My working career was spent in hospitals. Part of the dress code which was common across the years and in the multiple states in which I worked was: No Open Toed Shoes.
This makes sense in hospitals and in many other workplaces. We worked with chemicals would could spill and sharp objects (needles & blades) which could be hazardous. Ignore for a moment that many people, including yours truly, have moments of KLUTZ.
So how did workers more than a century ago protect their feet? You could not order a pair of steel toe safety shoes of either a paper catalog or on-line. And they didn’t carry them at the local general store either.
The idea was imported. They quickly became manufactured locally. And while they have gone out of style and I doubt they’d be permitted on a construction site today — these examples protected many toes from dropped tools and rocks.