Workplace Safety Tips

Composite Toe vs Steel Toe Protective Footwear: Which is better?

Steel toe boots are one of the most important pieces of PPE gear, providing essential protection for the vulnerable front section of the foot. But ‘steel toe’ may sometimes be a misnomer, as not all modern protective boots are made with a steel cap.

While protective footwear has traditionally been manufactured using steel to reinforce the front of the boot to protect from compression and falling object, manufacturers may also choose to use composite toe cap materials, such as TPU, fibreglass or modern materials like carbon fibre.

It is commonly understood that these boots are heavier but offer more protection, while composite toe boots provide less protection but are lighter. That is still sometimes the case, but many manufacturers are now producing more lightweight steel toe boots, while many composite materials offer a high level of protection.

Choosing the right protective footwear will depend on the specific materials and style of boots and the requirements of the job for which they will be used.

Steel toe boots for heavy industry 

All protective footwear should meet the relevant independent safety standards. In practice, that usually means toe cap protection of 200 joules. 

Regardless of whether the boots are built with steel toe caps or composite toe caps, that minimum level of protection needs to be met to conform to the applicable standards. 

Therefore both steel cap boots and composite cap boots produced by reputable manufacturers that meet independent safety standards can generally be considered to offer reasonable protection. 

However, if front foot protection beyond 200 joules is required, heavier duty steel toe boots may be the preferred choice.   

Bear in mind, however, that additional protection should not be taken for granted just because the boots are made with a steel cap. Check with the manufacturer or an experienced sales consultant to determine the actual level of protection, and to ensure that steel toe boots in question meet the high demands of the conditions in which they will be expected to perform. 

On the other hand, composite toe boots may be slightly lighter (which can contribute to comfort over the course of a busy workday) and have the advantage of not setting off metal detectors in high-security areas.

Safety boots means more than toe protection

Don’t get too caught up in the composite toe v steel toe debate. Safety footwear is designed to serve various protective functions, and it’s important that the footwear you choose is wholly suitable to the required task.

For example, a steel midsole protects the wearer from sharp objects puncturing the boots from below. Or an industry may require antistatic protection or protective boots that offer adequate water resistance. 

In short, while front foot protection may often be the primary consideration when choosing steel toe or composite toe boots, it’s not the only consideration, and a proper assessment of workplace PPE requirements should involve a holistic look at the relevant protective features.  

Explore our wide range of steel toe boots and assorted protective footwear to find the right boots for your needs.