If you have ever taken a close look at your work boots you might have noticed a thin strip of material running along the arch and maybe even around your ankle. What is this part and how does it relate to comfort, durability and structure?
What Are Shanks?
The shank is a long, thin piece of material between the insole and outsole of a boot or shoe that serves to support the foot and provide structure.
The metal or non-metal shanks are tucked into the interior at the center part of your boots, just below the arches of your foot when wearing them.
Later in this article, we will look at the different shank materials and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. So make sure to read on!
But first, let’s look at why we need shanks in our (work) boots.
Why Do We Need Shanks in our Work Boots?
Not only do shanks help provide structure, but they also provide comfort and reinforcement and are designed to follow the contour of your feet for optimal comfort. They also provide stability for the foot when walking, running, or standing on slippery surfaces.
In work boots, their job is to help you keep up with your hard work, giving the much-needed additional support to your feet arches, while also helping to reduce foot fatigue. On top of that, they help protect your feet against sharp objects that you may encounter on the job.
For other activity-specific shoes or boots, shanks can also offer a very specific advantage. In mountaineering boots, for example, shanks are a crucial factor that diminishes the load incurred by the feet and calves when ascending steep cliffs or mountains. On the other hand, shanks used in pointe shoes for ballet are made out of flexible materials like plastic or leather.
The Types of Shanks
All work boots have shanks, with either metal or non-metal versions of the part. The most common types of shank materials include:
or, of course, a combination of these materials: like fiberglass + kevlar or steel + nylon.
The most common and traditional type of shanks are steel ones.
If you are looking for a very sturdy shank that can provide superior comfort as well as durability, then the metal is the best one to go with. What is great about these ones is that they also help reduce foot fatigue and can offer better protection against sharp objects on the job site, making them perfect for industrial work boots.
Potential downsides of shoes with metal shanks can be they col weather sensitivity, slightly heavier weight and less flexibility. In return, they do offer the ultimate protection and stability for your feet.
The puncture-resistance they provide is also greatly desired by hikers, who want to protect their feet against sharp objects when hiking over rocky terrain.
These sturdy steel shanks can also help prevent stone bruises on the bottoms of your feet. With this sort of concealed, protective feature, you’ll have fewer ladder ringer blisters and stone bruises.
Many work boots today don’t contain metal in their construction, but still have shanks made from a harder material like plastic, fiberglass or nylon. These are softer than steel, but still very supportive, lightweight and flexible. This is a big advantage when you need lighter shoes that are easy to move around throughout a long day of hard work.
However, non-metal shanks do provide less protection against sharp objects or rough working conditions. In this case, it’s a better idea to have boots or shoes with shanks that are made from a metal alloy rather than those composed of entirely plastic or fiberglass.
With some shoes or boots, a combination of different shank materials is used. For example fiberglass + kevlar, which provide the same reliability but are less heat-conductive. Using a different type of material in combination with steel also creates more flexibility while retaining a strong structure and protection, offering the best of both worlds.
Although shanks come in different types of materials, function-wise they are very similar. The only differences might be the amount of flexibility and weight differences that a person feels when worn.
It’s important to note that not all shoes necessarily have shanks: Shoes designed for flexibility, such as running shoes, will not include shanks as they are not necessary for the type of shoe. The lack of a shank in these types of shoes decreases weight, makes them more flexible and appropriate for running or other activities where ankle support is not as much needed.
If your shoe does have shanks, they are usually half-or full-length, with some 3/4 of the length of the outsoles.