The protection of your toes is the most important part of a work boot. Falling objects account for the highest percentage of injuries that occur in the lower extremities.
Steel caps are the most common safety feature on work boots to prevent these objects from squashing your toes. However, a little known alternative to steel is composite. It’s composed of different non-metal materials such as carbon fiber, plastic, fiberglass, and kevlar.
Composite has become more popular in recent years. I believe the best composite toe work boots are better than steel. Don’t take my word for it, let’s look at the facts.
Why Go Composite Over Steel Toe
- Weight – Composite material is much lighter than steel. Even a few ounces makes all the difference when you’re on your feet and moving around throughout the day.
- Heat – Because it is non-metal, it doesn’t conduct heat and hold temperature nearly the same. This means it won’t get extra warm in the summer or be cold in the winter.
- Electricity – These materials do not conduct electricity at all. This is ideal if you’re an electrician or anyone who works with and around electrical hazards.
- Metal Detectors – Unlike steel toe boots, these boots won’t set of metal detectors.
The only two negatives to choosing composite over steel.
- Cost – It is more difficult to produce making it slightly more expensive.
- Selection – Since steel is the industry standard, your selection of choices will be considerably smaller when looking for comp toes.
What Do the Numbers Mean?
ASTM International is an international standards organization that develops and publishes technical standards across many industries. They define and score safety toes by using impact(I) and compression(C). The toe is then tested for the weight of impact force it is capable of withstanding. They denote these numbers with 30, 50, and 75 pounds.
Impact is a simple measurement used to define the amount of weight a safety toe can withstand. I/30 means the toe is capable of withstanding a direct impact of up to thirty pounds of force. I/50 can withstand fifty pounds of force and I/75 is seventy-five pounds of force.
Calculating compression is a slightly different process. C/30 can withstand 1,000 pounds of compressed force, C/50 withstands 1,750 pounds, and C/75 will withstand up to 2,500 pounds of force.
There are many myths that composite is not as rugged or strong as steel. This is simply not true and should be disregarded.
Discuss with your employer the level of protection you will need before purchasing a boot.
Okay we made it through the facts and the science. Let’s look at the reviews.
The Best Composite Toe Work Boots
The Timberland Helix boot is exceptional at what it does. It has great ankle and arch support and composed of premium waterproof leather uppers. They use a cement construction method that increases flexibility and also reduces break in time. The foot-bed is open celled polyurethane with an antimicrobial cover. This increases breathability and odor control. They also have a nylon shank that offers structural support to the boot.
The composite cap is rated to within I/75 and C/75 making it the strongest available.
Why We Love Them: There incredibly comfortable even during extended shifts. We’ve had guys wear these for 10+ hours and still their feet feel find at the end of the day.
Where We Think They Could Do Better: They don’t have the greatest traction on mud and dirt. The outsoles were built for a concrete and similar flooring in mind.
Chippewa Oiled Comp Toe Boots
Chippewa is known for their logging safety footwear. They consistently put out new and innovative designs that change the boot market for years. Their boots are not cheap but the quality and design is unmatched.
They are conceptualized, designed, and manufactured in the great state of Missouri. Each boot is made with expert care and craftsmanship to an exacting standard. This is a top of the line boot for those ready to take it to the next level.
To begin these have 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation to keep your warm without wearing you down. The insoles are Bontex and extremely comfortable. There also anti abrasion to keep them looking good.
In terms of safety these boots exceed all ASTM F2413-11 and ASTM electrical hazard standards. They are anti-slip and conform to your feet for maximum comfort and movement.
Why We Love Them: They are just all around a great boot. They excel in safety, comfort, warmth, traction, quality and style.
Where We Think They Could Do Better: Because of the added insulation and shock absorption they are slightly heavier than the other boots.
Carhartt Men’s Composite Toe boots
This is a Carhartt classic and best seller. They made with brown, oil tanned leather. They are also produced with a cement construction which means you can wear them right away with little break in time.
The insole is Ortholite which is very comfortable and absorbs shocks from moving on hard surfaces. The outsole is oil, chemical, and slip-resistant so you won’t have to worry about taking a fall on the job.
To top it all off they are ASTM EH rated for those of us working with live lines. Overall, these are a great durable boot and don’t cost a fortune.
Why We Love Them: They’re incredibly lightweight and flexible without skimping on safety features. We don’t know how Carhartt did it, but they did.
Where We Think They Could Do Better: These aren’t very waterproof. If you’re working in a little rain it won’t be an issue but for anything more than that pick a different boot.
Caterpillar Nitrogen Boot Review
Caterpillar is a big name in the industry and they don’t disappoint with their composite toe series. These are a more niche boot made with the idea of outdoors work in mind. They excel at keeping you upright on rocky, muddy, and wet surfaces.
The leather and rubber design is breathable, comfortable, and ready to get the job done.
These boots do run a little long so I recommend dropping by half a size.
Why We Love It: The grip and traction they provide when walking on uneven, wet, or slippery terrain is unbeatable. If falls are a big concern on your job then these might be the boots for you.
Where We Think They Could Do Better: These don’t have the greatest life expectancy. For nine months to a year they should be okay but after that they begin to wear down.