Yes, steel toe boots are safe, and that’s the primary reason you would want to buy a pair! Any ASTM-f2413 certified Steel toe boots can protect your toes from up to 75 pounds of impact at 18 inches of height and handle 2,500 pounds of compression from vehicles or other machines.
It only makes sense that you would want a full understanding of steel toe safety, and there are many factors to consider.
In today’s article, I’ll go over everything you need to know about steel toe boot safety.
Why Steel Toe Boots Are Safe
The primary reason that steel toe boots are safe is their ability to protect your feet from falling or crushing objects. While steel toes only protect your toes, they will prevent most impact and compression injuries from happening, and you won’t be nursing a broken toe.
I can’t speak to every pair of steel toe footwear, as there are countless brands and styles of boot, but steel toe boots are generally sturdier than casual boots. Many protective work boots feature hearty full-grain leather and a form of Goodyear welt construction that provide added protection and durability.
Steel toe boots can have a wide variety of features, and there is no “standard” beyond what’s required by ASTM tests and OSHA. If you’re unfamiliar with what all that means, check out our article that tells you everything you need to know about ASTM f2413 compliance.
We also have an article on what all the symbols on work boots stand for that’s worth a read.
Both articles will give you the details of why steel toe boots are safe, not just overarching statements.
The actual ASTM tests, absurdly, are hidden behind a paywall. What is not hidden are OSHA regulations that indicate they rely on the ASTM f2413 as the standard by which American workplaces determine boot safety.
The ASTM updated this test in 2018, so if you want the most modern safety tech, make sure you get boots certified f2413-18.
Are Steel Toe Boots Safe For Electricians?
Yes, steel boots are safe for electricians! Because the metallic surface of the steel toe cap is encased in fabric, leather, and rubber, it is safe for electricians to wear steel toe boots even in areas with live currents. It is, however, extremely important to ensure the boot remains intact.
This is not my opinion; this is information based on a letter sent by OSHA director Roger Clark on March 17, 1993.
In that letter, Clark wrote, “OSHA does not generally consider the wearing of steel-toe shoes by electrical tradesmen to be hazardous, so long as the conductive portion of the shoe is not in contact with the employee’s foot and is not exposed on the outside of the shoe.”
It was also expressed by KEEN Boots’ utility division director Mark Reilly in an article he wrote for Safety and Health Magazine.
In layman’s terms, so long as the boot isn’t falling apart, electricians are safe. That said, some who work with live electrical currents prefer metal-free, composite toe boots. Check out our comparison article on steel toe vs. composite toe boots if you’re unsure which to choose.
If you’re looking at alternative protective footwear, alloy toe is also an option you might want to consider if a steel cap isn’t something you’re sure about.
In construction, accidents happen, and the unpredictable will happen if given enough time. As we have noted in numerous articles about safety, it is often a combination of many small factors that result in a safe work experience.
There might only be a 1/100 chance of any particular accident happening (slipping on a floor, compression on the toe, impact on the metatarsals) on a given day. However, when you add up all those possibilities, it becomes a 1/10 chance of getting injured.
A 10% chance? Each day? Now, that’s an unacceptably-high chance of getting injured. Taking precautions against each possibility, no matter how unlikely, is how you stay safe.
Can Steel Toe Boots Cut Your Toes Off?
It’s far more likely to lose your toes to an accident because you weren’t wearing steel toe boots than it is to lose your toes because you were. Getting into “can” questions with safety is dangerous territory because anything can do you harm; the likelihood is more important.
Can an IKEA bookshelf fall and amputate your toes? Yes, I’m sure it could. The reality is that the chances of that happening are so low that no one goes around saying, “those IKEA bookshelves are designed to cut your toes off.”
We’ve recently written an article about this persistent legend that’s worth a read if you’re interested. Head over to that if you want to learn why people say steel toe boots will cut your toes off.
Is it Safer Not to Wear Steel Toe Boots?
In most general to heavy construction jobs, no, it’s more dangerous to go without steel toe boots than it is to wear them. That is not to say that “steel toe boots” are safer than any alternative, 100% of the time, it’s just a general statement.
I say this based on a 2005 study that showed that of the 60,000 foot injuries in a given year, 75% weren’t wearing the appropriate safety footwear. I also reference a 2011 study that compared impacts between cadaveric feet suited with and without steel toe protection.
The results of that 2011 study showed the feet without steel toe suffered 8.2 broken bones after three impacts, while feet with steel toes only suffered 3.6. This is a substantial difference and shouldn’t be ignored.
Is it Bad to Wear Steel Toe Boots Every Day?
No, there’s nothing wrong with wearing steel toe boots every day, so long as you have a reason to wear them. I wouldn’t recommend putting them on just for fun, as the added weight will tire you out more quickly.
This is one of the many instances that we recommend you review your personal circumstances. Loggers need logger boots, painters need nimble, flexible cement construction boots, ironworkers need wedge boots.
There is the reality that the added weight of steel toe boots can be bad for your back; this can be offset by getting a boot with the proper fit. If you’re not sure what to look for when fitting work boots or cowboy boots, check out our guides on those topics.
Each person needs to review their needs on an individual level. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for foot safety.
Are Steel Toe Boots Safe Around Horses?
While there’s nothing about the actual steel toe cap that makes the boot unsafe around horses, there are other reasons you might want to avoid wearing steel toe boots while riding. The outsole shape and tread can get stuck on stirrups, creating a very dangerous situation for riders.
Safety Begins With You
Steel boots are absolutely safe when you’ve got the right size and style for your work.
Don’t pick a pair haphazardly unless you’re indifferent to your safety.
Do your research, don’t listen to unfounded rumors, and try on a variety of work boots before going home with a pair.
Hopefully that’ll give you some food for thought when deciding which safety footwear to go for.