Choosing the right pair of work shoes has been a hot topic in the safety industry for a long time now. We will try to settle the alloy toe vs steel toe debate for you in this review.
Each type of safety shoe has its advantages and disadvantages. We have collected these and all other relevant information to help you make the best choice.
A Quick Look
Steel toe safety shoes have dominated the market ever since their invention over 80 years ago. They remain popular even to this day.
However, technological advancements have given rise to other options like alloy toes. These newcomers are changing the work safety landscape for many reasons.
They are made of lightweight materials and offer more freedom of movement. Some of today’s most trusted brands do not contain an ounce of steel. Nonetheless, steel toe boots remain the more affordable option.
At the same time, they offer more protection. They are also more solidly built, generally lasting longer in rugged work environments. In short, do not make the mistake of dismissing the steel toe too quickly.
Alloy Toe vs Steel Toe: The Comparison
Safety is a priority in most, if not all, industries. It is the main focus of all stakeholders, from businesses to government agencies to the workers themselves.
One of the first decisions you need to make, when it comes to safety, is what protective gear to wear. When choosing between the alloy and steel toe boots, there are many things that you should consider too.
To better understand which type of safety toe boots suits you best, let’s look at each feature closely. Let’s start with a basic overview of each option.
Overall, the alloy toe boot offers several advantages for the worker looking for a lightweight, flexible boot with superior functionality on the short term.
Alloy toes provide material that is perhaps less durable than steel toes, yet clearly optimal for professionals needing a versatile shoe with no metal detection and a lighter, cooler outdoor profile.
|Alloy Toe||Steel Toe|
|Protection Level||ASTM, OSHA, ANSI compliant||ASTM, OSHA, ANSI compliant|
|Impact and Thickness||ASTM F2413 Class 75 rating||ASTM F2413 Class 75 rating|
|Ergonomics||More comfortable, less compression||More rigid and long-lasting|
|Material vs Functionality||Thinner material||Thicker, heavier|
|Durability||Less durable overall||More durable|
|Longevity||8-12 months||18-24 months|
|Extreme Weather Use||Less conductive||Good electrical conductivity|
|Outdoor Use||Lighter, warmer||More rigid|
|Metal Detection||Unlikely||Steel, likely to set off detection|
|Estimated Cost||Pricier than steel||More affordable|
|Overall||Flexible, lighter||Budget-friendly, overall winner|
Level of Protection
The level of protection is perhaps the most compelling argument in the steel vs alloy toe discussion.
Both types of work shoes from various safety organizations. It includes the American Standards for Testing and Materials or ASTM, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, and the American National Standards Institute or ANSI.
Impact and Thickness
Most alloy and steel toe safety shoes can withstand 75 lbs of impact force from a height of 18 inches. They can also stand up to 2,500 lbs of compression force.
As a result, both have an ASTM F2413 Class 75 rating, which meets the requirements for most safety toe footwear. Others have a lower rating for certain applications.
However, it does not mean that they offer equal levels of protection. Steel toes feature thicker plates that are much sturdier than alloy.
In some brands, the steel plate extends to the midsole, safeguarding the user against punctures from below. If you handle heavy equipment and rolling objects or you work in the construction industry, this type of safety shoe is best for you. It can protect you from falling objects or in case something rolls over it.
With steel toe safety shoes, there is a good chance that your foot won’t get crushed under the weight or impact of heavy objects and equipment.
On the other hand, military-grade materials such as titanium and aluminum compose alloy boots. They are. They are not as sturdy as the steel toe boots, but they can still stand up to a lot of abuse.
If you work in a warehouse or the plumbing industry where there is little risk, the alloy toe will get the job done. If maximum protection is a priority, go with steel toes.
In most sites, workers need to stand or walk for hours on end. It is true whether you work in the construction industry or the service industry.
Over time, repetitive movements like walking and standing can cause work-related injuries. One way to manage them is by wearing comfortable shoes.
In this regard, the alloy toe offers more advantages. It is lightweight material and significantly thinner, leaving more room for your foot at the toe area. It means that your feet wouldn’t be too compressed while walking or standing.
