What is a Steel Shank in a Work Boot? – Ultimate Guide to Understand Steel Shank Work Boots

  • By: Edmond Clark
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​If you are currently searching for reliable steel toe work boots for your job then you might have come across the term steel shank.

I have also seen this term in the product descriptions of several steel toe work footwear listings on online shopping portals.

Therefore, I wondered what is a steel shank in a work boot means?

I thought there must be many other folks like me who are unaware about the actual meaning of steel shank in work boots.

This is the reason, I am writing this article today for your guys who want to know its meaning and benefits.

So, without further delay, let’s find out the importance and advantages of steel shank in boots.

​Actual Definition of Steel Shank

Rugged Blue EST118-Brown-Steel-8M 8" Jackson Steel Toe Work Boots, English, Leather, 8 m, Brown

​Before we find the meaning of steel shank, I think it is important for us to know what is a  shank in a shoe.

After some research, I found out the meaning of shank in boots.

It is a simple, rectangular material piece, either made from durable plastic, carbon fiber, wood, nylon, fiberglass or steel.

Basically, a shank is inserted often above the outer sole or in the bottom of the boot sole, especially in the mid section of the sole.

It mainly acts as a support function in between the outsole and insole of your boot.

It is usually that area which is below your arch and in between the ball of the foot and your heel.

The main purpose of using a shank in shoes and boots is to provide additional strength, support and durability to work footwear.

On the similar notes, a steel shank is simply a shoe shank that is made from durable steel material.

You may think that using a steel in your boot makes it much heavier to use.

But, in reality it is not true.

Using a steel shank in work boots makes them more durable,  supportive and adds extra layer of foot protection.

The steel shank also provides strength and proper support in the mid section of your work footwear.

Another advantage of using steel shank is it offers more stability or balance and prevents too much bilateral movements when working in these types of work boots.

I recommend you to watch the following short video where it ​explains the importance of having shoe shank.

​What are the Different Types of Shoe Shanks That are Used in the Boots?

​There are lots of different types of materials which are today used to make shoe shanks by several boot manufacturers. Depending on what type of shoe you want to use, the type of shank varies.

There are mainly two categories when it comes to shanks. One is soft shank and the second one is hard shank.

If you want to check out the differences between the two, then read this article.

Hard shanks are often used in work boots to make them stronger and durable.

On the other side, soft shanks are used in dancing shoes, pointe shoes and dress shoes like moccasins where you need more flexibility and comfort.

If you think of material variety used in making shoe shanks, then there are mainly 7 categories of these shanks.

1. Metal or Steel Shank

2. Wood or Non-metallic Shank

3. Fiberglass Shank

4. Nylon Shank

5. Carbon Fibre Shank

6. TPU or Plastic Shank

7. Composite Shank

​How to Identify Whether Your Shoe or Boot has a Steel Shank?

​The steel shank is usually located in the midsole of the boot.

It is there for the reinforcement of the overall boot construction.

It offers the best arch support and foot protection for the user.

One of the best ways to find whether there is steel shank present in your work boot is to check the product description of the boot.

Many online stores provide the product description where you can find whether the boot has built-in steel shank.

On the other side, you can also ask your local shoe store owner about the presence of shoe shank.

I believe these are two ideal methods to find the existence of steel shank in your work boot or dance shoes.

​What is the Purpose or Benefits of Steel Shank in a Work Boot?

​As already mentioned above in the definition section of the article, the steel shank is used in the boots to gain structural support and durability.

The shank also provides the best arch support and prevents instability of your foot when working in your boot.

The major benefits of using steel shank is that it offers the best in class foot safety and foot stability.

As far as foot safety is concerned, these types of work boots protect your feet from littered metal objects on the ground where you usually work.

Suppose, you are working on a construction site where lots of small and big iron nails are littered on the ground.

The steel shank boots, in this case, do protect your feet by preventing accidental punctures of your boot by the nails.

In case you are standing and working on ladders, your feet do not get those “ladder bruises”; which happen when you do not use boots with steel shank feature.

Your feet will get more comfort and protection in such working conditions.

