7 Best Steel Toe Hiking Boots Compared And Reviewed [2021]

Are you looking for the best steel toe hiking boots?

Do you want to avoid spending your hard-earned money on lackluster counterfeits?

If the answer to these questions is a big fat “yes”, then continue reading. You are at the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to cover the top 7 steel cap shoes that you can buy today.

After spending 23 hours doing intensive research, our expert team determined that out of the 35 protective boots we examined, these were the 7 best models that you can trust to keep you comfortable when hiking.

To sift out the low-quality products and unravel the best, we asked for professional opinions and performed in-depth examination of the market. We dug deep into online and offline reviews and compared features, specifications, and prices before presenting you the final result.

At A Glance: The 5 Top Notch Steel Toe Backpacking Boots

Here are the important criteria we used to measure the quality of each pair of protective boots:

  • Weight (that was hard given that steel toe boots are heavier than others)
  • How comfortable is the fit
  • Fabrics – durability, breathability, and weatherproofing
  • Arch and ankle support
  • Toe cap protection
  • Price to overall quality ratio
  • Traction and padding

Are you already curious to know what the professionals say about the most sought-after work hiking boots this year? Then stick around. Besides the review part, we included a well-researched buying guide with tons of useful information related to steel toed boots.

Let’s dive in.

Our Top 3 Recommendations 

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The Best Steel Toe Hiking Boots - A Comparison Table

guh-table__imageKeen Utility Detroit XT
  • Weight: 29.90 oz. / 791 gr.
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Type: High-top
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guh-table__imageSkechers Blais Bixford ST
  • Weight: 17 oz. / 482 gr.
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Type: High-top
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  • Weight: 1.5 lbs. / 680 gr.
  • Waterproof: No
  • Type: High-top
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  • Weight: 1.1 lbs. / 498 gr.
  • Waterproof: No
  • Type: High-top
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guh-table__imageCaterpillar Treshold ST
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs. / 950 gr.
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Type: High-top
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guh-table__imageMerrell Windoc
  • Weight: 1.4 lbs. / 652 gr.
  • Waterproof: Partially
  • Type: Low-top
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  • Weight: 1.5 lbs. / 680 gr.
  • Waterproof: No
  • Type: Low-top
Check Price At Amazon

#1 Keen Utility Detroit XT

keen utility detroit xt work hiking boots

Offering the snugging comfort of a regular hiking shoe and the strength of a work boot, Keen Detroit XT is the favorite choice for thousands of hikers who need steel toe protection. They not only look good. These steel toed shoes perform even better. Featuring Keen’s famous Key-Tech™ flex technology for prolonged walking, these boots are slip-resistant and waterproof. Plus, Keen made them moisture-wicking and breathable. And you need exactly that when outdoors. Check them out!

  • Key-Tech™ flex technology for forefoot flexibility that provides long-lasting comfort when you walk  
  • Wide steel cap for unobtrusive fit
  • Waterproof, moisture-wicking, and breathable, perfect for hiking purposes
  • Metatomical, shock-absorbent footbed that’s removable provides extra all-day comfort on longer treks
  • The insoles of the work boots are somewhat thin 
  • No comfort guarantee such as the one offered by similar brands of protective boots (Timberland).

Some verified buyers’ reviews say “Bought 4 pairs I like them so much!” and “Comfort on a different level”. But does that mean the boots really live up to the hype? Do they deserve to be on this limited list? 

Let’s see.

Keen is a reputable brand known for the outstanding quality of their hiking boots. It doesn’t come as a surprise that they designed the Detroit XT model (which is advertised as steel toe work boots) after their signature hiking model – Targhee III. 

Click to play

The weight of the steel toe shoes is 29.90 oz. or 791 gr. Even though it's a great steel toe boot, Keen are not your regular ultralightweight outdoor footwear. But you can’t expect much in that regard from a steel toe boot. Based on our research, they are more lightweight than other steel boots of the same type that you can find these days. Especially when you count in the quality of the cap.

I urge saying that this is the newest, redesigned model of those steel toed work boots. It features more durable insoles. Unfortunately, they are a bit thinner than the previous ones, but still as comfy. Not thinner that the outsoles on Converse sneakers, though. 

keen detroit xt work hiking boots review

The real all-day comfort of this pair of hiking boots comes from the Key-Tech™ system. It has improved underfoot cushioning with a compression molded EVA midsole. The TPU outsole (thermoplastic polyurethane) is super durable and lightweight.

