Diabetic Work Boots: The Optimal Steel Toe Safety Shoes

Diabetes presents some special—and often painful—challenges to people who spend long hours on their feet. Common foot problems like athlete’s foot, bunions, calluses and corns that are bothersome to a person who does not suffer from diabetes,- can be life-threatening to a diabetic. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, and work in a manufacturing or construction setting you need to exercise caution. The very best thing you can do for your feet is to wear great-fitting diabetic work boots with features that increase circulation and relieve foot stress. 

Updated Feb 2020 by Tony Bleak

Diabetic work boots

In a Hurry? The Top Pick:

Timberland PRO Boondock, Read on to find out why.

one awesome footwear situation

Comparison Table

Waterproof
Safety ToeFeatures
Irish Setter Diabetic Boot
ResistantCompositeEH-hazard protection
Wedge style
Heat resistant
View
Wolverine Buccaneer Boot
ResistantSteelEH-hazard protection
welt construction
Multishock absorbing
View
Timberland PRO Boondock
YesCompositeEH-hazard protection
Insulation option
Anti-Fatigue Technology
View
Timberland PRO Women’sResistantSteelEH-hazard protection
Nylon diffusion shank
slip and oil resistant
View
Caterpillar Women’s MaeYesSteelEH-hazard protection
Slip resistant
Extra cushioning
View
ARIAT Women’s TraceyYesCompositeSlip resistant
Oil resistant
Heat resistant
View

Diabetics are also prone to diabetic foot ulcers, diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease, all of which can be chronic, painful and life-threatening if not treated quickly and carefully. 

If you’re purchasing your first pair of work boots as a diabetic, you should know that choosing a great work boots is tricky, at best, because of the serious foot problems that diabetics encounter.  You probably know that most diabetics deal with at least mild cases of nerve damage and poor circulation. 

The combination makes it hard for some diabetics to have much sensation in their feet. They can damage their feet without knowing it, and then risk getting an infection that deters healing. So, if you’re a diabetic, be very careful in choosing a work boot. Your feet, and your health, depend upon your choice. 

Key Features of the Best Work Boots for Diabetics

Manage moisture

If you’re an individual with Type 2 diabetes, you have excessive amounts of glucose in your blood. These high levels of glucose in the blood lead to high levels of sugar in your body’s tissues. Bacteria feed on the sugar and quickly multiply exponentially. So, a diabetic is greatly at risk for infection.

Moisture—and darkness—add to the difficulty. Bacteria thrive in a moist, dark environment like a damp work boot. If you’re diabetic and your feet sweat or get wet while you work, you have created an ideal environment for the growth of disease-causing bacteria.  

The best work boots for diabetics incorporate some sort of breathable lining as well as a moisture handling insole into the boot. You’ll definitely also need a waterproof boot if there’s much chance at all that you will be working where your feet could get wet.

Cushioning  

High blood sugar causes nerve damage and poor blood circulation, especially in the feet.  This condition of nerve damage, known as peripheral neuropathy, is very common in diabetics and is one of the biggest risk factors to diabetics who work in the construction, welding or manufacturing fields and have to be on their feet for long hours.

Diabetics suffering from neuropathy could have severe enough nerve damage that they might injure their feet without even realizing it’s happening.  

Padded collars and tongues are a great start. These protect the ankles from rubbing and the top of the foot from chafing. Insoles with lots of cushion offer another layer of padding. They can also add support. Insoles frequently “wear-out’ before the boot itself does. Dr. Sholl’s makes insoles especially for diabetics.

Several boot manufacturers like Wolverine and Timberland make cut-to-fit insoles that offer a relatively cheap way to restore the cushion, stability and comfort afforded by a quality insole.

Midsoles and soles with extra depth offer another layer of padding. Rubber or Vibram soles are particularly flexible and cushioning. They also tend to be comfortable and slip-resistant.

Protection

If a diabetic severely injures his toes, there’s a real risk that he could end up losing those toes to amputation. For that reason, some doctors insist that diabetics should wear work boots with some sort of safety toe. Other medical professionals disagree, arguing that the rigid toe material puts the diabetic either 

  1. at risk of injuring his foot because of blisters or chafing from the safety toe, or 
  2. in danger of causing further circulation problems because the safety material constricts the foot and reduces the already poor flow of blood to the foot. 

They also contend that purchasing a wider shoe isn’t a good solution; it relieves the crowding but may allow the foot to shift and  slide, ultimately putting the wearer at a greater risk of falling.

Met Guard

Diabetics who work as loggers or ironworkers may have to add the extra layer of protection provided by a met guard in order to protect their metatarsal bones from being damaged.

The extra layer of protection would add at least some concern about foot-crowding and decreased circulation. However, some jobs might absolutely require work shoes with a met guard.

EH Rated

Diabetics also need to protect their feet from electric shock and punctures. If you have diabetes and work as an electrician or in a factory setting where electrical power boxes or lines are visible, you should look for a work boot that is EH rated against electrical shock. If you traverse rough ground or work where you deal with rubbish or other items that protrude from the ground, you will want a puncture resistant boot.

Non Slip

Finally, the best work boots for people with diabetes protect wearers from falls by providing slip-resistant and oil-resistant soles.  Rubber or synthetic soles with good traction and lugged bottoms reduce the likelihood of falls and the complications that poor circulation and nerve damage engender.  

