I have always been told NO STEEL TOE BOOTS around horses. This was a big no no when I was in Pony Club, and I don’t know many people that do wear them. I have once or twice seen them recommended at a place but that’s not a lot in 25 years. “Everyone knows when a horse stomps on your toes it will crush the metal and cut your toes off, and that will not look good in my flip flops.” Well maybe it would save you money on a pedicure because you would only have half as many toes to paint?
I have spent some considerable time in steel toes in my time working offshore, I have yet to see or hear of a toe cutting off incident. That is with 11 years in the industry! I do know one thing about steel toes is that they are heavy, 3.4 lbs for my pair of steel toes compared to 1.8lbs for my pair of paddock boots. Composite toes weren’t allowed back when I got my steel toes so I don’t have a lot of experience with them but I have been told they are much lighter. I did had a guy sniff my boot once, see the bottom for that odd story. I’m not going to lie though, despite how heavy my Doc Marten Steel Toes may be, I still love them, we have been together 10 years now, we have traveled the world, spent about 10 months offshore together, and have caused numerous conversations in the airport security line as to why someone my size would be wearing such boot. That being said, they have never once been worn to the barn. Ok maybe once to drop something off on my way home from work while I was wearing them, but not on purpose.
Mythbusters, anyone remember them and their show? “Oh yeah, they were the guys that tried to kill themselves 2-4 different ways every week.” Yep, they love blowing up and breaking things. Anyhow, they did tests on this, the picture to the right shows a cut off steel toe with a hunk of clay in it. They found that it would take 6000 “pounds of pressure”* to crush the boot enough to “cut off your toes”, this can be seen on the left, my toes hurt just looking at that! Then they tested a regular boot and found that 1400 “pounds of pressure”* will flatten your foot, when I say flatten, I mean pancake as can be seen to the right, yes that paper looking thing is a piece of clay, are your toes curling yet? “Ewww gross, but how does that relate to my horse stomping on my foot?” Since the units are confusing and from the video I can’t read what the gauge says. So let us apply some logic. “Logic, who uses logic, I am a free spirit, you can’t tie me down with your logic!” I am going to say I have been stomped on in a regular boot, numerous times, thank you Emma, no that was not a snake in the grass, it’s a stick, and no it’s not moving. So Emma weighs 1000lbs is barefoot and has hooves about 4″ across. However, unless you count that time she stomped on my pinkie toe and twisted, I have yet to break anything wearing regular boots, let alone fully pancake my foot. Since steel toes can protect over 4 times what a regular boot can, it stands to reason, if you have a massive draft horse that weighs 2000lbs, that is only twice what Emma weighs so your toes would still be safe and sound in steel toe boots.
“Great for your barefoot horses but what about shoes?” Well, everyone knows that its a lot more painful to be stepped on by a stiletto heel than a regular heel, why is that? Well all the weight of the lady (or whomever, I don’t discriminate) is focused on that tiny area, much like a needle is easier to push through skin than a large nail. “Eww, needles, I hate needles!” Yeah me too. Moving on, a horse with a shoe will have his weight mainly concentrated on the rim of the shoe, but I have had shoes stomp on me in regular boots too, they squish and pinch but haven’t broken, thus you will still be protected by the steel toes, not squished and severed! Fun little fact, the largest horse ever was named Sampson, born in 1846 stood 21 hands 2.5 inches and weighed a whopping 3,360lbs! You might think twice about that steel toe cutting your toes off, let’s be honest, either way if the steel is cutting your toes off or not, you are in a bad situation anyhow.
One interesting thing that Mythbusters tried was dropping a blade similar to a guillotine, on the boots. “Off with their heads, err toes!” They essentially simulated dropping a very thin steel plate (think large heavy knife) that weighs 400lbs from 6′ high. It hit the toes and then slid just past the steel toe and chopped the foot in half. “Woof Gross! Thank god my horse doesn’t have steel plates for feet, Edward Bladefeet?” Yes I doubt in your barn you will come across a 400lb steel plate dropping pointy edge down on your foot but, the interesting point here is that it slid on top of the foot, instead of off the foot. So if Fluffy pony stomps on your toes, it would in theory slide off the steel toe and land on the top of your foot. I too know that when a horse stomps on the top of your foot, it hurts but does not usually cause a break, at least not in my case, thanks again Emma! You can get boots with metatarsal guards like the ones pictured but I bet they are stupid heavy and not super comfortable.
Also, no sandals, flip flops, open toes etc. around horses! Most of us have seen that Facebook post with the peeled open foot. If you haven’t I will leave you to hunt that down yourself. I too have made this mistake, spent a summer and a few months after with a gross falling off purple toenail, and I was lucky that’s all it was. We all know we have that horse that we can trust, that would be Truman at my house, but even a stomp at a fly can end in an ER visit and stitches. Especially if they have shoes on. “Frankenstein feet, Frankenfeet?” If you don’t believe me spend some time with our friend Google today, I hope you have a strong stomach.
One final thing I do want to cover is the soles of the boots, as you can see, my steel toes have big chunky tread on them, which is great for keeping you from slipping on a wet deck of a boat or in a muddy barnyard, but not great in english stirrups. These may get you trapped in a stirrup, we have already covered FreeJump Stirrups and since those are the only ones I know of (for adults) that can let your foot fall out either change into suitable riding boots, ride without stirrups, or even go bareback!
As promised, the boot sniffing incident story. I was on the back deck of the boat, we were preparing for the next project, I stopped to talk to a group of guys about a few things and the one guy looks at my boots and comments on how small they are, “What size are those?” “Men’s 6.” You see back then, if you wanted a pull on boot, which I did because you have to change shoes when you go inside the boat, you had to get men’s boots. They didn’t make women pull on steel toe boots until about 3 years later, then they had pink on them, I just couldn’t. Anyhow, he asked to see one, so I pulled my boot off and handed it to him, all of the guys commented on the fact that it might be the smallest boot they have ever seen, then the guy holding it, lifts it to his face and totally takes a sniff! Duuuuude… The group went nuts “What are you doing?” “Ok weirdo!” His response was priceless. “Well she is a girl, I wanted to see if it smelled like a girl or like all the other nasty boots out here.” One of his buddies said “What did you think it would smell like roses?” “I dunno, I just wanted to see what it smelled like.” Truthfully the only reason they didn’t stink like a regular boot is that they were still fairly new and had spent the last month in my closet. From then on, the whole offshore trip, anytime that guy walked into the room the guys would sing “I’m in love with a sniffer” to the tune of I’m in Love With a Stripper. Now you can have that song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
*These units are quoted directly from the show.
**I might get a little kickback from Amazon if you purchase something from a link above.