Composite Toe or Steel Toe Boots - Which one to Get?

You see, the best solution depends on the application. Safety toe work boots are required in a number of jobs, to be sure. However, some are a bit better for one job compared to another, often due to the risks faced.

Put a bit more simply, the greater the protection you might need, the stronger the safety toe that is appropriate or - in some cases - actually required by OSHA or your employer.

When To Buy Composite Toe Boots

There are several instances in which a composite toe is more appropriate than a steel toe. A composite - usually Kevlar, fiberglass or other hard polymer or plastic - has most of the strength of steel (not all of it!) but fewer of the drawbacks.

For instance, if you must pass through metal detectors on a regular basis, a composite toe is a better choice as they won't set them off. Additionally, composites are also poor conductors of heat or electricity.

This means that electrical hazard boots with a safety toe are almost invariably composite toe boots, though some may have a toe box of aluminum, which is a poor conductor of electricity.

composite boots for electircal work

Additionally, composite toe boots do not conduct heat very well. If you work outdoors and encounter cold, wet conditions, a set of composite toes won't get cold and chill your feet.

Another factor to consider is weight, as safety toe boots with a composite box will be lighter than steel toes. Granted, not necessarily by much; a solid pair of boots is a solid pair of boots, after all. A few ounces won't make much difference over the course of a few minutes...but over the course of a day that can add up to quite a bit.

Therefore, if you need safety toe boots but work around electricity, in the elements or otherwise don't need the utmost of toe and metatarsal protection (or aren't required to wear steel toes by your employer) then composite is going to be the way to go.

When You Need Steel Toe Boots

steel toe boots when to buy

That said, when you have a higher risk of injury to toes or feet...then steel toe boots are going to be required. Sometimes OSHA requires them; sometimes an employer will. However, when they're needed...they're needed.

Steel toe work boots are a better choice in warehousing jobs, for instance, as heavy items stored overhead can do a lot of damage if they fall on a foot.

Safety toe work boots with steel toes are also a good choice if one works around heavy equipment.

In other words, if you think you might need steel toe boots instead of probably should get them.

The Steel Toe Work Boots Myth

Unfortunately, there is a myth about steel toe work boots that have been circulating for years. Namely, people believe that if anything falls on them with sufficient force, the toe box will bend back and shear the toes off from the feet.

It's patently untrue, and it has actually caused people to jeopardize their own safety by refusing to wear steel toe boots when it would otherwise be prudent for them to do so.

Let's say for just a moment that you were wearing a pair of steel toe boots and your toes were, say, run over by a bulldozer.

The thing is that steel toe boots have a cap that's like half a hollow cylinder. Since there are longitudinal pieces, the top can't actually crimp backward in the manner that the myth describes. Instead, what would happen is the toe cap would flatten.

Your feet would possibly be injured, but you might be able to recover from the injury and get back to work in a matter of days or weeks if circumstances were right. That's the point of safety equipment such as safety toe boots. You don't escape injury in the event of an accident but you can escape catastrophic injury.

This irrational fear has also driven a lot of people to composite toe vs steel toe boots, which in many applications is actually perfectly acceptable. That said, quality composite toes often can increase costs over that of a typical pair of steel toes.

Whether composite toe boots or steel toe boots will be right for you...depends on your occupation and circumstances. Be sure to consider what you do when looking at your next pair of handmade work boots.