You’ve probably heard of a steel toe in a work boot, but do you know what a steel shank is? The two are quite different and serve very different purposes.
A steel shank is commonly included in more hardcore footwear, like work boots and safety footwear. You may find less robust shanks in other types of footwear.
Let’s look at what a steel shank is exactly and why having one in your work boots is a good thing.
What Is a Steel Shank in a Boot?
A steel shank is a long, flat, narrow piece of steel placed between the shoe’s insole and outsole. It’s usually found in beefier shoes that are designed for hard use.
This flexible steel strip is located in the arch of your foot and is often around a half-inch in width. The shank length will vary between full-length, half-length, and 3/4 length, depending on the style of boot and brand.
Despite being made of steel, the shank is lightweight and won’t weigh you down as you go about your day-to-day activities. The steel shanks are naturally flexible, and for added comfort, they’re contoured to fit the shape of your foot.
What Is the Purpose of a Steel Shank?
The main purpose of the steel shank is to reinforce the arch of the shoe. This helps provide a supportive structure, increase the rigidity of the shoe, and add extra stability to the shoe.
It also helps to maintain the shoe’s structure, making them dependable and long-lasting footwear. This is especially important for shoes that are used in harsh environments.
Even though the shank has some stiffness to it, you’ll find that it adds a slight springiness to your step. It usually offers a good combination of stiff support and a slight give that provides a bit of energy return.
What Are Other Benefits of a Steel Shank?
Steel shanks have several benefits, but the main one is that it helps protect the underfoot. The shank helps absorb the shock of impact as you climb ladders and walk on hard surfaces, so your feet aren’t bearing the brunt of excess vibration.
A shank can also prevent penetration injuries from objects such as nails or debris that you may encounter if you work in a factory or construction setting.
The rigidity of the shank will help minimize the shoe’s external twist and bend as you walk. This allows you to walk and climb with confidence, as it enhances the stability of the shoe and it returns energy with each step.
Steel shanks are molded so that they can provide adequate support to the arch of your foot. It helps to distribute your body weight evenly as you walk, which in turn helps to reduce the load that’s placed on your calves, ankles, and feet.
This helps reduce fatigue in your feet and lower legs, which can cause cramps and ongoing discomfort throughout your day. It’s especially noticeable for those who spend many hours a day on their feet.
Steel shanks are durable and can help extend your work boots’ life, which can help you save money in the long run.
Who Should Wear Boots With a Steel Shank?
You may think that only construction workers or people who work with heavy machinery should invest in a pair of work boots with a steel shank.
But anyone working in an industry where your job involves doing vigorous activities, standing for prolonged periods, or working on hard surfaces all day can benefit.
This includes people from the following industries:
- Warehouse workers
- Lineman and tower climbers
- Factory workers
- General construction
- Law enforcement
- First responders
What’s the Difference Between a Steel Shank and a Composite Shank?
Not all work boots have a steel shank in them. Some have a composite shank, which is made of a combination of non-metal materials, like nylon, fiberglass, or plastic.
Sometimes you’ll find a shank made of a single non-metal material instead of a combination of materials.
Composite shanks are generally a little more flexible, lighter, provide better insulation than steel shanks, and don’t set off metal detectors!
But steel shanks are more affordable, provide better protection in that small strip under the foot, and offer excellent support.
Choosing a steel shank in work boots is best if you work in an environment requiring a high level of foot protection.
It can be hard to tell if a boot has a steel or composite shank. However, if a work boot has a steel toe, it’s likely to have a steel shank in it—provided the boot does have a shank.
If it has a composite toe, then it’s likely that the shank is also a composite shank.