8 Best Breathable Steel Toe Shoes for Hot Weather Work


Recently I tried 10 different low-top steel toe men’s work shoes. From that group, I compiled the list below of my favorite breathable steel toe shoes for hot weather based on my own experience with these shoes. The Reebok Zprint Steel Toe Shoes were noticeably more breathable than other shoes that I tried – when I hold mine up to the light, I can see through them:

breathable-steel-toe-shoes

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These are my choices for the best breathable steel toe work shoes for hot weather:

  1. Reebok Work Men’s Zprint Steel Toe Work Shoe | Weight 1.15 pounds | (click here to view)
  2. KEEN Utility Men’s Atlanta Cool 2 Steel Toe Work Shoe | Weight 1.50 pounds | (click here to view)
  3. Reebok Work All Terrain Work Low Cut Steel Toe Shoe | Weight 1.29 pounds | (click here to view)
  4. Caterpillar Men’s Woodward Steel Toe Work Shoe | Weight 1.09 pounds | (click here to view)
  5. Fila Memory Reckoning Work Steel Toe Running Shoe | Weight 1.21 pounds | (click here to view)
  6. Skechers Work Cankton Athletic Steel Toe Work Shoe | Weight 1.30 pounds | (click here to view)
  7. *Women’s Indoor* Reebok Work Zprint Steel Toe Shoe (click here to view)
  8. *Women’s Outdoor* KEEN Utility Atlanta Cool 2 Steel Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)

As you can see in the list above, I also listed the weight of these breathable steel toe shoes. These weights are based off of one size 12 men’s shoe. I have photos of me weighing the shoes later in the article.

One thing you will need to consider is the durability of the shoe. Most breathable steel toe shoe for work are athletic-style shoes that are lightweight and flexible, but best used for light-duty work on smooth, predictable terrain. They won’t hold up to rugged terrain like a pair of work boots will.

If you need a low-top breathable steel toe work shoe that has a bit more durability, I would recommend the Keen Atlanta Cool shoes on the list above. Those shoes have a thick rubber overlay that adds abrasion resistance to the shoe.

In this article let’s take a closer look at the best breathable steel toe shoes so you can find an option that fits your needs. I will use photos of the shoes I own and compare and contrast them as best as I can to help you find the best option. If you are wondering about Nike options, unfortunately at this time there are no Nike Steel Toe shoes on the market.

My Favorite Breathable Steel Toe Shoes

Reebok Work Men’s Zprint Steel Toe Shoe

These Reebok Zprint shoes are more breathable than any other steel toe shoe that I tried. If you are working in a hot climate and need something that won’t trap heat, I think these are your best option. In the picture below, I tried to capture just how breathable these shoes are.

When I hold them up to the light, you can see through these shoes:

reebok-zprint-breathability

And not only are these very breathable, they were also the second lightest in weight out of the 10 low-top steel toe shoes that I tried. These shoes weigh only 1.15 pounds per shoe for a men’s size 12.

Obviously, the breathable design helps keep the weight of the shoe down so they don’t feel like a brick on your foot. It also has a lightweight, flexible midsole that makes the shoe feel like an athletic shoe on my feet:

reebok-zprint-flexibility

But what I liked the most about these Reebok Zprint breathable steel toe shoes was the under-foot comfort. They use unique memory foam insoles (Reebok calls this insole “MemoryTech Massage”) that have groove pods which help relieve stress off the bottom of my foot.

In the video below, I tried to capture just how soft these Reebok MemoryTech Massage insoles are:

This is the current price of these Reebok Zprint breathable steel toe shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Overall, these shoes have the comfort and flexibility you’d think of in a running shoe.

If you are looking for a lightweight, ultra-breathable shoe that has great under-foot comfort, these are your best option. I think only the Skechers Cankton shoe had more under-foot comfort, and only the Caterpillar Woodward shoe weighed less, but neither of those two shoes are more breathable than these Reebok Zprint shoes.

