Extreme Safety Toe Comparison: Steel Toe vs Comp vs Alloys vs Carbon Nano vs Soft Toe


The fact is, if safety toe was less important, you would not have spent money on them and would not have considered them. So, it is clear that you need to dig deeper into all the safety toe options available.

Table Of Contents

The Importance of Safety Measurements in Steel or any other Safety Toe  

Here, we are only considering safety toes with ANSI/ASTM measurements. You can not go the other way around. If a steel or any other toe does not match safety measurements, it’s a risk despite having the bulk in your forefoot.

The 9 Article Safety Toe Series

This post is part of the safety toe series, 9 articles that mythbust, explain, suggest, and answer FAQs on:

  1. Safety toe
  2. Steel toe
  3. Composite toe
  4. [this article] The versus article (compares each type of safety toe)
  5. Carbon/nano toe
  6. Aluminum and other alloy toes
  7. Metatarsal guard
  8. Soft protective toe and abrasion resistant
  9. Soft toe

Price Comparison of Toe Cap Types

Steel Toe Price

Steel toes are the cheapest ones (except soft toe). The thing is, these toes cost less to the manufacturers. They end up charging you according to their features, cost and brand. It does not mean that you will find every steel toe boot or shoe cheaper than their every comp toe counterpart. There are $80 comp toe footwear where there are $300 steel toe shoes and boots.

Composite Toe Price

If comp toes are ANSI/ASTM complaint, they cost more than steel toes, protective soft toes or soft toes.

Other Alloy Toes Price

These are rare breeds now a days. Only the bigger brands fashion aluminum, titanium or other alloy toes which are metal but not steel. So, they are likely to cost much higher than steel toes. They may or may not cost more than comp toe does.

Carbon/ Nanotech Toe Price

These are the most techy things thus costing the most. Usually pricer than anything else. (However, they may cost you less than 200 dollars while some of the steel toe boots and shoes may show up with a tag of $300)

Soft yet Protective Toe Price

They just need to put an extra effort. A little bit abrasion resistance, somewhat harder material and an extended outsole would do the trick. So, they may cost you less than everything except the steel toed boots and shoes.

Soft Toe (non protective) Price

There’s no extra costing thus there is no added price for the toe. The cheapest technology for sure.

End Verdict and Suggestions on Toe Price

If you end up choosing a pair, it is better to go for comp toes. You can always choose Steel. Carbon are more pricey.


Steel Toe Weight

Heaviest toe caps. If you compare the same size, their weight will definitely be much, much higher.

Composite Toe Weight

Lighter than most or the lightest.

Other Alloy Toes Weight

Usually lighter than steel toe. Aluminum toes are the lightest metal toes. Heavier than comp and carbon toes.

Carbon/ Nanotech Toe Weight

Lightest safety toes. They definitely weight less than any metal caps. Nano toes are supposed to be lighter than comp toe ones.

Soft yet Protective Toe Weight

Yes, these do add a little added weight. Maybe as light as carbon toes.

Soft Toe (non protective) Weight

No question of added weight on the forefoot.

End Verdict and Suggestions on Toe Weight

If weight bothers you, you do not necessarily need to go for soft toe or carbon/nanotech. Aluminum is significantly lighter and the best options are comp toes.

Can they protect your feet?

Can Steel, Comp, Alloy, Carbon, Nano Toe Protect Your Forefoot and toes?

All of them can protect your toes, if you buy the ASTM/ANSI or other safety measured toe boots or shoes. However,people tend to rely moreon metal toes. That’s because composite toes might grow a crack where steel or other alloy toes do not crack at all. You can smash them at best and that’s all.

Soft yet Protective Toe

They will protect the toes up to some degree. Maybe some puncture resistant and some bouncy nature would repel some force. That’s it. These are no match to safety toes.

Soft Toe (non protective)

No added safety means soft toe. Just like any other shoe or boot.

End Verdict and Suggestions

As long as you are concerned about better protecting toe- go for any safety toe passing through ASTM. An informative 0ne:

Wiggle Room in the Toe Box

Steel Toe Box Space

Steel is heavier and it takes more space. Naturally, bigger toe box will need more steel resulting into more deadweight. These tend to have the least toe wiggling space.

Composite Toe Box Space

Tend to have more space for toes. Comp toes take significantly less space than any metal. They are light as well. The manufacturer has a chance to make comp toes in bigger sizes- they do it on a regular basis.

Other Alloy Toes Box Space

They tend to be bigger as well. Brands going for lighter, expensive metals usually end up giving you ample room for the toes.

Carbon/ Nanotech Toe Box Space

Lightest ones naturally can have the most space.

Soft yet Protective Toe Box Space

These can be bigger as there is no added protective space.

Soft Toe (non protective) Box Space

Toe caps are not taking any space, they can be as big as wished.

End Verdict and Suggestions on Toe Box Wiggle Room

You will find many roomier steel toe capped boots and shoes if you wish for them. Otherwise, go for other types.

Cold and Heat Problems

Steel Toe

We’ve seen numerous questions. These are something like, `how could I feel warmer within my steel toes?’ Yes, these convey cold pretty well. However, they convey extreme heat as well. Pretty bad compared to non metallic things.

