I’m going to be that pedantic asshole here for a second and remind you that Middle Earth is High Fantasy, and if we’re going with Lord of the Rings then it’s Epic Fantasy. “Sword and Sorcery” is actually a different sub-genre of fantasy established (mainly) by Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard. The famous narratives surround the adventures of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and Conan the Barbarian.
You will probably break your brain trying to figure out all the fantasy subcategories from dark fantasy, to low fantasy, to gaslamp, but the distinction here is important. “Sword and Sorcery” is a sub-genre is a set up where the fantasy focuses on the personal costs to the characters rather than a sweeping epic. It’s generally populated with anti-heroes, but if you’re writing a story that involves a small group of friends on an adventure and they are focused on personal growth over epic battles then you’ve got Swords and Sorcery.
However, if you don’t understand your genre then you eventually end up in this situation: Dragon Age (epic fantasy) versus Dragon Age 2 (sword and sorcery).
If you want my advice though, I’d say you pull a Tolkien and start researching medieval combat. Too many authors attempt to come up with “clever”, more “modern“ solutions in order to give their characters an edge that people in the middle ages either actually solved or just weren’t applicable.
In this case, it’s probably both and definitely the latter. Steel ridges on the bottom of the boot aren’t going to add anything to the foot’s stopping power. The reason for this is that stiffening up the sole in a boot or shoe that you intend to use for kicking is a bad idea.
When you’re looking at application of force via a punch or a kick, you learn quickly that the body position and posture ensure that the force is distributed over a small area rather than a large one.
In simple terms = the smaller the area, the more penetrating force you get.
For example, the reason why a boxer’s fracture occurs in the fore and index finger on the hand is because that’s where the connecting force is being applied. The rest of the hand is reinforcing those two fingers. Ultimately, a similar principle applies with the foot.
The whole bottom of the foot isn’t used for kicking, except in a very few circumstances (like the push kick, which does exactly what it’s defined as). Kicks use the blade of the foot (the outside edge), the ball of the foot, and the heel. Sometimes, the top of the foot is used. When you use the whole of the foot to kick i.e. spreading the force across a wider surface, you get the push kick rather than the front kick. The push kick is a defensive kick, used for maintaining distance. You bury your foot into the other person’s gut and shove, like a literal push. You use your foot to push your opponent away from you. (This is the point where some of you may be realizing that martial techniques are often given literal names that correspond directly to their purpose, which will help you in the future when figuring out what X technique does. Case in point = triangle choke (arm forms a triangle and chokes) and the arm bar (opponent’s arm is extended to form a literal bar).)
The front kick = leg kicks toward the front (point of impact: ball of the foot)
The side kick = turn sideways in order to kick (point of impact: blade of the foot or heel, depending on type)
The roundhouse = the leg comes across the body, literally swings around to kick. (point of impact: either ball or top of the foot depending on type of kick used.)
The back kick/spinning sidekick = your back faces your opponent when you kick. (Point of impact: Heel.)
The hook kick = leg’s chamber forms a hook as it kicks. (Point of impact: Heel)
The spinning hook kick/wheel kick = you spin and perform a hook kick. (Point of impact: Heel)
The axe kick = leg lifts and drives the heel on a sharp downward angle like an axe. (Point of impact: Heel.)
The shin kick = instead of connecting with the foot, this Muay Thai kick connects with the shin. (Point of impact: Shin.)
The mule kick = you know how mules and horses kick with their hind legs? Yeah, it looks like that. (Point of impact: heel.)
The push kick = A defensive kick which pushes an opponent away from you to create distance. (Point of impact: the entire underside of the foot.)
When you see someone breaking down a door with their foot in the movies, they are, usually, using a push kick.
If you’re wearing boots that don’t allow for much articulation of the ankle or bending in the foot then your character isn’t going to do much kicking. Kicks are easiest to do with no shoes on, then in sneakers. There’s a lot of bendy, rotational, mechanical detail that goes on with kicks like the side kick or the roundhouse. Add in that kicks are risky business, going up on one leg is sacrificing a lot for attack, and their use in most modern combat is confined almost entirely to the mid/lower body.
With the way kicks function, there’s no point to affixing steel to the bottom of the boot. It won’t matter if they’re fighting someone unarmored and if they’re armored then they’re best bet will be going after the joints left exposed in the armor for articulation like the knee. You wear steel on the top of the foot to protect the foot and the toes, and on the shin.
If you don’t plan on having her kick as a major part of her fighting style, then I suggest going with a medieval variant of the steel toed boots. The boot will be too heavy for fancy kicking, but you get to upgrade kicking someone in the shin from “OH GOD WHY” to “OH GOD YOU BROKE IT!”
Something similar to the sabaton.
I’ll be honest, cool as they are, kicks aren’t the easiest to pull off especially in a combat situation. Most fighters, especially when going up against enemies in armor, will avoid them entirely. Unless you’re doing a lot stretching and remaining loose, getting practice in, they’re very difficult to do cold. Do to the necessity of going up on one leg, kicks end up in the category of risky business.
Also, unless you’re building your setting on “Rule of Cool”, avoid the spin kicks. While devastating when they connect, the average combatant isn’t going to want to risk taking their eyes off their opponent for any length of time. They also aren’t going to want to expose their back to the enemy.
You need your spine and your kidneys.
The back kick and its brother the mule kick will get the most mileage off an enemy coming in from behind you. However, take care of the opponent in front of you first. Otherwise, it’ll put them in the perfect position to grab your head with all the other openings provided to pick from.
The other thing that’s important to remember about kicks is that due to their risky business (very big motion, up on one leg, total commitment), you gotta be fast. Wearing heavy footwear will impede the speed, which ultimately both lessens the power of the kick and makes it easier to avoid/block/counter.
The one thing you don’t want is to throw your leg out there only to have the other person catch it and then break your knee. Or, you know, drag you around the field until you fall down.
No, really, it happens. If you ever want to know about the horrors that can be committed on a captured leg, check out Hapkido.
TLDR: Just give them some normal protection for their feet.
While the most risky, kicks are the most powerful of the hand to hand techniques. They don’t need help to make them more effective against unarmored opponents. They crush organs and break bones just fine all by themselves.
Your bones, even, if you screw up. (Hello, Sixth Grade.)
If they are facing enemies in armor then take weapons.