What’s in a boot?
The differences can be many, but today I’m going to focus on two different types toe caps that go into safety boots.
Both steel and aluminum toe caps will offer protection but they deliver different experiences to the person wearing them.
That’s why I’m going to detail the differences between aluminum and steel toe work boots.
The Backstory on Safety Toe Boots
Modern protective footwear is quickly approaching its hundredth year, yet the advances in the technology have not slowed a bit.
One of those advances over the last decades was the introduction of aluminum toe caps.
This technological advance was not an example of one product making another obsolete.
Instead of aluminum toes replacing steel toes, they were simply added as an option for consumers to choose.
The same process repeated itself with the introduction of composite toes to protective footwear.
It’s a new option, but hasn’t run away with the safety shoe market.
Both steel and aluminum toes are still highly sought styles.
With all that in mind, we’re going to go over some of the reasons that people still choose older technologies.
If something is still desired by consumers, it’s delivering some feature they can’t get elsewhere!
The hope in writing this is that you’ll walk away with a better idea of what type of toe cap suits you best.
It’s always a good idea to go into a purchase with the knowledge of the product you’re about to buy.
That way, in person or online, you’ll know if a boot is offering a real feature or it’s just some bells and whistles.
Let’s get into it.
When picking between aluminum and steel toes, one of the primary things you should consider is their weight.
Since steel is 2.5 times denser than aluminum, aluminum toes can be anywhere from 30-50% lighter.
If you look at the numerical difference between the two metals, it may not seem like a huge difference.
Just keep in mind that you’re multiplying that difference by however many steps you take in your work day.
The difference in total weight lifted over the day can be hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
With this in mind, it might be beneficial to invest in a small upgrade that’s going to make a big difference in your level of fatigue by the end of the day.
Toe Protection Capacity
A steel cap still reigns supreme in terms of protective capabilities.
It is a denser, less malleable, and stronger metal.
Even on a non-scientific level, go to a worksite and ask the people there which toe they trust the most, you’re going to hear most people say steel.
This is not to say that aluminum toes are unsafe, they are, and they’re approved by OSHA as acceptable safety toe shoes.
What does that mean, exactly?
There are tests conducted on safety boots by the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials).
You’ll often see a ratings such as ASTM F2413 when purchasing safety footwear. This is especially true with Steel or composite toe work boots.
These are the tests that OSHA uses to determine if a boot is an acceptable safety boot.
Aluminum toes pass these tests.
They are able to take the impact of a 75 pound object at no less than 18 inches, and can get crushed by a 2500 pound machine (at that weight, I can only assume it’s a machine).
This is well within the reasonable expectations of what might fall on your toes, so these should keep you safe.
Though if we took both steel and aluminum toes to a hydraulic press, the steel would be able to withstand more pressure before it failed.
Aluminum toe boots are generally a bit more comfortable than steel.
This is due to the volume of space each takes up.
Steel toes the thicker and bulkier of the two, so there’s less room in the toe box for your toes to fit into.
Aluminum, on the other hand, is thinner and will allow for a more spacious boot.
Add in the weight factor that I’ve just discussed, and you’re talking about a lighter boot that fits better.
This is a no-brainer, you’re going to find a more comfortable boot amongst your choices with an aluminum toe.
Aluminum toes are more expensive than steel on average.
The amount of materials used combined with the construction process are both greater, so this makes sense.
There are many other factors to consider when deciding between the two toe styles and I would suggest ranking this factor last.
The number of other features you might find in the boot are more likely to affect the price than the toe style.
|Feature / Characteristic||Aluminum Toe||Steel Toe|
|Safety||ASTM approved, great||ASTM approved, excellent|
|Price||Slightly more expensive||Slightly less expensive|
The comparison between these two styles doesn’t reveal any huge differences.
Your decision for either one or the other really depends on what your work day looks like.
For my work, I always leaned towards lighter, more comfortable boots.
That said, I was doing residential carpentry and wasn’t concerned with encountering any sort of heavy machinery.
The heaviest tool I moved around was probably a table saw.
My personal decisions were the sole factor in how safe or dangerous something was.