Steel Toe Vs. Composite Toe Boots: Which Type Is Suitable For You?

Steel Toe Vs. Composite Toe Boots: Which Type Is Suitable For You?

Classic Steel Toe vs Composite ToeDo you have a job that involves certain dangers and possible injuries? If you do, safety boots are a mandatory piece of equipment. You probably already know that they are essential, but you don’t know which type to choose. There are two, the main kinds of safety boots; steel toe and composite boots. Here we will help you determine which type is the most suitable for you.

Recommended models:

  • Servus Comfort Technology 14″ PVC Steel Toe Men’s Work Boots
  • KEEN Utility Men’s Atlanta Cool Steel Toe Work Shoe
  • Reebok Work Duty Men’s Rapid Response RB RB8694 6″ Tactical Boot
  • Bates Men’s GX-8 Comp Toe Side Zip Work Boot
  • Danner Men’s Vicious 4.5 Inch Non Metallic Toe Work Boot
Start Reading:

What is a steel toe?

Steel Toe

The term steel toe refers to the cap, placed in the front of a boot, designed to protect the toes from possible injuries. They are the oldest and the most common type of safety boots on the market. The material is obviously steel, but it is a heavy-duty, stainless version in question, meaning that it can provide the ultimate safety and protect your toes from a variety of dangerous issues. The cap will be placed all around your toes and probably (depending on a model) below them.

There are plenty of advantages when it comes to steel toe boots and shoes. First of all, they are the oldest and the easiest type to get. They are also the most affordable. When we think of the safety only, they actually provide the safety level above the average. In addition, these boots will protect the feet from punctures, dropping objects and they are shatterproof.

However, there are a few drawbacks here. They are heavy, so be prepared for them. Besides the weight, these boots will activate any metal detector, so they are not recommended for workers who must pass the detectors every day.

What is a composite toe?

composite toe

A composite toe is a cap in the boots that is made from composite materials, therefore the suitable name. The materials will include Kevlar, fiberglass, carbon fiber, but also plastic. The most of the caps are made from a combination of two or three materials. Kevlar and carbon fiber are usually the most resistant mixture and the most expensive to make! An interesting addition is that Kevlar is used in bulletproof vests production and carbon fiber is used in Formula 1 and for hyper-cars. Both materials are lightweight and very resistant.

Advantages begin with the weight. Composite toe boots are 30% lighter than those with steel toe caps. They also offer a much better electrical insulation and they are more comfortable to wear, especially over a longer period of time. For all of you who must pass metal detectors in order to go to work, these boots are the best option.

Drawbacks are present as well. The first one is in the safety. All composite toe boots musty pass the same standards as steel toe boots, but still, they cannot withstand the same pressure. The material will break or even shatter. The bottom line here is that they provide moderate protection, while steel toe boots offer the best possible protection.

Difference between Steel Toe Vs Composite Toe

Things to know:

Things to Consider Before Buying a Boots

By now you probably have decided to get steel or composite toe boots, but you still don’t know which type is suitable. Actually, the decision is solely based on the job you have. Below we will guide you through the entire process, so at the end, you know which safety boots are the best choice.

The weight of the equipment you carry on your job

In this situation, most people make a mistake, believing that if they carry heavy equipment while working, they will need lightweight shoes which directly means that composite toes boots are chosen. Actually, if you carry heavy devices, tools, and gadgets, you will need steel toe boots. They will provide the safety you actually need. Keep in mind that one of the first purposes of the safety boots is to protect your toes from falling objects.

How frequently you must pass metal detectors?

You remember that steel toe boots will activate metal detectors every single time. It means that you will have to take your boots off, pass the detector and then put them back on. In order to skip this trouble and a serious issue, you should get composite toe boots. They will provide protection, but the materials in the toe cap cannot be detected by the metal detectors, obviously because they don’t contain any metals.

