Of all of the manufacturer's buzz words that are used to indicate a quality work boot, the mention of a steel shank is perhaps the most common. This important little piece of metal can make or break your shoe purchase, so it's important to know what exactly this moniker of quality means, both in terms of shoe construction and in terms of its functionality. Here are some main points, pros, and cons about steel shank footwear.
What is a Shoe Shank?
The shank of a shoe is a piece of rigid material used to give the footbed some structure and support. This piece of steel, Kevlar, or fiberglass is placed in between the insole and the outsole of the shoe, smack dab in the middle of this layer between the outer and inner bounds of the sole. Obviously, the differences among these three materials is huge, and steel is treated as the gold standard of the three in terms of functionality.
Pros of Steel
Boot enthusiasts have good reason to consider steel as the pinnacle in shank material because it provides excellent support, it's tough as nails, it distributes weight evenly, and it's a very traditional material for the purists out there. First, a steel shank performs its function of maintaining the shape of the sole very well, which is a major plus for those with fallen arches or other foot sensitivities. A steel shank also never quits, and provides some protection against stepping on nails or other similar hazards should your profession present them regularly.
Another, less obvious plus of the steel shank is that it distributes weight very evenly along the length of the shoe due to its hardness. This advantage can be greatly helpful if you're walking on uneven surfaces for a majority of the day. One last bonus is that if you're looking for an old-style work boot, there's no better shank material than steel, since it's been used for decades in many types of boots.
A Couple of (Minor) Cons
While the benefits of owning a pair of work boots with a sturdy steel shank cannot be overstated, it wouldn't be fair to not mention the couple small cons of this footwear innovation. On the one hand, the shank will set off a metal detector more often than not, so it might not be the best choice for high-security workplaces. Another disadvantage that some boot owners cite is the added weight, but since the piece of metal is so small, this downside is fairly minor, but it may take some getting used to on your first pair.