Steel-toe and composite-toe work boots are two of the most popular work boot options. Many workers and professionals ask which one of the two is better and more durable. We explore the characteristics and features of these two types of work boots via a comparative study. These safety work boots are subjected to tests that ensure they meet ASTM F2413-18 standards.
The best composite-toe boots are made of non-metallic materials such as carbon fiber, Kevlar, fiberglass, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), or plastic. Due to the lack of metals, they are excellent for worksites with metal detectors.
These insulator materials offer better protection against flowing and static electricity. Making these boots a popular choice for engineers and electricians. These boots also meet the ASTM, European Safety, and OSHA standards for personnel safety. Especially for personnel working with live wires and electricity.
They may have additional protection like metatarsal protection, static dissipative protection, electrical hazard resistance, and puncture resistance. These boots can withstand an impact of 75 foot-pounds and a compression greater than 2500 pounds.
This information is encoded as “Meets ASTM F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 ratings”. This information may be embroidered or printed on the boots. They are 30% lighter than the steel toe boots, thus offering higher levels of comfort and less fatigue.
As these are non-conducting or insulating materials, they keep the feet comfortable. Insulation is a boon when working in extreme conditions such as hot or cold weather. They also do not set off security systems with metal detectors. This factor makes these boots perfect for Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) workers when they pass through airports.
There are downsides to the composite boots, such as they cannot withstand as much force as steel toe caps. They usually rebound after compression, but it significantly weakens the cap after impact. Thus, the protection offered reduces proportionately.
The puncture protection is not as strong as steel toes. To offer the same level of protection; the toe cap is thicker, causing the boot to look bulbous. They are also more expensive than steel toes.
All About Steel Toe Boots
These boots meet the ASTM F2413 Standard for Protective Personnel Equipment (PPE). Premium steel-toe work boots have non-corrosive steel caps to protect the phalanges of the foot. These caps are made of heavy-duty steel to protect against many hazards such as punctures, falling objects, and impact.
They offer higher ‘flat’ protection compared to composite toes. They do not shatter or snap contrary to popular myth. Thus, there is no toe amputation. They also do not degrade or weaken over time. Thus, preferred by construction workers and people working with heavy machines and tools such as grinders, chainsaws, drills, etc.
The cons are that they are heavier than composite boots, thus strain the ankle joints, etc. They set off the metal detectors at security checks. The poor insulation in extreme weather may cause the foot to become too hot or too cold for comfort.
Composite versus Steel Toe Boots
Both are meant for protecting feet and are manufactured to meet the ASTM Standards, such as the ASTM F2412. To meet this standard, the boots are passed through various tests for Foot Protection.
The ASTM F2413 test measures the performance of a protective safety toe cap in footwear. This standard specifies the safety toe caps’ ability to withstand compression and impact.
The test methods are described in the ASTM F2412. The impact test studies the impact of a falling object. The compression test checks the effect of a heavy object rolling onto the shoe.
All the work boots are passed through these quality control tests at the manufacturing unit. When a brand claims that their boots are ASTM-compliant with steel or composite toe. It means the boots offer adequate protection against impact, puncture, and compression.
They may even offer additional protection like metatarsal protection, static dissipative protection, electrical hazard resistance, and puncture resistance. And offer protection against 200 joules of energy and compression of 15kN. All these boots are also marked with a code that specifies the hazard they protect against.
Composite toe boots are comparatively lighter than steel toe boots. This means lesser fatigue and strain on the joints. If the personnel walk around and stand all day lighter boots help boost productivity. Besides, when considering a boot’s weight, the steel toe may not be the only contributing factor.
Consider the heavy-duty soles for protection against puncture and electrical shock. The material of the upper and the insulation may contribute to the weight. Fortunately, there are boots with advanced materials for the upper and insulation that lighten the boot without compromising safety.
The right fit is achieved by picking the right size and breaking into the boots. This will also prevent the in-growth of nails, corns, blisters, etc. Try the boots with the socks you will wear on the job. Try on the boots in the evening or afternoon because the feet are the most relaxed or expanded.
Composite toe caps are thicker than steel toe caps to offer the same level of protection. The boot may look larger and bulbous due to this factor. They are also more expensive compared to steel toes.
As the composite toe boots are made of insulators such as plastic, Kevlar, etc. They help maintain favorable temperature and dryness inside the boot. As opposed to the steel toe boots where the body’s heat escapes to the cold outside chilling your feet.
In a hot place like a desert or rocks, the steel will conduct heat to the foot, making it impossible to walk due to sweaty, slippery feet. In short, these boots should be waterproof and insulated.
|Composite vs Steel Toe Boots|
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||Boots carry a code indicating the protection offered|
Are composite or steel toe boots a legal requirement?
These boots are called safety boots for personnel. The health and safety law requires the personnel to wear them. The employers are to provide or ensure that the Personnel Protective Equipment is worn through the workday.
How to inspect these boots?
These boots carry a code of what protection they offer. Each time these boots are used, they should be inspected. Check for wear and tear such as worn treads, torn uppers, cracks, holes, broken buckles, etc. Check the soles for metal shards that present a tripping or electrical hazard.
Is ASTM F2413-18 Standard recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?
In 2018, ASTM International introduced 3 updated footwear standards. They covered the test methods for F2412 – foot protection, F2413 – protective (safety) toe cap footwear, and F2892 – non-safety or soft-toe protective footwear. These standards guide the test laboratories and companies with improved testing and performance data collection. These standards are recognized by OSHA and the Code of Federal Regulations.
Why wear safety toe boots?
According to the Work Regulations 1992, if a risk has been identified and cannot be controlled. Then Protective Personnel Equipment (PPE) should be provided, i.e., the safety toe boots.
Do composite or steel toe boots expire?
Usually, these safety boots last between 6 – 12 months in an average work environment. Some may last longer, but eventually, need to be replaced.
Steel toe boots are preferred as they are tough and economical. But they are heavier than composite toe boots. These boots offer protection comparable to steel toe boots. And are useful when you regularly pass through security checks, work with live wires, or in extreme temperatures.
But as these boots are Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE). It is prudent to ask the following questions before buying your boots. Does your team need protection from impact, puncture, or crushing by heavy equipment or materials?
Does your team walk about a lot? Do the personnel stand for long hours? What level and type of protection do they require? Study the work environment to enlist the threats. Do they work in extreme conditions such as the boiler room or a slippery ramp on the oil rig?
Or do they work in extreme weather? Do they need reinforced midsoles, metatarsal guards, or anti-static protection? In short, ask – what are the professional requirements before you get your pair.