Best Steel Toe Shoes for Work [Athletic Low Top Running Style]


I put my hands on 10 of the most popular low top steel toe work shoes to evaluate them on weight, comfort, flexibility, and purpose. My conclusion was this: the Skechers Cankton steel toe shoes offer the most under-foot comfort out of any safety toe shoe I’ve ever worn. They use thick memory foam insoles that cushion all parts of my foot. The shoe itself is a nice blend between comfort and durability, and can fit a wide range of jobs.

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These are our choices for the best steel toe shoes to use for work:

  • *My Favorite*Skechers Work Cankton Steel Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best Outdoor KEEN Utility Men’s Atlanta Cool 2 Steel Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best IndoorSkechers Work Cankton Steel Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best Sneaker StyleCaterpillar Men’s Brode Steel Toe Work Sneaker (click here to view)
  • Best LightweightCaterpillar Men’s Woodward Steel Toe Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best Insole for Standing Skechers Work Cankton Steel Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Most Versatile Reebok Work All Terrain Work Low Cut Steel Toe Safety Shoe (click here to view)
  • Most Comfortable Skechers Work Cankton Steel Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best IndustrialNew Balance Men’s Steel Toe 627 V2 Industrial Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best for Hot Weather Reebok Work Men’s Zprint Steel Toe Athletic Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best for Wide FeetSkechers Work Cankton Steel Toe Athletic Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Best LeatherNew Balance Men’s Steel Toe 627 V2 Industrial Shoe (click here to view)
  • Women’s IndoorCaterpillar Woodward Steel Toe Low Top Work Shoe (click here to view)
  • Women’s OutdoorKeen Flint Low Steel Toe Non Slip Work Shoe (click here to view)

The biggest advantage to wearing a low top safety toe work shoe is its swaps out that heavy, stiff boot for a shoe that has an athletic style which feels on the foot almost like a running shoe. But with this advantage comes an obvious drawback: Most low-top work shoes are not as durable as work boots and are meant for light-duty work and may breakdown faster over time than a leather boot.

Most all safety toe work shoes will also have a toe overlay to help add extra abrasion resistance to the front of the shoe, but regardless, most athletic steel toe shoes are best used for light-duty work. But again, the major benefit in wearing this type of shoe is comfort.

The thing I love about the Skechers Cankton shoe (my favorite) is the under-foot comfort. It has a thick memory foam insole which is perfect for those of us who spend long work days on our feet. In the video below I tried to capture just how soft and forgiving the Skechers Cankton memory foam insoles are:

As I mentioned at the top of the page, I put my hands on 10 of the most popular steel toe work shoes to test them on flexibility, comfort, weight, and purpose. In this article I want to discuss some of my favorites, and help you understand what the best application is for these shoes. If you are looking for an executive safety shoe, visit our article about the best steel toe dress shoes for work.

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 steel toes are the same. Always verify the safety shoe meets the safety requirements of your job prior to purchase.

Steel Toe Shoe Weight Data

As I mentioned earlier, I put my hands on 10 of the most popular men’s steel toe work shoes so that I could take down real weight data and try these shoes myself to get a feel for comfort, durability, and what type of application the shoe made the most sense for.

lightweight-steel-toe-shoes

Above are the 10 photos of me weighing these shoes. Please note that the weights are based off of one size 12 men’s shoe. In the table below, I also linked to all of my photos for these low top steel toe shoes. Here is the weight data:

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

My Favorite Steel Toe Shoes for Work

Skechers Work Cankton Steel Toe Athletic Work Shoe

In my opinion, these Skechers Cankton shoes are the best low-top steel toe shoes on the market today. 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.

If you’ve read any of my articles detailing Reebok work shoes, you know that I love them because they are always lightweight and have great comfort under the foot. Well, these Skechers Cankton shoes have even more under-foot comfort than the Reebok work shoes that I have tried.

These shoes have memory foam insoles that cushion all parts of the foot. I love all types of memory foam insoles, but these are the best I’ve ever tried. 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, these are a great option. Again, out of all the low-top work shoes I’ve ever tried, these are the most comfortable. The memory foam reduces the impact stress both under my toe pad and under my heel.

This is the current price of these Skechers Cankton shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shoes also have a lot of padding around the tongue and collar, which adds comfort but does reduce breathability to some extent.

What is the drawback to a shoe like this? Well, first of all, this shoe is a bit bulkier than other options on this list. Out of the 10 steel toe work shoes that I have tried, this shoe ranked 6/10 in weight (1.30 pounds per size 12 shoe). And this shoe definitely isn’t as breathable as some of the other shoes on this list (Reebok Zprint is most breathable).

