Steel toe boots are heavy duty work boots that are meant to offer extra protection for a worker’s feet by armoring the toe cap of the shoe with a steel cap overlaid with leather. Though meant for people who work in heavy industry, the boots are popular with bikers, tough guys and heavy metal enthusiasts. There has been an urban legend circling the waters for years that these boots, rather than protecting your toes like they’re supposed to, actually curl inward and amputate your toes when weight is put on them. It sounds silly, but in a world where hindsight is 20/20 (and in which Phillip Morris made asbestos cigarette filters for safety… seriously, look it up) anything is possible.
First of all, it bears stating that steel toe work boots are required by OSHA and various government regulations in a number of industries. Also, these steel toe caps are supposed to be held to federal standards where up to at least 75 pounds can fell on the cap from 3 feet up with no worry. It would stand to reason that if you have objects of more than 75 pounds falling from a height of more than three feet then you might have worries greater than whether or not your boots are going to hold up, but that’s another matter.
This urban legend has become so popular that many people have debunked it, including the popular television show “Mythbusters.” The exact numbers may vary, but generally speaking all of the results have been roughly the same. Steel toe boots will hold up easily to the numbers that are claimed on all tests for impact. Additionally, many steel toe work boots can take several hundred pounds, and while this might break the wearer’s toes those toes will not be crushed nor will they be amputated. Even were weights of more than 600 and 1,000 pounds were tested the toe would slowly crush and buckle, but it never amputated the wearer’s toes as the urban legend suggested.
So science prevails over rumor. Despite the results of independent (and as we see televised) studies though, there are likely to be people who still look at you like you’re crazy when you wear steel toe work boots. You on the other hand can work in comfort and with confidence knowing that you have a scientifically tested and certified safety plan to keep your feet in the same condition they were in when you arrived on the work site that they’ll be in when you leave.
“Annotated Mythbusters,” by Anonymous at KWC
“Are Steel Toe Boots Really Made to Cut Off Your Toes Instead of Crush Them?” by Ginny D. at Cha Cha