What do steel-toed boots have in common with rockets, the photocopier, and the ballpoint pen? They’re all things you use at work? Maybe if you’re an astronaut or a rocket scientist! (There are some supplies you just can’t take home from work.)
They’re all things that have parts made with steel? OK, but there’s one more thing they all have in common! All of these things were created with technology created as a result of World War II. Necessity is the mother of invention!
Table of Contents
- The History Of The Steel Toed Boot
- Step One: Start With A Quality Boot
- Step Two: Make Sure The Boot Is Just The Right Size
- Step Three: Wear The Right Socks
- Step Four: Use After Market Insoles
- Step Five: Break Your Boots In Before Wearing Them Full Time
- Step Six: Take Good Care Of Your Boots
- Other Things You Should Know About Steel Toed Boots
- More Breaking In Methods
The History Of The Steel Toed Boot
While we would love to imagine Rosie the Riveter in steel toes, she more likely wore oxfords or loafers made of leather or a sturdy woven fabric. (Soft soles if she was working on aircraft.) She was lucky. In some parts of the world, workers had to make do with wooden clogs! Steel-toed boots were not readily available until after the war.
In 1970, the United States Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This act ensured that all workers would have a reasonably safe and healthy environment and access to proper safety equipment. This includes safety footwear, particularly for people who work in mining or construction.
Safety footwear in this modern era comes in a multitude of styles such as clogs and sneakers. Some are intended for formal purposes, and then some engineers work in places that require them to wear protective footwear. Due to the fashionable trend of safety boots, some brands (particularly those who are big in the fashion business) have variegated to aim for the safety footwear industry.
They are necessary. Occasionally, they’re even attractive. However, they can be a pain sometimes. No, I am not talking about wives! The subject is still steel-toed boots. How can you make them more comfortable?
Step One: Start With A Quality Boot
The worst mistake you could make is to go for cheap, shoddily made steel toes that hardly have a name in the industry. Some people might be fine with buying cheap knock-off handbags and shoes off the street, but here is not the time to be stingy!
Even if you only require a pair of steel toes for an hour or two or once or twice a month, you should never settle for poor quality. That one hour may be one hour you need safe footwear! Consider that if you wear work boots for around five to twelve hours every working day, that means you have no business compromising on your safety.
Should you be in the market for a superior safety boot, you must be prepared to slap down a Benjamin or more for a well-recognized brand. There’s no doubt about it; you will not be thinking about the forty or so dollars you saved when a slab of concrete comes crashing down onto your bargain-basement boot and breaking your foot in half. That’s a good way to lose a toe!
Step Two: Make Sure The Boot Is Just The Right Size
One more rookie mistake that noobs in all sorts of occupations make is to buy the same size work boot as they would a regular shoe. You must remember that a safety boot is packed with a thick steel toe cap and at the bottom is a puncture-resistant steel shank.
If you purchase a steel toe boot in your usual size, there is a good chance that you will be stuck with a shoe that is both too short and too narrow. Unlike Cinderella’s stepsisters, you are unlikely to want to chop parts of your foot off to make it fit.
Concerning the length, you should try going a full size larger to keep your foot from being crowded and abraded the wrong way. If you have blisters on your heels, that is a sign that your boot has to be longer. As for the width, this can be a bit difficult for most people.
As steel toe caps tend towards being thick, obtaining a broad toe boot will always be the best choice. As a matter of fact, the whole shoe must be an entire size wider to make sure that you have plenty of wiggle room in the toe area. The fit will be important to both your comfort and performance.
Step Three: Wear The Right Socks
The whole purpose of a sock is to make wearing shoes more comfortable! Like most people getting ready for work, you probably just grab the cleanest (relatively speaking) pair of socks you have and hurry off to work. But the thing is a quality pair of socks that are meant for steel toe boots can definitely make a world of difference.
You might be kicking it in a spanking new pair of $500 luxury work boots, but if you don’t have the right socks to match, it will feel like you’re wearing a cheap pair of raggedy old sneakers. Thick socks are the best. Contoured socks are even better.
Don’t be afraid to fork over as much as $20 for an excellent pair of work socks. Socks fabricated for steel toe boots can be identified by the extra thick padding that has been sewn into the toe and heel area to give the wearer all the more cushioning and a snug fit. It is guaranteed, as soon as you find that perfect pair of socks, you’ll never go back to wearing those five bucks a pack socks you got from the dollar store.
Here’s another tip that might help. Granted, you might not want the guys at work to know about this one. Some dancers wear something called a toekini. This is an elastic strap that has holes for the toes. It has a bit of padding just underneath the balls of the feet where you need it most. If you decide to slip a pair on under your thick wool socks, that can be your little secret.
