steel toe boots

What’s the Difference Between Composite Toe and Steel Toe Boots?

If you work a tough job in the military, law enforcement, or even as a civilian, chances are you’re going to be required to wear a safety toe boot. But should you choose a composite toe or a steel toe? We’re breaking down the differences between the two of them so you can understand which will give you better protection for your job. 

Composite Toe Boots 

Composite toe safety boots are made from a mixture of plastics, carbon fiber, fiberglass, aramid, and Kevlar, and pass all the same safety requirements that steel toe boots endure. They also have some other benefits that we’ll explore.

No metal

There’s no metal in composite toe boots, which means you can wear them through metal detectors at security checkpoints without having to remove them. If that type of checkpoint is something you encounter on a regular basis, a composite toe is a great choice for you. 

Another benefit of not having any metal in your toe cap is that it’s a lot harder to conduct electricity in them. That makes a composite toe work boot a good choice for electricians or anyone who works with electrical equipment on a daily basis.


Steel is a really strong material, but it’s heavier than a composite blend of materials. That means if you go with a composite toe, you’ll benefit from losing a little bit of weight off your boot. It might not sound like a big deal, but when you’re out working long shifts even an ounce can start to make a difference by the end of the day.

Extra wiggle room 

The internal toe box in a composite safety shoe is usually a little thinner than one made of steel, which means you have a little more room to move your toes around. Having that extra room can add a lot of comfort—especially if your feet tend to swell when you’re standing for long periods.


Steel doesn’t offer any insulation from the cold, so if you’re working outside in winter weather a composite toe is going to be more comfortable. Furthermore, steel tends to hold cold temperatures in your boot while composite material isn’t impacted by frigid temperatures.

The downside 

One serious downside of a composite toe is the chance that they could be compromised after one solid blow. Even if they look like they’re still in good shape, they might not be able to offer full protection next time so it’s best to just replace them.

Steel Toe Cap Boots 

Steel toe construction has traditionally been the gold standard for safety boots and it’s easy to see why.

Maximum coverage 

If you’re working in construction or with heavy machinery, chances are most of your coworkers are sporting steel toe work boots. Why? Steel is extremely strong and this type of boot offers great protection against impact, punctures, or crush injuries. 

The downside 

One of the biggest downsides of steel toe boots is that they’ll set off metal detectors. If you’re at a job that requires you to go through security often, having to take your boots off constantly can end up being a pretty big pain. In addition, many steel toe boots will be magnetic, so they’re a no go if you work near powerful magnets.

Can steel toe boots cut off my toes? 

You may have heard the myth that if a steel toe boot gets seriously crushed or impacted, it will bend down and cut off your toes. Sounds like a good reason to switch to composite, right? Not so fast. This is a complete myth—in fact, steel toe boots are usually able to hold up to repeated impacts for longer periods than composite toe boots. MythBusters even did an episode on it and couldn’t create a scenario where the boots would sever your toes.

This myth has been around for a while, and it’s unfortunately made some people choose not to wear a steel toed boot even if that is what will give them the best protection for the job at hand. Choose the type of toe that is recommended for the type of work you’re doing – trust us, your toes will thank you.

Once you know what type of toe box you need and the working conditions, you’ll need to start looking for the right boot.

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