My father just asked me if I could buy some 'steel-toed' shoes on "the Internet". So I went to [That Popular Shoe Site] and typed 'steel toed shoes' in their search field and it showed me lots of watches, some crampons and various and sundry steel items, but no shoes. When I typed 'steel toe' (without a D) it showed me tons of shoes with steel caps in the toe area. My father and those around him have said 'steel-toed' shoes for as long as I can remember. Is this a generational thing, a regional thing (we're New Englanders) or is steel toed shoes just not correct? Thanks.

  • I suspect that the shoe manufacturers use "steel-toe", but I've always heard "steel-toed" on the job.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 6, 2016 at 23:10
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    I might describe it as "steel-capped". But then, what do I know - I'm British! And please bear in mind that not only Americans use English Language sites - this 'Little Englander' has no idea what "[That Popular Shoe Site]" refers to.
    – TrevorD
    Jun 6, 2016 at 23:18
  • Sorry TrevorD - [That Popular Shoe Site] is Zappos. I just didn't want to give them unpaid advertising :)
    – user59127
    Jun 6, 2016 at 23:27
  • As a Canadian, I have heard both "steel-toed shoes" and "steel toe shoes", and even just the colloquial "steel-toes". I don't believe either of them are any more or less correct than the others. Jun 6, 2016 at 23:28
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    'steel-toe' is a noun. 'steel-toed' is an adjective.
    – Mazura
    Jun 7, 2016 at 0:46

2 Answers 2


"Steel-toed boot" is an acceptable alternative, both usage-wise and meaning-wise.

Usage-wise, I've heard it both ways in two different states (I grew up in St. Louis, but I go to school in Oklahoma), and Google ngram has that it's used a little less than half as much as steel-toe.

Other validating results include Wiktionary, which includes it as an alternative form, and the fact that traditionally they were literally capped, or "toed" with steel.


Ask rather is steel-toe boot acceptable? No! I am not an English guru, just a native speaker with a fair ear, so I can give only an argument by analogy.

There is a sloth with three toes. This is not called a three-toe sloth. It is called a three-toed sloth. Wikipedia, Three-toed sloth. The National Geographic agrees it is three-toed, as does the BBC (@TrevorD, please note.)

  • 2
    What happens in one instance doesn't prove what happens in another. Most people say iced tea, but hardly anyone says iced cream. Jun 7, 2016 at 0:15
  • @Steven Littman True, and when I looked for the difference between iced cream and ice cream, this came up first:english.stackexchange.com/questions/36609/…
    – ab2
    Jun 7, 2016 at 0:22
  • What @Steven said. Google returns considerably more hits for open-back sandals than the open-backed version. In my BrE vernacular the difference is somewhat academic, since in casual conversation probably nobody (including me! :) could tell whether I was saying steel-cap boots or steel-capped boots. I'm not really capable of enunciating another consonant in between /p/ and /b/ like that, and I'd never call them "shoes". Jun 7, 2016 at 0:37

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