When it comes to work shoes a lot of customers come into the shop looking for steel toe work boots, or I’ll get a lot of emails and calls from people asking “what are the best steel toe work boots for men?” Well, I have a few favorites, but there’s also boots available with different kinds of safety toes like alloy or composite. There’s a debate about which kind of toe is best, but I think that’s for everyone to decide for themselves. It just depends on what you’re working with and how you feel in the boot.
Safety Ratings for Steel, Alloy, or Composite Toe Work Boots
Of course on the job, safety always comes first. And that’s why it’s important to get the right safety toe because depending on your job, different features might be more important to you. Sometimes a lighter weight shoe is more important if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on uneven terrain or putting a lot miles on your work boots, like a choker setter in logging. Spending a lot of time on the side of the mountain is going to wear on you if your boots are too heavy. On the other hand maybe having a higher impact rating or compression rating is important to you.
There’s a number of organizations in the U.S. that rate safety toes on how they do during tests. The big ratings to look out for the impact and compression ratings from the American National Standards Institute. An example of this is I/75 and C/75. If a safety toe has a rating of I/75 that means it can handle up to 75 pounds being dropped on it and if it has C/75 that means it can handle being compressed at 2,500 pounds. There are also ratings for 30 and 50. Whether you choose steel, alloy or composite, check the rating before you buy to make sure you’re getting the right level of protection
Here’s a quick overview of each kind of toe and boots you can find them in:
Alloy Toe Work Boots
Alloy toes are probably our most popular safety toe. They’re made from lightweight materials like aluminum and titanium, but they’re as strong as steel. Our customers are really into TiTAN boots by Timberland, which are made with a lightweight titanium toe. Some TiTANS have composite or steel toes, but for alloy toes we love the Men's TiTAN® 8 Inch Safety Toe Waterproof Workboot and the Men's TiTAN® 6 Inch Safety Toe Lace-To-Toe Boot. The Danner Quarry also has a great alloy toe as well as the Keen Portland with an aluminum toe.
The Pros: Alloy toes are 30-50% lighter than steel. It’s made a bit thinner, so you get some more room in the toe box.
The Cons:These can run a bit more expensive in some circumstances, but they’re worth it for the comfort and safety level. They set off metal detectors, so if you have to go in and out of secured areas often, that can become an inconvenience.
Steel Toe Work Boots
The classic is the steel toe work boot. The toe-box in a steel toe boot is made from heavy duty steel to protect you from crushing and falling objects.
The Pros: These tend to be on the less expensive side. You get maximum protection from falling objects and equipment like chainsaws and grinders.
The Cons: They’re heavy. They can be uncomfortable with a smaller toe box and they also set off metal detectors like the alloy toe.
The Boots: The KEEN Utility Collection has great steel toe options. White’s custom work boots like the Workman and the Smoke Jumper are classics and many pairs of White’s can be customized with a steel toe. We also love steel toe work boots from Wesco and Danner.
Composite Toe Work Boots
Composites are great if you need a moderate level of protection. They still pass all the standards, but might not be rated for as much weight as a steel or alloy toe. They’re made of non-metal materials like kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic, or fiberglass.
The Pros: They’re good for extreme high or low temperatures because they won’t heat up or cool down like a metal toe would. They’re 30% lighter than steel toes.
The Cons: They can’t take as much impact or compression as a steel or alloy toe. They pass standards, but if there’s something really heavy dropped on them they can crack or shatter.
Figuring out what kind of toe you need really depends on the job you’ve got to do. Just give us a call at Baker’s if you need help finding the right one for you.