What is the Difference Between Steel and Composite Toe?

When selecting protective gear, choosing the correct type of footwear can be one of the most confusing parts of the process. Many questions arise when it comes to deciding between composite or steel toed boots. Though both of them offer a more than adequate level of toe protection, the operating environment is the ultimate determination for choosing one over the other. Following this comparison and usage information should make this decision simple.

What is a Steel Toe?

First created in Germany after World War II, steel toe boots are a boot made with a plate of steel integrated into the boot lining to protect the toes and a small portion of the top of the foot. Certain steel toe boots are also designed with this plate running through the sole for added protection. In general, steel toe boots are not safe for use in environments with electrical or magnetic hazards.

The Purpose of Steel

With the extra durable protection provided by steel toe boots, it is ideal for any person dealing with heavy lifting projects, such as in construction and manufacturing, to choose this option. The steel plate located within the toe is made to withstand and protect from an impact that would normally crush the foot or toes, without shattering or cracking. This is also the reason that some occupations may require the use of this protective gear over the non-metal option. Some of these occupations include loggers, factory workers, and forklift operators.

What is a Composite Toe?

Like their counterpart, composite toe footwear is also built to protect the wearer’s feet and toes. In order to do this, a composite material plate, made of reinforced fiberglass, is placed inside the boot, covering the toes and a small portion of the top of the foot. However, unlike in a steel toe boot, the plate in a composite toe boot does not run through the sole. It is safe for use in environments with electrical hazards and will not be picked up by X-ray detectors so they are ideal for use in airport environments.

The Purpose of Composite Toe

With a lighter, less durable material used for protection, composite toe boots are ideal for those working in an industry with less amounts of heavy lifting. Since they are made with nonmetallic, nonmagnetic materials, they conduct no electricity, making them the perfect footwear for those working in areas or occupations dealing with high electrical currents, such as an electrician. Some warehouses and other occupations may require these boots over steel as well. Steel vs. Composite What if the occasion arises, though not common, in which a workplace leaves the option open for the employee to choose which type they want to wear? What if someone wants to choose a boot for personal use? How would they choose? Looking at this direct comparison should make that choice less burdensome.

Other Resources:
ASTM F2413-11 Standard Specs for Safety Toe Footwear - http://www.astm.org/Standards/F2413.htm