Steel-toe shoes are well-known for being the sturdiest and most protective footwear around. They seem well suited to wearing for all kinds of tough jobs and environments--as long as they're reasonably comfortable. The same steel that protects your toes can make steel-toe shoes less forgiving than many other types of footwear. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to make steel-toe shoes comfortable.
Choose a pair of shoes with plenty of room. This is always important, but even more so if you want to make steel-toe shoes comfortable. Unlike most shoes, these types of shoes don't have the ability to stretch much and conform to the unique shape of your feet. Make sure that your toes have plenty of room in your shoes from day one.
Break your shoes in gradually. If you want to wear steel-toe shoes for a particular job or trip, or if you need a new pair, try to get them well ahead of time and start wearing them for a few minutes at a time. Progress to an hour, then a few hours, before wearing them all day. This process allows the non-steel parts of the shoe to break in a bit, while also allowing your feet to gradually become tolerant to the shoes.
Wear thick socks. These can help prevent the types of rubbing that often cause blisters with new shoes. This is also another good reason to make sure your toes have plenty of space.
Use a Band-Aid if you get a blister, or even if you feel that you may be getting one. Blisters aren't a serious medical concern and certainly don't require treatment, but they do show that shoes are rubbing a lot in a particular place. Band-Aids help protect those spots while the shoes are breaking in, particularly while the area is blistered and painful.
Consider getting shoe inserts if nothing seems to make steel-toe shoes comfortable for you. These come in a variety of styles for different shapes of feet and types of problems. For example, some inserts offer arch support; small inserts cushion a particular part of the shoe that rubs against your foot. They can often make uncomfortable shoes much more bearable. If you have severe foot, leg or back problems that you feel may be related to shoe discomfort, ask your doctor for a recommendation. In some cases, doctors may even prescribe custom-made orthotics.