Composite Toe is the New Steel Toe: All You Need to Know

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Composite toes are by far the lightest yet affordable caps. In fact, comp toe is the new steel toe… better, lighter, stronger, safer.

Do they provide enough hardness and protection? Yes, they must. That’s the essential requirement you know! Just never buy comp caps that do not pass ASTM, ANSI or other tests. The next obvious question is, they are plastic, how come comp will protect as steel does!

Nope. These are not mere plastic, and they provide it. The editors here at ShoeAsk.com prefer comp toe over anything metallic.

The Basic Queries

What is composite toe? What are comp toe boots and shoes?

Composite toe usually refers to one kind of safety toe caps covering and protecting your forefoot. These boots and shoes are specially made for hazardous work so that things can not smash your forefoot at work.

Is composite toe the same as steel toe?

No. Absolutely not. Steel toes are metallic, and comp toes are non-metallic. They ought to provide the same protection though.

Is safety toe the same as composite toe?

Yes and no. Yes, some of the manufacturers, sellers, retailers and end users use `safety toe’ and ‘comp toe’ synonymously and interchangeably.

However, practically, steel, aluminum and carbon fiber toes are also safety toes. This is the most popular and more correct approach.

What is better steel toe or composite?

Comp toe is better by any means if you ask us. They are lighter, warmer, non-metallic, thinner, wider and metal detector safe and electric secure.

Will composite toe boots set off metal detectors?

No, they would not set off metal detectors as there are no metals in the toe cap. Having said that, your boots or shoes need to be metal free in other parts as well. If your comp toe footwear has metal in the eyelets, zippers or shanks, they will blow the whistle.

Shoe companies tend to make metal-free comp toe footwear.

Safety Issues

Are composite toe boots OSHA, MSHA, ASTM, and ANSI approved?

Yes, many of them are ANSI/ASTM tested and passed. At least, you expect nothing else from these boots and shoes. They’re cheaper, pseudo safety shoes which do not meet OSHA requirements. You should not wear them. If you are not safe enough, why bother buying them?

Are composite toe boots as safe as steel toe?

All ASTM/ANSI/OSHA approved composite toe boots are as safe as steel toe boots. They can be more reliable than their steel toe counterparts. On the contrary, many cheaper composite toes are not as safe as their steel or alloy toe counterparts.

How much weight can a composite toe hold?

Just like the steel toe does. It should be at least 1.1 metric tons and can smoothly go up to 3.5 tons.

Say a five-ton forklift truck ran over the so-called “plastic” comp toe. Once, twice, thrice. That’s the probable worst-case scenario. And the comp cap does not bend enough to harm toes. It would not even touch the toes. These are the tests trusted manufacturers perform way before releasing a comp cap.

How come?

Just because comp toes can become 5 times or usually even stronger than steel.

How much force can a composite toe withstand?

75 foot-pound compression resistant is the minimum for ASTM standards. OSHA is reasonably happy with these measurements.

Are there bad comp toe footwear?

Yes, there are.

There are crappy “comp toes.” So, get to know them. We’ve seen several comp toes completely bend under forklifts. At least, rely on renowned brands featuring safety test certifications.

How can you rely on comp toes?

Brands like Wolverine, Puma, Timberland, Thorogood, Reebok, Bates, CAT, Carhartt, Rocky, and Magnum rely on comp toes. Moreover, a number of these brands use mostly composite toes. There is no way to say that composite toe is not safe enough. Red Wing alone has 43 non-metallic safety toes.

Physical Properties

Are aluminum toe boots lighter than composite toe?

No, aluminum or any other metallic alloy is not meant to be lighter than composite toes. You should keep in mind that there are various compositions. Some of the comp toes are relatively lighter while others can be heavy which is rare.

Do composite toe boots get cold?

Nope, these will not get cold because of the comp toes. Steel toes get cold. Consider that you need adequate insulation to prevent cold during tough winter. For that, you may need things like Thinsulate insulation.

How much composite toe boots weigh?

These are nearly as light as soft (regular) toe boots. You may feel 50-100 grams of extra weight for each of the comp toes which is sweet. So, the weight mostly depends on other factors like insulation, construction, shank, padding, etc.

Professional

Is composite toe good to wear in construction and industries?