Am I going too nerdy? 

All that means that the shoe hugs your foot and efficiently absorbs the shock from extensive walking. Especially on demanding terrains such as the trails around Colorado Springs, for example.

The steel cap is wider than those on most protective boots. And this is yet another cool feature that makes The Detroit XT trail-friendly. You receive an unobtrusive fit, which is what we all need when walking in protective boots.

And if you care about protection – the model meets the protective footwear requirements. After all, it's a work boot. It’s certified according to the common safety standards ASTM F2412 and F2413 I/75. On top of that, the work boots are electrical hazard rated, which is a nice add-on if you are a construction worker who needs to hike.

What I like most about those steel toed boots is that they are waterproof. When I’m outdoors, I like my gear to be waterproof. And a work boot needs to be waterproof.

If you’re familiar with Keen footwear, then you know their signature “Keen Dry” standard. The Detroit XT model has this waterproof liner membrane that repels water. The upper material is waterproof leather. Verified buyers reported that they cross streams and walk into puddles of mud with these work boots and their feet stayed dry. After all a work boot should protect you from the elements, right?

Another useful feature is the breathability of the membrane. It has a mesh liner that allows the heat to evaporate, thus keeping your feet fresh. If you’re like me, then you hate musty feet. The main textile of the boots is moisture-wicking. The boots dry quickly when wet, no matter if it’s from light drizzle or sweat.

Speaking of freshness, Keen use the CLEANSPORT NXT™ technology for the interior of the Detroit XT model. This is a process that uses pro-biotic compounds to fight odor. Your feet won’t be smelly when you take your steel toed boots off in the end of the day. Super cool!

keen steel cap boots review

The good news doesn’t stop with that.

Many hikers praise the work boot because of the fantastic arch support it provides thanks to the contoured heel lock that protects your ankles. Besides, the removable footbed is anatomical, comprising dual-density EVA midsole. The footbed is built around the shape of the foot and is super soft and stable.

Last but not least, the grip of the shoes is really strong. Here, the brand uses the technology that you can see on almost all their hiking models – the KEEN.GRIP rubber outsole.

Keen follow world non-slip standards for slip resistance to provide firm grip even on surfaces that you can’t imagine you won’t slip on. For me, having a slip-proof outsole is a major factor since I hike on steep rocky terrains a lot. That's why I often need a cap on my footwear - to protect my feet.

This is a men’s model. Ladies, look for the women’s version of the same model. It’s quite comfy too.

#2 Skechers Blais Bixford ST

skechers bixford steel cap boots

Produced by an award-winning brand, the Blais-Bixford is a popular work boots model that’s lightweight, fully waterproof, and with an insanely cushioned memory foam insole. The midsole is shock-absorbent and there are convenient protective bumpers on the heel and toe. These shoes snug as a bug and fit like a glove. And protect you from falling heavy objects. Ain’t that what you need on the trail?

  • Surprisingly lightweight for a work boot.
  • Very well-cushioned footbed with memory foam insole and shock-absorbent midsole
  • Protective bumpers on the heel and toe area protecting you from falling heavy onjects
  • Waterproof and slip-proof, providing full slip-resistance.
  • Require long break-in time, especially on the toe cap area 
  • It’s possible that the sole wears out easily

With a classic outdoorsy style and impressive performance, combined with proven durability, the Blais-Bixford ST is one of Skechers’ finest reinforced toe boot models. 

What first got my attention to this pair of hiking boots was its weight. The medium size weighs only 17 oz. (482 gr.). That’s a pleasant surprise for this type of boots. They are significantly lighter that the Keen Detroit XT model, for example. So, if weight is a strong factor for you, then you will definitely like the Skechers.

What about the fabrics and durability of these steel toed boots?

skechers Blais-Bixford steel toe boot review

A real review on the manufacturer’s website.

Hikers who own the shoes reported that after 1000 miles and more, they didn’t encounter any issues whatsoever. They have a very strong seam sealed construction. The main material is a robust full grain leather.

