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 /  Anatomy

What Does Comp Toe Mean? Should I Get Steel Toe Instead?

Key Takeaways

A composite toe boot, or comp toe boot as it’s also known, refers to the materials used in creating the protective toe cap in your boots. The only notable difference between a steel toe boot and a comp toe boot is that composite toe boots use materials such as plastic, carbon fiber, or fiberglass to create the protective shield for your toes.

Comp toe boots are becoming increasingly popular; composite toe boots meet safety regulations, so why do we even keep using steel toe boots

There are obvious benefits to both steel toes and comp toes, so once you know more about these, you can decide which is best for the environment you’ll be working in. 

If you need safety boots and can’t decide between steel toe and comp toe, this article will help.

What is a Composite Toe? 

Ariat Lace Up Work Boots

As technology advances, materials such as carbon fiber become more cost-effective, and more importantly, are actually strong enough to replace a steel toe.

A composite toe is a simple enough premise—rather than using steel covering for the toe box of your work boots, another material is used instead. 

Several materials can be used in a composite toe boot, ranging from plastic and fiberglass to kevlar and carbon fiber. To put it into perspective, carbon fiber is used in making Formula 1 race cars; it’s one of the most robust materials ever created.

Benefits of a Composite Toe Boot

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When choosing a pair of safety boots, you need to know that they’ll be able to deal with anything you can throw at them, and composite toe boots have several key benefits that I think you’ll find incredibly useful. 

Certain professions and specific working environments stand out for me as the perfect situations where buying a comp toe boot will really add value for you.

Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits: 

  • If you’re working in extreme cold, a comp to won’t give you freezing toes like cold steel will.
  • If your job entails working around live electrical systems, a comp toe boot is great because the lack of metal means no risk of conducting electricity. 
  • Comp toe boots are great for people who work in an environment with metal detectors, like TSA workers, police or security guards where walk-through detectors are common.
  • Comp toe boots are generally lighter than steel toe, so if you’re pretty mobile and on your feet all day, the lighter weight could make a lot of difference.

Are There Any Drawbacks to a Composite Toe?

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There aren’t many drawbacks to a composite toe boot; they’re tested to ensure they meet the safety standards required of a boot. And just like a steel toe boot, they can withstand heavy loads falling on them. 

The only major drawback to composite boots I can find is that, if you have an accident in them that impacts the composite material, you may have to replace them, as the composite may be compromised.

And because you’ll never know if the composite is compromised, you don’t have much choice but to replace.  

Your foot may have been perfectly protected from harm, but if it happens again, the composite may not be sufficiently strong enough to protect your foot.

Composite Toe Boots vs. Steel Toe Boots: Which is Better?

ariat workhog work boot with sawdust

Steel toe boots can take a lot of damage and remain completely safe. If I needed to guarantee my boots could take being run over by a truck, steel toe wins for me, especially if the truck wants to run over my feet tomorrow as well.

But choosing steel toe over composite toe completely depends on your environment and profession. A logger or someone working on a building site will probably be better served by wearing steel-toe boots. 

Ariat workhog next to noise protection earphones

However, an engineer or an electrician might favor comp toe boots because the risks, while still there, are slightly reduced in these professions.

Composite toe boots are more expensive, but they are the suitable option for certain environments and situations

If I’m working on sites with higher risks of heavy materials landing on my foot or logging in the woods, I’m going for a steel-toe boot. 

But if I’m working fitting electrical cables or working in a factory, I think comp toe boots are perfectly comfortable and safe.

Conclusion

A comp toe boot is very nearly as protective as a steel toe boot. In most situations where you’ll need safety boots, composite will work just as well as steel toe. 

If taking a hit with a sledgehammer is a potentially daily occurrence, I would still go for steel-toe boots, but the gap is certainly closing. 

If composite toe boots become strong enough to take a sharp, heavy blow repeatedly and still be able to be worn, then I can see composite taking over in even these environments. But for now, comp toe boots have their place.


FAQs

Is composite toe stronger than steel toe?

Composite is not quite at the standard of steel or alloy toe boots yet. Steel is more robust and will be able to handle higher stresses than composite. Steel can also be thinner, allowing a lower profile for your boots. A composite toe boot often looks slightly bulbous compared to a sleeker steel toe boot.

Are composite boots OSHA approved?

Composite boots, like any other safety boot, must meet the required standards; comp toe boots meet both OSHA and ASTM safety regulations. If a boot is rated 50/50 by the ASTM, then it will mean it’s as strong as a steel-toe boot with the same rating.

Is carbon fiber the same as a composite?

Safety boots with a carbon fiber toe are classed as composite; the carbon fiber isn’t made of metal. As an incredibly strong and durable material, it will provide excellent protection for your feet. Carbon fiber is noticeably lighter than steel, too, so your boots won’t feel as heavy.

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