What is the drawback here? Like most types of lightweight steel toe work shoes, these are not built to take a beating. Yes, these shoes have a toe overlay for abrasion resistance, but the lightweight, flexible design won’t be a good fit for rugged work, and the outsole doesn’t have deep lug patterns.

reebok-zprint-outsole-2

If you want a breathable low-top shoe that can handle outdoor terrain, I’d recommend either the Keen Atlanta shoes or the Reebok All Terrain Shoes (we cover these two shoes next). These Reebok Zprint steel toe shoes are for those of you who are working on smooth surfaces in hot environments and need something ultra-breathable and lightweight. They have a flexible design that will remind you of an athletic shoe.

Click here to buy these Reebok Zprint breathable steel toe shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Reebok shoes fit true to size, but do have a narrow fit common of athletic shoes. If you have wide feet, I’d recommend ordering wide sizing.

KEEN Utility Men’s Atlanta Cool 2 Steel Toe Work Shoe

One major drawback to low-top, breathable steel toe shoes is they aren’t made to take a beating. For those of you who work indoors this isn’t much of an issue. But if you work in an environment where abrasion resistance is important, it’s nice to have a work shoe that is built to take on more of a beating.

That’s the strength of these KEEN Atlanta shoes in comparison to other low-top steel toe shoes. The outsole wraps up and acts as an overlay across the toe for extra bang protection on the front of your shoe. The leather used on the upper also helps add durability to this shoe.

Now, to be clear, this shoe just like all low-top work shoes is best used for light-duty work. But this shoe definitely has more toughness than the running-style shoes on this list. And, of course, because of that this shoe does weigh more. But I found the flexibility to still be very good even with this added durability:

keen-atlanta-steel-toe-shoes-flexibility

This is the current price of these Keen Atlanta work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). This shoe is good for active work in areas that demand more toughness out of a shoe than simple athletic-style work shoes can offer.

Think of this shoe as a nice compromise between a hiking boot and an athletic shoe. It has a low-top design and, yes, has breathable mesh panels that increase air flow and allow your feet to breathe in that hot summer heat. Here’s a look at those breathable mesh panels:

keen-atlanta-steel-toe-shoes-laces-2

This shoe might make sense for someone like a landscaper who does deal with rocks, dirt, and small foliage and is concerned that some of the other lightweight shoes on this list might be too flimsy. But if you are working indoors on a factory floor, I’d probably stick with the Reebok Zprint shoes we discussed first (which weigh less and are more breathable).

One unique design detail about these Keen Atlanta shoes is the laces are not normal tie-down laces. These shoes have pull-tight laces that make it quicker to get your shoes on and off. Just be sure this doesn’t add a safety hazard when mixed with your working conditions.

Overall, this is a nice option if you are looking for a breathable steel toe shoe that still has some durability and toughness. Again, no, these still can’t take on heavy-duty work like a leather work boot can, but these shoes will hold up better than other low top work shoes.

Click here to buy these Keen Atlanta work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these shoes fit true to size. Wide sizing is available for these shoes.

Reebok Work All Terrain Athletic Steel Toe Shoe

I really like these Reebok All Terrain steel toe shoes. I think these are one of the most versatile athletic-style work shoes on the market today. They have a lightweight, breathable design that makes them great for indoor jobs, but they also have a more advanced outsole that allows them to take on certain outdoor terrains as well.

That outsole is what really differentiates these Reebok All Terrain Shoes compared to the Reebok Zprint breathable steel toe shoes we discussed first. If you are working on gravel, dirt, and mud, and want an athletic-style work shoe that can handle that type of terrain, these shoes will be the better option.

I also love the under-foot comfort in these shoes. They use Reebok’s “MemoryTech” memory foam insoles that provide a soft cushioning under all parts of my foot. If you have read any of my content about work shoes, you know that I love memory foam steel toe work shoes.

