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


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Updated in 2020

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

Table Of Contents

The Importance of Safety Measurements in Steel or other Safety Toe

Here, we are only considering safety toes with ANSI/ASTM measurements. You cannot 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.

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

They’re comparatively pricey. 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 nowadays. Only the more prominent 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 techiest things, thus costing the most. Usually more costly than anything else. (However, they may charge you less than 200 dollars while some 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-defensive) Price

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

End Verdict and Ideas on Toe Price

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


Steel Toe Weight

The heaviest toe caps. If you compare the same size, steel’s weight will definitely be much, much higher.

Composite Toe Weight

Lighter than most (or the lightest of all).

Alloy Toes Weight

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

Carbon/ Nano Toe Weight

The lightest safety toes. They definitely weight less than any metal caps. Nano toes are assumed to be lighter than comp toe ones, but I don’t know for sure whether or not these are lighter.

Soft yet Protective Toe Weight

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

Soft Toe (non-safety) Weight

No question of added weight on the forefoot.

End Verdict and Recommendations 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 more on 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, Protective Toe

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

Soft Toe (non-defensive)

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

End Verdict and Approaches

As long as it concerns you 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, and it takes more area. Naturally, the bigger toe box will need more steel resulting in more dead weight. These have the least toe wiggling space.

Composite Toe Box Space

Tend to have more space for toes. Comp toes take 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 regularly.

Alloy Toes Box Space

They are bigger as well. Brands going for lighter, expensive metals usually end up giving you ample accommodation for the toes.

Nanotech Toe Box Space

The lightest ones naturally can have the most space.

Soft yet Protective Toe Box Space

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

Soft Toe (non-protective) Box Space

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

End Verdict and Opinions on Toe Box Wiggle Room

You will find a much 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. 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 hot weather, they may begin to melt (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 for heat.

Carbon Toe

They can have better heat insulation, or they can have the worst heat insulation. It depends on many 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 prevent cold better than the steel toes.

End Verdict and Instructions on Cold and Heat Problems

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

Availability and Popularity

Availability and Fame of Steel Toe

Still, steel is the most popular toe guard. It changed, and it will take years 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 Reputation of Composite Toe

Its popularity is rapidly increasing. Comp toes are the most popular after their steel counterparts. Just two years ago, you would not find many safety measured comp toes. Now brands are making more of these. You will discover 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-on shoes with comp toes as these reduce weights.

Shoes that are deemed to be lightweight: Sneakers, tennis shoes, athletic, trainers, joggers, running shoes- if the reputed companies decided to make safety toe lightweight shoes, they 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 Demand of Carbon/ Nano 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 few products). Keen, Timberland or CAT? Yet to jump in.

Availability and Popularity of Delicate yet Protective Toe

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

Availability and Acceptance of Soft Toe (non-protective)

They will always use these 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.

Electrical Hazard Safety

Steel Toe Electric Hazard

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

Composite Toe Electrical Hazard

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

Other Alloy Toes Electric Hazard

All 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 Electrical 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 significant risk. EH is for extra ensured protection. However, you would not want to use steel or other metal toe boots for an extensive period- long after the shoes are pretty worn out. On the contrary, it does not apply for comp or carbon toes. You need to hold 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 all 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 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 require to pass through detectors, you better avoid metal toes.

Carbon/ Nanotech Toe

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

Soft, 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.

3 thoughts on “Extreme Safety Toe Comparison: Steel Toe vs. Comp vs. Alloys vs. Carbon Nano vs. Soft Toe”

  1. Hi, Thanks for insight, I think few things that we can compare when it comes to alloy toe and steel toe are

    1) Weather: Steel toe becomes too hot and cold in extreme weather.
    2.) Price: Alloy Toe is expensive
    3.) Weight: Alloy toe is lighter
    4.) Metal Detectors: Some alloy toe will not set off metal detectors.
    5.) Protection: Steel toe offers best protection

    • Hi, Stephen,
      Thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate your words.
      You’ve given a quick and useful overview. I’ve mentioned these in the safety toe article series, but you’ve brought forth the key factors.

      Just visited your site and I’m impressed. There are so many graphs, charts and so much information in the `working in the height’ article of yours. Keep up the good work. Cheers!


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