Composite Toe vs Steel Toe

Composite Toe vs Steel Toe Cap – Which One Is Best For You?

Boots and jobs have backups, but our feet don’t, Thus using the best safety toe shoes is necessary to keep your toes together. But how would you know your best partner for safety and comfort? We did extensive research to compare both the steel toe and composite toe to find the most acceptable option.

Please read the article below to know about their difference, durability, protection, and much more.

What Is Composite Toe?

Protection and comfort go side by side, and composite toe provides both. It can be made of carbon, fiberglass, or thermoplastic polyurethane, making the toe lightweight and easy to wear. In addition, a composite toe or composite boot cap will protect your toe. Numbers are also carved inside the toe to show how many protection tests it passes.

Composite Safety Toe Cap

Positive Side:

  • Protect the forefoot
  • Provides insulation from heat
  • Prevents sparking
  • Safe in the electrical environment

Negative Side:

  • A little big and bulky

What Is Steel Toe?

Steel toe is widely accepted and used by industry workers. Because they are made of metal, they provide ultra-protection and prevent any cuts from sharp edges. So, the protection of the forefoot is the reason to buy steel toes. Of course, due to metal, it makes your booting a little heavy, too, but in the end, it’s better than risking toe damage.

Steel Toe Cap

Positive Side:

  • Maximum protection for your forefoot
  • Thinner layer than any other safety toe
  • Less price and more value
  • Durable and long-lasting

Negative Side:

  • Heavy weighted
  • Not good for extreme weather

Related: Steel Toe vs Alloy Toe Cap

What’s The Difference?

On their surface, composite and Steel toes are different in terms of the material they’re made out of and the price tags that they carry. But once we look past that, other differences come along, which are discussed below.


The American Society should approve the safety cap you choose for Testing and Materials (ASTM), formerly known as the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). During testing, both the toe caps are checked for “compression and impact resistance.” After passing these, they are tested for electrical shock, conductive protection, metatarsal protection, etc.

Now, steel toe vs. composite tow, which is approved? Both the toe caps are OSHA and ANSI approved. It would help double-check by seeing the numbers/labels inside the toes. For example:

ASTM F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 EH

ASTM F2413: Fulfills standard traits for performance

-11: Year it was approved (2011)

M/F: Designed for Male/Female

I/75: Impact rating of 75 pound

C/75: compression rating of 75 pound

EH: Electrical hazard

Most people believe that steel toe provides more protection than carbon toe, but both toe caps pass the same test equally. But steel toe protects with a thin layer, while the composite toe has to be bulbous to provide equal protection.

Metal toe can resist hazardous environments for a long period and are durable, but non-metallic toe tends to weaken after the first encounter with a hazard. So, if you want to use a composite toe, try changing it often to keep your feet secure.


Comfort is an important aspect to consider when buying workwear safety toe boots. If you are not comfortable in work shoes, your day will be full of fatigue, stress, and cramps.

Steel toe provides an extra layer of protection but makes the boot heavy with its weight. Although, it’s not much compared to the size of the boot. But if you want to opt for steel toes, choose lightweight boots with sleek heels, so you don’t have more burden on your feet.

Composite toes are not heavy as they weigh 30% lighter than steel toes. The composite safety toe is lighter because it is layered with plastic or carbon fiber. Thus carbon fiber toes are more comfortable, easy to carry, and easy to use shoe caps. You don’t even notice they are there protecting your forefoot from injuries.


Comp toe vs steel toe, what would be the best choice for extreme weather conditions? Steel toe is purely made of steel, a good conductor. It becomes extra hot or extra cold in summer and winter, respectively. Making steel toe an unfit shoe cap for protection against the weather.

The composite toe is made of plastic, polyurethane, or carbon and all of these materials are insulators. This nonmetallic toe keeps the boots warm in winter, it is not a good conductor of heat or cold. Thus, composite work boots are a more practical option in a harsh environment.


