What is a TPU Shank? – A Complete Guide to Understand TPU Shank Work Boots

  • By: Edmond Clark

​Few days back, I was browsing through certain online footwear forums and found one person asking questions about TPU Shanks in boots.

I stopped over there for a while and a thought came to my mind.

I also wondered what is a TPU shank in shoes and boots. What makes them a popular choice over other types of shoe shanks?

Why are they used in shoes and boots? What could be the different types of TPU Shanks? And so on..

As I began searching for these queries online, I found very little answers that could satisfy my thirst for understanding more about TPU shoe shanks.

So I decided to research more about it. And that is how this complete guide came out in the first place.

I know there are many others like me who want to understand more about this topic.

So, without further delay, let us try to understand more about TPU shoe shanks.

I am sure once you read this in-depth guide, you will be in a better position for shopping the best quality TPU shank boots.

​What is a TPU Material and Why It is used in Shoe Shanks?

​TPU is basically a short form for Thermoplastic Polyurethane.

It is basically a class of polyurethane plastic material.

Some of the prime properties of this type of plastic is its transparency, flexibility, oil resistance and abrasion resistance.

Due to these properties, it is being used in manufacturing various types of power tools, electronic devices, sporting goods, shoes, work boots, drive belts, inflatable rafts, medical devices, hose and tubes along with several other instruments. (Source)

Even Adidas incorporates the use of TPU pellets in its shoes that come with Boost technology.

This type of plastic is also used in the outsole of our boots and shoes to make them more comfortable to walk.

Other than that, TPU material has a very high shear strength and it performs well even under low temperatures.

That is why they are widely used in the construction of high quality winter boots.

The main purpose of shanks in shoes and boots is to provide them extra support, strength and stability.

The shanks also help in properly bending our shoes and boots at the toe area.

This avoids abrupt breaking or damaging our footwear while walking and running in them.

There are different types of shoe shanks available in the market.

The most important ones are steel shanks and TPU shanks. You can read our guide to understand more about steel shanks in shoes.

Due to their higher elasticity, strength and resistance to oil and abrasion; TPU plastic is primarily used in making boot shanks and shoe shanks.

​What is a TPU Shank? (Definition of TPU Shank)

​According to the information published on Wikipedia, the shank is a type of supportive structure that sits in between the outsole and insole of any shoe or a boot.

It is usually fitted under the arch area of our shoes.

Basically, the main functions of shank in any footwear is to provide strength, stability and strong support while walking and running in it.

Most common and most popular material used to make these shanks is steel.

If you want to know more about steel shanks in boots then check out our steel shank guide.

Instead of steel, there are other materials used in manufacturing these types of shoe shanks.

Other most popular ones are fiberglass, kevlar, nylon, metallic and non-metallic, wooden, composite and finally TPU or plastic shank.

TPU shanks are also known as plastic shanks.

The main purpose of using TPU shanks in work boots is to provide the boot not just the strength and stability but also the elasticity and flexibility.

Plus, TPU shanks are more lightweight and highly oil, chemical and abrasion resistant as compared to steel shanks.

That is why major work boot manufacturers like Danner, Justin, Under Armour, Wolverine, Red Wing, Clarks, and Dr. Martens incorporate these plastic shanks in their shoes and boots.

To get clearer understanding of shoe shank concept, I strongly recommend you to watch the following video.

​Major Types of TPU Shanks

Georgia Men's Athens Work Boot, Brown, 8 M US

​Based on their support and stability function, the plastic shoe shanks are divided into 3 main categories.

Those are as follows.

1. TPU Stability Shank – A type of plastic shank that provides more stability for your feet.

2. TPU Midfoot Shank – A type of TPU shank that focuses on providing more midfoot support and stability.

3. TPU Arch Shank – A type of plastic shoe shank that mainly offers enhanced arch support and stability for the user.

Shoe companies incorporate the use of above mentioned TPU shanks based on their shoe construction and user benefits.

The main benefit of these types of plastic shanks is their lightness and flexibility.

These types of boot shanks are lightweight and provides good comfort as well.

Plus they are less pricey than their steel shank counterparts.

Based on the benefits, TPU shanks are also classified into 2 more categories.

