I put my hands on 14 of the most popular low top composite toe work shoes to evaluate them on weight, comfort, flexibility, and purpose. My conclusion was this: the Reebok Sublite shoes were the lightest in weight and also provided the most comfort under the foot, making them perfect for indoor jobs.
For outdoor jobs, I’d recommend either the Keen Flint 2 Low, the Kodiak Quest Low, or the Caterpillar Streamline shoes. The Caterpillar Streamline shoes have a low-profile raised heel, which might be helpful for those who climb ladders all day.
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These are our choices for the best composite toe shoes to use for work:
- *My Favorite* – Reebok Men’s Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best for Construction – Caterpillar Men’s Streamline Comp Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Indoor – Reebok Men’s Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Outdoor – KEEN Utility Flint 2 Low Top Composite Toe Shoes (click here to view)
- Best Lightweight – Reebok Men’s Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Most Padding Around Collar – Timberland PRO Drivetrain Comp Toe Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Insole for Standing – Reebok Men’s Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Shoes (click here to view)
- Best Waterproof – Skechers Greetah Waterproof Comp Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Breathable – Reebok Men’s Fusion Flexweave Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Business Casual – Rockport Men’s Truflex Composite Toe Work Sneaker (click here to view)
- Best for Wide Feet – Skechers Greetah Comp Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Leather – Caterpillar Argon Comp Toe Leather Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Women’s Indoor – Reebok Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Athletic Work Shoes (click here to view)
- Women’s Outdoor – KEEN Flint 2 Sport Low Composite Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
There are several things to consider when buying a composite toe work shoe. Do you need toe and heel overlays for extra abrasion resistance? Do you need a raised-heel shoe that offers slip protection for climbing ladders? Do you need a gusseted tongue to keep rocks and debris out? How much does weight matter? Does material matter to you? Do you work indoors or outdoors?
The outdoor shoes are going to be sturdier, with more complex outsoles, and they often have extra cushioning and abrasion support. This means you can expect an outdoor work shoe to have more materials, and to ultimately weigh more than most indoor work shoes.
As I mentioned earlier, the Reebok Sublite shoes were my favorite for indoor jobs based on the lightweight design and great under-foot cushioning. My size 12 regular only weighs 0.94 pounds and the memory-foam insoles are grooved in a way that relieves stress off the bottom of my foot:
For outdoor jobs, there are a few shoes to consider. I like the KEEN shoes for light-duty outdoor work (like landscaping). If you need a waterproof shoe, I’d recommend the Kodiak Quest Low shoes. For outdoor construction jobs, I like the Caterpillar Streamline shoes the best.
I felt like the Caterpillar Streamline shoes incorporated the athletic, flexible design that we all want in a work shoe, but added in a few extra details (raised heel for ladder support, double abrasion overlay) that make it a versatile shoe that can be used for both indoor and outdoor jobs. Here’s the low-profile squared heel on the Caterpillar Streamline:
In this article I will use the pictures I took of these low top composite toe shoes to discuss some of my favorites so you can have a better idea of their advantages and disadvantages, and how they might fit your needs. Let’s start by going over the weight data for the best composite toe shoes, and I will also include links to the photos I took of each shoe. If you need steel toe shoes, visit our article about the best steel toe work shoes.
Disclaimer: Please understand that we reviewed these shoes to get an accurate understanding of weight, comfort, and features. We did not test the crush resistance of any of these shoes. Because we do not know your job, we cannot guarantee that these shoes will meet the safety demands of your job. Not all composite toes are the same. Always verify the safety toe meets the safety requirements of your job prior to purchase.
