Why Are Steel Toe Boots Uncomfortable? A Quick Guide To Getting Comfort And Protection

Why are steel toe boots uncomfortable? Usually it's because you've purchased the wrong size or made a poor choice of boot selection.

This is why getting a pair of custom-fit safety toe boots is a very good investment to make, as it will ensure far more comfort than most off-the-shelf safety toe boots.

Typically, the most common issues are a toe box that's too low or too narrow, or a boot design that's not that comfortable to begin with. Many people also have the wrong idea about what their size is...and don't pick a boot that has the right last for the application.

That seems like a lot of information, but don't worry. We're going to go over it more. Let's talk about why steel toe boots are uncomfortable and what you can do about it.

Why ARE Steel Toe Boots Uncomfortable?

making steel toe boots comfortable

Why are steel toe boots uncomfortable? Usually because you've bought a pair of them that isn't right for you and your feet.

Typically, what makes steel toe boots uncomfortable is a lack of room in the toe box. Adding the steel insert - or for that matter, celastic in case you get a non-steel safety toe - takes away a little bit of room at the front, sides and top of the toe box.

Now, if you select work boots that give you a roomy fit in the toe to begin with, this usually isn't an issue. That's why it's sometimes a good idea to go up one size in width (say from an A to a B or from a D to an E) if you're getting a safety toe boot, depending on the boot in question.

The difference between one width to another never adds much more than 5/16 of an inch, depending on the size. In most cases, the difference is about the same width of both sides of the toe insert.

Let's walk this back slightly. Why is it related to choice of boot when it comes to steel toe boots being uncomfortable?

That has to do with the last and how it relates to your feet.

Boot Lasts And Steel Toe Inserts

A last is a mold, vaguely shaped like a foot, that shoe and boot makers use to shape a shoe or boot when they make it. When you buy a pair of work boots from a store, the manufacturer usually has a narrow selection of lasts which, in theory, fit the greatest number of people.

Unfortunately, not all feet are actually the same and not all lasts are the same. Different bootmakers use different lasts.

Some use lasts that are wide in the toe (for instance, the old US Army Munson last and derivatives of it are an E in standard width) and others may be narrow, such as many makers' packer or cowboy boot lasts, which run close to a C in width if not narrower.

Others are basically true to size. Again, it depends A LOT on what bootmaker it is that you buy the boots from...and that's what gets people into trouble. They don't try the boots on first, and wind up with a pair of boots that has too narrow a toe box with a steel toe insert.

The problem can also be the height of the toe box. The same idea applies equally to the height of the toe box as it does to the width of the toe box. A lot of boot and shoe designs put the toe box low over the toe. Moccasin boot designs are a frequent offender in this regard.

So, the reason that many steel toe boots are uncomfortable is usually that the person wearing them has bought a pair of boots made on too narrow or too low a toe box to have both a steel toe insert AND the room for their toes to be comfortable.

You Might Have Also Bought Uncomfortable Boots

Let's throw this out here too: a lot of people just don't buy comfortable boots to begin with. A big problem that many people run into regarding work boots is that they look for the cheapest boot that meets the description they're looking for.

The problem there is that while price point can be a selling point when it comes to practical footwear and other durable goods, it should never be THE selling point. Remember, you're going to be in them for hours at a time, days and weeks and months on end.

That's why it can really pay in terms of comfort and quality of life to invest in a pair of quality custom work boots at the outset. Provided they're built with quality construction, you'll also replace them less often.

A lack of arch support, a cheaply-made footbed, and bargain basement insoles aren't a recipe for comfortable feet...and that's what you'll get if you try to cheap out on working footwear.

Invest Wisely In Steel Toe Boots, And You'll Reap Dividends In Safety And Comfort

steel toe boots that are actually comfortable

If you need steel toe work boots, the best way to ensure a comfortable fit is to get fitted for your boots. Get your feet measured and matched with a boot design that will accommodate the toe insert and still give you room in the toe box.

Investing in a custom-fit, handmade pair of boots will also ensure a more comfortable and more durable pair of boots that will last you much longer.

While the sticker shock might make them seem a bit much at first, remember that most handmade boots can not only be resoled, but rebuilt from the ground up. Over time, that will actually save money compared to replacing them every year or two...or more often, depending.

Comfort in steel toe boots is so much more of a crapshoot than boots that lack a safety toe...though that's hardly guaranteed with off-the-shelf footwear to begin with. You might as well do everything you can to guarantee your investment is going to pay off.