What is a Steel Shank in a Work Boot?

A steel shank is a beneficial addition to a work boot or a pair of heavy duty boots. They sound like something that can take away from the aesthetics of a boot, but in reality, they are invisible. They will not alter the appearance of your work boots and only improve the support and utility of your work boots. What are these useful add-ons and what is their purpose? Read on to find out!

What is a Steel Shank in a Boot?

What is a steel shank anyway? Let’s start by taking a look at what it is to understand the benefits behind it. A steel shank, also known as a boot shank, can be found in a variety of boots ranging from regular dress boots to mountaineering work boots. It’s a small piece of metal that is inserted between the insole and the outsole.

Steel Shank in a BootDo not confuse steel shank boots with steel toe boots. They are two different components in work boots. The steel toe is present to protect you from sharp objects and harmful and dangerous terrain while maintaining the integrity of the boot. However, the purpose of a steel shank is different.

What is the Purpose of Steel Shank Work Boots?

In short, a steel shank will help improve arch support, stability and keeps the overall shape of your boot the way a steel toe would. Not only that but due to the combination of all three, your work boots will last longer. You won’t find yourself needing to replace your work boots once a year, which can help allocate funds to more necessary areas in your life.

Similar to a steel toe, which protects your toes, a steel shank will protect the sole of your foot. Although the size of the shank is not much bigger 2 or 3 inches long, it can still help prevent penetration of sharp objects through the outer sole.

Some people may have concerns over a piece of metal permanently constructed into the bottom of their boots. Questions about weight and comfort may arise. However, you won’t have to worry because these thin pieces of metal don’t weigh much and won’t weigh down your boots at all.

Do I Need a Work Boot with a Steel Shank?

How do you determine whether or not you need a steel shank work boot? Aside from someone who regularly takes part in vigorous activities, you can benefit from a steel shank work boot if you often place weight on your arches. Painters and roofers and those who spend a lot of time standing on the rungs of ladders are excellent candidates for steel shank boots.

boot shank for work

The metal shank will protect your arches from hours of tension and weight support. Instead of your arches carrying all your weight, the steel shank will take the pressure off. The addition of steel shanks is also an excellent and necessary idea for those who work on construction sites. You will often come across glass shards and loose nails on the site, so a boot with steel shanks will prevent injury. These boots will also help with balance, which is another reason why they are great for construction workers or those who often find themselves on uneven terrain.

Some people opt to purchase steel shank work boots just to have a pair of heavy duty boots. They are exceptional footwear for outdoor activities as well such as hiking steel trails and mountaineering.

Different Types of Shanks

Nowadays steel shanks have evolved and can come in different materials. You have your pick from fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber, and even wood among many others. Let’s break down the different types of boot shanks to help you choose. If you are stuck between two materials, then you’re in luck because sometimes you can find shanks made from composite materials that blend more than one together.

Plastic, fiberglass, and nylon shanks may not be the sturdiest, but they are the most comfortable. They have much more give than the more rigid materials such as traditional steel and are more lightweight. Even though the shank is small and won’t really affect the overall weight of the boots by too much, you will still feel a difference with these materials.

Different Types of Shanks

Because they are more flexible, they also conform better to the shape of your feet and your movements to result in more comfortable wear. These softer materials are excellent for everyday use such as regular hiking and general support. However, we will say that they do not offer as much protection as more robust materials like Kevlar.

If you value protection, support, and durability due to your activities, then we would recommend stronger materials like Kevlar, fiberglass, and steel. As we previously mentioned, you may find blended materials such as Kevlar plus fiberglass or steel with a combination of the more flexible materials listed above. 

The result of these compound materials is a better balance between comfort and durability. Take our latter suggestion, for example, a shank made from both steel and nylon will give you more flexibility, weigh less, but still offer a ton of protection and support. To determine the best shank material for you, consider your activities and the purpose of your boots.

Steel Shanks VS Steel Toes

Both of these features are used to protect you and ensure the structure of your boot over time. They both come in a composite and single material. So what’s the difference and which should you choose?

The first main difference is the location of the steel shank and toes. As the name suggests, steel toes are located in the toe box while steel shanks are located along the sole of your shoe.

Steel Shanks VS Steel Toes

They protect different parts of your shoe and which you choose will be determined by your daily activities. For example, a steel toe is more focused on protecting your toes from injury while a shank has protective properties and support. Steel-toed boots are most suitable for construction sites while steel shank boots are excellent choices for work and adventure.

How to Pick a Steel Shank Work Boot

With different material options and designs, how do you pick the right steel shank work boot? In this section, were going to break down the what’s what of buying the right pair of steel shank work boots for you.


If price is an issue, define your budget first to get an idea of what your price range can get you. If the boots in your price range are not high quality or durable enough for your purpose, then we would highly suggest widening your budget limit. When it comes to being protected on the job, your safety is priceless. 

If you absolutely cannot extend your budget, we do have an extra tip that can guarantee your safety and hopefully remain in your designated range. Look for solid materials rather than composite. Our top suggestion is steel, as it tends to be the most affordable and is one of the toughest.


The next consideration is where and when the shank will come into play. Heavy duty work and hours on the job around debris and machinery will call for stronger materials like steel, carbon fiber, and Kevlar.

Steel Shank in a Work Boot

On the other hand, if your purpose for looking into a pair of shanked boots is for hobbies such as hiking, then the more flexible materials that will still provide support but are better suited for long-term wear like nylon and plastic are better options.

Keep in mind that composite or lightweight materials are generally better choices for long hours because they won’t weigh down your feet as much. Remember that protection is important, but comfort is what defines how utilitarian the boots are.


We have covered the comfort, price, purpose, and longevity but we have one more factor that can contribute to all we have mentioned above, and that is the material selection. Not only will your choice of material affect the price, how well the boots wear and how to protect you, but it also determines how long the boots will last.


Steel Shank for work boot Material

One often forgotten about consideration is the climate and different elemental factors. Steel shanks aren’t great for heat insulation, so if you work in cold climates and snow, there is a greater chance that your feet will feel much colder. Nylon and plastic will feel warmer and are a better choice in this case. Even composite shanks are better suited for colder weather.

As an extra reminder, if you are traveling for a trek in the Rockies for example, it’s a good idea to bring your work boots in the checked baggage or to opt for composite materials as steel will set off the metal detectors.


Who knew that work boot shanks are such an indispensable addition to your footwear?  Not only do they protect and support you, they also do the same for the boots. Boots with shanks are known to keep their shape and last longer, which can save you money in the long run. If you are someone who is often engaged in strenuous activities, we would highly suggest looking into work boots with shanks.

Good Luck

Team – ShoesImpact

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