Weight Data for Composite Toe Shoes
The 14 shoes I reviewed for this article are listed in the table below, ranked by weight. Please note that the weight below is based off one size 12 shoe. To view the photos that I took of each of these shoes, click the link in the table.
|Reebok Sublite Cushion
|view my photos
|view my photos
|Reebok Astroride Strike
|view my photos
|Reebok Fusion Flexweave
|view my photos
|Timberland PRO Drivetrain
|view my photos
|Danner Run Time
|view my photos
|view my photos
|view my photos
|Carhartt Force Nano
|view my photos
|New Balance 589
|view my photos
|KEEN Utility Flint 2 Low
|view my photos
|view my photos
|view my photos
|Kodiak Quest Low
|view my photos
My Favorite Composite Toe Work Shoe
Reebok Sublite Cushion Composite Toe Work Shoes
I have tried 14 different comp toe work shoes, and these Reebok Sublite Composite Toe Shoes are by far my favorite based on comfort. The memory foam insole they use on these shoes (Reebok calls it “Memory Tech Massage”) provides a level of comfort under the foot that none of the other composite toe shoes I tried could match.
In my opinion, these are the best indoor shoes, especially if you stand on your feet all day. But it is important to understand that these shoes aren’t built for heavy-duty work in outdoor environments. These shoes have a minimalistic design that prioritizes lightweight comfort.
Here I am wearing these shoes (in my experience these fit true to size):
This is the current price of these Reebok low top composite toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shoes:
|These shoes weigh in at 0.94 pounds per shoe for a size 12 M, which made them the lightest (tied) out of all the shoes I weighed. Overall, a very lightweight design that does not weigh your foot down. These shoes use microfiber and mesh uppers in combination with foam midsoles to achieve this lightweight design. They also have flex grooves in the outsole to help reduce weight. Here I am weighing these shoes:
As I mentioned previously, I felt that these were clearly the most comfortable composite toe shoes that I tried. The insole is made with memory foam and provides a noticeable cushioning under all parts of the foot, and has small groove pods that relieve stress off the bottom of my foot. The thick foam midsole helps absorb shock and provide comfort. This shoe is also very flexible and responsive. In the video below I tried to capture just how soft the memory foam insoles are:
Yes, these are composite toe work shoes. The outsole is made of rubber and is slip-resistant. Also, these shoes have both a toe overlay and a heel overlay. Toe overlay helps the front of the shoe hold up longer from being banged around, and the heel overlay adds some protection behind the foot and acts as a kick plate when you take your shoes off. To be fair, the heel overlay does leave a little of the textile fabric exposed.
Although the outsole is slip-resistant, it doesn’t have deep lug patterns designed for rugged terrain. Also, this shoe does not have a raised heel which means it might not make a lot of sense for those of you climbing ladders all day. This shoe is a great indoor shoe, and may also be acceptable for certain light-duty outdoor trades that work on smooth surfaces. As with all lightweight shoes, the synthetic material can’t take a beating like leather can, which is the tradeoff.
The main takeaway here is lightweight comfort. This shoe tied for the most lightweight shoe I reviewed, and in my opinion it also provides the best underfoot comfort. If you are looking for maximum comfort that won’t weigh your feet down, these are your best option.
Although this shoe has a gusseted tongue to help hold out debris, the punched eyelets and mesh uppers won’t hold out water, and the outsole does not have a raised heel. Because of this, it would probably be best to use these shoes for indoor jobs, or for outdoor jobs that work on smooth surfaces in dry climates.
Click here to buy these Reebok Sublite Cushion composite toe shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Wide sizing is available for these shoes.
Best Composite Toe Work Shoe for Construction
Caterpillar Men’s Streamline Comp Toe Work Shoe
One huge problem with low top composite toe shoes is the large majority of options don’t have a raised heel. Instead, they go for an athletic design to maximize comfort and minimize weight. For many jobs, that might be fine, but for those of you who spend all day going up and down a ladder, the raised heel can be an added layer of protection against slipping.
That’s why I like these Caterpillar Streamline Composite Toe Shoes. Yes, they still have a lightweight design that can be used indoors, but these shoes have a couple extra features (including a raised heel) that many other low top composite toe work shoes don’t. This allows these Caterpillar Streamline shoes to fit a wider variety of jobs.