I think memory foam provides the most under-foot comfort and provides relief for those of us spending our whole days standing on a hard work surface. In the video below I tried to capture just how soft and forgiving the insoles are on these Reebok All Terrain shoes:

The overall weight of these shoes is still reasonably lightweight, but it is fair to point out that these shoes do weigh more than the Reebok Zprint Shoes we discussed first. My size 12 men’s shoes weigh 1.29 pounds per shoe.

These have an ultra-flexible design and truly feel like an athletic shoe when you wear them. They have a light-duty toe overlay for some extra abrasion resistance, and they can handle outdoor terrain, but these shoes are still best used for light-duty work.

Click here to buy these Reebok All Terrain breathable steel toe shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Reebok All Terrain shoes fit true to size. To read more, visit my article about the Reebok All Terrain Steel Toe Work Shoes.

Caterpillar Men’s Woodward Steel Toe Athletic Shoe

As I mentioned earlier, I recently tried 10 different steel toe work shoes, and these Caterpillar Woodward shoes weighed the least. My size 12 men’s shoe weighed just 1.09 pounds per shoe.

To put this into perspective, I also recently tried 14 different composite toe shoes, and the average weight for those 14 composite toe shoes was 1.25 pounds per shoe, so these Caterpillar Woodward shoes come in significantly lighter than the average composite toe shoe despite being steel toe shoes.

In fact, if I were to rank the weight of this Caterpillar Woodward steel-toe shoe with the weights of those 14 lightweight composite toe shoes I tried, this shoe would have ranked 6th most lightweight of the entire group. I’m saying all of this to say that these Caterpillar Woodward shoes would even be considered reasonably lightweight if they were compared to composite toe shoes.

To find a steel toe shoe that is this lightweight is really uncommon, and if you prioritize lightweight comfort, these will be your best option. I did however feel like the shoes we discussed first were all a bit more breathable than these shoes. Use these shoes for light-duty work on predictable terrain.

Click here to buy these Caterpillar Woodward breathable steel toe shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Caterpillar Woodward shoes fit true to size. Like most low-top athletic work shoes, these Caterpillar Woodward shoes are built for light-duty work.

Fila Memory Reckoning Work Steel Toe Running Shoe

I am actually a bit shocked how much I like these Fila steel toe work shoes. If I’m honest, I’d say I had very low expectations for these shoes before I tried them in part due to the lower price point that I bought these at, and also because Fila is not a major workwear brand.

These shoes also use memory foam insoles that I feel like put this shoe into the top half regarding under-foot comfort out of all the steel toe work shoes that I tried. This shoe weighs 1.21 pounds per shoe for a size 12 men’s, making it the 3rd lightest out of the 10 shoes steel toe shoes I tried.

It is very flexible, and has a breathable design that makes it feel like an athletic shoe on my feet. These shoes do have toe and heel overlays to provide some additional abrasion resistance, but I still recommend using these mainly as indoor shoes, or for light-duty outdoor work on a smooth surface. Factory floor, yes I’d use these shoes. Landscaping on rough terrain, for me, no I would not use these shoes.

Click here to buy these Fila Memory Reckoning breathable steel toe shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Fila work shoes fit true to size.

Skechers Work Cankton Athletic Steel Toe Work Shoes

Out of the 10 low-top steel toe shoes that I tried, these were actually my favorite. So why are they so far down this list? Well, the one drawback is they aren’t as breathable, in my opinion, as the shoes above them in this article.

Even though I loved these Skechers shoes, and thought they were by far the most comfortable, if you are working in extreme heat, and need a breathable steel toe shoe, I’d probably opt for one of the other shoes on this list. But I wanted to at least mention these shoes due to how comfortable they are.

These shoes provide the most under-foot comfort I’ve ever felt in any work shoe (I’ve tried approximately 30 different shoes for steel, composite, and soft toe). I was absolutely shocked at how comfortable these shoes were.

