Are steel-toe boots dangerous?
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who think that wearing steel-toe boots actually puts them in danger rather than protecting them. Let’s talk about this unhelpful myth and the reasons why wearing protective footwear could save you from a nasty injury to your feet.
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Steel Toe Boots Protect Your Feet
Steel-toed boots are designed to help protect your feet and toes from compression injuries, falling or rolling objects as well as from objects piercing your boots. They are a form of safety footwear that has a steel plate in the toe box which gives you additional protection over and above standard boots and shoes.
Steel toe boots can also have additional safety features depending on the brand and style which can help with everything from heat to slippery surfaces to electrical hazards and even the cold.
Whilst steel-toe boots are probably one of the most well know shoes to protect you from foot injuries you can also buy composite-toe footwear for safety as well.
A 2005 study made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there are approximately 60,000 foot injuries a year that happen at work. Of those injuries, 75% were because the people concerned were not complying with the safety regulations. That is a significant number of foot injuries that could potentially have been avoided if the employees concerned had been wearing the right footwear.
How Much Weight Can a Steel Toe Boot Withstand?
The weight that a steel toe boot can withstand is determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials assessment of each style of safety shoe. When you buy your boots the standard should be given in the information before you purchase so you can assess whether the footwear is suitable for your needs.
As an example, these CAT Threshold Steel-Toe Safety Boots state the following standard astm f2413-11 i/75 c/75. The i signifies the impact resistance rating given by the ASTM which in this case is 75 pounds and the c equates to the resistance rating. 75 in relation to the c is 2500 pounds.
Not all boots may necessarily have the same rating so you should always check before purchasing steel toe work boots that they meet your needs.
Will a Forklift Crush a Steel Toe Boot?
If the ASTM safety feature dealing with compression is able to withstand 2500 pounds of weight then in theory a regular forklift truck shouldn’t crush the front of your boots.
However, safety toe boots can vary in standards which means that you would check the details before buying them.
Remember that the steel is usually in the toe box area of your shoe. For added protection, a metatarsal guard would make a bigger difference.
Will Steel Toe Boots Cut Off Your Toes?
Are steel-toe boots dangerous? Well, it appears that there is a rumor going around that steel-toe boots are more dangerous to your toes than ordinary boots.
The myth was that if a heavy object falls on normal leather boots your toes would be crushed however if you wore steel-toe boots the steel-toe cap would slice off your toes.
This rumor has been completely debunked.
Steel-Toe Boots Mythbusters
A science show called Mythbusters put the theory to the test and ran a series of experiments involving ordinary and steel-toe boots.
During the show, they dropped heavy materials and objects onto the test boots to see how they would be able to cope with hazards and how well a foot would be protected.
The conclusion following all their experiments was that steel-toed boots offered 5 times more protection than regular boots and that your toes would not be cut off whilst you wore them thereby busting the myth.
Why Steel Toe Boots Are Safe
Instead of focusing on the negatives of steel-toe boots let’s really look at why this form of protective footwear is designed to keep your feet safe in working environments where there is potential danger.
As steel-toe boots are considerably safer than normal leather boots it makes sense to wear them to protect yourself from common injuries in the workplace.
They Protect Your Toes
Let’s start by discussing the most obvious reason why wearing steel-toe boots is helpful and that is because they have a safety toe feature. This means that this area of your foot is protected from various hazards around the workplace.
Foot protection is incredibly important in some jobs so it makes sense to consider occupational safety and wear footwear that can keep you from harm wherever possible.
They Reduce Impact Injuries
Steel-toe boots are designed to protect you from impact injuries. So this means if something heavy falls or is dropped on the steel cap your feet are protected from harm.
Ordinary leather boots do not offer the same protection for your feet which is why many workplaces don’t allow them.
They Protect Against Compression Injuries
Steel-toe cap boots also help you to avoid crush injuries in the workplace.
A crush injury such as a forklift driving over your foot means that your feet are protected from harm. Without safety boots, you are likely to end up with a serious foot injury.
They Resist Punctures
When I worked in a factory as a student there were plenty of sharp objects lying around that could have injured my feet, Nails, glass, and metal all have the ability to puncture normal shoes and boots.
Many steel-toe boots now are puncture resistant which means they can protect your feet from sharp objects as you are walking around your workplace either indoors or outside.
These Ariat Sierra Boots are a great example of a boot made to withstand punctures.
They Have Been Tested for Safety
In many workplaces, steel-toe boots are not nice to have work boots but are essential footwear.
