Safety Toe Vs Steel Toe – What are the differences?

Safety Toe Vs Steel ToeAccording to OSHA, ANSI, and ASTM Standards; employers are expected to ensure that their workers use safety toe footwear. This footwear has to be worn at the workplace to protect against hazards. These hazards may be falling, rolling, or piercing objects that can foot injury. The traditional safety boots have leather uppers and rubber soles. They may be embedded with a steel toe and plates in the upper and sole. These standards are revised every five years as materials science is advancing as rapidly. New materials and types of cement (with varied properties) are developed daily. In this article, we discuss these advancements of safety toes and their types versus the steel toe.

OSHA & ASTM Standards for Safety Toe Boots

Safety Toe Boots are of three types – Steel Toe, Composite Toe, and Alloy Toe. They protect against;

  • compression by a heavy object rolling on to the foot
  • an impact on the toe by a falling object
  • poisonous or corrosive substances
  • electric shock
  • explosion due to static electricity
  • molten metal splashing onto the foot
  • burns
  • puncture by a sharp object
  • slipping on wet and hot surfaces

Difference between Safety Toe and Steel Toe

In brief, Safety toe boots may have a steel toe, composite toe, titanium alloy, or aluminum toe. The Safety Toe Vs Steel Toedifference is due to materials, construction, and specifications. These parameters change over various models of safety boots and sneakers.

The latest advancements in the science and engineering of safety footwear are the composite toe and aluminum or alloy toe. Thus, to meet the evolving needs and demands of the industry, the Safety Standards are updated. The safety standards recommend testing methods for the performance specifications of safety boots.

Different working conditions require different materials and construction. Safety boots are made from the latest materials that are lighter yet tougher than leather and steel. This footwear is made even lighter and seamless by using certain cements. These cements seal the gap between the stitched parts on the upper and sole.

The salient points to be noted about safety toe boots are;

  • All Safety toe boots are not steel toe boots
  • Steel toe boots belong to the category of safety toe boots. But there are other types of safety toe boots
  • They work the same way as the steel toe boots by the protective toe may be made of other materials.
  • A toe cap made from a tough material is embedded in the safety boot. They work the same way as the steel toe.
  • The tough toe cap embedded in the boot may be made of TPU, carbon fiber, fiberglass, titanium alloy, aluminum, or Kevlar.
  • Safety toe boots made of these materials offer protection comparable to steel toe ones (impact, compression, and puncture protection) and more.
  • Of these boots, the ones made of non-conducting materials offer different protection due to their Conductive, Static Dissipative, and Electrical Hazard properties. These Safety toe boots are relevant in the Safety Toe Vs Steel Toeelectricity, electronic, and power distribution industries. They are made of materials that do not conduct electric charge or ground it in a controlled manner.

Overall, there is no breach in the sealed security offered by the boot. The test standards for performance requirements ensure that they meet the specifications. Manufacturers have to observe the latest ASTM 2413-18 Standards to ensure the highest quality and maximum security for your foot.

The boots are checked for performance by Standardized tests by independent laboratories. These laboratories issue Certificate of Conformance when these boots meet and exceed the ASTM 2413-05 and -18 Standards.

Steel Toe

Traditionally steel toe safety boots are made of leather, rubber, and suede or cloth. The leather allowed for a layered construction. The safety toe, the metal plates for the upper and the sole could be sandwiched between the inner and outer layer of the boot’s material. The internal toe box was made of heavy-duty steel. It covered the phalanges of the foot. From the outside, the boots look like regular shoes as the steel toe is covered in the upper material. It may have a shock-resistant rubber bumper, which is an extension of the outsole as additional protection.

These boots comply with the ANSI, ASTM 2413-05, and ASTM 2413-18 standards. These hazards may result from work in heavy industries such as steel and metal works, construction, automobile, electrical, oil & gas, etc. These industries involve working with bulk materials, heavy machines, etc., that could drop on the foot at any moment.

Leg, foot, and toe injuries can be debilitating. They can throw you off balance and compromise your performance. Safety Toe Vs Steel ToeOrganizations like OSHA and ASTM enforce the Federal Regulations for Safety Footwear. The manufacturers of these boots are required to have their products tested by independent labs and gain a Certificate of Conformance.