The robust quality of carbon toe vs steel toe is competitive. They both protect the forefoot, but the question is, how long? Steel toe is more durable than carbon toe and can take several hits before being compromised and deformed. So you can go longer without needing to change steel toe boots.

On the flip side, composite toe caps should preferably be replaced with new ones after you have suffered from a single incident. They pretty much guarantee protection for your toe for the first time, but if you expect them to absorb several impacts, then you might just be playing with fire.


The price of good composite toe work boots is higher than steel toe shoes. But other factors also control the pricing range of work wear safety shoes such as the quality of boots, extra added features of the boots and toe caps, etc. Some companies also add anti-static, anti-slip, and water-resistant specifications to their work boots and price the product accordingly.

Which One Is Best?

Coming to the real question, what should you actually use to protect your foot all along?

If your job requires physical activity or passing through metal detectors, go for composite work boots. In aquariums, courts, airports, or at electrical places, carbon toe provides functionality, comfort, and protection all at once.

If your job requires heavy weight lifting, with chances of serious injuries due to falling or rolling of a heavy object, you should go for Steel toe. Steel toe can add a little weight to your boots, but it does keep your foot in one piece at the end.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is composite toe the same as steel toe?

As the name suggests, steel toes are made of metal layering, while the composite uses Kevlar or plastic to protect the toes. Composite toes are lighter than steel toes, thus more comfortable and easy to wear. At the same time, steel toe protects from sharp and heavy objects.

Are composite toe boots as good as steel toes?

In most cases, yes, but it depends on the working conditions. Suppose you want to protect your toes from severe weather conditions, then go for a composite toe boot. A shoe cap made of plastic or polyurethane insulates the body from external temperature.

But if you want protection in industries from heavyweight objects, choose a  steel toe to bear the weight.

What are carbon toe boots?

Carbon toe boots contain a shoe cap mostly made of sturdy and robust carbon fiber. They also lie in the composite toe and provide protection from harsh weather conditions. In addition, carbon toe boots are mostly favorable around the electrical environment.

Is carbon toe the same as steel toe?

No, steel toe is made of metal sheets, but carbon toe is made of carbon fiber. Carbon toe is not a good conductor of heat or winter; thus, it’s compatible with outdoor sports, jobs, or hiking.

Is safety toe the same as steel toe?

All steel toes can be called safety toes but not vice versa. Safety toe is used for every shoe cap used to layer toes and protect them, including composite or alloy toes. But steel toe is the sub-brand of safety toe made up of metal.

How much weight can a composite toe hold?

A composite toe can bear up to 3.5 tons of weight. It should be equal to steel toe because composite toe also passes all the tests regarding safety. E.g., ASTM/ANSI/OSHA. It is a competitive product to steel or alloy toe and provides comfort and quality.

Are alloy toe and steel toe the same?

They have the same strength and protection, but their metal is not the same. Alloy caps are made of aluminum mixed with light-weighted titanium. But steel toe caps are made of only steel layers. Thus, they add more weight to the boots.

Are composite toe boots comfortable?

Yes, composite toes are lighter and insulate the toes from harsh weather environments. As a result, they are more comfortable to carry and easy on the feet; they also provide less pressure to joints and fit easily into our standard boots.

Are steel toe boots comfortable?

Yes, steel toe boots are comfortable only when they perfectly fit your foot. If you are experiencing pain or swelling your shoe cap is not the acceptable size. However, composite toe caps are more comfortable than steel toe because they are lighter and provide insulation.

What does safety toe mean?

A shoe cap made of a sturdy material providing protection to the toes and tested in various environments is classified as a safety toe cap. They come in steel, alloy, and composite (plastic, Kevlar) materials.

Are steel toe boots heavy?

Yes, steel toe is only made of steel sheets that can add weight to the boots. But the weight is not outrageous. Thus, it is preferable to carry steel toes for your protection.

Are composite toe boots OSHA approved?

Yes, most composite toe boots are OSHA and ANSI-approved. Although, don’t buy the cheaper models because some tests may not approve them. You can also check the approved test numbers carved inside of the toe.

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