What’s the Difference? Steel Toe vs Composite Toe Boots

KEY TAKEAWAY: Steel toe caps and composite boots BOTH help protect workers in high risk environments – which is best depends on the worksite and job at hand.


In times gone by, the steel toe cap boot was the king of safety footwear, offering protection on construction sites and other industrial settings. Then along came a new kid on the block – the composite boot. Our customers often ask: is one superior to the other?

Both Steel Toe Cap and Composite Boots offer vital impact and compression resistance. Choosing between them depends on the risks and working conditions at play. Both offer unique benefits that should be considered when making a purchasing decision. 

Remember: Reinforced boots are required by legislation in high risk settings where there is heavy machinery or a risk of failing materials. Like all PPE, safety boots must be specified after completing a risk assessment and attempting to eliminate or reduce hazards at source.


Steel Toe Cap Boots

Steel toe boots are reinforced with heavy duty steel to protect feet from multiple hazards including crushing, falling objects and puncturing. European standards specify a steel cap must offer 200 joules of protection.


  • Higher flat protection than composite boots making them preferable for environments with very heavy hazards such as chainsaws or grinders.
  • Good value – often cheaper than composite boots which cost more to manufacture.


  • Can be heavier than composite boots – less suited to workers doing lots of walking. However, in recent times steel toe cap boots have become significantly lighter and more comfortable.
  • Set off metal detectors – not recommended for those regularly passing security checks with metal detectors.



Composite Toe Caps

Composite Toe Boots are made from non-metal materials such as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) or carbon fiber. Just like steel toe caps, to meet European Safety Standards, they must offer 200 joules of protection.


  • Offer a high level of comfort and are usually lighter than steel toe cap boots – preferable for those walking a lot or on their feet for long hours.
  • Metal free so do not set off metal detectors – time saving for workers who frequently pass metal detectors at security check points.
  • Increased electrical resistance – desirable for those working around live wires.
  • Do not conduct heat as much as steel – composite boots keep your feet cooler in hot weather and warmer in cold weather.




Question to ask before purchasing boots:

  • Does your team face risks of foot crushing or puncturing from heavy materials or equipment?
  • What is the level of protection do you require?
  • Does your team walk a lot or require foot protection for long hours?
  • Does your team work in extreme weather conditions?
  • Does your team regularly pass through metal detectors?
  • Do you need other features? E.g. waterproofing, anti-static, reinforced midsole, extreme high heat resistance.



Steel toe cap boots are highly economical and preferable when hazards are exceptionally heavy. Composite toe boots are better for workers who need a lighter shoe, regularly pass metal detectors or work near live wires or in extreme temperatures.

Call today to discuss your safety footwear requirements with one of our safety champions on: 0333 003 5710. We promise competitive prices and unbeatable turnaround time.

Enfield Safety – no one works harder to bring you health, safety and welfare products at the right price, on time, every time.

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