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How To Choose Between Composite & Steel Toe Cap Safety Boots

If you are looking to decide between different types of safety boots or shoes, you might be choosing between composite and steel toe cap options. Here are the differences explained in one short post and some advice on which type is right for you, your budget and your job role.

The Difference Between Composite And Steel Toe Capped Boots Or Safety Boots

Steel toe cap safety shoes and boots use a piece of formed steel to protect the wearer's toes. Composite boots use a mixture of plastics, carbon fibres and/or rubber. Both can be produced to meet health and safety standards on safety footwear.

Steel options are usually lined on the inside for extra comfort and the steel will be inserted inside the leather of the toe box of the boot or shoe.

A composite safety boot or shoe is a newer invention than the ol' faithful steel toe and it is made using anything except metal.

Both serve the same purpose of protecting your toes from falling heavy objects or errant pieces of machinery.

They both come with different levels of comfort and protection - and therefore price options.

The Cost Differences

There are various price points for both types of safety boot. Depending on the strength and level of protection, the level of comfort, weight and even aesthetic appearance, you can spend anywhere between £15 to £150+ on a pair of PPE boots.

The good news is that there are various options to suit all budgets and job roles. Here is a comparison of 2 like for like boots - One is Steel toecaps with a steel midsole, the other is a composite toecap with a composite midsole.

Which Toe-Cap Is Right For Your Job Role

Here are some of the pros and cons of both steel toe-capped and composite toe-capped safety boots. Make sure not to waste your time getting an unsuitable, heavy rigger boots if you are picking light-to-mid-weight stock in a warehouse.

The next couple of sections will give you all the info you need.

Did you know that even management staff should not need to compromise on safety if they wear smart safety shoes?

Steel Toe Caps

Best for people working with heavy objects but don't need to walk much during a shift.

When it comes to sheer strength of protection, steel toe caps out perform composite options. The protection offered by a well designed steel toe capped boot or safety shoe cannot be beaten.

If you work in a role which does not result in walking miles during a shift, but you do work in a role which sees you handling heavy materials - such as a steel erector or many engineering roles - then steel options are the safety boots for you.

This is because they are heavier than composite safety footwear, but protection from falling weight is their main purpose, as opposed to ease of mobility.

Another thing to note, if you are working outside during the colder months be sure to choose a lined option. Steel is poor at retaining heat so feet will soon become cold.

Also worth mentioning at this point; an old urban myth is that a heavy object could bend the steel toe cap to the point that it could amputate the wearers toes, but this myth has since been busted by the Mythbusters on Episode 42

Composite Toe Cap

Best for those needing to resist electro-static charge or those who do cover a good distance of walking during their shift

Much lighter on your feet than a steel toe cap option, a composite safety shoe will be the choice if you need to walk any sort of distance during a shift.

The trade off for this is that some cheaper composite boots/safety shoes might not reach the highest standards of safety protection. They might only reach the minimum level to be legally classed as safety boots, but be sure to check they comply with required HSE rules and regulations on footwear protection levels for your job role.

If you are unsure, you should check with your supervisor or employer who needs to be able to ensure you have adequate protection. This is the case even if you are given a company login to purchase your PPE online or will be reimbursed for your expense.


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