Are composite toe caps as safe as steel?

We often get asked the question: what is better, steel or composite toe caps when it comes to safety footwear? 

We've written a whole academic paper on the subject, but to summarise, the answer is... Both meet the required standards for safety footwear and both are safe when made with the correct skills. 

What it comes down to is your preferences.  


Steel toe caps have been in use since around the 1930s, and are still very popular in the safety footwear market today. As steel is naturally stronger than composite materials, a thinner layer can be used to reach the same strength, so it can look less bulky in a boot.
It is also cheaper to manufacture, and this cost saving is passed onto the purchaser.

Composite toe caps

On the other hand, composite toe caps are quickly becoming the standard in safety boots; and at V12, we use them in most of our footwear. As these toecaps are made from non-metal materials such as plastic, carbon fibre or fiberglass, they are more comfortable when working in extreme outdoor conditions where steel can conduct the cold. Composites are also lighter than steel, meaning reduced fatigue when the boots are worn for long periods of time. In addition, unlike their steel counterpart, they do not conduct electricity.

A comparison

You can use the table below to choose the footwear for you based on your priorities.

Toecap Meets standards Less bulky Lighter Cheaper Thermal insulation Prevents sparking
Steel X X   X    
Composite X   X   X X

Are composite toe caps as safe as steel?

Both steel and non-metallic toe caps are tested in exactly the same way, under European standard EN 20345:2011, and both are absolutely fit for purpose if made to the right specification using the correct shoemaking skills.

Whatever you choose, you can be assured that all of our toe caps exceed the required standards by a wide margin, and at V12 we go beyond standard requirements, by testing the components and made up footwear from each and every batch for impact and compression. We retain all these records for your complete peace of mind.

Further actions

You can find out more about steel and composite toe caps, by downloading our academic paper on the subject.

Or browse our range to select the shoes for you.

Download academic paper on toe caps