Yes, let us assure you, they are the best to wear in construction. Carbon nano toes are pricey, and in a primitive stage, steel toes are heavy. The sweet spot lies between them- the comp toes.

What is a composite toe cap made of?

What does ‘composite’ mean anyway?

Just like alloy, composite is also an unclear and vague term. There are many interesting technical secrets. Read through this section and maybe you will be amazed (unless you are a chemistry expert!).

In a composite toe, over one components are mixed, sewn, layered, pressed, glued, melted or molded together. The components are different, the resulting material becomes different. They call this result composition material. Composition material is also known as composite or comp.

For comp toes, the target is to bring out exceptionally hard material which would compete with steel and alloy. So, composite toe can carry several or any plastic, aramid, carbon fiber or anything else. Let us go through the usual (and possible) components of comp toe:

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber can be unbelievably hard. They have a potential to become harder, thinner and lighter than nearly anything else. We all know that the hardest natural substance diamond is made of carbon. Carbon has an incredible bonding power down to the atomic level.

Carbon fibers conduct electricity, are black and cannot be colored. They melt in high temperature, but are highly flammable. They do not dissolve in solvents at ease.

Carbon is 5 times stronger than steel in the same density.

When people say `carbon fiber toe’, they usually mean that carbon fiber is present in the toe along with other substances. Technically, there can be pure carbon fiber toes. Yet we have not seen a cause to make pure carbon fiber toes as good comps will serve better.

However, nowadays people also mean real nanotechnology toes by carbon fiber toes.

These carbon fiber based composites are called carbon fiber reinforced polymer, where thin carbon fibers are infused with plastic; just like glass fibers infused in the same base material. There are differences though:

Aramid

Aramid is a space-voyage and ballistix-military synthetic fiber. They have an infinite possibility of chain formation as the basic component is a hexagonal aromatic chain. These are also carbon-based just like any living organism: plant, animal or microbes. Aramid has no melting point, it has excellent electricity resistance, there are multiple colors, and they have a low possibility of catching fire.

Some aramids have better abrasion and solvent resistance than carbon fiber.

Kevlar

Kevlar is a form of aramid. These are being used instead of steel and metal since the 1970s. This is 5 times stronger than steel or, 5 times lighter than steel at the same strength. They frequently use these in bulletproof vests, racing tires, grenade proof armors and lightest canoes, etc.

Fiberglass

Glass can be melted and turned into super thin fibers. That’s glass fiber. These glass fibers have elasticity. These are pretty strong as well. When glass fibers are infused with melted plastic, they form a comp called fiber-reinforced plastic. Now, fiberglass is a specific type of fiber-reinforced plastic.

We make many things with fiberglass including houses, boats, and airplanes. Fiberglass toes are not worth calling safety toes unless they are infused with other harder comp-toe elements.

Plastic

These are also carbon-based huge, single molecules. There are many types. Plastic usually contains the same hexagonal aromatic benzene blocks like aramid, kevlar or fiberglass. The fun part is, technically, all last four can be called `plastic’ and all five described above are carbon-based. So, all can also be called carbon-toe.

Several other substances can be used in a composite toe.

DIY and Fixing

how to widen composite toe boots?

If I were you, I would not have tried to widen these. Instead, I would have gone for perfect fitting as the safety toe needs to be firmly placed in the forefoot. You do not want to risk displacing it or making it shaky.

However, if you really need to widen the footwear, keep in mind you can not widen safety toe. You can only do it to other parts. Please see this section of our steel toe article.

Can composite toe boots be resoled?

Yes, some of these can be resoled. It is better not to. You can risk your safety. Manufacturers mostly make non-resoleable boots.

Brands

Who makes composite toe boots and shoes?

Nearly all of the work footwear companies make comp toe footwear. Timberland, Keen, Red Wing, Caterpillar, Danner, Skechers- you can find comp toes everywhere.

Does Nike make composite toe shoes?

Nike does not produce steel toe shoes. It’s an urban myth. And they do not say they make comp toes either. So, for now, it is a no. They do not make comp ones.

We can say comp toe is the only plausible future of safety toe until we are flooded with cheap, good quality nanotech carbon caps. The latter are even better only if the carbon molecules are greatly sewn together.

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. [this article] Composite toe
  4. 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

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