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The design of the steel toe is basic, yet effective. A steel cap sits in several layers of cowhide, which are vulcanized to the sole. The efficacy of the design is such that many manufacturers find themselves focusing on market appropriate styles, while the base safety features remain relatively unchanged.
That's not to say there hasn't been innovation in the field of safety shoes. Some companies have opted for what's is known as a Composite Toe Boot. These are often made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) or a carbon-fiber mesh. This allows for a lighter, more comfortable boot.
Although the composite toe has its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. For example, it's not as durable, making it less reliable in an industrial setting.
The steel toe is often cheaper. Its lower production cost allows it to be more affordable. It's safer than its composite counterpart, given that it's able to withstand a heavier impact mass.
While there may be a credible argument for both composite and steel toe boots, one thing they both have in common is the number of injuries they prevent on a daily basis. Foot related injuries are common in the workplace. A study done by an orthopedic surgeon at The Massachusetts General Hospital and hosts from the popular TV show Myth Busters was done to help quantify the benefits of safety shoes.
150 pounds were dropped onto the feet of ten cadavers from a height of three feet. Five of them had safety shoes on, while the other five had non-safety toes shoes. The results show that the feet in the regular boots took, on average, 8.2 fractures per foot. The safety toed shoes only took 3.2 fractures per foot. This was a reduction in severity by 67%. Steel Toe Boots have held prominence in many subcultures. Goths, Punks, and Rivet-heads alike have appropriated safety footwear since the late 1970s. Their continued usage of the boots has helped spread awareness to the forefront of popular fashion. To this day, there are many companies that still branch out into safety shoes.
The Steel Toe Boot is still considered by some, if not most, to be the superior form of foot-safety. It may be heavier, and it may set off the occasional metal detector, but it's still the best choice overall. From construction to the warehouse, you can place your trust and safety in a pair of Steel Toe Boots.