Those are numbers that could make a noticeable difference with not only your comfort, but also your health.
Non-Conductive Peace of Mind
No matter what type of material your composite toe is made of, it will not conduct the surrounding elements.
This makes it great for anyone that spends a lot of time outdoors in particularly harsh climates where the hots are hot and the colds are even colder.
No one likes to be uncomfortable, that’s a given, but your comfort might be an indicator of your safety.
An OSHA guide on cold-weather injuries shows that a composite toe could keep you safer than metal toe caps.
Composite toe safety shoes are also non-conductive to electricity.
This makes them a great choice for anyone that is frequently at risk of electric shock.
An extra little perk that you’ll get from composite toes is that they won’t set off a metal detector.
This is probably not something that will affect most of us, but for those of us working in ports, airports, and other highly controlled settings, you will save a ton of time not taking your boots on and off.
The Downsides of Composite Toes
Composite toes are often a little bit bulbous, this can be problematic for two reasons.
One, it’s not as stylish to have a big toe cap popping out from the front of your boot.
Two, the extra reach of the toe cap can have you a little clumsy on your feet.
Even if it seems like a little difference, you might find yourself bumping and kicking things by accident.
Ideally, you would choose a composite material like carbon fiber or Kevlar, problem solved.
That said, many composites are made of fiberglass or plastic compounds that require a larger area to offer the same levels of safety that you’ll get from more traditional toe caps.
As I said in the section on steel, the cost should not be a factor when deciding on safety.
With my disclaimer now written down, I can say that composite toes are notably more expensive than their metal competitors.
I often have my suspicions that the term “composite toe” is the thing that allows manufacturers to charge more.
It’s not always due to a proportionally more expensive material cost.
If you find boots with kevlar or carbon fiber toe caps, I’m a little more comfortable saying to spend the extra cash.
With plastics and fiberglass constructions I feel the costs exceed the benefits.
Some composite materials are more likely to fail all at once than other materials.
I exclude Kevlar and some carbon fibers from this distinction, as they perform extremely well in resisting stress without breaking.
Having noted that, toe caps made of fiberglass and thermoplastics are at risk of giving way all at once.
The materials themselves are designed to be firm, and are incapable of bending before they break.
Please don’t take this to mean that certain composite toe caps aren’t ASTM approved, they all should be. I’m just noting that when they fail, and at certain weights all materials will fail, they don’t give you warning by bending in the way steel does.
In that spirit, I put my money on steel toes over the broadly titled “composite toe.”
I really like Kevlar and carbon fiber toe caps, I’d feel entirely comfortable in either of those.
However, the reality is that more composite toe caps are going to be made of fiberglass and thermoplastics, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending either of those to someone who might be in danger.
As always, please refer to your PPE manual, line manager or industry best practices to ascertain the best choice for you.