To be clear, this is still a low-profile raised heel – we aren’t talking about an inch heel like you would find on many work boots. So, no, this shoe won’t provide as much slip protection on a ladder that a work boot might, but for some jobs, a squared heel helps, and these Caterpillar Streamline Shoes provide you a raised-heel option that you don’t find in many work shoes.
I own the S/D (static dissipative) version of these shoes. In my experience these fit true to size. Here I am wearing these shoes:
This is the current price of these Caterpillar low top composite toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shoes:
|These are versatile shoes that can fit a wide variety of jobs. They have a lightweight, comfortable design that makes sense for indoor jobs, but distinguish themselves from much of the competition by having a low-profile raised heel which makes these a good option for many types of construction jobs that spend much of a work day on a ladder. They also have a gusseted tongue which helps keep debris from sliding in through your laces. Here’s a look at that low-profile squared heel:
|These shoes weigh in at 1.26 pounds per shoe for a size 12 M, which makes them still very lightweight compared to many types of work shoes on the market. These shoes have mesh uppers with a foam midsole to help keep the weight down, but they do weigh more than other options on this list. As I’ve said before, these shoes have a few extra design details, which makes them a sturdier, more versatile option and are a bit more compatible with outdoor jobs than the Reebok shoes we discussed first.
These shoes are very comfortable and flexible (but not quite as comfortable under the foot as the Reebok work shoes we discussed earlier). They have removable foam footbeds and a lining that wicks away sweat. These shoes have a more complex design which sets them apart from other athletic comp toe shoes and allows them to be used for certain outdoor jobs. I found the flexibility and responsiveness to still be very similar to indoor work shoes, which is a good thing.
Yes, these are composite toe work shoes. The outsole is made of rubber and is slip-resistant. As I mentioned above, these shoes have a sturdier design than the Reebok shoes – for example, the heel overlay has a double layer of protection for extra abrasion resistance. Also, on the toe, the outsole wraps up a little bit to provide extra abrasion resistance in combination with the stitched overlay.
The main takeaway here is these shoes have a sturdier design than the Reebok composite toe work shoes, and when you combine that with the low-profile raised heel, this shoe fits a wider variety of jobs both indoor and outdoor. Yes, if you are looking for the lightest-weight option, I’d stick with Reebok. But these shoes still are very lightweight compared to the market, and give you outdoor versatility.
Now, to be clear, these shoes are not waterproof, so they might not makes sense for all environments. And no, the raised heel won’t provide the same slip protection that a rugged outdoor boot will. But these shoes give you a lightweight, athletic design that incorporates some of those important outdoor features (raised heel, tongue gusset, extra abrasion resistance) to make these shoes more versatile than other low top composite toe shoes.
Click here to buy these Caterpillar Streamline composite toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Wide sizing is available for these shoes.
Best Outdoor Composite Toe Work Shoes
KEEN Utility Men’s Flint 2 Low Top Composite Toe Work Shoes
As I mentioned throughout, unfortunately many types of low-top composite toe safety shoes are not a great option for heavy-duty work. The textile uppers of most shoes can get beat up pretty bad in a rough work environment.
Despite that, some options, like these Keen shoes, have a better design for outdoor terrain than many of the athletic style comp toe shoes on the market. KEEN is well-known for making hiking-style work shoes that combine a durable build with a comfortable, flexible style (flexible safety toe shoes).
These shoes are made, in part, with water-resistant leather and feature outsoles that are designed to disperse moisture quickly for increased traction. Combine that with a raised heel and extra abrasion resistance and these shoes can fit outdoor work much better than some of the athletic composite toe shoes we discussed earlier.
