Can Steel-Toe Safety Shoes Hurt Your Feet? [You should do this to be safe…….]

This article is for anyone who has ever worn safety shoes. You know the ones that are designed to keep your toes from getting smashed, but they end up hurting your feet? Have you noticed it’s really hard to walk in them sometimes? Read this guide till the end to get rid of this issue so that you are comfortable in your job.

So, can steel-toe safety shoes hurt your feet? Yes, safety shoes can somehow hurt your feet. There are two major causes of pain when wearing these types of shoes: tightness and weight. The tightness can be caused by the shoe not being the right size or fitting poorly because there is too much room at the toe box, heel, or arch area. Weight can be caused by a heavy-duty sole with more material on it which will make it harder to walk.

Also Read: Different types of footwear

Can Safety Shoes Cause Foot Problems?

Safety shoes or work boots can cause foot problems including chafing, numb toes, blisters, calluses, and sore legs. You can prevent these issues by wearing modern lightweight safety shoes with comfortable insoles and plush padding.

The human foot is a complex, natural engineering marvel. The bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves are all intricately intertwined to make up the foot. These bones and cartilage support the weight imposed by each individual’s gait while still providing enough flexibility for us to stride fearlessly.

People who have to wear safety boots are well aware of the advantages these sturdy pieces of footwear provide when it comes to injuries related to falls or other accidents.

However, there is also one big drawback: there is often no room for an additional insole inside them; this reduces comfort and may cause fatigue that leads to potential accidents that affect more than just feet – back pain, knee injuries, and other similar issues could become a serious health hazard.

The lack of cushioning is one problem; another issue is the steel toe itself, which sometimes presses against the foot when the wearer walks.

Bonus Read: Comfortable waterproof work boots

How Safety Shoes Can Cause Foot Problems?

Factory or industrial areas are extremely hazardous. There are several potential hazards like slip falls, heavy objects dropping, and pointed objects.  

In a study, 91 percent of the workers reported foot issues adversely caused their safety footwear. It was determined that the majority of the foot problems were caused by the following unfavorable features of the safety boots that are embedded to tackle industrial potential hazards:

  • Inflexible sole
  • High weight
  • Excessive heat
  • Pressure from toe cap

The above-mentioned safety features incorporated in the safety work boots affect their flexibility and mass, which adversely impacts the comfort and gait of workers.

In safety shoes, a steel or composite plate runs along the bottom of the safety shoes. These are stiffer plates to offer protection to your foot arch if the sole is damaged or you step on a sharp object in the factor area. Due to the stiffness of these plates, your feet start hurting while standing for 8+ hours during your shift in an industrial area.

As safety shoes are fully closed with sturdy leather material, this affects breathability and can cause several foot issues.

Some Common Foot Problems Safety Shoes Can Cause

Here are the following common foot problems that heavy or uncomfortably stiffer safety shoes or work boots can cause.

Plantar Fasciitis

The main problem with wearing safety shoes daily is the fact that they generally have a very poor footbed. This means that there is little or no support offered to ensure even distribution of pressure.

Also, safety shoes that are too rigid can cause unnatural bending of your foot arches, which can lead to plantar fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the ligaments that hold your foot arches up, and it can cause serious pain.


Chafing is caused by the rubbing of two areas of your body that move, causing irritation and possibly bleeding. The front of the safety shoe is where most blisters and skin irritation happen because it contains the steel toe and other features that rub against your feet.

The sweating of your feet due to minimal breathability of the safety footwear also increases friction which boosts the chances of chafing.

Safety shoes most likely cause chafing when they are too tight and steel plates start cutting into your feet. Too tight safety work boots cause cramping of your toes, due to which they are pressed hard against the stiffer toe cap of work boots. This causes abrasion on your feet and makes each step painful.

Leg Sores and Aches

Leg sores and aches issues arise due to long hours standing in the safety footwear. Steel-toe safety shoes are made of thick and heavy materials due to which they put an excessive burden on your legs during long hours standing. This issue happens due to stiffer soles of safety shoes with almost negligible arch support.

Numbness, Calluses, and Corns

Numbness, corns, and calluses are all caused by the tight fit of safety footwear. If you are getting these issues, it means that either your safety boots are not breaking in properly or you have too tight shoes.

Corns and calluses are also caused by the pressure of your boot. If you do not have enough room to move, it can cause blisters or corns on your toes.

Numbness is caused when the steel toe cap exerts repeated pressure on the top of your foot. This is due to the hard material and tight fit of safety footwear.

