Steel Toe or Composite Toe Work Boots?
Author: Amelia Phillips Date Posted:7 September 2021
10 minute read
Take a good look at your work boots. Go on, check them out real good. Are there some holes plugged up with a good chunk of mud? Is one boot missing a lace? Is the zip held up with a zip tie? (Or my favourite) Is the sole held on with duct tape? Trust me when I say we have seen it all. Seriously though, any damage to your work boot can mean a potential trip to the emergency department.
If the protective toe cap of your boot is dented, exposed, or even out of shape from a previous incident, the protective functionality of the boot is almost certainly compromised. It's time to chuck them in and head to Allingtons!
With so many styles of work boots and shoes on the market right now it can be hard to determine which is the best choice of footwear. Whether you are brand loyal or ready to try something a bit different from your last pair, the decision largely depends on what you do (your job!) what you want the boot or shoe to do (waterproof, nonslip, protect your toes…or a bit of everything!) and whether you’re a lacer, zipper or a puller-onner (yes that’s a thing!).
Don’t forget comfort….some of the brands offer a comfort guarantee so this is a serious consideration, especially if you’re trying something new.
When searching for safety footwear, it is very important to look into the details of the style and brand you are thinking of buying to properly decipher which one is for you. Buying work boots can be a serious investment, and not just in money. Consider that you’re an average worker working 38 hours (and the rest..) a week for say 50 years of your life (I shall fetch my calculator). That’s a mighty long time in your boots….98,800 hours to be exact. I’d certainly want something supportive, safe AND comfy!
The style of boot you go for is a personal choice. What works for one won’t for another. Your job may also dictate the style. I know some workplaces won’t allow laces as they can get caught in machinery, others won’t allow a pull-on boot, they can come off too easily, so it’s really important to do your homework on what you can and can’t wear on a worksite - and not just your own worksite. If your job involves a visit to another site, they may have different regulations.
One of the biggest questions we get asked is what the difference between a steel toe boot and a composite toe boot is. Both have pros and cons and again your choice may be dictated by what you do.
Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of these safety boots:
Steel Toe Boots and Shoes:
Steel cap or steel toes can be found in a boot or a sneaker style shoe and are by far the most common type of safety footwear. The old steel cap boot has been around since Adam was a boy! (For those of you not old enough to know that phrase, it’s a rather long time!)
Back in the 1930’s, the Germans started putting steel caps into the work boots of their factory workers as a result of the almost impossible costs associated with liability insurance for injured workers. At around this time, Red Wing Boots adopted the same practice, and thus, the humble steel toe boot was born. Not only were the boots a hit with the working class but the punk rockers of the 60’s adopted the chunky steel toe look from Dr Martens Boots (yes the Docs are available in a steel toe), a trend still popular today.
So now you know that both chippies and punk rockers dig the steel toe boot, let’s get into it and find out if the steel toe boot is the boot for you.
Steel toe or steel cap work boots are constructed with a metal toe cap, built into the lining of the toe area of the boot to protect the toes from impact and puncture-related incidents. Steel Blue, Mack, Blundstone, Hard Yakka, and KingGee are arguably market leaders in the steel toe boot market and boast a large range of pull-on, lace-up and lace/zip-up styles.
- Steel cap/toe boots will protect your feet from heavy falling objects so are pretty good at helping to protect your toes from impact-related accidents.
- They help to protect feet from saw-related incidents as well as punctures to the top of the toe area of the boot.
- Steel toe boots are generally a little bit cheaper than composite, however, the price of composite toe boots has come more in line with the steel toe in recent years.
- Some brands have made specific Women's styles that are narrower and more tapered, this can make them lighter for more petite body shapes.
- Considered to be stronger than composite toe boots.
- Generally accepted on all worksites and work environments.
- Great for heavy machinery workers, mechanics, mining, construction and the like.
- They are heavy!
- Not a good choice for some professions such as electricians and plumbers who work around water and electricity.
- Can make your feet hot in summer and freeze your toes in winter. (This is where a good quality pair of Bamboo socks comes in handy).
Composite toe boots are made up of a combination of manmade materials such as fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon fiber.
When a number of materials, strong in their own right are molded together, they create a material much stronger than the individual components. This is the basis of a composite toe boot.
- Composite materials are considerably lighter than their steel toe counterparts.
- Considered by some as more effective protection against penetration incidents and accidents.
- They are completely metal-free making them a great choice for FIFO workers who regularly have to battle the good old metal detector at the airport. (Be sure to check your sites safety requirements before handing over your hard-earned dollars on a pair of boots you can’t wear to work)
- They are poor conductors of electricity and therefore are more suited to those who work with electricity and water.
- They are also more temperature-controlled than steel toe boots so will help keep your feet at a more constant temperature.
- More and more styles of composite toe boots are making their way into the market.
- Perfect choice for electricians, engineers, plumbers, architects, and any industry not as prone to heavy falling objects.
- Not considered as being as protective as steel toe when it comes to impact-related incidents and heavy falling objects.
- Some worksites and businesses do not approve composite toe boots.
There you have it. The takeaway from all of this is that the steel toe and the composite toe boot are both great choices for protecting your toes. It really does come down to your own personal preference and of course your type of work and the environment you work in.
Comfort should also be a big consideration. Check out brands with a comfort guarantee, or look for brands endorsed by either the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) or the Australian Podiatry Association (APodA).
Most importantly, whether it is steel or composite toe, ALWAYS make sure they are manufactured to Australian safety standards.
Get yourself into a new pair of work boots HERE. Even if you don’t feel like going to work.…your feet will!
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BootsBy: "FLASH" on 29 March 2023Very well composed article with great "off-the-cuff" comments
great articleBy: mike on 7 December 2021very great article, very well researched, and well explained. i personally like steel toe. As I am always working in all kinds of weather conditions, so I have to make sure of a lot of stuff when choosing my work boots. few days back I found this great piece that was covering almost all the points needed to make sure before choosing work boots. might help you as well: https://mhimyhomeimprovement.com/most-comfortable-work-boots/