The Certificate states the footwear model meets and exceeds the performance specifications for a certain set of working conditions. They protect the hazards common to that work environment including chain saws and grinders. Steel toe boots pass through standardized tests for performance specification in heavy industries.

It is said that steel toes are heavy. To put things in perspective – here is a comparison. These toe caps weigh 42.5 grams. A paper clip weighs a gram. This means the protective toe cap weighs equal to approximately 43 paper clips. Other parts than the cap may also contribute to the weight.

These safety toes are less flexible compared to Kevlar or Carbon fiber ones. To remedy this, try the boot on to get a perfect fit. To get more comfortable, try a wider toe box. You could even try one size larger boots. As steel is a conductive material – the feet are vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and electric shock.

ASTM 2413 ratings for Steel Toe

These boots gain a class 75 rating after they have withstood the impact of 75 ft-lbs. A 50-pound body is dropped from 18 inches on to the boot. A boot with an I/75 rating indicates it has passed the test.

A boot is subjected to loads up to 2500 pounds. If the toe withstands compression by such a force, it gains a C/75 rating.

Boots are rated 30, 50, and 75 after being subjected to a compressive force of 1000, 1750, and 2500 pounds, respectively.

Composite Toe

These safety toes are made of nonmetallic, non-ferrous, or non-magnetic materials. These toes are made of Kevlar, carbon fiber, rubber, Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), or fiberglass. These boots meet and exceed ANSI and ASTM Safety Standards. They are subjected to the same Standardized tests for Impact, Compression, and Safety Toe Vs Steel ToePuncture Resistance as the steel ones. They are given the same ratings.

Most times they outperform steel toe boots by 25% plus of the expected performance. Usually, a composite toe boot is a combination of materials that includes steel. For instance, the toe cap may be made of composite materials, but the shank may be steel.

Due to advancements in materials science, Composite toes become progressively indestructible. Eventually, we may even see a complete shift to composite toes. Yet there are die-hard fans that hold out for steel toes.

These boots are perfect for work conditions that see extreme temperature shifts. As these materials are non-conductors and insulators, a steady temperature is maintained within the boot. Just to caution you, even though these boots pass the ASTM tests. If something very heavy is dropped on them. They may crack or shatter.

ASTM 2413 ratings for Composite Toe

A composite toe has to pass the Class 75 rating for compression and impact. The composite toe is subjected to forces of 30, 50, and 75 foot-pounds. The highest rating is I/75.

The composite toe rated 30, 50, and 75 after being subjected to a compressive force of 1000, 1750, and 2500 pounds, respectively. The highest rating is C/75.

These boots are made of materials with Conductive, Static Dissipative, and Electrical Hazard properties. They are subjected to specific tests Standardized to check their performance for these parameters.

ASTM 2413-18 expects the manufacturers to produce a Certificate of Conformance to all these Specifications.

Alloy Toe

These toes are made of alloys of aluminum or titanium. Aluminum toes are more popular as the alloy is as toughAlloy Toe as steel but lighter. These toes are cheaper than titanium toes. Titanium alloy toes are stronger and lighter than steel toes.

The alloy toe caps maybe 30 to 50 percent lighter than steel toe boots. As these toe caps are thinner, there is more room in the toe box. Like the steel toe, these boots may not be suitable for workplaces with wide temperature variations. This is because alloys are metals that conduct heat and cold. They may set off metal detectors in the security checks.

ASTM 2413 ratings for Composite Toe

An alloy (aluminum or titanium) toe has to pass the Class 75 rating for compression and impact. The composite toe is subjected to forces of 30, 50, and 75 foot-pounds. The highest rating is I/75.

The composite toe rated 30, 50, and 75 after being subjected to a compressive force of 1000, 1750, and 2500 pounds, respectively. The highest rating is C/75.

In Conclusion

Steel toe may provide the highest level of protection against impact and compression. Other safety toes such as composite and alloy toes have their benefits and uses. All these types of toes are Safety toes including Steel Toes.