The research was also carried out to study the correlation between foot loading and safety footwear fit. In this study, it was found that the dimensions of different parts of the foot respond differently to the static and dynamic loading.

For instance, if your job involves too much walking, your foot would have different dimensions from the condition which involves purely standing. So, you should also consider these adjustments, which are dependent on the characteristics of the workplaces.

Also, if you do not break in your boots properly before you wear them actually for the job, you could get joint pain or even knee problems. Breaking in safety shoes can soft their material and allow more room in the toe box to avoid the above-mentioned foot issues.

Knee and Back Pain

Each person has a unique foot shape, which includes instep height, the distance between heel and ball of the foot, and width of the foot. So, the improper heel height of the safety footwear can affect the standing or walking gait of your body, due to which it causes sprain in your ankles, knee, and back.

Studies have shown that the heel of safety shoes should not be more than 2.5inches and it should not be lower than the ball of the foot.

Is There a Way to Break-in Steel Toe Shoes?

The steel plate on safety boots is strong; however, if you do not break the boot in properly, it could cause discomfort to your feet.

There are different ways to break in steel-toe shoes. I would suggest you first properly break in your shoes by applying the following methods and walking around your house before wearing them actually during your job.

To break in safety shoes, wear them with thick socks or double socks (one thin and one thick pair) to stretch the leather and walk around with them for some hours daily. The advantage of double socks is that your feet will be protected from blisters.

After a lot of research, I found that Dickies socks are the best socks to wear in safety shoes or work boots. You should surely try them. It is smooth and thicker. Darn Tough socks are also highly recommended by the workers. These socks are made of merino wool. It is highly comfortable and moisture-wicking. For breaking in, Dickies socks are best. After that, you can wear Darn Tough socks.

Moreover, to prevent the pain and discomfort during the break-in period of safety boots, use a lotion or Vaseline on your foot before beginning activity with steel toe boots to protect yourself from getting chafed.

The normal part of safety boots will break in easily. But, it would be hard for the steel-toe cap to stretch out. You just have to get used to the way they feel, and you will if you wear them often enough. If you can afford it, I would advise you to get safety shoes with composite toes as they are more forgiving than steel-toe safety shoes.

The few days of the break-in period will also allow your feet to get used to the hardness of the toe cap before actually wearing your safety footwear during your long hours’ shift.

How Should Safety Shoes Fit?

The safety shoes should be fit in such a way that the forefoot part should allow the freedom of movement for your toes. As a rule of thumb, buy a size bigger than the size which is uncomfortably snug on your foot.

Must Read: Different shoes widths

When buying safety shoes, always size them according to your bigger foot. Moreover, measure your foot size in the afternoon when you get back from your job. This is because due to standing for long hours, the feet are likely to be swollen to their maximum size. So, this would be the right time to determine the best size of safety shoes based on your foot shape.

I would always suggest you buy a half size bigger for your safety shoes so that you can also place the inserts for better arch support.

This is what a person comments on Reddit about the sizing of the safety footwear.

A steel-toed boot should not hurt; if it causes pain it likely simply doesn’t fit. Where most leather shoes can flex and shape a bit, the steel will shape your feet first. The RW store suggested I go with a wider width to accommodate the steel toe and MT guard, it’s worked out well so far.

Must Read: Wearing wide fit shoes with normal feet

How to Make Safety Shoes Comfortable?

You can make safety shoes more comfortable by doing several things. First, if you get a pair that are slightly too big, you should put shock-absorbing insoles in them. Insoles are pads that provide extra cushioning and can give your feet an extra layer of protection. A second thing you can do is wear thick socks to add another layer of protection and to make your boots feel more comfortable.

Moreover, to avoid steel-toe caps cutting into your toes, I’d suggest you gel toe caps to wear. These gel toe caps are not only comfortable but also prevent your toes from getting cramped.

Are Safety Shoes Bad for your Feet?

Safety shoes can be bad for your feet if you do not buy the right pair and take additional measures for your comfort. Safety shoes are majorly focused on protection, more than comfort.

Safety shoes can be bad for your feet if you do not buy the right pair and take additional measures for your comfort.

First of all, safety shoes should fit properly when you buy them. If your boots are too tight or too loose, they can cut into your skin and cause blisters or corns on your feet. However, if the fit is not perfect it’s advisable to wear thick socks while breaking in the sides and toe box of the safety boots.

Additionally, some safety boots can make your heels hurt because there is too much pressure on them. This is why you should always wear insoles to avoid foot problems. You can also check my guide on the best shoes for factory work. In this guide, I have covered the most comfortable safety footwear that will provide protection as well as comfort for your feet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *