My dad never wavered from his pair of steel toe Wolverine work boots. Functional? Sure. Practical? Maybe for him as a mechanic in a small shop, as he rarely traveled large distances.
As an engineer, when I made my first investment in steel toe shoes, I took a different approach. Not moored to a single workstation, I put more of a premium on comfort. As such, Doc Martens were my first steel-toed investment. I cycled through several Doc. Martens before investing in a pair of steel-toed white athletic shoes. Those shoes basically screamed, “I’m a kid! Don’t take me seriously.” Armed with half a dozen steel toe shoe buying experiences, here’s a shopping guide to make sure your pick is the right one.
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So what are the best steel toe shoes? The first question to ask is “What type do you want?” There are three categories worth consideration: somewhat fashionable, athletic shoes, and boots.
Somewhat Fashionable Shoes
Look, if you are budget balling and want to use your steel toe stipend to double up on a pair of nice-looking shoes, there’s no judgment here. Here’s shoes that can easily provide double duty while giving you great protection.
#3 – Florsheim Work Men’s Loedin Lace-Up – Wait? Doesn’t your dad own a pair of these? Hey, I said, somewhat fashionable. Florsheim fits the bill here with a good looking shoe that could easier pass the “could you wear this to a wedding test?”
#2 – Dr. Scholl’s Shoes Men’s Harrington II Work Shoe – This offering skies above the dad fashion category with a clean, low profile look. It’s user satisfaction tests brag about its superior cushioning and comfort.
#1 – Doc Marten Work Men’s Bolt ST – Back in the early days of really short money, you better believe those Doc Martins served double duty as my church/party shoes. And despite its clear turn of the century aesthetics, they fit comfortably, have an air-cushioned sole, and are extremely durable.
Yup, I still own a pair.
Pro tip. Don’t pick white shoes. The shop makes them dingy and your ability to connect with hardened welders probably slips a few notches if it looks like you just walked off the jogging trail. Athletic shoes have gained more acceptance in recent years as dress continues to be more casual. Here are my top picks:
#3 – Reebox Work Sublite Cushion Steel Toes – Reebox may have faded as a major player from the consumer scene years ago, but their steel toe offering provides a great blend of manuverability and protection.
#2 – Skechers Work Men’s Watab – Stirling Steel Toe – This shoe has a sharp, unique, yet mature look. With great reviews, Skecher’s reputation for comfort, and a high traction sole, it is a unique, yet practical and great choice.
#1 – The Skechers for Work 77055 Cankton Athletic Steel Toe – With a subdued look compared to their Watab counterparts, this sneaker blends comfort, functionality, and aren’t bad looking either.
#3 – Wolverine Steel Toe Boot – Wolverines still have a soft spot in my heart. The high cut makes the protection unrivaled, and durability to petroleum, dirt and other impediments is excellent. What bumps them down to the #3 spot is other offerings are more comfortable. Buy them only if your work doesn’t take you on frequent long walks across shop floors or yards.
#2 – Red Wing Heritage Men’s Classic Moc 6″ Boot – Red Wing may be one of the most famous safety shoes on the market. Nearly all their offerings are solid. This classic old school style adds a bit of understated pizazz.
#1 – Timberland PRO Men’s 6″ Pitboss Steel-Toe – Timberland boots offer a great balance of flexibility and rigid, well-made construction. While offering the requisite ankle protection, Timberland boots allow for easy maneuverability, making them the all-around best choice.
You can certainly go wrong with a steel toe selection. But with any of these nine choices, you are virtually guaranteed to have a long-lasting, durable piece of footwear and one less thing to worry about. Go build something great.