Comparative Study of Safety Toes
Steel Toe Composite Toe Alloy Toe
Material: Steel TPU/Kevlar/Carbon fiber/Fiberglass/Rubber Aluminum/ Titanium
Protection: Impact, Compression, Puncture Impact, Compression, Puncture Impact, Compression, Puncture
Other properties: Conductive Conductive,

Static Dissipative,

Electrical Hazard

Uses: Construction, Heavy Industries, Food Processing, etc. Workplaces with temperature fluctuations, production lines, electricity, manufacturing units, electronics, power distribution, etc. Construction, Heavy Industries, Food Processing, mining, etc.
Pros: · Not as bulky as Composite Toe

· Less costly

· Recyclable

· Best puncture & impact protection

· Safe for most work environments

· Insulating properties

· Resistant to the flow of electric current

· Lightweight

· 30-50% lighter than steel toe

· Offer more protection than steel toe

· More room in the toe cap

Cons: · Heavier than other metals

· Cold is cold weather, hot in hot weather

· Set off metal detectors

· They pose as electrical hazard

· Maybe not be safe around machines with power conductors, etc.

· Costly to manufacture

· Bulky toe box

· Toe cap may be compromised after impact

·Compression resistance is less than a steel toe

· Set off metal detectors

· Conductive to electricity & temperature


What is the difference between Static Dissipative (SD), Conductive (Cd), and Electrical Hazard (EH) boots?

The Electrical Hazard (EH) boots prevent the possibility of electrocution. They are made of non-conductive Safety Toe Vs Steel Toematerials. Conductive (Cd) boots ground the static electricity. They are made using materials and types of cement that do not offer any resistance to the flow of electricity. They eliminate the possibility of a static shock or discharge which may cause a fire. Static Dissipative (SD) boots resist the flow of electricity. The electric charge moves slowly through the material, releasing the static charge in a controlled manner.

Does ASTM 2413-18 expect the manufacturers to get a Certificate of Conformance for Safety and Steel Toes?

Yes, the ASTM 2413 Standards are uniform for all types of protective toes. These toes should be tested at independent or third-party laboratories. These laboratories have all the facilities requires measuring the test specifications. They issue the Certificate of Conformance to the manufacturer. Thereafter, they are expected to maintain the performance specifications by Quality Control and In-house testing.

What other protection is offered by Safety Toe boots?

Besides protection against Impact and Compression; these boots have;

Puncture Resistant (PR) – This standard ensures that the worker’s feet are protected from objects that may puncture or cut the sole. These protective plates are embedded in the boot’s sole. They protect against nails, broken glass, etc. The boot should withstand a force of 270 pounds on the sole. If the protective device is made of metal, then it is passed through a corrosion test. The boot stands in a 5% salt solution for 24 hours. It should not develop cracks or leaks. Besides the penetration test, the boot is subjected to 1.5 million flexes. It should not wear or crack at the end of these tests.Safety Toe Vs Steel Toe

Metatarsal (Mt) Protection – This standard ensures protection to the upper region of the foot. This region of the foot has the metatarsus bones. The boot is required to withstand a force of 75 foot-pounds to be marked Mt/75.

Static Dissipative (SD) – This standard rates the boot’s ability to conduct the static electricity through the sole to the ground. According to the ASTM F2413-17 and ASTM F2413-18, there are three types of SD boots;

  • SD 100 indicates Static dissipative (1-100 megohms)
  • SD 35 denotes Static dissipative (1-35 megohms)
  • SD 10 denotes Static dissipative (1-10 megohms)

Electrical Hazard (EH) – This standard ensures that the boot protects the personnel from electric shocks. Personnel working with electrical systems, live wires, etc., are required to wear these boots. The boot should be able to withstand 18000V at 60Hz for a minute. There should not be a flow or leakage of a current excess of 1mA for 1 minute in dry conditions.

Conduction (Cd) Rating – This standard ensures that the boot can resist the build-up or dissipate the static charge in a controlled manner. The build-up of charge may spark to ignite explosive chemicals. The boot should have an electrical resistance between 0 to 500000 ohms.

 What are the various styles of footwear that carry a safety toe?

Safety footwear is available in various types and styles, such as;

  • Safety boots – steel toe/composite toe, metatarsal plate, insulation, full & heavy protection
  • Safety shoes – steel/composite toe, lighter, metal-free
  • Safety Trainers – casual look, safety toe, slip & oil resistant sole
  • Riggers – industrial footwear, for oil rigs, insulated, slip, chemical & oil resistant
  • Wellingtons – rubber, slip-resistant, washable, can be sterilized/disinfected
  • Clogs – traditional, made of beechwood, steel toe cap, slip & heat resistant soles