How to choose the safest steel-toe boots for the job

Updated Aug 22, 2018

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Safety toe work boots are of the utmost importance for those of you working with heavy equipment, chemicals, are doing lots of climbing or are working around electricity. Without them, you become susceptible to cuts, broken toes (or even feet), sprains, electric shocks, punctures on the bottom of the feet and/or burns.

That being said, safety toe boots come with various distinct features, each appropriate for different types of industries. It’s important to know what those features are as well as the differences between steel toe boots and safety or composite toe boots.

Steel toe boots are durable work boots, which, as the name implies, are equipped with an inner steel toe reinforcement to protect against potential injuries. They typically have a mid-sole plate to protect from could-be puncture wounds from underneath as well.

Composite toe boots on the other hand still meet all the same safety requirements as their steel toe counterparts, but they are both non-metallic and non-magnetic. This grants them the ability to hold heat better and makes them up to 30 percent lighter and, many say, more comfortable.

Whether you are considering a steel toe boot or composite toe boot, your specific industry will require they meet certain standards and safety requirements established by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials).

The ANSI is a private non-profit organization overseeing the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the USA.   They also coordinate U.S. standards with international ones so that U.S. products can be sold worldwide.

The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) is an international standards organization developing and publishing voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide array of materials, products, systems and services. They annually produce standards and requirements to be followed in various industries, as well as requirements for safety toe boots.

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Those requirements for safety toe boots are as follows:

  • CD: Conductive hazard protection
  • EH: Electrical insulation in outsoles and heels, also shock resistant
  • SD: Static electricity reduction
  • PR: Puncture resistant
  • Mt: Impact resistant to top of foot (metatarsal)
  • CS: Chain saw cut resistant
  • DI: Dielectric Insulation
  • I: Impact resistant (class 50, 75)
  • C: Compression resistant (class 50, 75)

Safety toe boots are offered in various types and brands, each with different symbols indicating the specific protection the shoe offers. Popular brands include Red Wing, Carhartt, Timberland and Irish Setter. It’s also important to remember there are many different types of safety toe boots.

For instance, a boot rated ASTM F 2413-05, M I/75, C/75, EH (Electrical Hazard) is good for electrical work. Using our ASTM requirements from above, we can determine that I/75 means Impact Resistant class 75 and C/75 is compression resistant class 75.

The majority of safety toe boots will have symbols on the outside indicating the type of protection the boot offers.  The symbols and description of each are as follows:

  • Green Triangle: Class 1 toe cap, puncture resistant sole
  • Yellow Triangle: Class 2 toe cap, puncture resistant sole
  • White Square: Electrical protection (ohm symbol)
  • Yellow Square: Anti-Static protection (SD)
  • Red Square: Electrical Conductive (C)
  • Fir Tree: Chain Saw cut protection

Editor’s note: This content was provided by Dave’s New York, an American retailer located in New York City with over 45 years of experience selling mens and womens workwear. They carry safety, thermal and flame resistant apparel. Check out their website here.