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Steel Toe Vs Composite Toe: Which One Suits You Better?

Writen by Joshua Clark

Fact checked by Daniel Rocha

steel toe vs composite toe

When selecting the right safety footwear, there are many things to consider to the point it might overwhelm you. What you can do in such situations is to look into your current needs, including purposes, personal preferences, work conditions, etc. Then, compare those standards to the features safety boots offer.

In the case of steel toe vs composite toe, picking one is easy, as they are quite different. Without further ado, let’s compare the two and see which pair benefits your current situation.

Composite Toe Vs Steel Toe: A Quick Comparison


Many ponder between composite toe vs steel toe boots, wondering which type they should choose to protect their feet well. Since they are designed for specific purposes, there are obvious features that differentiate them. Check them out below:

Steel toes Composite toes
Traditionally made of steel Made of strong non-metal materials
Heavy-duty, adding weight to the boots Lightweight design
Can set off metal detectors Pass through metal detectors
Offer no insulation in cold weather Keep warm in cold weather
Provide little space in the toe box Provide ample space in the toe box
Excellent puncture resistance Standard puncture resistance
Not always recommended for electric resistance Can offer electric resistance
Tough and rather rigid More comfortable (compared to most safety toes)

Composite Vs Steel Toe: Protection Features


Since both composite and steel toe boots are designed to shield workers against hazards at job sites, they are tested to meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.

There are two required testings, including impact and compression, to determine if the boots suffice the requirements of the working conditions. You can look into these qualifications to choose your preferred pairs, whether they are composite or steel toe boots.

  • Steel toes: Boots with a steel toe cap can shield your feet against falling objects and piercing forces. In fact, a pair of steel toe boots will have a higher level of protection compared to composite ones in these aspects.
  • A quality pair can keep a falling pressure of nearly 75 pounds from crushing our toes. Furthermore, you can be safe from punctures, burns, and cuts, which often occur when working at a construction site without safety footwear.
  • Composite toes: Boots composite toe designs are also robust. Such protective toe caps meeting relevant ASTM standards can handle impact and compression well. That means they also keep our feet from hurting under the impact of heavy loads.

One thing that composite toes do much better than steel toes is protection against electrical shocks. We can wear the steel-toe boots to work if the steel is not exposed, but it is not recommended. On the contrary, wearing composite toe boots can fully guarantee safety when stepping on and handling electrical tools.

Composite Vs Steel Toe Boots: Comfort

Comfort is another thing we consider when selecting safety toe work boots. Besides the overall fit and materials, the toe cap contributes to the comfort level that the shoes deliver. In this case, many consider composite toe boots a little better than ones with steel toes.

  • Composite toes: Boots with composite toes are often made of materials like carbon fiber, aramid, Kevlar, fiber plastic, or fiberglass. They can be the combination of these materials together, creating a strong yet comfortable shoe pair.
  • Furthermore, the combination of Kevlar, carbon, fiber plastic, and more, is lighter than steel. Even though the toe cap is a small part of safety boots, it makes a difference in reducing fatigue and offers a lightweight feel.
  • Steel toes: It is evident that safety toe boots with steel caps are heavier than composite ones. But, we can rely on the rest of the footwear construction to make up for the extra weight.

In detail, you can rely on the boot materials, cushioning soles, and other features to experience comfort while wearing steel toe work boots.

Composite Vs Steel Toe: Other Features

Let’s take a closer look into other features that might make either steel toe work boots or composite toe boots a better choice for you.

  • Steel toe sets off metal detectors – Why is this an important thing? Well, if you intend to wear your boots for the airport, do not consider bringing those with steel toe caps. For traveling purposes, composite toe boots are the proper companion.
  • Composite toe boots might offer better insulation against extreme weather – To withstand the freezing cold during work, our safety toe boots must provide some insulation. In that case, the steel toe cap offers not much help since metal allows heat to escape.
  • Composite shoes, on the other hand, are better at retaining body heat. As thermal insulators, they allow less heat loss when we perform in the cold.
  • Size and shape of boots – When choosing well-fitted footwear, we can notice a difference between steel toe and composite toe: its toe box. As stated above, this small part can make a difference.

In detail, composite protective toe boots can offer more room in the toe box, while steel ones do not provide that much. Therefore, composite shoes will look a bit bulkier, even though they might be the same size as steel toe designs.

Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which is better, composite toe vs steel toe boots?

It depends on your personal preference and current work conditions. If you want safety footwear that guards against electricity, compression, and extreme cold, composite toe boots are excellent choices.

Meanwhile, you need steel toe boots to shield your feet from falling heavy objects and sharp tools. They are preferred options for workers handling heavy equipment in job sites with a high risk of toe injuries.

Is composite toe OSHA approved?

Yes, it is. Safety work shoes with composite toes that meet OSHA and ASTM safety standards are available in the market. Such pairs are made of non-metallic fibers that resist electricity and compression. Therefore, they are perfect choices for workers seeking safety boots for hazardous environments.

Do composite toe boots get cold?

As stated above, between steel vs composite toe, the latter does a much better job of keeping us warm in the winter weather. Thus, we can wear a pair of composite toe footwear while handling tasks in cold and wet conditions without getting uncomfortable.

Will a composite toe set off a metal detector?

No, it will not. Only boots with metal toes set off metal detectors like the ones in the airport. So, if you intend to choose a pair that allows you to go through airport security without any fuss, composite shoes are the right pick.

What is the lightest safety toe material?

Among the materials listed to make a composite toe boot, carbon nanofiber is the lightest of them all. Aluminum also weighs little. Compared to steel toe boots, designs with an alloy aluminum toe are still lighter.


In general, some obvious differences between steel toe vs composite toe are their weight, protection against impact, electricity, and insulation against the cold. They are suitable for different purposes. For instance, while the composite toe is lighter, it can handle less impact than steel.

The point is you can choose a suitable pair after considering your current needs. So, if you successfully chose a good pair, feel free to share with us below. Stay safe with your protective shoes!

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