A Safety Essential: Steel Toe Shoes or Boots

Why Steel Toes?

Steel toes are an important investment.
Wear foot protection. We like these Wolverine boots but whatever you do, protect your feet. photo by Matt Wright, 2008

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I know a lot of mechanics who scoff at steel toe boots. They prefer sneakers for comfort, or if they're truly old school they wear those black leather mechanic's shoes with the non-slip soles. Yuck. Times have changed, and not only do techs not want to be walking around looking like grandpa at the corner service station in 1956, they have safety in mind. And if you run a shop, believe me, you have safety in mind every minute of the day.

In my shop, it's steel toes for all. And since we want quality and good looks at the same time, there's only one boot that has any chance of a Porsche 356 falling on it.

Why We Wear Wolverines (but you don't have to)

Like I said, we run a class operation so even the footwear needs to be stylish, at least as stylish as a steel toe work boot can be. I've tried lots of shoes and boots over the years, and Wolverine makes the boot that I feel provides me the most safety and comfort. I always buy the steel toe, and I like a 6- or 8-inch boot to protect my ankles if I take a bad step. The photo below is a simulation created in our shop under controlled conditions, but the facts are there. The toe of that boot has the corner of a car sitting on it via the brake rotor. That's some serious weight, and believe it or not the toe wasn't even dented. The Wolverines have a non-slip soul that has been just as good on an oily shop floor as it is outside in the snow.

In other words, it's versatile. Have you ever walked in out of snow or rain wearing "mechanic's shoes?" I have, and I ended up on my ass after I watched my wet shoes fly past my head. The Wolverines make the transition without complaint, and they look great doing it.

Any high quality work boot is going to cost over $100.

What you want is durability enough to justify the spent money. You could just walk into Wal-Mart and get a pair of those fake Gore-Tex camouflage boots for $20. No thanks. There are, of course, lots of very good brands of work shoe, as well. I liked my Carrharts, and my Cats were fine, too. But none of them seemed to just work for me like the first time I spent a day in my Wolverine steel toes. I'm just one man and one opinion, but I've spent more than a few hours in boots and these rose to the top. Even a dropped torque wrench can be enough to break a toe! Whatever you do, and whatever brand is for you, be sure you protect your feet while you're working on the car. You can't drive with your foot in a cast.

The bottom line when it comes to footwear is safety. Regardless of your fashion motivations, don't be caught trying to rock those Converse high tops while a 2-ton vehicle is hovering on jack stands over your foot. It just doesn't make good safety sense. 

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