Safety standards have come a long way since I first worked in factories and now employers are obliged to protect their employees from harm. This is why regulations are in place that state safety toe boots are a must-have in certain industries and that employers could be prosecuted if their staff are not following the required safety standards.
Are Steel Toe Boots Suitable for Electricians?
Some steel-toe boots have extra safety features that go above and beyond the usual protection. One example of this is how some designs have features that can help with electrical hazards.
Electrical hazards are issues such as electric shock or electrocution and the boots with these features can help stop currents passing through the footwear.
Not all steel-toed boots will have this feature so if this is something you need for safety check out the standards of your boots before you buy them.
These Irish Setter Men’s 83606 6″ Aluminum Toe Work Boots have features that help with electrical hazards and they also have a heat-resistant outsole.
Whilst steel-toe boots protect you from falling objects and compression injuries some will also prevent you from slipping or falling as an extra safety feature.
As an example, if you are working in a place where oil may be on the ground the boots may have added traction on the bottoms to stop you from slipping.
These NORTIV 8 Men’s Waterproof Steel Toe Boots are slip-resistant and offer better traction than some styles.
Chemical and Acid Resistance
Other steel-toe boots may have features related to chemicals and acids.
These boots may be made from specialist materials to make sure that if you are exposed to any hazards they won’t harm your feet.
Heat and Fire Resistant Safety Boots
Heat and fire-resistant safety boots are also something that you may need to protect yourself.
As an example, firefighters will need boots that can protect them from flames, sparks or hot debris in their jobs in addition to the safety toe features.
Normal boots are not up to the job of dealing with all these hazards.
Can Steel Toe Boots Cause Foot Problems?
Are steel-toe boots dangerous? Well, the answer is most definitely not. Using this footwear in the workplace means you keeping your feet protected and safe from harm however this doesn’t mean that these boots are not without problems.
One thing I know from having written about and worn hundreds of different types of shoes and boots is that they all have their problems. This doesn’t mean that when you wear steel-toe boots they are directly dangerous but it may mean that they cause discomfort or don’t deal with every hazard you may come across.
If you want to know how to solve the discomfort issue you can read about how to stop steel-toe boots from hurting for some methods to solve common issues with the footwear.
They Are Heavy
If you have ever worn a pair of steel-toed boots you’ll realise they aren’t exactly the lightest of shoes. This is because the steel which is the very thing that makes you safe is strong and weighs more than normal leather.
After a long hard day at work, it isn’t surprising that many people feel this type of footwear can cause foot fatigue.
They Lack Flexibility and Are Restrictive
Steel-toe boots also tend to be incredibly bulky and lack flexibility.
Unlike normal boots and shoes which flex as they are worn these types of boots tend to stay rigid and that restricts movement, especially in your toes.
They Don’t Cope Well in The Cold
Steel isn’t a great material when you are working in cold environments and temperatures because it is such as good conductor. This means if you are working in the cold your feet are going to feel colder than normal.
There are some steel-toe boots that get around this problem however which is vital if you are in a job where you are experiencing freezing conditions.
This article on the best steel-toe boots for winter can help you find products that can help you with colder workplace conditions.
They Can’t Prevent You From Every Injury
Whilst wearing steel-toed boots makes you safer they don’t cut out every risk. As an example if something hit the side of your feet where there was no steel, you can still end up with a serious foot injury.
Does this make them dangerous? Well of course not but it does mean that they are not without some risk.
Breathability Is Sometimes An Issue
Not all steel-toe boots have the best breathability. That means if you are wearing them all day you can end up with sweaty feet.
Sweaty feet cause friction which can cause blisters and discomfort as well as create the ideal breeding ground for foot fungus and bacteria.
If you do have sweaty feet be scrupulous with your foot hygiene, change your socks throughout the day and use a product like Carpe Antiperspirant Foot Lotion to keep your feet dry.
You can also look at my article on how to find the best work boots for sweaty feet.
Steel Toe Boots Injuries
As with any form of footwear wearing the wrong size or style for your foot can cause foot problems. This can happen wearing normal leather boots as well as steel-toed boots.
Typical problems that people might experience are issues such as :
- Foot Fungus
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Hammer Toes
The key to avoiding problems with your feet is buying the right boots in the first place and taking steps to minimize problems where the boot is rubbing or doesn’t feel comfortable.
This could range from wearing blister pads and thick socks until they are broken in, keeping your feet dry and wearing orthotics inside the boots. With the right foot accessories most of the problems are very manageable.
So are steel-toe boots dangerous? Well, they are essential in certain industries and have been designed to keep your feet safe from harm. Not wearing them only increases your risk of serious injury so wearing them only makes you safer.
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