It has a waterproof membrane combined with breathable mesh inserts. This will ensure your feet will always be dry and pleasantly cool when you wear them for a long time on the trail.

But as we know, the main all-day comfort comes from the fit. More specifically, from the excellent support the boots provide on the toes, heels, and arch.

The heel height is 1”, covering and supporting your ankles and arches. This is the kind of stability you want from your footwear when you hike on different terrains. Besides, the tongue and the collar of the boot are padded that enhances the cushioning and the overall fit.

What I truly like about those hiking boots is the memory foam insole. Without it, walking extensively would be a challenge with such type of shoes. The soft cushioning is awesome, and the midsole does a great job in absorbing the shock when you navigate the outdoors.

skechers work boots review

A real review on the manufacturer’s website.

On top of that, Skechers reinforced the cushioning on the heels and toes with protective bumpers. They add to the shock-absorbent qualities of the boots, thus preserving your energy more.

The steel area (rated ASTM F2412-2011 I/75 C/75) is big enough not to obstruct your movement, while ensures your feet will stay safe no matter what. Sure enough, the boots have electrical hazard designation for further protection when you happen to work outdoors.

The traction of the Skechers is good too. The rubber lug outsole works really well on all terrains, and you feel that when you hike downhill. It's proven to be slip proof and the slip resistance is decent.

This being the men’s model, ladies could search for the Skechers Bellshill model of the same hiking boots. It is designed for the female feet and the cap is super comfy. They meet ANSI safety standards.

#3 Suadex Indestructible

suadex indestructible boots

With a cool lace-up design and amazingly comfortable lightweight fit, Suadex also won’t hurt your wallet! These hiking steel cap boots not only protect your feet – they ventilate them thanks to the breathable mesh lining. Plus, they are puncture-proof and anti-squashed. Check out this solid steel toe boot.

  • Very affordable for steel hiking boots
  • Puncture-proof Kevlar midsole for ultra protection and durability
  • Breathe very well for steel toed shoes
  • Lightweight and fashionable for steel toe work boots
  • Not even water-resistant, which is a bit unusual for work boots. Won't keep your feet dry.
  • Somewhat poor craftsmanship (need extra care)

Suadex is an affordable brand that successfully combines fashion, all-day comfort, and safety. All that without the need to break the bank. If you read our article on the cheap hiking backpacks, then you know that I like to unravel high-quality products that are also dirt cheap. Well, that’s the case with this pair of Suadex hiking boots.

Weighing only 1.5 lbs. or 680 grams, this work boot offers a delicate balance between weight and functionality. As we will see in the buying guide later, that’s a crucial factor when buying protective boots for hiking.

What makes the Suadex shoes stand out? Let’s see why folks love them so much and refer to them as the best steel toe hiking boots out there:

  • Unmatched price – safe to say - these shoes are on a bargain
  • Lightweight kevlar midsole that’s puncture-proof – there are videos in which people test them by walking on metal nails. Cool, huh?
  • Anti-squashed design – it’s very difficult to break the form of these shoes, thus wearing out is more difficult. At the same time their ergonomic shape hugs your feet, making walking on trails super comfortable.

The steel cap meets ANSI safety standards. It’s able to bear impacts of 220J and more. That’s convenient when you hike on tough trails when there’s danger from falling heavy objects like stones, for example.

Moreover, there is a toe bumper that further protects your feet. I know a fellow hiker who uses this exact model and he showed me how he hits his toes with a hammer. Crazy!

The outsole of these steel toe boots provides firm grip on various surfaces. It’s a combination of plastic and rubber. No wonder it’s as lightweight as it is. The traction is not as good as the previous models on our list, though. Still, it does the job right and it's slip-proof and oil resistant. The slip resistance is perfect here.

What’s nice is the breathability level. The upper fabric on the shoes is a porous mesh that cools down your feet, which is an important benefit when we hikers walk extensively.

Overall, Suedex is a well-performing pair of protective hiking boots. The only thing that I don’t like is that they are not even water-resistant. So, don't count on those to keep your feet dry. Plus, the fit is not as snugging as the fit that Keen or Skechers provide.

A cool thing, though, is that Suadex fits both women and men alike. Just pay attention to the sizing chart.