Medicare standards for reimbursement

Factors to consider if you’re looking for a diabetic shoe that meets the Medicare standards for reimbursement:

  • If you’re eligible for reimbursement from Medicare your shoe will need to
  • Be a lace-up shoe or have a Velcro closure
  • Have extra depth for cushioning.
  • Be available in extra widths to provide a roomy fit
  • Have an enclosed toe.

These requirements are designed to protect the feet and to minimize foot issues that diabetics face. The two slip on or pull-on boots I chose wouldn’t meet the Medicare standards. You’ll want to consider that if you are looking to be reimbursed. 

Top Diabetic Work Boots Choices

Red Wing Irish Setter Wedge Diabetic Work Boot

The Irish Setter Wedge Sole by Red Wing offers a wide sole and wedge comfort.The boot is EH rated, heat-resistant and features an EVA midsole for extra cushioning. 

PROS

  • Wedge sole 
  • Removable footbed 
  • Slip-on

CONS

  • Not waterproof 
  • Imported
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Wolverine Buccaneer Work Boot 

This slip-on boot has a roomy toe box and is made from breathable leather. The wedge sole provides a wide grip area. The boot is EH rated,a mesh lining to control moisture and shock-resistant midsole. 

PROS

  • Steel toe 
  • Multi-shox construction
  • Mesh lining

CONS

  • Not waterproof
  • Imported 
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Timberland PRO Boondock 6″ Composite Toe

The Timberland PRO Boondock 6” Composite Toe is a rugged, waterproof, black boot with an anti-fatigue footbed and a rubber toe guard to protect the leather toe.

PROS

  • Anti-fatigue footbed
  • Waterproof
  • Rubber toe protector 

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Imported
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Timberland PRO Women’s Titan Safety Boot

The Timberland PRO 55398 is made for women, and built tough like the line for men. The rubber sole is slip resistant and oil resistant, but the boot is flexible and comfortable. 

PROS

  • Slip resistant 
  • Oil resistant

CONS

  • Not waterproof 
  • Imported
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Caterpillar Women’s Mae Steel Toe Waterproof Construction Boot

The Caterpillar Mae Steel Toe is a waterproof, rugged construction boot for women. It’s EH rated with a slip-resistant rubber sole and a removable liner. 

PROS

  • Waterproof 
  • Slip resistant
  • Removable liner

CONS

  • Bullet list 
  • Imported 
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

ARIAT Women’s Tracey Waterproof Composite Toe Work Boot

Here’s a stylish waterproof cowboy boot for the working woman. A rubber sole, mesh lining and a non-slip sole equip these boots for comfort and durability.

PROS

  • Slip resistant 
  • Heat resistant
  • Oil resistant

CONS

  • Expensive 
  • Imported
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Customer Impression

All of these boots rank well, especially for comfort. 

All of these work boots rate at least a 4 (out of 5) in their customer feedback on Amazon. Feedback ratings on manufacturer websites are very similar or slightly higher. The trait that people like the most is that these are comfortable for people in all kinds of professions. A welder, a gardener, a pipefitter, a diesel mechanic and people in lots of other fields love the comfort of these boots. 

What makes them particularly comfortable varies from customer to customer. Some people love the fact that the boots were comfortable the very first time they were worn. Others appreciate being able to wear the boots for a long time and still find them comfortable. The women’s Caterpillar and Timberland boots are considered comfortable and lightweight, as is the men’s Timberland boot.

Customers compare these boots favorably with boots they have owned previously. Brands they mention include Danner, Merrill, Timberland, Caterpillar and Wolverine. For each of the 6 favorites, as least one person said they preferred it to their previous “favorite boot,” and would not likely go back.

Customers value different features

The six boots I rank as best vary a good bit in price, features and style. There’s one pull-on boot for women and one for men. One of the men’s boots has a wedge sole. One has a moc toe. A couple look like rugged, durable boots. None is insulated for winter wear, but some purchasers say they are warm enough for winter wear.  

Customers appreciate all of the styles and features, and choose them based on what their work environment requires. The sticking point, if there is one, comes when the boot doesn’t match the manufacturer’s claims. This is especially true for boots that are more expensive. 

Customers who pay more don’t begrudge the higher price, as long as they feel that the quality matches the price. Things that most frequently annoy customers are boots that fit poorly and soles that detach from the upper. 

Conclusion

The “best work boot” for you depends a great deal on what your work conditions are and what your foot needs. This is always the case, However, because of the very serious foot problems brought on by diabetes, diabetics face a particularly thorny task when it comes to finding the boot that will best meet their needs

For that reason, it’s really impossible to choose one boot as the “best of the best.” If you are a woman who needs diabetic work boots that you can pull on, then the ARIAT boot is an obvious choice. If you’re a fellow who needs a soft toe boot to do yard work in, then the Irish Setter wedge is a great choice. All of these were chosen based on the features most critical to diabetics. Because of that, they’re all good choices, as long as they fit your needs.  

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are 3 of the best womens diabetic boots?

These womens diabetic boots will protect your feet in the work environment.

What 3 steel toe shoes for diabetics get great customer ratings?

These three steel toe shoes for diabetics have the important features mentioned above. In particular the Timberland is highly recommended by its current customers

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