These Skechers Cankton Steel Toe Shoes have memory foam insoles, but I feel like the memory foam insoles on these Skechers Cankton shoes are the thickest memory foam insoles on the market. In the video below, I tried to capture just how soft and forgiving these insoles are:

If you are someone who stands on your feet all day and need some relief, I think these are your best option. But if you work in a hot climate, and need relief, I’d probably go with the Reebok Zprint shoes, which are very breatahble, and were probably my second favorite shoes for under-foot comfort (behind these Skechers Cankton shoes).

Click here to buy these Skechers Cankton shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Skechers shoes fit true to size, and have a more relaxed, wider fit than some of the other shoes on this list, so if you have wide feet, these might be your best option. To read more, visit my article about Skechers Cankton Steel Toe Shoes.

4 Things to Consider When Buying Breathable Steel Toe Shoes

Weight

As I said earlier, in total I tried 10 different lightweight steel toe work shoes. I took that group of 10 and reduced it down to the six different men’s breathable steel toe shoes included on this list. Below, I bolded the size men’s shoes including on this list so you can see how they compare to the industry regarding weight.

ShoeWeight (lbs)Photos
Caterpillar Woodward1.09View My Photos
Reebok Zprint1.15View My Photos
Fila Memory Reckoning1.21View My Photos
Reebok Sublite1.25View My Photos
Reebok All Terrain1.29View My Photos
Skechers Cankton1.30View My Photos
New Balance 6271.50View My Photos
Keen Atlanta Cool 21.50View My Photos
Caterpillar Brode1.53View My Photos
Keen Lansing Low1.55View My Photos

If you are concerned about weight, do you absolutely need a steel toe shoe? Obviously, only you know the safety demands of your job. Would a composite toe shoe work instead?

Composite toe shoes don’t offer the same amount of crush resistance as a steel toe shoe, but they do weigh less. If you think a composite toe shoe might work for you, visit my article about the best breathable composite toe shoes.

Abrasion Resistance

For many jobs, it is important to have shoes that have extra abrasion resistance on the toe and heel to not only provide a little extra protection to your foot, but also to help the material of the shoe hold up over time. Most (but not all) of the breathable steel toe shoes on this list have abrasion resistance on the toe.

But it’s important to understand that these breathable steel toe work shoes tend to have a weaker overlay, meaning they aren’t as durable. For example, pictured below is the toe overlay on my Reebok Zprint steel toe work shoes. Yes, it helps protect the material, but it isn’t a thick overlay that can take a beating in a rugged environment.

reebok-zprint-toe

That’s why I also included the Keen Atlanta steel toe shoes on this list that have a more rugged toe overlay:

keen-atlanta-steel-toe-shoes-toe

Tongue Gusset

If you are working outdoors, buying a breathable steel toe shoe with a gusseted tongue might be a good idea. A gusseted tongue is a tongue that is attached to the shoe not only at the base of the tongue, but also on the side of the tongue.

This helps prevent debris and water from slipping through the laces down into the work shoe. Some shoes, like the Reebok All Terrain shoes my list, have a bootie-style design that doesn’t even have a separated tongue. Bootie-style shoes are great if rocks might be an issue.

Here’s what that bootie-style design looks like (no separated tongue):

reebok-all-terrain-bootie

Light Duty Work

Lightweight, breathable steel toe shoes may be appealing because they have a comfortable design that allows heat to escape, but these types of shoes lack durability. Textile uppers reduce weight, but they won’t hold up long term like leather steel toe work boot will.

The upper on these types of shoes is attached to the outsole using a glue or cementing material. This also helps reduce weight, but don’t expect glue to hold up forever. Lightweight foam midsoles also reduce weight, but won’t offer long term comfort like a leather or rubber midsole you’d find in a premium work boot.

I say all of that to just remind you that there are pros and cons to using these types of breathable steel toe work shoes, and just make sure they make sense for your job. If you work in a rugged environment, these types of textile shoes are not always a great option. Most breathable steel toe shoes are best used for light-duty work.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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