#4 Larnmern 

larnmern steel cap shoes for hiking

Have you ever heard of Larnmern? Don’t worry if you haven’t. Once you try their shoes, you will remember them. This hybrid model is the perfect balance between shoe and boot. They are lightweight, moisture-wicking, and with an anti-fatigue midsole technology that keeps you walking relentlessly. Besides, the boots are flexible and the high-heel design supports your arch extremely well on long, tedious treks. Check those out!

  • Flexible and lightweight, suitable for outdoor activities.
  • Featuring very efficient anti-fatigue technology for longer treks
  • High-top design providing fantastic arch support and padding on the ankle for more comfort
  • Wide steel toe cap area offers better fit and a slip-proof outsole. Provide good protection from falling heavy objects.
  • Sizing chart is not true – you need to order at least half a size larger shoes to avoid tightness 
  • The tongue is too short

I was surprised how lightweight those unisex boots were. The medium size is just 1.1 lbs. or 498 grams. My regular outdoor boots are heavier than that!

And I have to admit that their look catches the eye. Plus, you can go everywhere in them. No one would know they are safety boots or backpacking boots.

The steel cap is wide and provides enough area unlike some cheaper models that can sometimes even hurt your feet. Sure enough, the brand follows all safety standards (ASTM F2413).

The midsole layer is practically bulletproof. It’s completely anti-smashing and puncture-resistant. At the same time, the cotton on the inside provides soft snugging.

So no matter if you are a trail worker or just want to protect your feet from rolling stones and rocks, you will be greatly satisfied. Hiking in rattlesnake country – no worries! No teeth will penetrate that steel toe cap.

Hikers who use the Larnmern are very happy with the outsole. It’s slip-resistant and made of rubber. You can walk on steep flat rocks without fear of slipping. The grip is superb. I wish I had them when I hiked in Algonquin park. The terrain there was rocky on some trails.

What I like about the Larnmern is their flexibility. They follow the shape of your feet. They are not as stiff as the Suadex, which are anti-squashed. That makes it easier to walk for longer despite the presence of a toe cap.

But the things get better. Here are three features that make the Larnmern unbelievably comfy for a toe cap shoe:

  • The padded ankle area – the shoe wraps your foot which maximizes the walking comfort
  • The advanced anti-fatigue technology on the anatomic midsole that is shock-absorbent and cushioned
  • The removable footbed that’s soft and ergonomic ensuring easier trek no matter its duration

The main material is a split leather (not to be mistakedn with full grain leather) that’s breathable and moisture-wicking. It’s also slightly water-resistant, but don’t rely on the boots in heavy rain, though. They won't keep your feet dry for long. The sturdy outsole fabrics combine EVA, rubber, and TPU to provide flexibility and extreme durability.

An important remark – if you order, be sure to choose at least half a size larger pair, because the width could be too narrow for people with wide feet.

Last but not least, the Larnmern boots are machine washable, unisex, and quite affordable. Too pity, they are not as waterproof and moisture-wicking as the Keen Detroit XT. Still, the toe cap area is very good and our fellow friends who hike to their construction sites reported that the boots are worth their price.

#5 Caterpillar Treshold ST

caterpillar treshold work hiking shoes

A preferred choice by many hikers and trail workers, meet the tough Treshold – one of Caterpillar’s bestselling models. These boots stand out with an amazing ERGO midsole that’s flexible and light, giving you extra walking comfort. The premium leather fabric is waterproof and breathable, providing your feet with the protection they deserve in rough conditions. This pair delivers, and then some!

  • Provide fantastic walking comfort thanks to the in-house ERGO midsole and molded EASE footbed
  • Durable and waterproof leather combined with seamed seals ensure reliable water protection
  • Robust rubber outsole that’s oil, slip resistant, and abrasion-resistant
  • Strong ankle and arch support even on technical terrains or when you're exercising outdoor activities involving a lot of foot work.
  • On the heavier side for toe cap shoes 
  • Not true to size – runs a bit large

No matter the job site you work at or the trail you hike on, you’ll find great value in this pair of all-around protective shoes with a toe cap. They carry the signature quality of Caterpillar – a brand known for producing sturdy and versatile footwear. This pair of hiking boots is no different. They are great for any work at construction sites and for walking on trails that are not so technical. 

