Composite-toe shoes are safety shoes that feature a reinforced toe designed to protect the wearer from falling objects, electric shock and other workplace hazards. Instead of steel, the reinforced composite toe is made of Kevlar, plastic, carbon fiber, fiberglass or another sturdy, nonmetallic material.
Composite-toe shoes are an alternative to traditional steel-toe safety shoes. The composite material is built into the shoe and forms a protective cap over the toe and part of the foot. Prices for composite-toe and steel-toe shoes are comparable, ranging from about $80 a pair to $150, according to online shoe sources.
Workers, including people who work in electronic security areas and who need safety shoes that are nonmetallic, can choose a composite-toe shoe. For example, composite-toe shoes will not set off airport metal detectors. The composite material also is nonmagnetic and does not conduct electricity.
Composite-toe shoes come in various styles, including work boots, slip-on loafers, lace-up loafers, hiking boots and running shoes for both men and women. Waterproof composite-toe shoes also are available. Brand names include Converse, Florsheim, Skechers and Dr. Marten's.
Look for composite-toe shoes that meet safety guidelines. Those standards include American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) requirements for impact and compression and American National Standards Institute ratings for protection against falling and rolling objects.
Composite-toe shoes are 30 to 50 percent lighter than steel-toe shoes, making them less tiring to wear. Composite-toe shoes also provide better protection from heat and cold. Construction workers, who often work in extreme temperatures, can work more comfortably outdoors with composite-toe shoes.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, any workers who risk foot injury from falling or rolling objects or electrical shock should wear protective shoes. Those occupations include warehouse workers, electricians, metal workers, welders, machinists and gardeners.