Steel Toe vs. Composite Toe Protection

Composite Safety Toe Caps
Composite Safety Toe Caps

Both steel toe and composite boots are designed to protect your feet. But how are you are supposed to choose between them?

In order to make the best decision, you must first understand their differences. We’re here to help!

Steel toe boots, as their name suggests, contain a piece of steel in the toe area of the boot to provide immense protection. Naturally, steel toe footwear meets the ANSI safety requirements. After all, they’re designated to protect the toes of electricians, construction workers, and others with occupations in a hazardous environment.

Unfortunately, some of these workers regularly pass through security which might entail metal detectors. The metal within the steel toe work boots can set off the metal detectors, causing some annoyance and possibly wasting some time (if you have to be individually checked for instance). Therefore, if you don’t have to pass through detectors, steel toe boots are an ideal choice. 

Composite toe boots are lighter than steel toe designs, and they don’t contain any form of metals in them. Instead, they include a composite material in the toe portion of the footwear. Composite materials include, but are not limited to, Kevlar, plastic, and carbon fiber. Composite toe boots also meet the ANSI safety requirements for shoes intended to provide your toes with added protection in comparison to boots without a safety toe. 

However, composite toe boots are typically more suitable for people who have to pass through metal detectors, such as nuclear workers, security personnel, and airport workers. This is because composite boots do not set off metal detectors like steel toe boots because they are non-metallic. 

There are two things you should know when you’re shopping for either steel toe or composite toe boots: impact rating and compression rating.

The impact rating is a number that informs you of the amount of pounds of impact the shoes will protect against. For example, an I/75 impact rated pair of boots can withstand an impact of 75 pounds.

Testing is done to determine the impact rating by dropping a weight from a certain height at a specified speed onto the boots. If the boots can withstand the 75 pound weight, they’re labeled as I/75. The minimum impact rating for safety toe boots is I/50. (We wouldn’t want to volunteer for this type of testing!)

The compression rating is the number of loads the shoes can withstand before cracking or breaking. For example, a C/75 will guard against compressive loads of up to 2,500 pounds. A C/50 pair can protect against compressive loads of up to 1,750 pounds.

For more detailed information about these ratings and more, check out our Footwear Terminology Guide.

When it comes to choosing between steel toe and composite toe options, your job will likely be a major factor. Here are some questions to think about when you’re making your decision:

  • Will you have to regularly walk through metal detectors?
  • What dangers will you face on the job?
  • How heavy is the equipment around you that could fall on your feet?
  • What level of protection do you feel most comfortable with?
  • Are you on the go often, and could you benefit from more lightweight design?

Answering these questions can help you make the right choice! If you need additional information about which safety toe footwear option is best for you, contact our Support Team!