Updated January 2021 by Maya
Steel toe shoes are the original safety footwear but does that still make them suitable for everyone looking for protective boots? The quick answer is no. Whilst steel toe safety boots are the most common and the go to if safety shoes are required, it’s worth considering the benefits of composite and alloy toe safety shoes. So what is a composite toe work boot?
Composite Toe vs Steel Toe Safety Caps
Composite toe safety boots are more lightweight compared to steel toes, in fact up to just around 30% lighter in weight! That is a massive difference considering you are wearing your boots most of the day.
This type of toe cap is metal free and is made from either hard plastic, fibreglass or Kevlar. None of those materials are as strong as steel. That means that steel will protect you better should something extremely heavy fall on your feet. That might be a deal breaker for some.
What is a composite toe work boot?
Non-metal composite benefits
In hot weather you will feel much more comfortable with composite plastic toe caps. Steel absorbs and traps heat in the boot, which is ideal for people who have a circulation problem and have cold extremities. However people if that is not the case for you, you might feel like you are wearing 2 little hot ovens on your feet, when working out in the sun in summer time.
Steel also chills more than composite does, so the opposite will be true in cold, wet winter conditions. Steel toe boots will have your feet feeling colder than they would in carbon toe safety shoes.
If you need to walk through a metal detector at work, you will have an easier time if you wear composite toe vs steel toe boots. Composite material will not set off the metal detector alarms. This works the same for metal detecting as a hobby. You do not want to wear steel toe shoes when going out metal detecting. I read that someone dug a hole of 6.5 foot before realising it was his boots setting off the metal detector!
EH safety boots are usually made with composite toes as it is a poor electrical conductor compared to steel.
A composite carbon fibre toe cap is likely more comfortable to wear than steel toe boots. This becomes very apparent if you wear the boots over many hours, in very hot or cold conditions and end up struggling with foot fatigue do to the additional weight.
Steel Toe metal benefits
The main benefit is the increased safety. Steel toe caps will not shatter or crack under impact or pressure as easily as composite toe caps do. Steel will better protect your feet from very heavy falling objects according to the American National Standards Institute.
It is important to check what type of safety shoe requirement your job specified for your job role. If your workplace policy specifies a certain type of safety boot and you do not meet those standards you are risking your workers compensation and / or insurance. Better safe than sorry.
The most comfortable composite toe shoes
Although composite toe shoes are more comfortable than steel toe shoes already, the most comfortable composite toe shoes are specifically designed with extra comfort features. Why don’t all the safety shoes have these extra comfort features? Well people have different feet and what might be comfortable to your feet might not be to the next person.
The most comfortable composite toe shoes are ultra lightweight to prevent foot fatigue, offer support, be flexible and absorb impact shock effectively. Comfort levels are generally higher with a composite toe vs steel toe.
What about Safety?
They should still have the required safety elements primarily; that’s why you’re getting safety boots in the first place.
Thick outsoles can offer both safety and comfort features but being puncture resistant and absorbing impact shock with every step. If you walk alot in your safety boots, you will want the lightest weight possible and consider adding a shock absorbing insole with arch support to avoid as much foot fatigue as possible.
The leather uppers need to be tough but also flexible enough for comfortable moving.
Avoid the discomfort of wet soaking feet by either waterproofing your boots or ensuring the boots are already waterproof. Wet feet must be one of the most uncomfortable sensations for your feet during a long work day. Not to mention that a warm wet environment is a breeding ground for bacteria and could cause infections and other problems.
Breathability is a big comfort factor for your feet. A good quality mesh lining allows air flow to avoid sweaty feet and moisture accumulation. It regulates your foot temperature and less obviously so, acts as a comfy cushion with every step.
The most comfortable & best composite toe shoes for men
- Carhartt CMF6366 Composite Boot
- Timberland TiTAN Composite Safety-Toe Work Boot
- Thorogood Composite Safety Gen Flex Boot
Extreme cold weather composite toe work boots
Working outside in winter is not everyones idea of a good time. It would be impossible to do in normal trainers. Luckily there are some good boots that will keep your feet comfortable and warm during the cold season. If you live and work in an area with very low freezing temperatures, you’ll want to get extreme cold weather composite toe work boots to keep frostbite at bay.
Toes are one of the most difficult body parts to keep warm during winter. Protect your feet from the cold is multiple ways to make sure they survive the long work days outside in the snow and ice envoronment.
Composite Toe Cap
Steel toes are more temperature suseptable compared to composite toe cap material. Meaning that steel gets colder on cold temperatures vs composite toe caps. If you do not need the extra safety of steel caps, composite will be the way to go.
Look for adequately insulated boots. You want to keep as much warmth inside the boot as possible. Thinsulate is the most common insulation used. Depending on the range of temperatures you are facing you can choose from 200gr of insulation for a standard winter weather to a whopping 1200gr for absolutely abominable snow and ice conditions.
200 grams of insulation is suitable for active people who are outdoors for a limited time only. 400 grams is aimed at people again only outside for a limited time but are less active and might sit and stand still for some of their time outside.
Boots with 600 to 800 grams insulation are for the colder areas of the world, colder than your standard winter. This colder cold makes it uncomfortable to be outside and you would not spend time outside unnessisarily. Lastly 1000 to 1200 grams of insulation is for the absolutely coldest parts of the world.
The most extreme cold weather composite toe work boots usually have 1000 gram insulation and natural barefoot type shoes would not be suitable. 0 drop shoes are similar to the minimalist design and would also not be suitable for cold conditions.
If you are facing an icy work environment, make sure your soles are non slip and not just slip resistant. You will need all the grip and traction you can get in such slippery conditions. The deeper the tread, the better the grip. A rubber sole has better grip compared to a mixed sole made of rubber and carbon combination mix.
Waterproofing is essential in your extreme cold weather composite toe work boots. You must keep your feet dry inside your boots at all costs. Otherwise your toes could go numb and freeze causing damage to them. Don’t overlook the waterproofing.
Some sock types trap moisture if you sweat and will in effect cause your feet to get colder. Cotton is one of these types of materials. Do not wear these types of socks with your winter boots. Instead wear socks made of wool or synthetic materials. Wool is the warmest and you will only need to wear a single pair, even in extreme cold.
What are composite toe work boots made of?
Composite Toe caps are constructed from hard plastics, Kevlar, fiberglass or carbon fiber. There is absolutely no metal in them and they pass the ANSI standards for safety shoes. These non metallic toe caps are favored by electricians in EH safety boots as they are poor electricity conductors. They are also much lighter in weight and reduce foot fatigue.
Composite plastic toe caps are metal free are suitable for people who need to walk through metal detectors often and those who enjoy metal detecting.
What does composite toe work boot mean?
The term composite toe work boot means that there is absolutely no metal in the toe cap. The safety cap is instead made of kevlar, hard plastic or fiberglass.
What is an alloy toe work boot?
An alloy toe work boot has a lightweight toe cap made of titanium or aluminium. These type of safety boot will set off metal detectors but they are more lightweight than composite as well as steel toe caps. They are one of the most lightweight safety shoes you can get.
Since the aluminium and titanium construction is a bit thinner, you will have more space for your toes in the toe area of the boot, increasing comfort levels.
A bit advantage is that they are as strong as steel, yet thinner and lighter in weight.