Here I am wearing these KEEN shoes:
This is the current price of these KEEN low top composite toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shoes:
These are outdoor work shoes. They’re made with breathable mesh and water-resistant leather uppers which creates an upper that is durable, but still let’s your feet breathe in a hot, active work environment. Internal mesh lining wicks away sweat to keep your feet dry. The toes have double abrasion resistance with a rubber overlay sitting on top of a leather overlay (the heel also has abrasion resistance). Attached eyelets and a gusseted tongue help prevent debris from slipping through the laces.
|These shoes weigh 1.38 pounds per shoe for a size 12 regular. Yes, because these are outdoor hiker-style shoes they will weigh more than minimalistic indoor-style work shoes. Things like extra abrasion resistance and thicker outsoles lead to more weight. But overall, KEEN keeps the weight down in these shoes by using mesh in the upper and incorporating lightweight midsoles. Despite being an outdoor shoe, the design is flexible and responsive just like an athletic shoe.
These shoes have non-metallic carbon-fiber toes. The outsole is made of rubber and is slip-resistant. As I mentioned above, these shoes have more of a hiker style. They have extra abrasion resistance on the toe, and the tongue is part of the lining, which fits like a bootie that not only wicks away sweat, but prevents rocks and debris from sliding down through the laces.
These are going to be more rugged than the Reebok shoes I recommended for indoor work. These shoes are good for construction and landscaping type jobs that need more abrasion resistance and things like a raised heel to navigate uneven terrain.
These aren’t waterproof shoes, but they are made in part with water-resistant leather, and the mesh liner wicks away sweat to help keep your feet dry. The raised lace eyelets in combination with the bootie-style tongue help prevent rocks and debris from lodging inside the shoe.
Click here to buy these KEEN composite toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Wide sizing is available for these shoes.
Best Business Casual Composite Toe Work Shoes
Rockport Men’s Truflex Composite Toe Work Sneaker
These Rockport shoes tied the Reebok Sublite shoes for the lightest-weight shoe I tested (0.94 pounds per shoe for a size 12 regular). The design is obviously ultra-lightweight and won’t weigh your feet down.
The main drawback here is this is a very simple shoe, built with the goal to deliver a lightweight, comfortable composite toe sneaker that has more of a casual style. This is not a sneaker that prioritizes abrasion resistance and other necessary work shoe qualities (in fairness, it does have heel abrasion reinforcement).
But not every worker out there needs a shoe built for rugged work. These might fit in nicely as business casual work sneakers for those of you who spend part of your day in an office and part of the day on a work floor, and need a composite toe shoe for protection.
Here I am wearing these Rockport shoes:
This is the current price of these Rockport low top composite toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shoes:
|These shoes weigh in at 0.94 pounds per shoe for a size 12 regular, which makes them tied with the Reebok Sublite shoes for the lightest-weight shoe that I tested. These shoes have woven mesh uppers with EVA midsoles to help keep the weight down. The upper is a single piece that also acts as the tongue, with laces sitting on top, attached to the leather side pieces. This minimalistic design creates a lightweight shoe.
Yes, these are composite toe work shoes. The outsole is made of rubber and is slip-resistant. As I mentioned above, these shoes have more of a casual style. The leather material does wrap around the heel to give you some abrasion resistance back there, but the toe does not have any type of overlay to act as abrasion resistance. Because of that, as I mentioned earlier, these might be best used as business casual sneakers.
I still think the Reebok shoes we discussed earlier are more comfortable, but these shoes have a comfortable design that feels lightweight on the foot. I also think that these might be the most flexible shoe I tested. Very easy to walk in these shoes. These shoes have Ortholite footbeds and are made with Rockport’s “truFLEX” technology which “creates spring forward momentum”. That all sounds fancy and I’m not sure what it all means, but I can verify that they feel lightweight and bend easily as I walk.
The main takeaway here is these aren’t built for rugged work, but do give you a nice option that can pair easily with khakis and function as a work sneaker for those of you who spend time in an office and on a work floor. Again, these tied for the lightest-weight sneaker I tested, and really prioritize a minimalistic design that keeps weight down.
Click here to buy these Rockport composite toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Wide sizing is available for these shoes.
