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Six Things to Consider when Buying Composite Toe Work Shoes

black and white nike athletic shoes on brown wooden bench

When buying a shoe with a composite toe, there are many things you should consider. Toe and heel overlays are necessary for additional abrasion resistance. Are you looking for a shoe with a raised heel that provides slip protection when climbing ladders? To keep debris and rocks out, do you need a tongue with a gusseted? What is the importance of weight? Is material important to you? Are you more comfortable working outdoors or indoors?

Outdoor shoes will be more durable, have more intricate outsoles, and often have additional cushioning and abrasion protection. Outdoor work shoes will be heavier than indoor work shoes, with more materials.

Six Things to Consider when Buying Composite Toe Work Shoes

Abrasion Resistance

Shoes with extra abrasion resistance at the heel and toe are essential for many jobs. This not only protects your feet but also helps the shoe’s material to last longer. Most, but not all, of the options have abrasion resistance at the heel and toe.

It is important to know that athletic work shoes have a thinner overlay which means they are less durable. The toe overlay of one of my favorite work boots from Reebok protects the material but isn’t thick enough to withstand a harsh environment.

This is the same as the Kodiak hiking shoes, which are designed for outdoor environments.

Tongue Gusset

Gussed tongues are tongues that attach to the shoe at both the base and side of the tongue. This prevents water and debris from getting through the laces into the work shoes.

This is obviously more important for outdoor work but most indoor work shoes have a gusseted mouth.

Eyelets with Attached Lace

Some shoes for work will have lace eyelets that attach to the shoe so they don’t need to make holes. There are fewer holes, which means that debris and water can’t slip through. You might be concerned about debris and want to make sure your shoes have eyelets.

The KEEN shoes, for example, have eyelets.

Raised Heel

This was something I talked about throughout. However, many athletic low top composite-toe work shoes are made with flat outsoles without a raised heel. Flat outsoles are more comfortable but can slip better for certain jobs.

You won’t find work shoes with large heels that are inch-sized like work boots. However, there are shoes, such as the Caterpillar Streamline, that offer slip protection and a low-profile raised heel.


When I was looking at this selection of shoes, breathability was the one thing that stood out for me. Even though Nike doesn’t make composite toe shoes at the moment, other brands offer lightweight and athletic options.

These shoes feature a textile upper that is breathable. This can be great for hot work environments, but it also means that they won’t perform well under wet conditions.

Reebok Fusion Flexweave shoes were my favorite breathable composite shoe. The shoes are made with textile uppers and can be seen through in certain spots. The material is so breathable, that light can shine through the other side. These shoes are great for warm environments.


These shoes are lightweight and low-top composite toe work shoes. However, they will not last long. Although they are lighter than leather, textile uppers won’t last as long as leather.

These shoes have an upper that is attached to the sole using glue or cementing material. Although this helps to reduce weight, it is not guaranteed that glue will last forever. Although lightweight foam midsoles can reduce weight, they won’t provide the same comfort as a leather or rubber one found in premium work boots.

All of this is to remind you that these shoes have pros and cons. Make sure that they are appropriate for your job. These types of shoes are not recommended for those who work in harsh environments.

Low-top composite toe shoes can be used for light-duty tasks. A composite toe hiking boot may be more suitable for you if you are working in rugged environments.

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