Hikers love them because of their robust double-stitching construction. The style and the colors are attractive too. You can easily combine them with a warm pair of fleece-lined leggings and your favorite merino beanie in that's it. You are ready for winter hikes.

caterpillar treshold boots review

In the summer, your feet will breathe well thanks to the ventilated leather fabric. Just make sure to get the right size. When I wear tight boots or steel toe cap shoes, my feet get musty really fast. You’d want to avoid that.

Speaking of the material – the full grain leather is quite durable. I noticed there were some complaints online, stating that the boots didn’t hold up well. I have two good friends who wear the Treshold daily.

They have to hike to get to a construction site. It’s been more than a year and their feedback is positive. I guess the longevity of your boots depends on the way you take care of them.

But what about protection from the elements? The Caterpillar Treshold boots are proven to be waterproof. The liners repel water too, and the seams are sealed for extra protection against water. You will stay dry no matter where you go. The tongue that goes up to the top lace eye is sealed as well, keeping the water out.

The steel cap area (safety toe area) and the flexible full grain leather give you enough room to walk comfortably. Sure enough, the boots protect you from impact and compression, following the industry’s standards (ASTM F2413-11 I/75 C/75). They also meet ANSI safety standards.

caterpillar treshold verified buyers opinion

They also feature an electrical hazard protection. That's pretty much a must on steel toe cap shoes or any safety toe boots for that matter. Rest assured you will stay safe in open circuits up to 600 volts (when the area is dry, of course).

But what made us include this boot in our hall of fame list? See below:

  • The quality of the midsole is impressive – unlike other protective hiking boots on that list, Caterprillar use the flexible ERGO technology. Besides being more lightweight, it follows the curves of your feet and support them really well. That makes it suitable for all feet types. Plus, it’s highly shock-absorbing, making exhaustive walking much more bearable.
  • Unlike other outdoor work boots described here, Treshold use their molded EASE footbed, that’s amazingly cushioned. It features a responsive foam that gives you more energy return and it doesn’t compress when you walk. You gain not only more comfort but also great support and stability on longer treks. Conveniently, the footbed is removable.
  • The rubber slip resistant outsole is heavy-duty. Besides being slip resistant, it’s also abrasion and oil-resistant. Walking on wet rocks is easier than ever, without a greatly reduced risk of falls.

Given their robustness, the weight is reasonable too – 2.1 lbs. or 950 gr. Still, there are lighter steel toe cap backpacking boots on that list, such as Skechers Blais Bixford. You can spend long hours on the job site or outdoors with those and you will still feel comfy.

#6 Merrell Windoc

merrell windoc

Carrying the renowned quality of a well-established brand, the Windoc is a high performing blend of work boot and hiking shoe with a safety toe cap. Besides the solid protection, it has all those trail-friendly features you aspire for when hiking – Merrell’s unique KINETIC FIT™ EVA contoured footbed, excellent breathability, and cushioned support for long-lasting trekking comfort. Plus, they are waterproof. These can serve you well no matter what.

  • Amazing in-house footbed that's ergonomic and provides zonal arch support
  • Very good cushioning, great for outdoor activities.
  • Nylon arch shank for greater flexibility and support
  • Waterproof
  • Runs a bit large - consider that when choosing size

There’s a popular belief that all work boots are uncomfortable for hiking. One of our goals with this article is to demystify that myth.


Because it’s simply not true. It really depends on the quality and type of the steel cap shoe, among other factors.

In this specific case, Merrell Windoc are praised by hikers. That’s because they are lightweight (1.4 lbs. or 652 gr.). Moreover, they have some really cool comfort features that make them trail-friendly and perfect for the job site as well.

For instance, Merrell use their own KINETIC FIT™ insole that really makes a difference. Its shape is designed to hug your feet. It fully covers your arch and provides efficient heel lock. That means increased stability and control when you walk. No heel-slippage and risk of injury.

The high-quality merino wool liner ensures regulating your feet temperature. It also expels sweat and odor from your feet.

Just as Caterpillar Treshold ST, Merrell use durable full grain leather on this model of steel cap boots.

The best part?

It’s waterproof. Hikers who use the boots report that they walk into puddles and hike in moderate rain without issues. Their feet stay dry. The impermeable membrane is also moisture-wicking, allowing the moisture to evaporate quickly. Super convenient.

