A good pair of boots can become an expensive splurge, so it is easy to see why some people might want to wear their work boots for hiking trips. After all, if your steel-toed boots can protect your feet at work, then it should work fine in the mountains. Boots are a very personal choice, and every person has their tastes, whether in style, materials, or features.
Steel toed boots aren’t good for hiking. Though they can be used, they’re usually heavier in weight and less comfortable for long treks. Rather than the regular steel-toed work boot, you may want to opt for a hiking boot or a steel toe hiking boot, depending on the trail length and terrain conditions.
Reading through the entire article will explain the differences between steel-toed boots versus regular hiking boots, wear work boots for hiking, and choose steel toe hiking boots that provide the best of both worlds.
Steel Toed Boots vs. Regular Hiking Boots – What’s the Difference?
Any hiker will tell you that safety and comfort are probably the two most important features you should consider when choosing a hike’s proper shoes. Finding the best hiking boot can be a challenge, and there are many options on the market.
There are a few critical differences between steel-toed boots and regular hiking boots that you should consider before taking your steel-toed work boot to a twenty-mile rough terrain hike in rainy weather.
The most noticeable difference between a hiking boot and a steel-toed boot is the weight of the shoe itself. The steel toe on your steel-toed boots is a vital component of the shoes as it reinforces and protects the foot from potential risks at a construction site or other manufacturing facilities. However, this protective reinforcement adds a considerable amount of weight due to the steel toe.
While on the hiking trail, you may have similar risks or slips, but your hiking boot may have a toe bumper or cap instead, made of lighter material such as rubber to keep your shoes’ weight minimal.
The materials used in hiking boot soles are intended to keep you comfortable while hiking long distances in uncertain terrain. Hiking boots provide some flexibility to adjust to rough and uneven surfaces. The rigidity of work boots can become unsafe as it cannot adapt to uneven ground.
Additionally, to increase stability and traction, the lug sole on a hiking boot has grooves. A lug sole is made of rubber on the bottom of the boot and works to provide added grip and support. Most work boots or steel-toed boots have an outsole without such deep grooves or indentations for slip-resistance. Hiking boots offer more traction, particularly in damp, muddy, or snowy weather, unlike most work boots.
Can I Wear Work Boots for Hiking?
While you can wear work boots for hiking, work boots’ rigidity can become a dangerous hindrance when you need proper ankle support, particularly if you are carrying a heavy hiking backpack.
Your work boots can be worn during short and easy hikes during good weather. After all, your work boots are manufactured with slip-resistant soles for stability during work. But you will most likely encounter different types of terrain and changing weather conditions during your hikes.
Taking your work boots to go hiking during rainy weather would not be ideal if your work boot is not designed to handle such conditions. Not all work boots have water-resistance as your worksite may not require waterproof gear. Hiking boots consider how easy it is to hike with the shoe, while a work boot considers safety to be of the highest importance to make the boot a shield against work risks.
Having the correct type of shoes will help you on longer and more challenging hikes.
How to Choose Steel Toe Hiking Boots – Important Features
There are different hiking boots, from low-cut flexible shoes for leisurely walks, mid to high-cut models for day hikes, and backpacking boots for on-or off-trail hikes. It is up to you to decide which type of steel toe hiking boot to purchase, depending on the kind of hiking trail you plan on taking. But there are three essential features to consider before purchasing your perfect pair of boots.
The Proper Support
You have to make sure that your steel toe hiking boots will support your ankles, as it prevents you from twisting and hurting your ankles. You should also ensure more in-depth and thicker lugs on your steel-toed hiking boot outsoles to improve grip and traction on many different surfaces.
Note the internal support structure in your steel toe hiking boots, from the shanks to plates. The plates of your hiking boots protect your feet from getting bruised by jagged rocks or uneven roots on the trail. You should check that your steel toe hiking boot also has a defined heel brake at the end that reduces the chance that you will slide during steep descents.
Your feet need air to feel comfortable, so choose steel toe hiking boots that provide some ventilation. From full-grain leather to vegan or synthetic leathers, there are often pros and cons depending on the boot’s material that will impact the boot’s weight, durability, water resistance, and breathability. For boots that will perform in any weather condition, look for waterproof or Gore-Tex branding.
Generally, rubber is used on most hiking boot outsoles with additives such as carbon to boost the hardness. While more rigid outsoles increase the outsole durability, it can feel somewhat slicker if you go off-trail.
You have to ensure that your boot fits snugly because choosing steel toe hiking boots that are too small will hurt your toes when they collide with the steel on the top of the shoes. If you cannot decide between two different types of steel toe hiking boots, you might want to consider purchasing the lighter boot as it can be more comfortable on longer hikes.
Note the hiking boot midsoles that cushion your feet from shock and determine the stiffness of a boot. You might think that stiff boots will not be comfortable on long hikes, but they mean more stability in rocky terrain. The stiff boot will not hurt your feet by wrapping around every tree on you and keep you safe when hiking.
Recommended Boots for Both Hiking and Work Use
There are a few boots on the market that crossover and can be used for hiking and work use. Keen Steel Toe Work and Hiking Boots offer the best of both worlds. Not only do reviewers wear these boots on the job, but they also wear them on mountain hikes for many miles while raving about comfort and fit.
One of the highest-rated Keen boots is the Braddock AL Waterproof Mid (Steel Toe) boots that feature a steel toe, oil and slip-resistant outsoles, comfortable lining, and waterproof capabilities. Many reviewers note less foot fatigue even when walking more than 10 miles.
For the ladies, one of the highest-rated Keen boots is the Women’s Flint II (Steel Toe) boots that feature a cushioning midsole, slip-resistant outsole that can quickly transition from work to the hiking trails. Many reviewers notice that they are still comfortable to wear right out of the box and are very lightweight on the feet.
Reviewers of these Keen steel toe boots also rave that the shoes are comfortable even after walking and standing for up to 11 hours, even in wet conditions.
You should consider the right kind of boot depending on the safety and protection you require for the occasion and activity. Boot manufacturers like Keen have designed a crossover between the standard steel toe boot and hiking boot to use one pair of boots for both work and hikes.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.