There are advantages to both composite toe vs steel toe - Composite Toe (also known as “Comp Toe”) safety shoes are lighter weight, but Steel Toes are typically available in more toe styles, which enhance safety shoe styling.
Composite Toes are very popular because they are lightweight, but typically composite toes are more bulbous than the Steel Toe types. Having said that, Composite Toes are constantly improving and the new Carbon Fiber safety toe is thinner and less bulbous. The bulbous nature of Composite Toe Shoes is necessary to make them test to the same ASTM standard that Steel Toes do. Because composite materials of Composite Toe Shoes are not quite as strong as the steel used in Steel Toes Shoes, Composite Toes have to be thicker and more bulbous. This limits the styles that can effectively use Composite Toes, especially for women’s and men’s dress, casual, and athletic styles. The slimmer profile of women’s safety toes and other stylish men’s shoes like dress shoes and pointed-toe and square-toe western boots. The bulbous toe shape of the Composite Toe just isn’t conducive to these type styles, yet; however, better materials, like Carbon Fiber materials, can change that in short order.
Another issue with Composite Toe Safety Shoes is that the Composite Toe passes the initial impact and compression ASTM tests, but subsequent impact or compression events to the same Toe are less than adequate. Apparently, the composite materials tend to weaken significantly after the first tests or first occurrence of a significant impact or compression. Therefore, it is recommended that Composite Toe Safety Shoes be replaced after an accident or event that causes stress to the Composite Safety Toe. Note: The fact is that Composite Toe Safety Shoes many times show little or no signs of damage after a significant event impacting the Composite Toe because Composite materials have much resilience and hide physical damage. While no signs of damage may be visible, tests show that subsequent impacts to the Composite Toe shoes could be less resistant to impacts and compression.
Many people believe Composite Toe Shoes are best for Electrical Hazard environments, but that is not the case. And it would seem that having Composite Toes in the Electrical Hazard safety shoes would be safer than Steel Toes; however, Steel Toe Safety Shoes pass the Electrical Hazard ASTM Tests as easily as Composite Toe Safety Shoes. There is no difference in the safety of Composite Toe and Steel Toe Electrical Hazard Safety Shoes.
Steel and other Alloy materials are stronger than Composite materials so this allows the Steel Toe (and Alloy Toes) in Steel Toe Shoes to be thinner and have a lower profile (less bulbous) than Composite Toe Safety Shoes and still pass the ASTM Safety Toe tests. This gives Steel Toe Safety Shoes the ability to be nicer looking, lower profile shoes like what is used for pointed-toe and square-toe Western Boots, as well as men’s and women’s dress and casual shoes.
Safety Toes (Steel Toes, Alloy Toes, and Composite Toes) are constantly evolving and getting better. There is no doubt that the trend is toward Composite Safety Toes, and the new Graphite Fiber Safety Toes (the new age Composite Toe) are going to make even more inroads into the Safety Shoe marketplace.