I recently put my hands on 24 of the most popular low-top safety toe work shoes (10 steel toe, 14 composite toe) to evaluate them on several things, including flexibility. Wearing flexible safety shoes on the job not only increases comfort, it can also increase responsiveness.
The truth is, most all of these 24 low-top shoes had nice flexibility and comfort compared to heavy work boots. But after trying these 24 shoes, my conclusion was this: the Skechers Cankton shoes were my favorite steel toe shoes and the Reebok Sublite shoes were my favorite composite toe shoes. These shoes had the most total comfort, including a lot of comfort under the foot due to memory foam insoles.
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*STEEL TOE* These are my choices for the best flexible steel toe shoes to use for work:
- *My Favorite Steel Toe* – Skechers Work Cankton Steel Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Outdoor Steel Toe – KEEN Utility Men’s Atlanta Cool 2 Steel Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Lightweight Steel Toe – Caterpillar Men’s Woodward Steel Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Most Versatile Steel Toe – Reebok Work All Terrain Work Steel Toe Safety Shoe (click here to view)
- Most Breathable Steel Toe – Reebok Work Men’s Zprint Steel Toe Athletic Shoe (click here to view)
- Women’s Indoor Steel Toe – Caterpillar Woodward Steel Toe Low Top Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Women’s Outdoor Steel Toe – Keen Flint Low Steel Toe Non Slip Work Shoe (click here to view)
*COMPOSITE TOE* These are my choices for the best flexible composite toe shoes to use for work:
- *My Favorite Comp Toe* – Reebok Men’s Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Most Versatile Comp Toe – Caterpillar Men’s Streamline Comp Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Best Outdoor Comp Toe – KEEN Utility Flint 2 Low Top Composite Toe Shoes (click here to view)
- Best Lightweight Comp Toe – Reebok Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Most Breathable Comp Toe – Reebok Fusion Flexweave Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
- Women’s Indoor Comp Toe – Reebok Sublite Cushion Comp Toe Work Shoes (click here to view)
- Women’s Outdoor Comp Toe – Caterpillar Women’s Streamline Comp Toe Shoes (click here to view)
Most flexible safety shoes are best used for light-duty work due to the lightweight, flexible design. If you are working outdoors, I think KEEN builds a heavier-duty low-top work shoe, and makes the most sense for outdoor work. Still, even the KEEN shoes on the list above won’t provide as much protection as normal heavy-duty work boots.
I put my hands on these flexible safety shoes to test them in a variety of ways, including their flexibility, so I could provide a better understanding on how they differ regarding comfort. Here are photos of me inspecting the flexibility of these safety-toe shoes:
In this article I want to discuss specifically some of my favorite flexible steel toe shoes and flexible composite toe shoes so you can find an option that fits your needs. I will also link to my other resources so you can check out the photos and information for all 24 of these safety toe shoes in case you wish to do a deeper dive.
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 safety toes are the same. Always verify the safety shoe meets the safety requirements of your job prior to purchase.
Weight Data for Flexible Safety Shoes
As I mentioned earlier, I put my hands on 24 of the most popular flexible safety toe shoes so that I could take down real weight data and try these shoes myself to get a feel for flexibility, durability, and what type of application the shoe made the most sense for.
Below is the actual weights of these 24 safety toe work shoes. I also linked to my photos of each, but we will discuss my favorites at length in this article too.
Steel Toe Shoe Weight Data
|Caterpillar Woodward||1.09||View My Photos|
|Reebok Zprint||1.15||View My Photos|
|Fila Memory Reckoning||1.21||View My Photos|
|Reebok Sublite||1.25||View My Photos|
|Reebok All Terrain||1.29||View My Photos|
|Skechers Cankton||1.30||View My Photos|
|New Balance 627||1.50||View My Photos|
|Keen Atlanta Cool 2||1.50||View My Photos|
|Caterpillar Brode||1.53||View My Photos|
|Keen Lansing Low||1.55||View My Photos|
Composite Toe Shoe Weight Data
|Shoe Name||Weight (lbs)||Photos|
|Reebok Sublite Cushion||0.94||view my photos|
|Rockport Truflex||0.94||view my photos|
|Reebok Astroride Strike||0.99||view my photos|
|Reebok Fusion Flexweave||1.01||view my photos|
|Timberland PRO Drivetrain||1.03||view my photos|
|Danner Run Time||1.15||view my photos|
|Kodiak Ramble||1.25||view my photos|
|Caterpillar Streamline||1.26||view my photos|
|Carhartt Force Nano||1.28||view my photos|
|New Balance 589||1.32||view my photos|
|KEEN Utility Flint 2 Low||1.38||view my photos|
|Skechers Greetah||1.60||view my photos|
|Caterpillar Argon||1.62||view my photos|
|Kodiak Quest Low||1.69||view my photos|
Best Steel Toe Flexible Safety Shoes
Skechers Cankton Steel Toe Shoes
These Skechers Cankton are my favorite low-top steel toe shoes for work. I think they are more durable than many other options, but what jumps out the most about these shoes is the under-foot comfort.