Even though the Windoc model is a low-profile one, we were surprised to learn how supportive the boots were on the heel area. Merrell call this Air Cushion. It absorbs the shock when you walk and provides greater stability – something we hikers need when dealing with tough terrains.

Another feature that’s add up to the overall walking comfort of this pair of boots with steel toe area is the molded nylon arch shank. You can’t see it, but without it, the structure of the shoes wouldn’t be the same.

It’s located in the heel area, above the outer sole, at the central part of the boots. It’s between your heels and the balls of your feet. There's also a fiberglass shank. A fiberglass shank is generally less heat-inductive.

The main purpose of the fiberglass shank (or any type of shank for that matter) is to provide stability and contour to your feet. That’s important for comfort because the shank lowers down the physical pressure when you walk. Other cheaper steel boots on our list such as Suadex and Whitin don’t have that feature.

The rubber outsole of the Windoc is sturdy and provides firm traction with almost zero risk of slippage. That's right - they are slip resistant as well as oil resistant. The steel toe cap area is very comfy and, on the exterior, it has a protective cap to keep your feet safe. It also absorbs the shock of any potential impact.

For instance, if you accidentally kick a stone or any other hard object when you hike. That happens a lot to my friends who have vision problems. I always advise them to wear contact lenses when hiking.

It’s worth mentioning that the Windoc is a men’s model. Merrell have plenty of steel toe boots for the ladies too. Just, aim for full grain leather when choosing as that's the recommended material. The boots are ideal for construction sites and trails alike. They meet ANSI safety standards.

#7 Whitin

whitin steel toe work boots for hiking

Minimalistic, yet efficient, Whitin got our attention with their affordable price and thousands of great reviews. Being lightweight, this hiking boot provides comfortable, unobtrusive fit for short hiking trips and other outdoor activities. Combine that with the solid protection and awesome traction, and you will receive a decent pair of low-cut steel toe cap shoes that get the job done!

  • Budget-friendly hiking boot  
  • Lightweight as compared to others
  • Good traction on the outsole which is slip resistant
  • Good overall fit given the minimalistic style
  • The overall comfort is not as good as compared to other protective backpacking boots on our list, especially of the insoles.
  • The steel toe protection and the electrical hazard protection are not certified. It's not clear if they meet ANSI safety standards.

Weighing only 1.5 lbs. (680 grams) per boot, we could definitely call Whitin lightweight for what they are – a decent pair of steel toe shoes. Well, it could be difficult to include them on your lightweight gear inventory, but still, they are lighter as compared to other boots on our list.

And for longer hikes, this is an advantage you don’t want to overlook on a steel toe boot. Their rubber sole is puncture proof and gives you the steady traction you need when you walk on steep slopes and various slippery terrains.

The material that’s part canvas part leather feels a bit cheap but surprisingly, it’s water-resistant (not waterproof) and very well-cushioned. The tongue on the hiking boot is beefy and stays well when you lace up your boots.

Even these low-cut boots provide decent support, don’t expect the comfort you get with Keen or Caterpillar.

Whitin are much more basic, and the price reflects that. They are appropriate for short hiking trips. Avoid wearing them for hard construction work or extensive thru-hiking journeys.

The steel toe cap is large enough, so no issues here. There’s even a synthetic toe guard that’s abrasion-resistant on the outside. That one makes sure you won’t hurt your feet when you accidentally kick hard objects such as stones, for example. Your toes won’t feel tight in the shoe. The cap stays approximately 4” from the edge of the sole.

Although, we could say Whitin are durable for affordable hiking boots made in China, don’t expect too much. Again, the overall quality can’t match Keen, Skechers, or Merrell, but you get what you pay for. Verified buyers are generally very happy in terms of durability with these steel toe cap shoes.

The boots are advertised to have hazard protection but take that with a grain of salt. We couldn’t find anywhere another statement or review to back this up. There is no memory foam on the midsole either.

Since those are low-profile steel toe cap boots, they don’t provide that top arch support as high-profile ones. Still, your ankles will feel comfy and well-supported.

The design on the hiking boot is pretty cool and I like that. They resemble running shoes or bearfoot boots. That’s why people love them – because of their lightweight minimalistic design and low price.