Also, in the landscape gardening working conditions, your feet easily get bruised and sore due to constant jarring and blunt impact while working.

Steel shank work boots protect your feet from these jarring and blunt impacts and keep them comfortable while working all the day.

The only issue I find irritating with these boots is they are not airport friendly because they easily set off metal detector alarms on the airports.

But we can handle this issue softly by just telling the airport security individuals about these boots in advance.

Other than this issue, these work boots are excellent in getting perfect foot stability, support, protection and comfort while working in physically challenging work environments.   

So, if you are in search of a durable, reliable and protective work boots, then my recommendation is to always choose the one with the steel shank feature.

In the meanwhile, I also suggest you to watch the following video where you will learn why it is essential to use steel shank work boots at your workplace.

​Are Steel Shank Work Boots Comfortable to Use?

The comfort factor totally depends on what kind of shoe shank is used in your footwear.

The steel and metallic shank are somewhat hard and tough and therefore offer comparatively less comfort as compared to the other non-metallic shanks.

The shoe shanks made up of nylon, fiberglass, carbon fiber and even composite shank provide more comfort as compared to steel shank.

This is because of their flexible and soft material construction.

Steel shank work boots do provide some comfort and flexibility.

But other shanks types such as fiberglass and nylon shanks provide more flexibility and comfort.

If you want enhanced safety and foot protection features, then you should always go for the boots that come with steel shank.

They are more durable and supportive for your feet.

​Difference Between Composite Shank vs Fiberglass Shank vs Nylon Shank vs TPU Shank vs Steel Shank Boots

Comparison of Composite Shank vs Steel Shank

Composite Shank: More Lightweight, Costlier Due to Material Construction Standards, More Comfortable than Steel Shank Boots, Provides Less Foot Safety

Steel Shank: Heavier than Composite Shank Boots, Lower Priced than Composite Shank Boots, Less Comfortable in comparison to Composite Shank, Offers Enhanced Foot Safety

Comparison of Fiberglass Shank vs Steel Shank

Fiberglass Shank: More Lightweight than Steel Shank Boots, More Comfortable for Daily Use, More Expensive, Low Durability, Less Foot Protection.

Steel Shank: Heavier than Fiberglass Shank Boots, Less Comfortable than Fiberglass Shank Footwear, Less Expensive, High Durability, Higher Foot Safety Standards

Comparison of Nylon Shank vs Steel Shank

Just like fiberglass shank boots, nylon shank boots come with less weight, higher comfort, higher cost, lower durability and low foot safety as compared to steel shank footwear.

Comparison of TPU Shank vs Steel Shank

TPU Shank is made from Thermoplastic Polyurethane material.

It is more lightweight and highly abrasion resistant and oil resistant as compared to the steel shank.

TPU shank offers more comfort at higher cost.

But it provides less durability and foot protection as compared to the steel shank.

​What is the Difference Between Steel Shank Boot and Steel Toe Boot?

Although, they both seem similar from their external appearances, both of these boots may or may not be similar from their internal construction point of view.

Steel toed boots are also known as steel capped boots or safety toe boots.

In these boots, there is usually some kind of protective reinforcement in the toe area.

This toe protection is USP of these types of boots.

Because it protects your toes from heavy falling objects while you work at your workplace.

On the other side, steel shank work boots may or may not have steel toe protection.

But they always have the steel shank support in the midsole area.

Some steel toe boots do come with steel shank support as well.

So, you can say both of these boots may or may not be similar in some brands.

Certain footwear manufacturing companies produce work boots that come with steel shank as well as steel toes.

On the other side, some companies do produce steel toed boots without steel shank facility.

Steel toes provide enhanced foot safety and durability. Similarly, steel shank offers more support, durability and protection for your feet.

Even though the objective is same, the functionality is different for both the boots.

​Do Ariat, Chippewa, Doc Martens and Muck Boots come with a Steel Shank?

As far as my research is concerned, I have not seen any Ariat work boots that come with steel shank feature.

Even if some of them have, they come with composite fiber shank feature.