But the extra weight can be a good thing for some of you. I’ve found these shoes to be a bit sturdier than some of the other lightweight, athletic-style shoes on this list. Although these shoes are low-top, they don’t feel like flimsy running shoes and they have a wider, more relaxed fit. But they are still very flexible like an athletic shoe:

skechers-cankton-steel-toe-flexibility

Overall, this is just a great work shoe, especially for those of you standing on concrete all day long who need some relief. The under-foot comfort for these shoes is not matched by any other shoe on this list. Although these shoes are sturdier than running shoes, this is still a work shoe best used on smooth surfaces for light-duty work.

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.

My Favorite Steel Toe Shoe for a Tight Budget

Fila Memory Reckoning Work Steel Toe Shoe

I was actually a bit shocked how much I like these Fila safety 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.

But after trying them, I came away thinking that I could definitely see myself wearing these shoes everyday. I think the thing that shocks me the most is the amount of under-foot comfort these shoes have.

I was expecting a cheap insole that felt stiff and uncomfortable. These shoes actually 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. I’d probably only put the Skeckers Cankton, Reebok Zprint, and Reebok All Terrain above these shoes for under-foot comfort.

In the video below I tried to capture how soft and forgiving the memory foam insoles are for these shoes:

My point for comfort is this: for the price point I bought these at, I am honestly shocked that these shoes offer as much comfort as they do. Not only do they have the memory foam insoles, but overall this was also one of the most lightweight shoes 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 I tried. It is very flexible, and feels like an athletic shoe on my feet.

fila-steel-toe-shoe-flexibility

Another thing that jumps out about these shoes is the slip-resistant grip. Now, to be fair, I haven’t put these through scientific testing for slip-resistance, but I feel like the grip of these shoes is better than most.

But it’s also fair to remember that the lower price point of this shoe means production costs were likely lower, which may affect the long-term durability. Don’t expect these shoes to take a beating like a pair of premium work boots. Over time, I expect the memory foam insoles will begin to lose their responsiveness, just like many other types of memory foam insoles.

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.

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised with the total package of this shoe, when you take into account comfort, performance, weight, flexibility, affordability, and comfort. To read more, visit my article about Fila Steel Toe Shoes.

Best Lightweight Steel Toe Shoes

Caterpillar Men’s Woodward Steel Toe Work Shoes

I have 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 comp 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 (Reebok Zprint would be another good option). These Caterpillar Woodward shoes feel like lightweight athletic shoes when I wear them, and I want to specifically mention how flexible they are:

caterpillar-woodward-flexibility

These lightweight steel toe work shoes bend and respond like a running shoe. Overall, yes, you can feel a little bit of a weight balance in the front, but it isn’t obnoxious. Again, these are perfect for those of you who just want something that is ultra-lightweight and won’t feel like a brick on your foot.

This is the current price of these Caterpillar Woodward lightweight steel toe shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shoes are very breathable and have anti-microbial treatment to the liner to help prevent odor.

Regarding the under-foot comfort, I found these shoes to be quite comfortable, but I did think that the shoes that used memory foam insoles (Skechers Cankton, Reebok Zprint, Fila Memory Reckoning, and Reebok All Terrain) offered more underfoot comfort.

caterpillar-woodward-outsole

Like most low-top athletic work shoes, these Caterpillar Woodward shoes are built for light-duty work. These types of shoes are made with textile uppers cemented or glued to foam midsoles, and therefore aren’t built for heavy-duty work. These Cat Woodward shoes do have a gusseted tongue which helps prevent debris from entering the foot, but overall I would recommend these for indoor use, or outdoor us on a smooth surface like concrete or packed dirt.

The main takeaway is this: if you are looking for an ultra lightweight steel toe shoe for work, these weigh less than any other 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 lightweight steel toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). In my experience, these Cat Woodward shoes fit true to size.

Best Outdoor Steel Toe Shoes

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

One major drawback to low-top 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 safety toe 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 is still best used for light-duty work, but it definitely has more toughness than the running-style shoes on this list. 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 breathable mesh panels that increase air flow and help keep weight down. But it also has the extra durability that we discussed, which separate it from other athletic shoes on this list.

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 athletic steel toe work shoes on this list might be too flimsy.

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

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, Keen work shoes are nice option if you are looking for a low top steel toe work 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 safety toe 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.

Best Breathable Steel Toe Shoes for Summer

Reebok Work Men’s Zprint Lightweight Steel Toe Shoes

Finally I get to talk about some Reebok shoes. If you have ready any of my material on low-top work shoes, you will know that I am a huge fan of Reebok work shoes, and consider the Reebok Sublite Shoes to be the best composite toe work shoes on the market today.

Although I think the Skechers Cankton shoes are the best steel toe work shoes on the market today, these Reebok Zprint shoes were another very good option, and I think there are some situations where these shoes make more sense.