1. Lightweight Plastic Shank

2. Reinforeced TPU Shank

Thermoplastic Polyurethane shoe shanks offer the most flexibility, agility and lightness to all work boots.

In some boots, they are also reinforced to make shank support more prominent. This way, you get enhanced foot stability too.

​5 Major Benefits of using TPU Shank in Boots

​TPU plastic shank has several advantages over using steel shank or metallic shoe shanks. Some of those benefits are as follows.

1. Lightweight

2. Flexibility

3. Abrasion, Oil and Chemical Resistance

4. Enhanced Comfort and Support

5. Better Midfoot, Arch and Torsional Stability

​TPU Shank vs Steel Shank Comparison

TPU Shank

Steel Shank

More Lightweight

Carries more weight than TPU shank boots

Offers better abrasion and oil resistance

Provides less abrasion and oil resistance​

TPU Shank boots are less pricey

Steel Shank boots are more expensive​

Less Durable than Steel shank boots

Highly Durable than any other types of shank boots

​3 Best TPU Shank Boots for Men

​In the end, I would like to recommend my 3 top choices for plastic shank boots.

If you want more affordable boot in the low price range as compared to steel shank boots, then these 3 are good options for your feet.

​No. 3: Danner Men’s Vicious 4.5 Inches Plain Toe Work Boot

Danner Men’s Vicious 4.5” Plain Toe Work Boot,Brown/Orange,11 D US

​At no. 3, Danner Vicious 4.5 Inches Plain Toe Work Boot for Men deserves it place.

Because it incorporates high quality TPU shank into its midsole.

This plastic shank has increased the boot’s durability and torsional strength.

Steel shank work boots are bit heavier due to their steel construction.

But in this case, the work boot is built with plastic and nylon composite shank which has made it more lightweight and comfortable to use on a daily basis.

High construction standards, unparalleled support and ergonomic fitting along with the use of TPU shank makes this Danner work boot one of the most desirable non-traditional work boots in the market.

Click Here to See Reviews and Current Price of Danner Men’s Vicious 4.5 Inches Plain Toe Work Boot.

​No. 2: Georgia Men’s Athens Work Boot

Georgia Boot Men's Georgia Athens Wellington Work Boot Work Shoe, Brown, 10 M US

​At no. 2, I have included Georgia Athens Work Boot for Men.

Plastic shank has been constructed into the midsole of this boot to make it more strong and stable.

The use of plastic shank has made it more lightweight, flexible and stronger.

It has also enhanced the boot’s torsional stability as well as chemical, oil and abrasion resistance.

This boot has incorporated advanced PU footbed as well. It has increased its arch support.

Other notable features of Georgia work boot are its slip resistant sole, EVA midsole, full grain waterproof leather and cement and stitch out construction.

Click Here to See Latest Price and Reviews of Georgia Men’s Athens Work Boot.

​No. 1: Under Armour Men’s Valsetz RTS Military and Tactical Boot

Under Armour Men's Valsetz RTS Side Zip Military and Tactical Boot, Black (001)/Black, 12.5

Under Armour Valsetz RTS Military and Tactical Boot for men is so far the best choice for me.

It has built in TPU shank support which gives your feet improved stability and support.

This midfoot shank support is really useful for people who are in military and police profession.

It is also very lightweight yet it has provided more rigidity and strength to the user.

Oher important features that I liked about this Under Armour tactical boot are its UA ClutchFit Technology, abrasion resistant leather, molded Ortholite sockliner and well cushioned full length Micro G foam footbed.

Click Here to See Latest Price and Reviews of Under Armour Men’s Valsetz RTS Military and Tactical Boot.


​As far as TPU shank boots are concerned, they have unique advantages over steel shank work boots.

These boots are more lightweight, more flexible, more oil, chemical and abrasion resistant.

Some of the weak points of TPU shank boots is their durability and torsional strength. Steel shank boots are much more stronger and durable by nature.

But these boots are less costly as compared to steel shank or any other metallic shank work boots.

In the end, its your choice and preference that matters.

I would like to recommend you to try any one of the 3 recommended boots above if you want to experience plastic shank work boots.

Click here to check out 10 most comfortable steel toe work boots.

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