Protecting the feet from punctures

Almost all jobs that require safety boots have puncture hazards. This applies especially to the construction workers, who must protect their feet from nails, metals and etc. Obviously, it is essential to get steel toe boots here. They have a puncture resistant plate, meaning that they will prevent a nail penetrating a sole. Composite models are suitable, but keep in mind that they are not designed to prevent punctures.

Working in cold conditions?

The insulation safety boots offer is usually superb, but there are a few differences. For example, steel toe boots are less successful in keeping the feet dry and warm during the cold temperatures. Composite safety boots are an ideal choice here. They can prevent the water from penetrating the boot and the composite materials offer additional insulation, so the entire boot will provide better insulation.

Jobs that require electrical safety hazard ratings

All of you who work on jobs that involve electricity have just one choice. Composite toe boots are a much better and a much safer choice. Steel conducts the electricity, while composite materials don’t. Most of the composite material toe boots are rated as safe for usages on jobs where electricity is an issue. The new models of steel toe boots are also safe to use in those situations, but still, composite materials are a much better alternative.

Ankle support

Both of the types offer advanced ankle support, but composite toe boots do it a bit better. They provide additional safety due to lower weight, meaning that you will be able to move direction and avoid falling quicker than when wearing steel toe boots. It must be mentioned that both types which have high shafts are great for ankle support, but make sure you get additional ankle support.

How long will you stay or walk while working?

One way or another, you will have to stand on your feet the entire day, during working hours. Those of you who work in the environment, don’t have to get steel toe boots. Once again, these boots are the most durable and the safest of them all, so they should be used in construction and heavy industry. If you stand the entire day, composite toe boots are a much better choice.

Fit and the room for toes

This may be a generic advice, but it is one of the most important you can get. Basically, when you are choosing your new safety boots, regardless of the cap material, you must make sure they fit perfectly. To do so, never try them in the morning. Feet will swell during the day and if we know that you will wear the boots during the work, or the entire day if you prefer, swollen feet are the right measurement. The space between the toes and the front of the boot should be about 12 mm. Some people believe that this distance will increase over time, but it is just a myth. The front part of safety boots is extremely strong and durable, so it will maintain the same dimensions regardless of how long you wear them.

Always choose slightly larger boots

This is another tip you should use. Getting boots that are half a size larger is recommended. By doing this you get more room for your feet and you can wear thicker socks while working. Just right size or getting even smaller safety boots isn’t a smart decision


Here are 5 models of safety boots that we liked and that we believe they are the best choice for many of you.

1. Caterpillar Men’s 2nd Shift 6″ Steel Toe Boot

Caterpillar Men's 2nd Shift 6" Steel Toe Boot

  • Leather
  • Imported
  • Synthetic sole
  • Shaft measures approximately 6″ from arch
  • Heel measures approximately 1.25″
  • Platform measures approximately 0.75″
  • Ankle-cut work boot with steel toe with padded ankle and oil-resistant outsole


This model comes with a superb ankle support, which will keep your ankles safe while working. They are also oil resistant. In addition, we liked the leather, great design, and the high heel.

2. KEEN Utility Men’s Braddock Mid Steel Toe Work Boot

KEEN Utility Men's Braddock Mid Steel Toe Work Boot

  • Leather and Fabric
  • Made in the USA and Imported
  • Rubber sole
  • Shaft measures approximately 5″ from arch
  • Heel measures approximately 1.75″
  • American Built
  • Left and Right Asymmetrical Steel Toes
  • KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane
  • Nubuck Waterproof Leather Upper
  • TPU Shank for Midfoot Support
  • Removable Metatomical Dual Density EVA Footbed
  • Oil- and Slip-Resistant Non-Marking Rubber Outsole
  • Lining with hydrophobic/hydrophilic two-zone comfort technology
  • Direct Attach PU Midsole for Long-Lasting Comfort
  • CleanSport NXT(TM) FOR Natural Odor Protection


With the asymmetrical steel toe caps, the comfort and the safety are much better than with most, other models. Nevertheless, these boots are safe and durable. They have been manufactu7rrd in the United States and they meet all standards.

