For many people, steel toe safety shoes are the standard for protective footwear. But are they? Here’s what steel toe caps are and how they protect your feet.
Steel toe safety shoes are among the most common types of safety footwear- and the oldest! They’re also known for their many advantages. When choosing work shoes for your employees or workplace, steel shoes will always be one of the options. So it helps to understand what a steel to cap means and when you need it for toe protection. Learn about steel toe shoes and steel toe boots below.
What are Steel Toe Safety Shoes and Boots?
Steel toe shoes and steel toe boots are a type of safety footwear that has a steel shell covering the toe area. The cap serves to protect the toes from impact and compression injuries, and is usually integrated into the shoe’s design and not removable.
The first use of steel-toed shoes happened many years ago, in the 1930s. Over the years, various other materials for the toe cap such as composites and alloys have come up. However, the good old steel toe shoe maintains its popularity up to this day.
Some of the benefits of steel toe safety shoes and boots are:
- Higher Level of protection– when reinforced with steel toes, safety shoes offer excellent protection that cannot be matched by any other toe cap material.
- Longer Lifespan– steel does not wear out easily and steel shoes last a very long time.
- Thin Toe cap– steel is a tough material and only a thin cap is required to guard the toes against impact and compression forces. That means ample room for the toes.
- Low Cost- steel toes are cheaper to produce than other materials. That translates to lower prices when buying steel toed safety work shoes.
The Anatomy of Steel Cap Work Shoes
Steel toe shoes and steel toe boots can be designed specifically for men or women, and they come in a variety of colors and styles to accommodate the tastes and preferences of the wearer. However, the common feature in these types of shoes is the toe cap.
The toe cap is made from hardened steel and typically coated to prevent rusting. On the cap upper is usually a tough material such as leather, while the inside is normally a soft material to offer comfort.
The inside of steel toe safety footwear also contains various other components for additional levels of protection. These components, which vary depending on the manufacturer and type of shoe, include the following.
- Anti Slip Outer Sole– slip resistant steel toe safety shoes are required in places that are slippery in addition to putting your toes at risk of being hit by heavy objects.
- Puncture resistant Midsoles– these are necessary in workplaces where sharp objects and falling or rolling loads risk injuring your foot.
- Metatarsal Protection– in addition to steel toes, shoes with metatarsal protection are designed to protect your foot’s upper.
How are Steel Toe Work Shoes Rated?
Steel toe work shoes and steel toe work boots must meet specific worker safety standards. These standards are normally set by regional organizations and include ratings for protection against impact or compression injuries. The main standards for steel toe safety shoes today are: ASTM for shoes sold and used in the US, EN ISO 20345 for shoes in Europe, and Canadian CSA standard.
ASTM Standard for Steel Toe Shoes
In the US, steel shoes are rated using the standard set by ASTM. The symbols “I” and “C” are used for impact and compression resistance respectively. According to OSHA, safety toe shoes must withstand up to 2,500 pounds of compressional force. For impact resistance, the toe cap must withstand up to 25 pounds for a mass falling from an 18-inch height.
EN ISO 20345 Standard for Steel Toe Shoes
This is the European standard for safety footwear and which concerns different protection rating. Basically, to toe cap must be able to withstand up to 200 joules impact, which translates to a 20kg mass dropped from a 1-meter height. For compression, the toe caps of steel shoes must withstand a 15KN force.
When to Wear Steel Cap Safety Shoes?
Practically anyone looking to protect their toes from injury can wear steel toe safety shoes. However, there are places where steel toes are vital, such as when working near machinery or heavy objects. In these environments steel toe provides a higher level of protection. Here’s a list of situations that require workers to wear steel toe shoes.
- Warehouses where workers need to move heavy objects or equipment.
- Construction sites where workers are at risk of having objects falling or rolling and hitting their feet.
- Industrial workers whose feet are exposed to heavy equipment and machinery.
- Miners who may get injured by rolling or falling stones.
- Steel toe safety shoes are also suitable for hikers and anyone walking on rough terrain.
- Any place where you’re at risk of toe injuries from different objects.
How to Select Steel Toe Safety Shoes
There are many kinds of steel toe safety shoes and navigating through the choices can be difficult. There are steel safety toes for men, safety shoes for women, and even unisex steel toe shoes. Design features also add to the selection difficulty with options for slip on steel toe safety shoes, high and low-cut steel toe safety shoes, and so on. Below are points to help you choose the best steel toe safety shoes for yourself or your workers.
1. Go for flexible steel toe shoes if workplace duties involve lots of movement. It will help prevent fatigue and allow you to move freely all day long.
2. Both men and women’s steel toe safety shoes should allow comfort and come with features to ensure that such as padding and the right insoles. Comfortable steel toe shoes offer the best of both worlds to make your workers more productive.
3. It’s a good thing to choose fashionable steel toe shoes when buying your protective footwear. However, do not let that be the deciding factor. Ensure all protection features first and based on the type of environment.
4. Lightweight steel toe shoes are necessary in a variety of situations such as factory, warehouse, and other industrial job sites. You want to walk around easily at work.
5. Always ensure breathable steel toe work shoes every time. Breathable footwear is comfortable to wear in addition to preventing a buildup of odors.
6. If buying your steel toe safety shoes online, ensure you have adequate information concerning what other features you need. It’s also advisable to ask the seller or manufacturer for advice.
Steel toe safety shoes and steel cap boots are an important type of footwear for anyone who is exposed to potential hazards at work. They offer a high level of protection against accidental injury, and there are a variety of different types and styles available to meet the needs of any worker. When choosing a pair of steel toe safety shoes, be sure to consider the rating system to find the shoes that offer the best protection for your needs.