Laborers all over the country are required by their employer to wear work boots with a steel toe, and in many cases, a guard (“metatarsal”) to cover the top of the midfoot as well. While these additions help immensely at reducing work related injuries, they contribute significantly to foot pain and fatigue.
First and foremost, the steel toes and metatarsal guards add considerable weight the work boots. Lugging around even an additional 6-8oz above what one is used to can take a significant toll over the course of an 8-10 hour day, creating significant foot and leg fatigue.
Often times, the normal crease created across the ball of the toes of a shoe is altered by the steel toe. One common complaint of those required to wear these shoes is that of pain in the base of the 2nd and 3rd toes. This is caused by an inflammation of the ball toe. With a steel toe shoe, there can be increased pressure under the ball of the 2nd and 3rd toes as a result of the length of the steel toe. In addition, many workboots have a heel of some height. A heel even 1/2″ higher than the forefoot can add pressure to the forefoot, much like a high heel shoe. The metatarsal guard can resist the normal bend of the shoe across the forefoot.
For the most comfort, an athletic type shoe is recommended. When a corrosive or heat resistive material such as leather is required, along with a steel toe and/or a metatarsal guard, to attain the most ideal comfort, the lower the height of the heel the better, along with a good quality arch support, or ideally, a custom molded shoe insert (orthotic), is the best way to minimize undue pressure that often leads to foot pain. When NOT working, wear a good, sturdy, supportive athletic shoe and avoid barefeet, flip flops, and sandals.