Comfort and safety are some of the topmost priorities when it comes to shoes. In the absence of it, footwear loses out on its purpose. But these properties are dependent on the overall structure and material of the shoes.
When it comes to work boots, customers look out for their toe construction. It determines its overall functioning. Majorly, there are two types of toe construction: Alloy toe and Steel toe. These are some of the strong contenders that can protect the feet from several external factors.
- 1 What is an Alloy Toe?
- 2 What is a Steel Toe?
- 3 Main Difference Between Alloy Toe and Steel Toe
- 4 OSHA Approval
What is an Alloy Toe?
Alloy toes have titanium and aluminum construction, making them a strong option for safety toes. Even though they are not made of steel, they have the required properties to withstand any external pressure.
The main intention behind manufacturing alloy toe shoes was to gain the same safety level as steel toes without extra weight.
These shoes offer immense impact and compression resistance that can be utilized in harsh work conditions.
As they are made of lightweight materials, you are not worn down by wearing them all day. You get plenty of space and toe room, thereby reducing the possibility of getting blisters of toe pain.
Even though they were introduced after steel toes, they are immensely popular with warehouse workers, electricians, drivers, plumbers, etc.
To get a better understanding, the following are some of the merits and demerits of alloy toes.
- As alloy toes are made of a combination of lightweight materials; they are 30-50% lighter than steel toes.
- They are thin yet sturdy.
- You get more to toe room.
- They meet the ASTM impact and other crucial safety standards.
- The material and structure make it easier to wear for hours at a stretch.
- Alloy toes can be a costly expenditure, but the comfort and safety provided make it worth the extra dollars.
- They are set off by metal detectors.
What is a Steel Toe?
Steel toe was introduced at least eight decades ago. As the name suggests, it is made from heavy-duty and robust steel. Such a construction protects your toes from falling prey to any falling or sharp objects.
As they have a strong structure, these shoes are appreciated by construction workers, people working in factories, manufacturing units, and the transportation field.
Coming to the price, it is less expensive than the alloy toe shoes. This means that you get more protection at less cost.
However, as such shoes have a steel construction, they can wear you down quickly. Moreover, as steel is a conductor of electricity, it is not advisable for people working in electrical units.
- Steel toe boots have high durability.
- They can protect your toes from any fatal accidents.
- They are easy on the pocket, i.e., less expensive.
- As the toe is thinner; you get a less bulky shoe.
- As steel is heavier than alloy, you might feel the extra weight on your feet.
- They have a smaller toe box area.
- They are not metal detector friendly.
- Steel is a conductor of electricity, making it harmful for electricians.
- They can get colder in winters.
Main Difference Between Alloy Toe and Steel Toe
By now, it is well established that both: alloy toe and steel toe have their share of advantages and disadvantages. This made way for some subtle yet crucial differences between alloy toe shoes and steel toe shoes. For a better understanding, read along:
Impact and Compression Rating
Shoes are meant to protect the feet and the toes. Such protective gears need to have a standardized impact and compression ratings.
There are three levels of protection that safety footwear must have: 30, 50, and 75. ASTM F-2413 Class 75 is standardized and recommended for the majority of protective footwear.
Particular criterion needs to be fulfilled to get such a rating, like the following:
It determines whether the footwear will protect your feet from any heavy falling objects.
This test is conducted by dropping fifty pounds on the top of the shoe from a height of eighteen inches or more. If the shoe can withstand the impact, it is given the I/75 certification.
It determines the overall protection from rolling objects.
If the shoe is able to withstand and endure up to 2500 pounds of force, it is eligible to receive C/75 certification.
On comparing both the shoes in the subjects mentioned above, the following The bottom lines can be drawn:
Both the shoe toe styles: Alloy and Steel, fulfill the I/75 and C/75 certification ratings. But on closer observation, it was concluded that Steel toe shoes were able to withstand more force and compression.
Even though alloy toe shoes are a worthy contender, steel toe shoes take the win when it comes to protecting the toes from any harmful external factor.
Besides safety, comfort is the next-best and essential feature to look out for in safety footwear.
Let us talk about steel boots first. As steel toe boots have a sturdy construction, they are considered to be an epitome when it comes to safety. However, they leave less toe room. This can leave blisters on your feet and less room for your toes to wiggle around.