3. Timberland PRO Men’s 26078 Titan 6″ Waterproof Safety-Toe Work Boot

3. Timberland PRO Men's 26078 Titan 6" Waterproof Safety-Toe Work Boot

  • Leather
  • Imported
  • Rubber sole
  • Shaft measures approximately 6 from arch
  • Leather work boot featuring lace-up vamp with speed-lace hardware at top and protective toe with TiTAN alloy safety design
  • Polyurethane midsole for lightweight, durable cushioning
  • Moisture-channeling mesh lining with anti-microbial treatment
  • Oil- and slip-resistant PRO Rubber outsole


Thanks to the TiTAN metal toe caps, these boots will withstand literally anything you can throw at them. We liked the rubber sole and the anti-slip surface. Let’s not forget about the speed-lace system.

4. Danner Men’s Corvallis GTX 5″ NMT Boot

Danner Men's Corvallis GTX 5" NMT Boot

    • Leather
    • Imported
    • Rubber sole
    • Shaft measures approximately Ankle” from arch
    • Full grain leather upper
    • Triple stitched for superior endurance
    • Abrasion resistant toe and heel
    • Wider speed laces for secure fit
    • 90 degree heel for slip resistance and superior traction


All of you who are looking the most durable safety boots should consider these ones. The 3x stitching is by far more durable and resistant than any other alternative available on the market today.

5. Bates Men’s Strike Chelsea Comp Toe Slip-on Safety Toe Boot

Bates Men's Strike Chelsea Comp Toe Slip-on Safety Toe Boot

      • Leather and synthetic
      • Imported
      • Rubber sole
      • Shaft measures approximately 5.25″ from arch
      • Full grain leather upper with twin gore panels
      • Composite toe ASTM F2413-11 rated
      • Anti-fatigue endurance performance system
      • Multi-terrain rubber lug outsole
      • Stabilizing nylon shank


Designed to be as comfortable as possible and to improve the productivity of the employees, these boots are desirable. They feature an anti-fatigue system which is more than just beneficial. We will add the fact they can be ready on your feet in just a few seconds.

The Outcome

What to Expect After Purchasing?  

The main thing to expect is a break-in period. For steel toe boots, it is usually 3 weeks. Only after that, they will be fully comfortable and pleasant to wear. For composite toe boots, this period is shorter, usually around 10 days. During the same period, your feet will have to get used to more weight. Luckily for you, most feet will adapt in a matter of days. Tip: In order to make the transition easier, try to get plenty of rest as possible, especially during the first 5 days.

Some maintenance is expected as well. All you have to do is to keep the boots clean and conditioned (for leather boots). Other than that, you don’t have to do anything else.

Be prepared to invest into new laces over some time. Of course, this applies to some models only, but just in case, having an additional set of laces is a wise decision.

Safety standards for Steel Toe Boots

Many of you know that all safety boots must pass safety ratings, required by the OSHA. But, most of you don’t know what those ratings actually mean. Steel toe boots are tested to withstand I/75, meaning that they must withstand an impact of an object weighing 75 pounds. C/75 means that they must withstand 2500 pounds of pressure.

Safety standards for Composite Toe Boots

Composite toe safety boots are tested in the same way and with the same weight. All of them must pass the tests in order to be approved. Now it looks like they are the same and that they offer the same level of safety, but you would be wrong.

Although steel toe boots are tested to withstand this weight and pressure, in the real world they can withstand even more, while composite toe boots can withstand only the pressure they are credited for.

The final thought

At the end, we can deduce that the best safety boots are those that are suitable for your job. Steel ones offer the best protection, but they are the heaviest. Composite material toe caps are much lighter, but they offer moderate protection. If your job requires serious protection, steel boots are the only choice. In any other case, composite toe safety boots provide sufficient protection. We also must add the fact that electricians should use composite toe boots. They offer better protection from the electricity, due to the fact the composite materials don’t conduct electricity.

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