First of all, these shoes are lighter in weight than the Skechers Cankton shoes. 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).

What also jumps out about these shoes is the breathability. 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 lightweight and breathable, I thought these shoes had the second best under-foot comfort out of all the shoes I tried (second behind the Skechers Cankton shoes from above). They have a flexible design with foam midsoles that do a great job at absorbing shock.

As I have mentioned throughout, I prefer 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:

This is the current price of these Reebok Zprint low top 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 allows your foot to breathe in a hot work environment, then I think these are your best option.

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 overall I felt like the Skechers Cankton shoes were better reinforced.

These 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 low top 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. To read about more options, visit my article about the best breathable steel toe shoes.

Other Steel Toe Work Shoes to Consider

  • Best Sneaker Style Steel Toe Work Shoes – The Caterpillar Brode casual steel toe sneakers have the unique sneaker style that makes them stand out a bit in comparison to other types of low top steel toe work shoes. Overall, I found the build of these shoes to be a bit more durable in comparison to some of the athletic work shoes on this list, and that is reflected in the weight. These shoes weigh 1.53 pounds per shoe. These shoes have a nice casual design that transitions easily off the clock. Click here to view these Caterpillar Brode steel toe sneakers at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
  • Best Steel Toe Shoes for Wide Feet – To be completely clear, I personally do not have wide feet. That said, having tried 10 different steel toe work shoes, I felt like the Skechers Cankton shoes had the widest design (they actually call it a “relaxed fit” shoe). They are also available in wide sizing. If you remember from earlier, the Skechers Cankton shoes were my favorite overall out of all of these shoes, and I thought provided the most comfort as well. Click here to view these Skechers Cankton shoes at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
  • Most Versatile Steel Toe Work Shoes – One thing about work shoes is most athletic style shoes are best used indoors for light-duty work. Some shoes, like the KEEN shoes on our list, are built for outdoor environments. But if you work indoors part of the time, and outdoors part of the time, and want a shoe that transitions easily and not only provides you with the traction you need, but also is very comfortable on concrete, I’d recommend the Reebok All Terrain work shoes. Click here to view these Reebok All Terrain work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
  • Best Industrial-Style Steel Toe Shoes – Most low top safety toe shoes have an athletic design or a hiker-style design. If you want a shoe that is built a little sturdier, and has more of an industrial style, I would recommend the New Balance 627 V2 Shoes. Mine are made with leather and although they are comfortable, they aren’t as flimsy and flexible as a running shoe. They have a sturdier design, and that is reflected in the overall weight. My size 12 shoes weigh 1.50 pounds per shoe. Click here to view these New Balance 627 steel toe shoes (affiliate link takes you to Newbalance.com).
  • Women’s Indoor Steel Toe Work Shoes – If you are shopping for women’s lightweight steel toe shoes to wear indoors on, for example, a factory floor, Caterpillar does make their lightweight Woodward shoes in a women’s version. These shoes have a lightweight, flexible design that is typical of a running shoe, and have slip-resistant outsoles to give you dependable traction on the job. Click here to view these Caterpillar Woodward women’s steel toe work shoes available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).

7 Things to Consider When Buying Steel Toe Shoes for Work

Industrial Style

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 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:

reebok-all-terrain-flexibility

But 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:

new-balance-steel-toe-shoe-flexibility

Tongue Gusset

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 work 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 shoes – I feel like their memory foam insoles are thicker than the memory foam insoles in other shoes.

Steel Toe Alternatives

Do you absolutely need a steel toe work shoe? Ultimately, the safety requirements of your job will dictate whether or not they are absolutely necessary. If your job allows you to wear a composite toe shoe, switching from steel toe to composite toe is another way to find extra comfort. Composite toe shoes usually weigh less than steel toe.

If you might be interested in a composite safety toe, you can read more by visiting our article about the best composite toe work shoes.

Abrasion Resistance

For many jobs, it is important that your low top steel toe 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 (but not all) of the options in this article have abrasion resistance on both the toe and heel.

For example, here’s what the toe overlay looks like on my Reebok All Terrain shoes:

reebok-all-terrain-toe

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 Lansing shoes:

keen-lansing-low-toe

Raised Heel

One issue with wearing athletic steel toe work shoes is these shoes are built with flat outsoles that don’t have a raised, square heel. Although flat outsoles can be more comfortable, for some jobs the raised heel can provide extra slip resistance, and can be very important for those of you who climb ladders all day.

If you work in construction and climb ladders and need that raised heel, it might be best to stick with a work boot that has the type of squared-heel that you need.

Durability

Yes, low top steel toe work 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, 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 athletic steel toe shoes for work, and just make sure these types of shoes make sense for your job. If you work in a rugged environment, athletic-style running steel toe shoes are not always a great option. These shoes are almost always 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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