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6 Foot Problems from Steel Toe Shoes

Besides being required by OSHA and the US Department of Labor to wear steel-toe shoes, the shoes protect you from falling and flying objects, punctures and cutting hazards, electrical hazards, extreme weather, and prevent you from slipping, falling, and getting fatigued.

While steel toe boots are great and bring a lot to the table, they cause several foot problems.

To shed more light on this, here are 6 of the common foot problems from steel toe shoes:

Painful feet

A study done by Australian podiatrists S.J Marr and S. Quine on Australian workers showed that almost half (49%) of workers wearing steel toe boots experienced painful feet at the end of their shift.

The major reason for the painful feet is the heavy nature of the shoe.

Steel toe boots are designed to protect you, and due to this, they are made from heavy materials, not to mention the addition of the steel cap at the front, which amounts to a much heavier shoe than your regular shoe.

Hard nails

This is often due to the steel toe cap pressing on your toes. In most cases, this will happen when you wear a smaller shoe than your feet.

Due to the small-sized steel toe work boot, your toes remain crammed in the boots throughout your entire shift, which not only causes your toenails to be hard but also painful.

So, if you are asking, can steel toe boots cause toenail problems? Yes, they can. In some cases, the steel cap causes abrasions on your toes, making it painful for you to walk.

Corns and calluses

These develop when there is too much pressure on a specific foot area (usually the front of the foot).

The body thickens the skin to protect your feet, resulting in a patch of yellow, hard, dead skin protruding from your skin surface (callus).

You can also have a small pebble-like hard patch on your skin, extending into your foot (corn).

As you can tell, you can’t have a corn or callus from wearing the steel boots once—you have to wear them over a period of time for the corns and calluses to form.

In the S.J Marr study, the calluses and corns were often brought about as a result of wearing extremely narrow work boots.

Rashes, fungal infections, and skin breakdown

These are often due to wearing moist non-aerated shoes over extended periods of time. Wearing the wrong socks has also been shown to read to rashes and fungal infection.

In the Australian study mentioned above, the podiatrists found that some workers wear 2-3 pairs of socks to protect their toes from the rusted and/or worn edges of their steel toe caps.

While these socks provided the added padding, they often led to sweating, especially when working in hot areas.

This means that the insides of the shoes remained moist most of the time, increasing the chances of developing fungal infections.


This is brought about by several factors such as inflexible soles, steel toe caps, and failure of the steel toe boot to bend easily when working.


Blisters happen on the outside borders of the foot as it slides up and down an ill-fitting boot. So, you will most likely have blisters if you have worn a work boot that is too large for your feet.

Blisters will also come about when you work with damp feet or haven’t broken in your new steel toe boots.

Podiatrists also report that skipping socks or wearing the wrong socks will give you blisters.

Foot Problem



Painful feet

Heavy work shoe

Wearing shoe of the wrong fit

Buy the right work boot

Hard nails

Steel toe cap pressing on your toes as a result of wearing a work boot smaller than your feet. 

Wear work boots of the right size. 

Corns and calluses

Wearing extremely narrow work boots

Wear work boots of the right width. 

Rashes, fungal infections and skin breakdown

. Wearing moist non-aerated shoes

. Wearing the wrong socks

. Wear quality aerated shoes

. Wear natural fiber socks and avoid nylon socks and stockings. 


Inflexible soles, steel toe caps and failure of the steel toe boot to bend easily when working

Wear quality steel toe work boots


. Wearing work boot that are too large for your feet

. Skipping socks

. Wearing the wrong socks

. Wear the right socks and work boots of the right size. 

. Avoid working in moist areas. 

How can you avoid the above-mentioned foot problems?

After reading the above foot problems, you must have noticed that you can prevent them from occurring in the first place, right? And there are plenty of ways to prevent them. These ways include:

Wear the right work boot

Wearing the right work boot will go a long way towards keeping off most of the foot problems you are experiencing.

Besides the steel toe work boot being made from quality materials, it also should be the right fit.

As you purchase, pay attention to your foot shape and toe length. If you aren’t sure of the right work boot to go for, get the input of a professional.

To avoid sweating too much in the work shoe, go for an aerated one.

Wear natural fiber socks

The S.J. Marr study showed that most workers wear nylon socks or stockings that lead to sweltering conditions inside the work boot, resulting in skin breakdown, among many other heat-related foot problems.

To prevent this from happening, avoid nylon stockings and socks. Wear natural fiber socks instead to absorb most of the sweat and keep your feet comfortable.

Break-in your work boots

I understand you can be excited to wear your latest steel toe work boot to work, but not so fast. To avoid corns and calluses, take time to break in your work shoe.

Don’t know how to do it? Here is a detailed guide on how to go about it.

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