That red reflective stripe on one of the upper sides makes sure you will be seen at night. The steel toe cap shoes are not breathable, but the good news is that your feet won’t feel hot because Whitin are not bulky at all.

As a last note, these are unisex steel toe boots with a slip resistant outsole.

Choosing Steel Cap Hiking Shoes

How do you pick the most suitable pair of protective hiking boots for you? Which ones to avoid? In other words, how to make sure that you will make a worthy investment when buying steel toe cap boots?

hiking in protective boots

In this section, you’re about to learn just that. Let’s see 7 key features to look after when you hunt for steel toe cap outdoor boots.

#1 Weight

According to a recent study, there’s a correlation between the type of footwear and risk of injuries and illnesses such as paresthesia. Moreover, toe-heavy hiking boots can cause shin splints and sore shins. Not to mention that they contribute to the fatigue.

That’s why, as with your backpack weight, your steel toe boots weight is of crucial importance not only to your comfort but to your health.

Now, we all know that steel cap shoes are heavier than regular hiking boots. It’s mostly because of the raw materials – full-grain leather and (surprise!) the steel. With that being said, there are boots with steel toe that are bulkier than others (of the same type).

You have to hit that sweet spot between features and weight. The good news is that today many manufacturers include lighter fabrics that are as durable as full-grain leather. But they are less heavy. Such materials are suede or nubuck. We made sure to include lightweight steel toe shoes on our list.

But what lightweight means in the world of protective hiking shoes? Let’s say that anything above 2 lbs. is considered heavy. If you go for heavier shoes, it’s recommended that you stay away from hiking trips that are long and physically demanding.

Most of the boots on our list are much lighter than that. Note that the weight of footwear is per boot and not per pair. Also, the indicated size usually refers to the medium size. Different sizes can have slight differences in their weight.

The balance of a steel toe boot is quite important too. And that goes for any type of boot. The toe area shouldn’t be heavier than the other parts of the shoe. Speaking of steel toe area…

#2 Steel Cap Area

The steel toe area of a hiking boot is an important comfort factor. Some tend to be narrower than others. That makes the fit obtrusive. As you can imagine, it would be uncomfortable to walk many miles in such hiking boots. 

steel toe protection

Most reputable brands such as Keen, Skechers, or Merrell design their work hiking shoes with a steel toe area that’s wide enough to complement the fit. And many cheap brands and copycats neglect that. You have to be able to wiggle your toes freely.

#3 Fit

Here, we will talk about the insole and midsole quality and arch support.

A good hiking boot with a steel cap should hug your foot without being too tight or too loose. It should also support your arch and your ankle.

The insole (also known as footbed) is of crucial importance here. It directly impacts the walking comfort and your stamina. Overweight hikers and those with various conditions that affect walking such as bad knees and lower back pain, should pay special attention to the insole quality.

It should provide ergonomic fit that follows the curves of your feet. Moreover, the insole should give you the right amount of cushioning and it should be shock-absorbent. Otherwise, your feet will tire and swell too quick in the boots.

Many people wrongly assume that more cushioning means more comfort. In truth, it really depends on how long are your hiking trips, that is, how long you walk. When you walk intensively, you need a more natural flex because the exertion is bigger. Too much cushioning could obstruct your movements and increase your fatigue.

The good news?

Most of the well-known brands have built-in insoles that are ergonomic and already quite comfy. Plus, they are removable. That means you can change them with insoles that match your specific needs.

Here’s an expert advice - choose high-volume insoles. Why? Because they work well with high-profile hiking boots. And steel toe boots are just that.

In addition, it’s recommended that you get orthopedic insoles if you have flat feet or plantar fasciitis. I have flat feet and I always get the appropriate insoles, no matter how good my hiking boots are. Believe me, it makes a difference in the long run. Know the anatomy of your feet and act accordingly.

hiking boots on a mountain background

When it comes to the midsole, it is largely referred to as the most important component of a steel toe backpacking boot. It’s located between the sole and the upper. Why it’s so important? Because it defines how stiff and supportive your boots are. Especially around the forefoot.

Again, there is no strict rule regarding the level of stiffness. Generally, stiffer boots provide more stability on longer hikes on technical terrains. However, they can be too obstructive and heavy for short, easy hikes.

