There’s probably no piece of hiking gear more important than a good pair of boots. They’re one thing you absolutely have to get right.
If your tent’s too flimsy, you can reinforce it with a tarp or extra guy ropes. An undersized rucksack can be accessorized with external pouches and straps for extra carrying capacity. But without a RELIABLE pair of hiking boots, you are up a creek without a paddle.
Whether you are working in the backwoods, trekking through brush, or on a jobsite, steel toe hiking boots are worth investing in.
Bottom Line Up Front: If you want to skip my dissertation, my overall recommendation is the Skechers for Work Blais-Bixford boots available here.
Continue reading for my full analysis…
Hikers have a wider range of footwear to choose from than ever before. From ultralight shoes and even sandals to hardshell winter boots designed for use with crampons, there’s a pair to suit practically everyone. Boots are a very personal thing and every hiker has their own tastes – in style, materials and features. One feature some people insist on is a steel toe cap.
With so many high-tech materials now available a steel toe cap might seem old-fashioned or even crude. There’s no better way to add some protection, though, and that can be very valuable. Here are some situations when you’ll be happy to have a steel shell around your delicate toes:
Some hikers still think of steel toe caps as being unattractive and potentially uncomfortable, but with modern designs, these aren’t really concerns. It’s usually impossible to tell from looking at a boot whether it has a steel inner shell or not, and a well-shaped toecap with a decent lining won’t compromise comfort at all.
Obviously, there’s a weight penalty but this doesn’t add up to much, so if you’re planning activities that might put your toes in danger a pair of steel-capped boots make perfect sense.
Obviously, there’s more to it than just deciding to get steel-toed boots and heading out to buy a pair. You also need to consider all the same factors as with any other pair of hiking boots. These include:
Finding the right boots can take a while, and there’s no substitute for trying on as many pairs as it takes to find one that suits you, but to start narrowing the field here are some of the best steel-toed hiking boots on the market.
|Steel Toe Hiking Boots||Features||Material||Price|
|Skechers for Work Blais-Bixford||Lightweight, breathable.||100% Leather||$64.95 - $118.00 (Check out the latest rates here!)|
|Thorogood Men’s Heritage Safety Toe 6 inch Sport Hiker||Dual-Density Sole, Reinforced fiberglass shank||100% Leather||$184.96 ((Check out the latest rates here!))|
|Carhartt ST Waterproof Hiker||Anti-slip slip-resistant rubber sole, ASTM-compliant steel toe cap||100% Leather and Synthetic||$109.95 - $173.26 (Check out the latest rates here!)|
Skechers footwear is aimed at performance, whether it’s for fitness, outdoor activities or work. The Blais-Bixford packs two of these into one. Selling for less than $100 as of this writing – but with discounts easy to find – it’s a lightweight hiking shoe, perfect for trekking where you don’t need a lot of ankle support.
If you enjoy walking long distance trails, for example, these will do very nicely. They don’t have any excess weight and they’re designed for comfort as well as safety. They also make a good work shoe, especially if you need plenty of grips.
The Blais-Bixford is a modern, low-ankle style of boot. It’s built on a contoured rubber sole with contrasting insert treads and gives excellent grip on wet, hard surfaces or in the mud. The uppers are smooth full-grain leather with plentiful mesh fabric vents for breathability. Protective bumpers at the toe and heel protect the leather from scuffing, and there’s an extra external reinforcing layer running most of the way round.
Lacing is via tape loops, which eliminate potential pressure points from traditional eyelets or D rings, with speed-lacing hooks at the top. The tongue is fully sewn in and equipped with generous gussets, while the ankle collar is adequately padded. Inside the boots are lined with a breathable waterproof membrane. Because they’re quite low they won’t keep your feet dry if you go wading, but they protect well against wet grass or shallow puddles.
The bit you can’t see is the ASTM-compliant steel toe cap, which makes the Blaise EBZ a ANSI Z41.1-1991-standard work boot as well as perfect hiking wear. They also have an ASTM Electrical Hazard (EH) rating, meaning they’re great for wear around power tools or other shock hazards.
Verdict: Light and comfortable enough for a long summer hike; tough enough for a double shift in a metal shop. A great general-purpose safety hiking boot. Be sure to check here for the latest pricing.
Traditional hiking boots still have their fans, and in fact seem to be making a bit of a comeback. If you prefer the all-leather look of a classic boot the Thorogood Heritage is probably going to grab your attention. This is very definitely a high-end boot, with a list price of $289.95 as of this writing, but as usual, you get what you pay for (and check here for discounts).
These top quality boots are perfect for hiking in any conditions from summer through to non-mountain winter weather, with a high level of comfort complemented by excellent protection.
The Heritage uses a dual-density sole with a traditional appearance. The tread is deep, but well-shaped to eject mud and small stones. The sole is molded to the uppers, which gives a more waterproof join than a traditional stitched welt, but the overall effect is retro in a good way. The uppers themselves are full grain oiled leather, beautifully tanned for suppleness and securely stitched. Heavy brass hex eyelets handle the lower lacing, with robust speed hooks at the top. The ankle collar is well cushioned and covered with a lighter, softer leather, while internally the Dri-Lex breathable waterproof lining extends all the way to the top.
In terms of safety, the sole is reinforced with a fiberglass shank, which is there to stiffen the boot for rough ground but also resists piercing from below. The discreet steel toecap is fully OSHA compliant and the boots are also EH rated. At 35 ounces per boot, these are amazingly light for the level of protection they give. They’re also supremely comfortable even straight out the box; broken in, they make long hikes effortless. They’re sturdy enough that you can use them for scrambling or light mountaineering too.
Verdict: An excellent all-round pair of boots, combining a traditional appearance with modern materials where it matters. Built to last a lifetime, and they look incredibly good too. This listing has good pricing options.
Carharrt have a reputation for producing quality workwear, and their Waterproof Hiker combines that legendary toughness with the comfort and mobility of a high-end hiking boot. A more modern style than the Thorogood, it retains the full leather upper for chemical and abrasion resistance but adds protective bumpers at the toe and heel. The sole is geared to construction sites and designed for slip resistance on oily surfaces but is equally good on wet rock. With these Carharrt have produced what’s simply an all-round great boot.
If you’re familiar with hiking boots there’s nothing really new in the design here. A robust, fairly stiff leather shoe is topped with a more flexible tongue and ankle section, giving a good blend of support and mobility. The tongue is well gusseted to keep water out, something these boots do particularly well – you can splash around deep puddles all day and your feet will stay warm and dry. Riveted loops take the lower lacing with speed hooks on the ankle cuff. The collar is lightly padded and very comfortable.
Like the Heritage, these boots are a lot lighter than you’d expect given how sturdy they are. In fact, they’re an ounce lighter than the Thorogoods. Either boot will save you a lot in fatigue at the end of a long day. We think these have the edge in robustness, and they also win on price – expect to pay around $149.95 as of this writing – and don’t trail by a lot in looks.
Verdict: As close to bomb-proof as boots get, and remarkably comfortable as well. If you work or play in a wet, muddy environment your feet are going to love these. You can view the latest pricing here.
The next few options are some other great options to check out as well (but outside our official top 3)…
Summary: High quality cowhide steel toe boots, oil resistant, dampness wicking and ready to wear day one (no break-in period needed). Pick them up right here on Amazon.
Summary: 100% full grain leather treated with tobacco oil, a double thickness footbed, and slip-resistant outsole, these are the best 100% leather work boots we’ve tested. They aren’t cheap, but will last forever (100% USA made). Pick these up via Amazon right here.
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival skills. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.