Moreover, steel is a heavy material that can put extra weight on your feet, making it difficult to wear for hours.
Steel toe boots might be uncomfortable for people with broad feet. So even though steel toe shoes might protect your feet for hours, they might be uncomfortable to wear for an extended period.
On the other hand, alloy toe shoes are more comfortable to wear. They do not cause any foot pain, blisters, or toe pain as there is plenty of toe room available.
As compared to steel, the alloy is a lighter material; thereby, less weight is put on the feet. This adds to the comfort.
Therefore, when it comes to comfort, Alloy toe shoes take the win!
Show weight matters when you need to wear them for hours at a stretch.
Alloy and Steel have varying weights as they are different materials.
Alloy toe shoes are thirty-fifty per cent lighter than steel toe shoes.
On average, steel toe shoes weigh in the range of 2.9 lbs to 7 lbs.
On the other hand, alloy toe shoes weigh in the range of 2.9 lbs to 3.4 lbs.
Hence, it can be determined that alloy toe shoes are lighter than steel toe shoes.
Steel toe shoes are prone to becoming cold in cold weather and hot in summers. So, it is advised to wear steel-toe shoes with waterproof and insulation protection. Moreover, steel is a good conductor of electricity.
On the other hand, the alloy does not conduct electricity as well as steel toe shoes. Moreover, as it has low thermal conductivity, they are not highly affected by the surrounding weather. Hence, Alloy toe shoes conduct less heat and cold.
Metal Detector Friendly
It goes without saying that steel is a metal that will set off metal detectors. So, you must avoid these shoes if you work in a restricted facility.
The alloy has little amount of trace of metal present. Therefore they might not be affected by the metal detectors.
OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA has specific set standards for protective footwear necessary to be fulfilled for the wearer’s protection from punctures, fractures, heavy impacts, etc.
They are certified compression and impact resistant by the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
Such approval means that your footwear will protect your feet from repercussions like rolling equipment, heavy falling objects, penetrating substances, or hot materials.
Coming to alloy toe and steel toe shoes, are they OSHO approved?
Alloy toe shoes are made of lighter materials like titanium and aluminium. This makes them lighter, along with providing more toe room to the wearer.
That being said, steel toe shoes are heavier that might make them uncomfortable for the wearer. However, such a robust construction also protects the feet from any harmful impact.
However, it should be noted that neither of the shoes is acceptable to be used in the electrical field or workplaces.
Can Steel Toe Shoes Cut your Toe Off?
There is a common myth prevailing questioning the safety factor of steel toe shoes. It is believed that steel toe shoes can cut your toes off in case a heavy object falls on it. But how true is this statement?
Firstly, you must know that not all steel toe boots meet safety standards. You must get the one that meets the ANSI standards and regulations.
The boots are made to go through specific tests like dripping 44 lbs of weight on the shoes’ cap to meet such requirements. Such a drop test signifies the reliability of the shoes.
It will be a stretch to say that steel toe shoes will protect your feet from all kinds of substances. However, it is better to have some protective gear than nothing at all.
It has been noted that there might be some tissue damage if a heavy object falls on your steel toe boots. But they will certainly not cut off your toes.
After such an intense deliberation, we can safely conclude that both: alloy toe and steel toe shoes are right in their respective places. But if you had to choose one, you must go for alloy toe shoes. Not only are they lighter in weight, but they provide the necessary support and protection.
So, if your work requires you to wear your shoes round the clock and you need to deal with hazardous conditions, alloy toe shoes are the right option!
Brandon R. Katz is a registered professional nurse who has been instrumental in providing us with an informed opinion on the medical aspects of footwear. He graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and currently provides his services at a non-federal long-term care hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Brandon proves to be the champion in the group of expert writers with his in-depth knowledge in foot health, how to take care of it adequately, and what shoes, socks, or insoles will be supreme for you. He has previously worked with hospitals where he has foreseen both inpatient and outpatient departments and has been a practicing nurse since 2009.
Brandon hails from Jersey City, NY, and has a loving family of four with a small popper called Rozo. His decision to become a nurse arises from the desire to be in the position of helping and rehabilitating people.