Most brands use a material called EVA, which is lighter and provides more cushioning. Number 5 on our list - Caterpillar Treshold ST uses ERGO midsole that is even lighter, cushier, and super flexible.

How about arch support?

Again, the insole on your steel toe boots is responsible for that. You need arch support, especially if your arches are high. It helps prevent injuries and pain. If you have low arches, then go for low arch insoles.

To wrap that section up, ill-fitted hiking boots can cause big fat blisters among other ugly things. Pay attention to the fit features and you will experience a more enjoyable hike. That’s a guarantee.

We have a comprehensive guide on how to make hiking boots more comfortable. It shares some great tips on that so feel free to read it.

#4 Waterproofness

This is also an important aspect that you don’t want to overlook. Often you need waterproof protective hiking boots because even if it doesn’t rain, you can walk on terrains that have puddles of mud. Occasionally, you can cross streams or even rivers.

Sure enough, the type of hikes you usually do will define how important exactly is this factor for you. Maybe you live in an area with a hot dry climate and you don’t need waterproofness that much. Maybe you avoid hiking in bad weather at any cost.

As a general rule, having waterproof steel toe shoes is recommended. Why limiting yourself? Most steel toe boots have waterproof coating and seamed seals that keep your feet dry. Also, note that not all hiking boots are good for snow. If you hike on snowy trails, you definitely need waterproofness. 

Pro tip: If you happen to get boots that are not waterproof, but you need your feet to stay dry – get waterproof hiking socks. Currently, REI have some high performing models that work really well.

#5 Outsole Quality

If you don’t want to combine hiking with ice skating (no matter the season) you need to have a strong outsole. That will prevent you from sliding on steep terrains.

hiking shoes outsole

Most steel toe backpacking boots have tough rubber outsoles. In some occasions, it provides firm grip that goes one step further by being oil-resistant. However, that doesn’t mean the outsole is efficient for walking on technical terrains.

You have to look for the lug pattern and the heel brake. The deeper the lugs are, the firmer grip they offer. The heel brake is usually located at the heel zone.

Do you know why it’s important? Because it provides an improved grip which prevents slippage. It’s a nice feature to have, especially on steep descents. That makes sense for any type of hiking boots.

#6 Materials And Durability

As you might expect, this is the strongest advantage of steel cap boots. They are designed to protect your feet when you hike on dangerous terrains or you work outdoors.

Beware of cheap counterfeits and look for established brands that have many positive reviews. Pay attention to the craftmanship and the materials on the boots.

Most protective hiking boots are made of full-grain leather, and that’s the most durable material out there. It’s abrasion-resistant and naturally moisture-resistant.

The next good fabric is the top-grain leather. The lightest models use split-grain leather combined with nylon to strip off weight.

#7 Size 

It is closely related to the comfortable fit. It’s simple – if you don’t get the right size, you will have an ill fit. And that sucks. How to prevent that? Here’s how in three simple steps:

  1. Know your feet size – learn how to measure it correctly at home.
  2. Our research revealed that most work hiking boots are not true to size. They are at least half a size bigger than advertised. Keep that in mind when choosing.
  3. If you are between two sizes, go for the bigger one. Your feet will most likely swell during the hike. Plus, you can reduce the size by adding an insole. Also, don’t forget that you need room for socks and inserts.

Last but not least, always consult the sizing chart of the manufacturer. Don’t hesitate to contact them should you have any questions. 



Is the designated weight of the boots per pair?

What does “W” indicate?

Are hiking boots with steel toe waterproof?

Are steel cap hiking shoes less comfy than others?

Are safety hiking boots true to size?

Are those boots as durable as advertised?


These are the best steel toe hiking boots that you can find on the market today. We put a lot of effort to include top-notch models that are proven to perform well on the trail. Plus, they protect your feet in various conditions.

how to measure your foot size

If you want my honest opinion – it’s #1 Keen Detroit XT that has all features necessary for a safe and comfortable hike. It’s raises above all other models described on our list. That’s why it’s our top pick.

Also, don't forget that just like you wash your backpack, you also need to clean your steel toe boots to keep them in good shape.

Sure enough, I’m sure you will make the right decision picking any other pair, based on your budget and preference.

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Asen Stoyanchev

Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.

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