Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Safety Toe Cap Designs

Over the past decade safety footwear development has brought a variety of safety cap designs into the market.  In response to a series of questions from both staff and customers I would like to offer a quick overview of the designs and materials used in safety toe caps. 

Generally speaking there are three basic toe cap designs (shapes);  standard, oblique and asymmetrical. Most caps fall under what I refer to as standard design.  These designs tend to have a rounded appearance and depending on the individuals foot provide adequate space for fitting.  Oblique or square toe designs give the footwear a more box like look.  Often such designs are associated with composite materials.  These oblique styles afford significantly more room than a standard design and are useful for fitting feet with a wider forefoot.  Asymmetrical designs are unique and fairly new to the market.   These caps are formed to the shape of the forefoot and as a result there are actually left and right toe caps.  In all other designs there is only one cap for both feet.   These caps tend to offer the best fit for most feet.
The materials used in safety toe caps can vary greatly.  Although steel tends to still be the most common materials light weight metal alloys and composite materials are becoming more common.  All of the materials used can meet the ASTM rating but please make sure that you buy a name brand and that the necessary ratings are marked in the footwear.  It should be rated F2413-11 C75  I75. 
Light weight alloys have been the most recent arrival to the market.  Whether they are a titanium/steel blend or aluminum alloy they offer a lighter weight option to the steel and in the case of the titanium blend they are a thinner stronger cap allowing for more toe room.  They still retain some of the disadvantages of steel, however.  They are still metal and as a result conduct heat, cold and electricity.   Composite materials are perhaps the most interesting.   They are made from a mixture of resin and fiberglass which in turn makes them light, about 1/3 the weight of steel, and they do not transfer cold or electricity.   They are convenient for those who travel via air frequently or work at facilities with metal detectors.  Composite caps also have memory.  That is to say they have some ability to return to their original shape.  A trait that metals do not have, hence they are able to be deformed and dented.  Should this happen it may make the footwear unwearable.  Composites may offer many traits that are desired but the material is not as strong as metal.  This means that the caps must be more robust than metal ones to achieve the standard.  This fact can lead to fitting issues as the thicker cap can be restricting even in an oblique design. 
As with all aspects of safety footwear you should choose the best material for the job and the best design for your foot.  If you can, seek advice and guidance from your reputable local safety footwear provider.
**This blog post features guest author Ross Sykes' work. Ross is a district manager and works as the corporate sales rep. for our safety shoe program in the Milwaukee, WI  area. 

2 comments:

  1. Appreciate the insight from Ross. It's good to know the science behind the boots we are using. Real question for those in the industry, do you think composite toe caps will ever outperform steel in a strength test?

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    1. Ross' response to this: Steel toe caps exceed the ASTM requirements, whereas composite meets the requirements. Steel is metal and therefore is stronger. Based on current technology, he does not think a composite toe cap it will ever be as strong as steel.

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