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Guide to Steel Toe vs. Composite Toe Boots

Foot injuries aren’t fun. Hazards can be found anywhere, although certain workplaces and tasks have a higher safety risk.

Protective footwear is just one of the many precautions you must take to protect your toes from punctures, lacerations, crushing, and sprains.

When selecting the proper safety toe footwear, you will need to understand the difference between composite toe boots and steel toe boots. 

Although both options offer a high degree of protection, steel toe boots offer the most durability and affordability, while composite toe caps are more lightweight and insulating.

Here, we go over the features and composition of steel toe and composite toe shoes and break down the differences and similarities to help you choose the best safety footwear.

Steel Toe vs. Composite Toe Comparison Table

For easy reference, we have provided a steel toe and composite toe comparison table, highlighting differences between comfort, weight, material, price, thermal insulation, durability, protection, and metal detection.

We will cover each aspect of the two types of safety toe footwear in the sections below.

Composite Toe

Steel toe


More comfortable 

Less comfortable





Kevlar, fiberglass, plastic, or carbon fiber



More expensive

Less expensive

Cold weather

Does not conduct cold

Conducts cold


Reduces after one accident

More durable



More protective

Metal Detection

Does not set off metal detector

May set off metal detector

What Does Composite Toe Mean?

Composite toe boots are OSHA-, ASTM-, and ANSI-approved safety footwear made from non-metal materials. Manufacturers use different composite materials such as plastic, carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar.

Although steel toes are the standard in most hazardous workplaces, toe caps made out of composite material are the modern alternative for those who prefer a lightweight boot.

Is Composite Toe the Same as Steel Toe?

Different colors and styles of work boots

Composite and steel toes are similar in that they are both components of protective safety footwear, but they are made out of different materials and differ in their level of comfort, protection, durability, insulation, electrical resistance, and price.

What Does Steel Toe Mean?

Steel toe safety shoes are durable boots designed for superior safety and protection in the workplace. Steel toe shoes have a reinforced steel toe cap, which can help protect your feet in the event a heavy object falls on your feet.

Steel toe work boots provide the greatest level of protection compared to composite toes since they can withstand more impact and are the traditional choice for hazardous workplaces. 

What Is the Difference Between Composite Toe and Steel Toe?

Composite and steel toe boots offer excellent feet protection against numerous safety hazards in the workplace. However, there are some key differences between the two types of safety footwear.


Comfort is one of the most important factors when buying safety toe boots. Comfort level can be affected by the shoe’s weight, features, padding, insoles, insulation, breathability, and materials. Ultimately, comfort level is subjective, which is why many people stick with the same brand names they trust. 


Steel toe boots have a steel toe cap, while composite boots have a composite toe cap made from non-metal materials, such as Kevlar, carbon fiber, fiberglass, or plastic. The non-metal construction can be beneficial in some cases.

Weight and Size

Steel toe boots are usually heavier than composite toe boots. Both types of safety footwear can be relatively heavy due to their safety features and heavy-duty construction. 

Composite toe boots can be a few ounces lighter (30-50%) than steel toe footwear. Over days, weeks, and months, the lighter load can make a world of difference.

Composite caps are generally thicker than steel caps to provide a similar level of protection.


Generally, composite toe boots are pricier than steel toe boots due to the complex manufacturing process involved. Nanotechnology fuses layers of carbon fiber, Kevlar, plastic, or fiberglass to create a thin and durable cap.


Steel toe caps are known to be more durable than composite toe caps made of Kevlar, fiberglass, or plastic. Steel toe provides the most durability in instances of several heavy load compressions in a row. 

However, composite toe provides nearly as much durability, although it may break or crack sooner than steel toe caps.


Both composite and steel toe boots offer a high level of protection against workplace hazards. However, steel toe boots beat out composite toes due to their greater impact resistance than composite materials.

Insulation and Conduction

Steel toe caps are more thermally conductive than composite toe caps, meaning heat from your feet can transfer to the external environment. 

This can make your feet feel colder. Composite toe caps are not made of metal and provide the best thermal insulation, keeping your feet warm and comfortable.

Steel toe caps are more conductive than composite caps. Composite toe caps provide better electrical resistance. However, steel toe caps not exposed to the wearer’s foot or outside environment have minimal risk of electrical hazards.

Metal Detection

Jobs requiring workers to pass through metal detectors may be better suited for composite toe boots since they are not made of metal and won’t generally set off the alarm. 

Which Is the Best Boot For You: Composite Toe vs. Steel Toe Boots

Worker wearing steel toe boots

Composite and steel toe caps provide a high level of protection against common safety hazards in the workplace. The best type of footwear for you depends on various factors, including workplace hazards, job responsibilities, and your budget.

Who needs composite toe boots?

Composite toe shoes may be best for those that want a lightweight design, better thermal insulation, and no issues going through a metal detector.

Who needs steel-toe boots?

Steel toe boots are best for those who want affordability, durability, and higher protection from workplace safety hazards than composite material.

Shop Drew’s Boots for Composite and Steel Toe Boots

Understanding the difference between steel and composite toe shoes is the best way to find a comfortable, durable, and protective pair of boots. Shop for a wide range of safety toe footwear at Drew’s Boots today!