Other Composite Toe Work Shoes to Consider
- Kodiak Men’s Quest Bound Low Comp Toe Hiker Shoe – This shoe is made with a waterproof seam-sealed membrane combined with premium waterproof leather. This shoe weighs more than the indoor shoes on our list due to the more comprehensive, rugged design. If you work in a wet climate, or need a heavier-duty work shoe, this is a great option. Click here to view this Kodiak Quest work shoe (affiliate link takes you to kodiakboots.com).
- Caterpillar Argon Comp Toe Leather Work Shoe – There aren’t as many leather low top composite work shoes on the market. If you prefer leather, this Caterpillar Argon shoe is a nice option. It will weigh a bit more due to the leather (m7 size 12 weighs 1.65 pounds per shoe), but there is a small bit of textile added to the upper to help control weight. I really like the heavy-duty toe abrasion guard. These shoes are more heavy duty than other options on this list. Click here to view these leather composite toe shoes (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
- Skechers Greetah Composite Toe Waterproof Shoes – These are the best low top waterproof composite toe shoes I have found. They have a hiker style. They’re bulkier than an athletic shoe, and not as flexible. But they are lighter in weight than a typical work boot, and therefore give you a sort of middle ground that is sturdier than athletic shoes, but easier to wear than boots. In my opinion, these shoes had a wider fit than all the other shoes I tried. Click here to view these Skechers work shoes (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
- *Women’s* Reebok Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Athletic Work Shoe – These will be a great option for women who work indoors on a smooth surface. These shoes use the Reebok Memory Massage Tech inserts that have grooved pods to help relieve stress off the bottom of the foot. Great for those who stand all day on concrete. If you work outdoors, the Caterpillar Women’s Streamline might be the best option. Click here to view these Reebok Sublite women’s composite toe work shoes (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
6 Things to Consider When Buying Composite Toe Work Shoes
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 options on this list have abrasion resistance on both the toe and heel.
But it’s important to understand that the athletic work shoes tend to have a weaker overlay, meaning they aren’t as durable. For example, pictured below is the toe overlay on one of my Reebok work shoes. Yes, it helps protect the material, but it isn’t a thick overlay that can take a beating in a rugged environment.
Compare that to the overlay on these Kodiak hiker shoes that are made for an outdoor environment:
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.
Obviously this is a bit more important for outdoor work, but even most of the indoor work shoes on this list have a gusseted tongue.
Attached Lace Eyelets
Some work shoes will attach lace eyelets so they don’t have to punch holes in the shoe. Fewer holes means a less chance that water or debris can slip through. If you are worried about debris, you might want to make sure the shoes you choose have attached eyelets.
For example, the KEEN shoes on our list have attached eyelets:
I discussed this throughout, but one issue with wearing athletic low top composite toe work shoes is many styles are built with flat outsoles that don’t have a raised heel. Although flat outsoles can be more comfortable, for some jobs the raised heel can provide extra slip resistance.
No, you can’t find work shoes that have large, inch-sized heels like work boots, but there are some shoes (like the Caterpillar Streamline shoes on our list) that have a low-profile raised heel that offers some slip protection.
Breathability is one thing that stood out to me when reviewing this group of shoes to find the best composite toe work shoes. And even though Nike does not currently make composite toe shoes, there are other options by other brands that are lightweight and athletic.
Most of these shoes have a breathable upper made of textile. Of course this can be a good thing for a hot work environment, but it also means they won’t perform well in wet climates.
To me, the Reebok Fusion Flexweave shoes stood out as the best breathable composite toe shoe. These shoes have textile uppers, and you can actually see through the shoe in some spots. Here I am holding mine up to the light:
As you can see, the material is so breathable that the light shines through from the other side. These are a nice option for a warm work environment. To read more, visit my article about the best breathable composite toe work shoes.
Lightweight, low top composite toe work shoes may be appealing because they help relieve some stress on your feet during a long day of work, but these types of shoes will lack durability. Textile uppers reduce weight, but they won’t hold up long term like leather 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 low top composite 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 low top composite toe shoes are best used for light-duty work. If you work in a rugged environment and need a comp toe, perhaps a composite toe hiker boot might make more sense.