Overall, alloy toes are more comfortable to wear and easier to get off the ground, making you less vulnerable to injuries. You are also less likely to wear down physically as your shift goes on.
Material VS Functionality
In comparison, the thicker construction of the steel toe means that there is less room for your feet. It leaves you more vulnerable to musculoskeletal disorders like plantar fasciitis with repetitive or prolonged activities.
Getting steel toe caps that are one size bigger is not a good idea because it makes your step clumsier and leads to trip hazards. Steel toes are also much heavier, which makes it more difficult for you to move freely.
In places where much of the work gets done on inclined slopes or uneven terrain, wearing steel toe boot could be challenging.
Another important point of discussion in the alloy vs steel toe comparison is durability.
The steel toe caps are solidly built and are generally considered more durable than alloy. It is made from a combination of iron and carbon, making it very tough and resistant to the elements.
It is hard to say how long a pair of steel toes would last. Its service life will depend on how you use it and where you use it. Having said that, the range falls between 1.5 and two years.
On the other hand, while alloy toes are similarly known for their durability, they tend to last around eight to 12 months.
Most companies replace their workers’ safety shoes regularly, so you won’t have a problem either way. However, if you are working under very rugged conditions, steel toe work boots are a better option for you.
Use in Extreme Weather Conditions
Some people spend most of their working hours outdoors. If you are one of them, you should consider how your safety shoes perform in extreme conditions.
Wearing toe boots that offer the best protection against the cold could spell the difference between a productive shift and eight hours of brutal work.
In this regard, the steel toe boots may not be such a good option. Steel is a good conductor not only of electricity but also heat, which means that it is a bad insulator.
If you are working in cold weather with steel safety shoes on, there is a good chance that your feet will get cold too.
The good news is that there are many steel toe brands offering insulation capabilities. Others even provide waterproof protection.
If you prefer using steel toe safety shoes and you work outdoors, you should look for a pair that has these safety features. You could also try wearing thermal or thick socks.
In comparison, alloy materials do not conduct as much heat as steel. As a result, your feet won’t be as cold if you wear alloy toes while working outdoors.
Additionally, working outdoors usually means that you are on uneven terrain or you need to cover much ground.
In these situations, the lower weight of the alloy toes can be a lifesaver.
Alloy toes are generally more expensive, but these features are worth the extra dollars for some people.
Metal Detector Test
Another thing to consider in the alloy vs. steel toe debate is which one sets off the metal detector. This feature may seem unimportant to some.
However, if you work on a site with security checks, it will come in handy.
The steel toe has no buffer against metal detectors, and it will surely set the alarm off. If you are using it in a place with metal detectors, you will have to remove your toe boots every time you pass through, wasting much valuable time.
On the other hand, alloy toes have very little to no steel in them. If the metal part is small enough, there is a good chance that it will not trigger the alarm.
Whether you are looking at alloy or steel toes, safety shoes come in a wide range of prices. Either type can cost you less than a hundred dollars or run you up to several hundred.
It will all depend on the brand and features offered.
Having said that, steel toes are generally more affordable than alloy toe work boots. They can give you the maximum protection that you need without costing you an arm and a leg.
Both types of work shoes meet strict industry standards. Still, if you are looking for the most value for your money, steel toe offers affordability.
The steel toe safety shoe offers better protection that exceeds the requirements for work safety standards. It also comes at a more budget-friendly price point. Moreover, with its sturdier build, it will surely last longer, allowing you to get more return on your investment.
However, if your work requires you to be quick on your feet or to cover more ground, you should go with the alloy toe safety boots.
Alloy toe caps are much lighter and comfortable to wear. You can stand or walk for most of an eight-hour shift without experiencing any health problems.
In the end, your choice would depend on your unique situation. Each type of shoe has its pros and cons, and they excel in different conditions.
To make sure that you are making the right decision, talk to your safety officer or an occupational health specialist before buying your next pair. How to Break in Boots The Best Way