For a lot of people, steel toe boots are the very definition of safety work boots. This isn’t always the case, though. Below, you’ll see some great steel toe alternatives.
Some soft toe work boots also get to provide ample forefoot protection in some instances. If you’re wondering which one will be a good pick for you, make sure to read all the way through. We’ll discuss the various merits of these work boots.
In This Article
In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive outline of soft-toe work boots, steel-toe work boots, and composite work boots. This includes an explanation of the various features of each, as well as some pros and cons. Then, we will provide some various FAQs regarding these different types of footwear.
But while at it, have a look at the various options in the market for each type of these workplace shoes. Just click on either of the links below.
Soft, Steel & Composite Toe Work Boots Defined
To get this guide started, let’s first define what these safety toe shoes actually are. It’s easy to get acquainted with these shoes since their names directly describe what they are.
What can cause confusion is the fact that both offer practically the same things but in varying degrees. One has a more general appeal, while the other provides specific functionality that not everyone might find useful. By knowing what they are and what they can do for you, you can go for the one that will cater to your needs adequately.
Soft Toe vs Steel Toe vs Composite Toe Comparison Chart
|Features||Soft Toe||Steel Toe||Composite Toe|
|Price||Affordable||Mostly Fair||Mostly Expensive|
Soft Toe vs Steel Toe vs Composite Toe Work Boots: Breaking it Down
While they have striking differences, steel toe and soft toe boots also have a few things in common. These similarities could easily render your decision making process pretty tough. So to help you find your match, here’s a quick comparison between the different options. We will evaluate these boots each based on three factors – safety, comfort, and affordability.
You can compare this guide to your personal preferences and requirements to see which style of boots is best for you.
Feature #1: Safety
As these shoes are also known as safety shoes by some folks, it’s very important for a pair of work boots to have a number of good safety features in it. Again, the jobs that require their inclusion in an employee’s work gear come with a number of dangers. Hence it’s important that they provide some protection to the wearer.
For a pair of shoes to be considered safe for industrial and other occupational applications, they have to meet or exceed various safety standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has its own regulations and recommendations for various industries. ASTM testings are also available to gauge the performance of a pair of work boots.
It’s important to note, however, that soft toe and steel toe boots, however, have varying degrees of protection. Just how different are they? We’ll discuss them in detail below:
Feature #2: Comfort
The jobs that require safety boots also tend to be punishing on one’s feet. This and the fact that you’re going to wear them for long periods make it all the more important that they be comfortable. With a good fit, excellent arch support, and ample cushioning, your feet won’t feel battered by the end of the day. This is irrespective of you having to move and stand around in them for most of your shift.
Soft toe and steel toe boots also tend to come with varying degrees of comfort. So this feature can be a deciding factor for some buyers.
Feature #3: Affordable Price
Not everyone is ready to shell out a lot of money for a pair of work shoes. This is why the price is also an important point when it comes to choosing between steel toe and soft toe boots. These two items tend to come at different price points. And hence is a good basis when making a choice from the three.
Soft Toe Boots: 1
Steel Toe Boots: 1
Composite Toe Boots: 1
These three kinds of work boots have different target markets.
Each of the three has it's strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, some of the factors that would push you towards buying a certain type of boot are work environment and employer specifications. Clearly, it is difficult to pick a clear winner when so much of it is based on personal circumstances. However, if you do have the option between them, then use the factors above to make the most informed choice.
Pros & Cons
What Does the Law Say About Toe Protection in Work Boots?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Standard Number 1910.136 covers workplace protective footwear. It says employers need to make sure that their employees use protective footwear when their work involves foot injury dangers. These include threats from rolling or falling objects, electrical hazard, and sharp items that can pierce the sole.
The directive notes that the protective footwear employees need to wear should comply with any of the following standards:
- ASTM F-2412-2005 or the Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection
- ASTM F-2413-2005 or the Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear
- ANSI Z41-1999 or the American National Standard for Personal Protection – Protective Footwear
- ANSI Z41-1991 or the American National Standard for Personal Protection – Protective Footwear
OSHA conducts regular inspections to work sites. Hence it’s not impossible for the agency to learn about a business’ failure to comply with their directives. This can then result in sanctions, warnings, and fines. While they might not be the heftiest of punishments out there, they can still be enough motivation for businesses to operate according to the set safety standards.
In many cases, however, employers have the initiative to implement rules on wearing safety gear, among their employees. It’s better to be strict with the rules to keep their employees safe instead of cheap out on work gear only to end up spending more on medical bills and fines. The loss in productivity a business will experience after the accident can also be very costly. On the contrary, while taking caution is done easily.
Other Types of Toe Caps Used in Safety Shoes
What are the other materials that can be used to make composite toe boots? Here are a few of the most popular examples:
- Carbon fiber
Each has their own strengths and advantages so it’s best to keep those in mind when choosing. Note, as well, that the type of material used can also affect the pricing of the product. Some of them are very affordable but others can be more expensive than your average steel toe boots.
The most important thing to remember when opting for composite toe work boots is that they don’t always match the safety provided by steel toe boots. They may already provide enough protection for some workplaces but most of them won’t be able to resist the force and effects of a chainsaw. So if your feet will be exposed to such dangers, steel toe boots might still be your best choices.
Making The Right Choice For You
So you have a great grasp on the differences between these boots, but still are having trouble making your choice. In this section, we’ll give you a few quick tips for choosing between these types of boots.
First, and most importantly, you must see if any type of boot is specifically required of your job. If your job already has a precedent in place, then you should pick a pair of boots that meets this requirement. If in doubt, ask a manager to be sure. So if your work requires some toe cap boots, then that’s what you should get.
However, if you are self-employed or your work allows more flexibility, it really comes down to personal choice. Outline the factors that are most important to you in a pair of boots first, and then match these factors to our lists above. If safety is your primary concern, then you should lean more toward steel-toed boots. However, if comfort is a concern, then soft-toed boots are likely to get the job done better.
There are boots that offer the best of both worlds, safety and comfort. These are usually more toward composite boots, but be aware that these tend to cost more. However, a boot is something that you are wearing constantly throughout the day. It might be tough to put a price on the degree that a comfortable boot will help with your ease of work. Therefore, investing in a pair that will keep you comfortable is very worth it most of the time.
Overall, unless your work requires a certain boot, it will really come down to personal preference.
Making the choice between soft toe vs. steel toe boots is quite a no-brainer for a lot of people, as the latter is straightforward when it comes to providing the best foot protection. If you’re just thinking of getting the extra protection even if you don’t need it, then, you have more options to choose from.
At the end of the day, those who absolutely need the best foot protection should opt for steel toe boots, while those who don’t might be better off with the soft toe alternatives.