Composite Toe vs. Steel Toe Work Boots

Last Updated on November 3, 2021 by Howard Robey

Some worksites involve the danger of foot injury, and thus the employer requires you to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). It includes footwear such as safety toe boots that are used to protect your feet from workplace hazards. These shoes safeguard your feet from any rolling or falling objects, electrical hazards, or anything that can pierce the sole of your foot. Work boots are designed with an internal toe box that resists and guards your feet against impact or compression.

Composite Toe vs. Steel Toe Work Boots

Composite toe and steel toe work boots are two types of shoes often used by workers. In some shoes, you will find alloys such as aluminum or titanium toes. However, the most commonly used toes are composite and steel toes.

Let’s compare one against the other.

Composite Toe Boots

Composite toe boots are made from non-metal materials such as Kevlar, carbon fiber, fiberglass, or plastic. Composite toe boots have no metal; hence they are great for worksites with metal detectors. These boots are poor conductors of electricity and heat, making them a popular and practical choice for engineers, electricians, plumbers, welders, architects, or anyone dealing with electric components.

Composite toe boots are lighter than metal toe boots. You can reduce the weight of your footwear up to 30% by using composite toe work boots. Composite toe boots are more comfortable than metal toe boots because they are built for long time use. They are better for outdoor weather, rough and muddy conditions because they are less affected by the ambient temperatures.

Composite toe boots don’t offer the same level of protection against impact and compression compared to their metallic counterparts.

Steel Toe Boots

Steel toe boots are built to withstand higher impact than composite boots. They are slightly heavier in weight, but when this weight is transferred to your feet for 8-10 hours daily, the difference becomes noticeable. Composite toe boots are expensive than steel toe boots and don’t offer the breathability of a composite toe boot.

Specification Composite Toe Boot Steel Toe Boot
Material Kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic Steel
Weight Lightweight Heavy
Conductor/Insulator Insulator Conductor
Comfort More comfortable Less comfortable
Protection Good Best
Durability Low High
Set off metal detectors Never Yes
Price Expensive Less expensive

The Steel Toe Work Boot Myth

A myth about steel toe boots states that if anything heavy falls on them with sufficient force, the toe box can bend back and damage your toes or even cut them.

This is not true, and it has been repeatedly proven false. This myth had caused many people to suffer from injuries at workplaces by not wearing steel-toe shoes when the employer required them. Moreover, if you don’t follow workplace safety standards set out by the U.S. Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In that case, you won’t be eligible for insurance or any compensation from your employer.

Steel toe boots’ design is the biggest evidence for debugging this myth. Steel toe boots have a cap that’s like a half-hollow cylinder. The top is made of longitudinal pieces, and it can’t crimp back in the manner described in the myth.

Even if some accident was to happen, you would probably end up with minor injuries and would be back to work in a few days. You won’t have to bear something severe like permanent damage or sheared toes.

The Steel Toe Work Boot Myth


So now that we know the basic differences between steel toe and composite toe boots. Let’s read more about them, so you know which the right one for you is?

When to choose steel toe or composite toe work boots?

Your occupation and job site requirements dictate which the right shoe is for you.

Typically, electricians, plumbers, engineers, welders, architects, and project managers use composite toe work boots. Such jobs need you to spend long hours and continuous days to complete your tasks and do not involve the use of heavy machinery.

Steel toe boots are best for people dealing with heavy machines such as mechanics, builders, machine operators, loggers, and construction workers. Suppose a brick falls on your feet while working at a construction site; a steel toe will protect your fingers better compared to composite toe boots.

What is the weight difference between a steel toe boot and a composite toe boot?

The steel toe usually adds 2-3 ounces to the overall weight of the shoe. This difference may seem negligible, but when you calculate this difference for the number of steps over the 12 hours shift, it will take a toll on your feet.

How to ensure that I am buying the work boot for my shoe?

How to ensure that I am buying the work boot for my shoe

You need to consider two things before buying work boots. First, make sure that you are buying employer-recommended shoes. Secondly, check the OSHA standard for footwear safety. The OSHA standard for protected footwear is 29 CFR 1910.136. This standard allows employers to use protective footwear built according to the specification detailed in the consensus standard ASTM F2 413. It means that the boot has been tested to withstand impact and meets compression specifications.

To find these specifications, you have to look at the inside of your boot tongue. Manufacturers display information about shoe certifications, materials, and care instructions there.

Can steel toe boots cause foot problems?

Not only steel toe boots, but other shoes can also cause feet problems. Any poorly fitting foot can hurt your feet pretty badly. Your feet can also have problems if you wear the wrong shoes. For example, if you wear moccasins for walking on concrete floors, you are bound to have swollen toes after a couple of hours.

Which has the highest weight-bearing capacity; steel toe or composite toe?

Steel toe boots have more weight-bearing capacity than composite toe boots. It is simple to understand that non-metals are not as sturdy as metals. In order to make composite boots withstand the same amount of weight, composite needs to be a lot thicker. It will make the shape of the shoe more swollen.

Final Words

One should always select the shoe type based on the working environment and employer’s requirements. Workplace injuries can get very severe if you are not wearing the right PPE. So, make sure that you get the best work boots after doing some research.

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