Step Four: Use After Market Insoles
It is an established truth that each and every individual has different shapes and sizes of feet. Some people may have special conditions that make it even harder to wear ordinary shoes. As you have to wear your steel toe work boots all day and every day, the only other choice you have is to buy aftermarket insoles to customize your boots.
Aftermarket insoles will give you all the top of the line comfort and support you require to wear your steel toe boots with confidence. Should you be particularly fussy about the kind of insoles you wear, you must make sure that you only purchase steel toe boots that have removable insoles.
This is the way that you can put together your most favored pair of insoles with your prized custom aftermarket insoles. A good pair will cost somewhere around $20. Anything cheaper than that is a waste of your cash, time and don’t forget comfort.
Step Five: Break Your Boots In Before Wearing Them Full Time
Another good way to see to it that you have comfortable steel-toed boots is to properly break them in. Don’t start wearing them full-time right out of the box. You need to take things slow and ease into it.
The first step in breaking is to lace the boot until comfortably snug and then wear them for an hour or so each day until you feel them form to your feet. You don’t want to take them straight to the job site. You must first get your boots accustomed to your feet.
After a week or so of wear in this way, you should be prepared to start officially using them. Start with just one hour the first day; two hours on the next; and so forth. After about eighty to one hundred hours of systematic break-in, they should feel like a comfy pair of reliable slippers.
The next thing you should do is give them a thorough treatment with a leather preservative. This will keep the leather in your boots soft and prevent them from drying out and cracking right away. A firm massage with oil or grease will work wonders. (For the boot, that is. But, you do you.)
This also prevents cracking and the formation of hotspots as well. You will, of course, want to get your new boots broken to conform to your feet and well-conditioned before bringing them to the job site, be that the woods, workshop or high rise.
Step Six: Take Good Care Of Your Boots
It almost goes without saying that you also want to make sure to take good care of your boots to ensure that they are always comfortable. See to it that your boots in good repair and top condition as well, and they will fit your feet perfectly for years to come.
You should clean and condition your boots regularly. When they look like a bit on the dry side or are getting a little stiff, now’s the time to break out the leather conditioner and give them a good and thorough rubbing down.
This keeps the leather strong as well as supple. Leather that is drying out and is beginning to form cracks will no longer offer as full of support. You will also realize that they won’t wear quite as well as they used to.
If you work outdoors, particularly in wet conditions, you should see to it that you keep your boots fully waterproof. There is nothing will make your work more difficult than wet, cold feet. Keep this in mind! Athlete’s foot is not just for athletes and the trench foot is not just for people who work in trenches.
Other Things You Should Know About Steel Toed Boots
There will be a small symbol on the outside of your steel-toed boots. Look for it and it will let you know just how safe your boot is in certain situations. A green or yellow triangle lets you know the sole is puncture resistant. Here are more details.
• The green triangle is grade one, best suited for heavy work environments such as construction areas or machine shops. Basically, any place where sharp objects are present.
• The yellow triangle is grade two and is suitable for light industrial work environments.
• A white square marked with the ohm symbol means the boot is insulated to provide electrical protection.
• A yellow square marked with SD means anti-static protection.
• A red square marked with a C means electrically conductive.
• If you see a little pine tree, it means the boot is safe to use around chainsaws, making it the ideal work boot for lumberjacks.
Many nightclubs, sports arenas, and other entertainment venues have banned steel-toed boots due to their use as weapons. You are allowed to wear them on an airplane, but you may be asked to take them off briefly at the security check. (These days, that can be said of any shoe.) They may set off a metal detector, so be expected to take them off or have the guards go over you with the wand. Many schools will not allow steel-toed boots.
More Breaking In Methods
There are four methods to shorten the breaking in period of your boots.
• The ice method requires putting your boots in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of water and freeze them overnight. The ice will force the boot to expand. Allow the boot to thaw completely before wearing it.
• The stick method entails using a broomstick to physically stretch out the areas where the boot pinches the most. Some discoloration is expected, but try not to tear the boot.
• The oil method requires mink oil or other leather conditioners. Apply a generous amount of oil to the places that pinch the worst and leave overnight. It should soften the area up.
• The hot water method entails immersing the boots in a bucket of warm water for thirty minutes. After you dry them off, wear them for another half hour.
Steel-toed boots can be uncomfortable but they don’t have to be! This starts by having a good fit. Keep in mind that the shape of your foot can change as you get older so have your feet measured in the store before buying. The right socks and insoles help. Find a breaking in method that works for you. The longer you keep your boots in top form, the longer your feet will be too.