These Skechers Cankton Steel Toe Shoes have memory foam insoles, and in my opinion, they 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:
Although these Skechers Cankton shoes do have nice flexibility compared to work boots, they are a bit bulkier than some of the other options on this list. If you want a minimilistic, ultra-flexible steel-toe shoe, the Reebok Zprint we discuss next may be the better option.
Click here to buy these Skechers Cankton flexible safety shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Skechers shoes fit true to size. I think these are the best steel toe shoes to wear if you prioritize comfort over all else.
Reebok Work Zprint Steel Toe Shoes
These Reebok Zprint shoes are very lightweight and comfortable to wear. What jumps out the most about these shoes is the breathability, which makes these a nice option for hot weather (most breathable steel toe shoes). 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:
As I have mentioned earlier, I prefer flexible safety shoes that use memory foam insoles. These Reebok Zprint shoes have unique memory foam insoles that also have groove pods that help relieve stress off the bottom of my foot (Reebok calls this insole “MemoryTech Massage”).
In the video below, I tried to capture just how soft these Reebok MemoryTech Massage insoles are:
These Reebok Zprint shoes were the second lightest in weight out of all the steel toe shoes that I tried (they weigh 1.15 pounds per shoe for a men’s size 12 regular). These shoes have a very flexible design that is responsive and easy to wear. These are a great option if you are working in a hot climate.
Click here to buy these Reebok Zprint steel toe flexible safety shoes available at Amazon (paid 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.
Caterpillar Woodward Steel Toe Shoes
These Caterpillar flexible steel toe shoes weighed less than all the other steel toe shoes that I tried. They weighted only 1.09 pounds per shoe for a size 12 men’s shoe. If you prioritize lightweight design and need a steel safety toe, these may be your best option (or the Reebok Zprint shoes from above).
These shoes have a casual, athletic design that pairs easily with both shorts or jeans. Like most lightweight, low-top safety shoes, this shoe is best used for light-duty work. It has a very flexible, responsive design:
The main takeaway is this: if you are looking for an ultra lightweight steel toe shoe for work, these weigh less than any other steel-toe shoe that I have tried, and feel just like an athletic shoe on my foot. These shoes will not feel like bricks on your feet and will be a nice option for those of you who spend long days standing on the job.
Click here to buy these Caterpillar Woodward steel toe flexible safety shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Cat Woodward shoes fit true to size.
Reebok Work All Terrain Athletic Steel Toe Shoe
As I mentioned earlier in the article, one drawback to steel toe athletic shoes is most options are built for indoor, flat surfaces. These Reebok All Terrain steel toe shoes are a bit different. They have more complex outsoles that can handle a wider range of terrains.
I think these are the most versatile athletic steel toe 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 most other Reebok Zprint breathable steel toe shoes we discussed first. If you spend time both inside and outside, and are looking for an athletic-style work shoe that can handle gravel and dirt, these are a great option.
They have a very flexible design, and also have memory-foam insoles that are very comfortable under the foot. Like other athletic-style shoes, even though these are built for a wider range of terrains, they still are best used for light-duty work.
Click here to buy these Reebok All Terrain steel toe flexible safety 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.
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 flexible safety 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 work 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:
Think of this shoe as a nice compromise between a hiking boot and an athletic shoe. It has a low-top design with breathable mesh panels that increase air flow. 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.
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.
Best Composite Toe Flexible Safety Shoes
Reebok Sublite Cushion Composite Toe Work Shoes
Out of the 14 low-top composite toe shoes that I tried, these Reebok Sublite shoes were my favorite composite toe work shoes. These shoes are very lightweight and are also very comfortable to wear.
The memory foam insoles also have groove pods that help relieve stress off the bottom of my foot while I work. In the video below I tried to capture just how comfortable the insoles are:
These Reebok Composite Toe Shoes weighed in at 0.94 pounds per shoe for a size 12 M, which made them the lightest comp toe work shoes (tied) out of all the shoes I weighed. These shoes use microfiber and mesh uppers in combination with foam midsoles to achieve this lightweight design.
They are very flexible and feel like an athletic shoe when I wear them. As you can see above, the outsole has flex grooves which helps reduce weight. I think these are the best composite toe shoes if you prioritize flexibility and comfort.
Click here to buy these Reebok Sublite composite toe flexible safety 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. This shoe is also available in a women’s version – click here to view the women’s version (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
Caterpillar Men’s Streamline Comp Toe Work Shoe
I really like these shoes. One huge problem with lightweight composite toe shoes is the large majority of options don’t have a raised heel. These Caterpillar Streamline flexible safety shoes are a bit different in that they do offer a low-profile raised heel:
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 Shoes and think they are the most versatile low-top composite toe shoes.
