat over the next few days.
Step 2: You can also try to manipulate the boots with your hands after taking them off from Step 1 while the leather is still soft. Bend, twist, and wring the leather to further the break in process.
Step 3: Store them with expandable cedar shoe trees overnight. Expand the shoe trees so they’re larger than the size of your foot to continue stretching the shoes out while you sleep.
Repeat these steps for at least one week before actually wearing them out to work. Otherwise you could risk uncomfortable pinching or blistering.
Wear Steel Toe Socks
A pair of thick but breathable socks is a must when wearing any kind of work boot. But you can also find special steel toe socks on the market. They have additional cushioning in the toe area to prevent discomfort around the toe cap. When it comes to socks, we’d suggest staying away from cotton socks. Instead look for wool or a wool blend. They’re more breathable, cushiony, and durable.
If thicker socks don’t do the trick, try bandaging your foot where you’re experiencing discomfort to help cushion the area even more.
Keep Up with Boot Maintenance
Because steel toe boots are heavier, it’s super important to maintain and condition the boot leather. That’s often where the pinching and discomfort comes from, not the steel itself. Be sure to clean off any dirt and debris at the end of each workday, and try to deep clean them at least once a month to avoid build up in hard to reach places.
If you don’t clean your boots regularly, it’s a lot easier for the leather to harden and dry out. On top of regular cleaning, you should also condition them at least once every few months (or as needed). That involves conditioners like mink oil or wax that help maintain the leather’s softness.
Replace the Steel Toe
If you’ve had your boots for a long time, it’s possible that the discomfort is coming from a worn out steel toe. A damaged, warped, or bent steel toe is not only uncomfortable but also a safety hazard. If it’s time to replace the steel toe, there are ways you can do it yourself or you could have it professionally done.
But if you’re not an experienced cobbler, it may not be worth the time and effort to do it yourself. Another alternative is to try a new steel toe boot. You can find affordable high quality steel toe boots online. The EVER Boots Tank S touts comfort and reliability, with no break-in period for under $70. Don't forget to treat yourself to Dr. Scholl's work massaging gel shoe insoles!
If you’re hesitant about buying a pair of steel toe boots, don’t be. Their protective benefits definitely outweigh any comfort concerns. As long as you take the time to find the right boot and thoroughly break them in, a pair of steel toe boots can be just as comfortable as any other work boot.