Composite Toe

They do not have this `metal cold’ problem at all. What if the floor is hotter? Nope, way better than any metal cap. However, in extreme heat, they may begin melting (which is rare and uncanny).

Other Alloy Toes

These are cold conductors. Maybe not as cold as steel, but they do that pretty well. The same goes to heat.

Carbon/ Nanotech Toe

They can have better heat insulation or they can have worst heat insulation. It depends on a number of things. However, carbon caps may have a tendency of catching fire (which is extremely rare as they have ample coating and protection)

Soft yet Protective Toe

These are better heat and cold inhibitors than steel or any other metal toe.

Soft Toe (non protective)

Less heat/cold insulation than comp, carbon and protective toe. May or may not be able to prevent cold better than the steel toes.

End Verdict and Suggestions on Cold and Heat Problems

Many steel toe boots and shoes come with ample insulation which means lesser wiggle room for the toes. You better consider comp/nano toes.

Availability and Popularity

Availability and Popularity of Steel Toe

Still, steel is the most popular toe guard. It started changing and it will take years before before composite or nanotech toes take steel’s place.

For shoes, 6” boots and 8” boots, you will have plenty of choices. The most available toe caps.

Availability and Popularity of Composite Toe

Its popularity is rapidly increasing. Comp toes are the most popular after their steel counterparts. Just a couple of years ago, you would not find many safety measured comp toes. Now brands are beginning to make more of these. You will find comp toes reigning in these genres:

Big chunky boots: Loggers, wellingtons, westerns (cowboy boots), engineer (rider and biker), jungle and snake boots. Brands just prefer to make pull ons with comp toes as these reduce weight.

Shoes that are supposed to be extremely lightweight: Sneakers, tennis shoes, athletics, trainers, joggers, running shoes- if the reputed companies decide to make safety toe lightweight shoes, they tend to go for composite or even carbon.

Availability and Popularity of Other Alloy Toes

Aluminum and other alloy toes are anything but trending products. They were gaining popularity when there were no comp toes. Big brands used to make them, now those brands are leaning towards comp toes and nanotech toes. So, you will not find as many alloy toes as you wish. However, Timberland is still making them and that brand rocks. Red Wing is a master of aluminum toes.

Availability and Popularity of Carbon/ Nanotech Toe

They are gaining popularity at an unexpected rate. However, they are still the least used or searched for safety toes. Red Wing hops in, so does Wolverine (with a limited number of products). Keen, Timberland or CAT? Yet to jump in.

Availability and Popularity of Soft yet Protective Toe

These are and will be available in the future. Even safety toes need them. The tech will eventually evolve. However, good protective toes are not that hard to find.  

Availability and Popularity of Soft Toe (non protective)

These will always be used for low risk work.

End Verdict and Suggestions

Steel toe is clearly ahead and they will remain so for the time being. Steel toes are followed by soft toe, comp toe, protective soft toe, alloy and then carbon/nano toe.

Electric Hazard Safety

Steel Toe Electric Hazard

Is your worksite surrounded by wires, circuits and metals? Steel is a good conductor of electricity. You need extra electric hazard (EH) feature which is tested and measured by a third party.

Composite Toe Electric Hazard

Comp toes are completely non conductors. Nonetheless, you may need EH features for your boot/shoe materials.

Other Alloy Toes Electric Hazard

All of the metals are fierce electric conductors. No doubt you need EH to inhibit the current.

Carbon/ Nanotech Toe Electric Hazard

They can be semiconductors, conductors or superconductors depending on the morphology of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). In short, you will need EH rated boots and shoes.

Soft yet Protective Toe Electric Hazard

They are usually non metallic thus non conductors.

Soft Toe (non protective) Electric Hazard

No risks from the toe material. However, electricians must have EH for their boots and shoes.

End Verdict and Suggestions on Electric Hazard

Metal toes from a reputed brand do not have a big risk. EH is for extra ensured protection. However, you would not want to use steel or other metal toe boots for an extensive period of time- long after the shoes are pretty worn out. On the contrary, it does not apply for comp or carbon toes. You need to keep in mind that any footwear may lose its EH properties over time.   

Metal Detector, Airport and Plane Approval

Steel Toe

No chance at all. These are anything but a pair of big metal chunk. Some of the airlines/ port authorities may or may not permit steel toe shoes/boots on board.

Composite Toe

No worries. You just need to make sure that footwear components are non metallic or the least metallic.

Other Alloy Toes

Some of the metal alloys create less magnetic filed thus they are less detectable than steel. A significant amount of titanium is also undetectable. However, it is never safe to take it for granted. If you need to pass through detectors, you better avoid metal toes.

Carbon/ Nanotech Toe

They are safe, but you need to keep one fact in mind. Some forms of carbon nanotubes are treated as semi-metallic.

Soft yet Protective Toe

They may or may not have metals in the protective area. Usually, these are metal free.

Soft Toe (non protective)

The forefoot is generally non metallic. Safe.

End Verdict and Suggestions

Comp and carbon/nano toes are clearly ahead.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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