Yes, they still have a lightweight, flexible design that makes them feel much like an athletic shoe, but because they have that slightly raised heel, these shoes fit a wider variety of jobs. To read more about these shoes, visit my article about the Caterpillar Streamline safety toe work shoes.
Click here to view these Caterpillar composite toe flexible safety 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 Fusion Flexweave Composite Toe Work Shoes
These Reebok Fusion Flexweave shoes were the most breathable low-top composite toe shoes that I tried. Yes, most types of flexible safety shoes have a breathable design, but these shoes were clearly more breathable than other shoes (my favorite breathable composite toe shoes).
To give you an idea of how breathable this shoe is, when I hold it up to the light you can actually see through the shoe:
These Reebok Fusion Flexweave shoes can deliver some relief on those hot summer days. They are extremely flexible and have that lightweight design that Reebok work shoes are known for (my size 12 weighs 1.01 pounds per shoe).
It’s important to remember that even though these shoes are built for hot weather, if you are working outdoors these shoes are best used for light-duty work. If you are working in rugged, rocky terrain, you may need a heavier duty shoe (like the Keen shoes we discuss next).
Click here to buy these Reebok Fusion Flexweave composite toe flexible safety shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Wide sizing is available for these shoes.
KEEN Utility Flint 2 Composite Toe Shoes
As I said throughout, most flexible safety shoes are best used indoors for light-duty work. If you are working on gravel, or more rugged terrain, and looking for a low-top flexible composite toe shoe, then these Keen Flint 2 shoes will be a nice option.
I found the flexibility of these shoes to still be very good even though they are built a bit sturdier than other low-top composite toe shoes. But the main benefit here is the large rubber toe overlay that provides extra protection to the front of the shoe that you don’t get with other types of low-top work shoes.
Still, these won’t be able to replace heavy-duty work boots. But these Keen shoes can take on a bit more than your average low-top flexible safety shoe.
Click here to buy these Keen Flint 2 composite toe flexible safety shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Wide sizing is available for these shoes. To read more, visit my article about Keen safety shoes.
4 Things to Consider When Buying Flexible Safety Shoes
Are Flexible Safety Shoes Best?
As I discussed earlier in the article, most low-top work shoes will have an athletic design or a hiker design, and overall will be very flexible. No, Nike steel toe work shoes do not currently exist, but I’ve learned to really like Reebok shoes.
For example, you can see below just how flexible my Reebok All Terrain shoes are:
But is flexibility a good thing for your specific job? Some workers may need something that is less flexible and a bit sturdier. In some industrial workplaces, these types of sturdier shoes make more sense. I like the New Balance 627 Steel Toe Industrial Shoes because even though they are industrial shoes, they still have an athletic design.
But just don’t expect these types of industrial shoes to be as flexible as a running shoe. For example, here I am applying pressure to my New Balance 627 shoes. As you can see, they have a sturdier design and don’t bend and flex as easily:
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 from slipping through the laces down into the shoe.
Obviously this is a bit more important for outdoor work, but even many of the indoor flexible safety shoes on this list have a gusseted tongue. If you plan to wear these shoes for light-duty outdoor work, a gusseted tongue might be beneficial.
Memory Foam Breakdown
As I’ve said throughout, I prefer memory foam steel toe shoes. I think memory foam insoles provide the most under-foot comfort. But one thing you do have to consider is these types of insoles will eventually flatten out and lose their responsiveness.
This can be a problem because your shoe may feel very comfortable for the first few months after purchase, then begin to lose that under-foot comfort as the memory foam insole wears out. What can be done about this?
Some insoles are removable and replaceable, so that may be an option depending on what shoe you choose. Also, this is one reason I like the Skechers Cankton steel toe tennis shoes – I feel like their memory foam insoles are thicker than the memory foam insoles in other shoes.
Durability of Flexible Safety Shoes
For many jobs, it is important that your work shoes 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 flexible safety shoes have abrasion resistance on the toe.
For example, here’s what the toe overlay looks like on my Reebok All Terrain shoes:
Yes, that overlay helps protect the toe of the shoe against light-duty scuffs, but obviously it can’t take a beating like a work boot. If you need maximum abrasion resistance, I’d recommend Keen work shoes. They often wrap the outsole up over the toe to provide a thick abrasion guard. For example, here are my Keen work shoes:
Yes, flexible safety shoes may be appealing because they help relieve some stress off your feet during a long day of work, but as I mentioned earlier, expect these types of shoes to lack durability. Textile uppers reduce weight, but they won’t hold up long term like leather.
On these types of shoes the upper is attached to the outsole using a glue or cementing material. This also helps reduce weight and provide flexibility, 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 wearing flexible safety shoes for work, and just make sure these types of shoes make sense for your job. If you work in a rugged environment, flexible safety toe shoes are not always a great option. These shoes are almost always best used for light-duty work.