But Chippewa brand do come with their own versions of steel and fiberglass shank in their work footwear models.

According to this Reddit source, depending on the type of the work boot, Chippewa do integrate either steel or fiberglass shank in their boot construction.

Just like Ariat, Dr. Martens or Doc Martens also do not produce any boots with steel shank feature.

They do produce steel toed work boots, but not steel shank boots.

When it comes to Muck work boots, they do integrate steel shank in their footwear models.

For additional support and reinforcement in the heel and sole area, Much boots do come with the steel shank feature.

Some of the other well known shoe manufacturing brands that produce steel shank work boots are Alden, Red Wing, Yuketen, Meermin, LL Bean, Bass, Russell Moccasin, and Frye.

​3 Best Steel Shank Work Boots for Men

​So, here we are in the end section of this ultimate guide for steel shank work boots.

So, far we have covered almost all important topics related to steel shank.

Now, you must be wondering what are the best steel shank work boots that you can wear for yourself with pride and comfort.

I have done the research and found out 3 best ones just for you. Check them out below.

​No. 3: Chippewa Men’s 8 Inches Lace-to-Toe 73075 Logger Work Boot

Chippewa Men's 73101 8" Lace-To-Toe Logger Waterproof Boot,Bay Apache,9.5 M US

​This Chippewa 8 Inches logger work boot comes with reliable and supportive steel shank.

It offers enhanced foot safety and stability for your feet.

If you are looking for moderate level foot protection and support with steel shank in your work boot, then definitely go for this Chippewa men’s work boot.

Click Here to See Price and Reviews of Chippewa Men’s 8 Inches 73075 Logger Work Boot.

No. 2: Muck Boot Chore Classic Men’s Rubber Work Boot

Muck Chore Classic Men's Rubber Work Boots,Black,Men's 9 M US / Women's 10 M US

Muck Boot Chore Classic Rubber Work Boot for Men has also integrated the steel shank into its construction.

This work boot not just comes with a reliable steel shank but also offers triple toe and quadruple rubber heel reinforcement.

These features have made this boot very reliable and durable by nature.

Your feet get maximum protection and stability with this steel shank feature.

Although, they are not steel toed, the steel shank in this boot helps you to work in the snow and water without any difficulties.

The foot safety and stability you get with this boot is by all means exceptional.

Click Here for Reviews and Current Price of Muck Boot Chore Classic Men’s Rubber Work Boot.

​No. 1: Red Wing Men’s 6 Inches Iron Ranger Work Boot

Red Wing Heritage Iron Ranger 6-Inch Boot, Amber Harness, 9.5 D(M) US

Red Wing 6 Inches Iron Ranger Work Boot for Men is also my favorite work footwear and that is why it is at no.1 rank in my list.

The steel shank performance in this boot is much above its competitors when you compare it with the other work boots.

The level of support and protection it provides to your feet is excellent.

It also offers higher level of stability and structural balance while you work in physically challenging work environment.

Due to high quality leather material, careful stitching and steel shank features, this Red Wing work boot has become really durable and strong by nature.

If you are in search for high quality, durable, protective and comfortable steel shank work boot, then choose this Red Wing Iron Ranger footwear.

Click Here to See Price and Reviews of Red Wing Men’s 6 Inches Iron Ranger Work Boot.


​Although the steel shanks are little bit heavier in term of overall weight, they are very reliable and supportive for your work boot.

They increase the durability and provide foot protection benefits.

Some people do not like steel shanks because they are not metal detector friendly and often set off unnecessary alarms at airport security checkpoints.

But we can inform the relevant authority in advance about these types of boots and they often co-operate with these minor issues.

Besides this single problem, there are not any major concerns to worry about.

If you look at the core benefits of steel shank work boots, then they are certainly worth your investment.

These boots are durable, reliable, and offers the best in class foot protection and stability.

After all, these are the features you need the most in your work boots when you wear them at your workplace.

I wish you good luck in your work boot hunt. If you are searching for most comfortable steel toe boot, then click here to check out my top 10 recommendations for the same.

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