Steel Toe Boots Can Sever or Amputate Your Toes So Your Safer Without Them. Fact or Myth?

I saw a search in our blog today for this and over the last 28 years of selling boots I hear this as the number one excuse for guys or girls that just don’t want to wear steel toe boots. I have one word for this myth:


I have heard so many people who know a friend, who’s friend’s brothers, first cousin twice removed, lost his toes because of steel toe boots but no one has ever been able to actually produce the person, let alone any documentation, this happened to. Now I am sure it may have. Just like there is probably someone who would have lived if they didn’t have their seatbelt on, or someone who smoked 4 packs of Pall Mall straights everyday and lived to be 101. In reality you have a better chance of winning the lottery though. I hear of lottery winners in the news everyday but I can’t remember the last news story of someone who smoked 4 packs a day and just celebrated their 90th birthday.

The end result is your feet are always safer in steel toe boots than without by miles and miles. We’ve all stubbed our toe on the coffee table and it can bring tears to your eyes sometimes. Just imagine  if bumping your toe causes that much pain, how much would it hurt if you dropped a 20 lb block of wood on it?  If I had a 30 lb anvil and you had to have it dropped on your toes and I gave you three choices for your feet:

1. Barefoot 2.Regular work boots no steel toe 3. ANSI Approved Steel Toe Work Boots or shoes
which would you choose? That’s what I thought.

Adam and Jamie of the Mythbusters actually covered this one very well and the myth was totally busted. This was Mythbusters episode 42.  Their final result:

Mythbusted: They had to mount a blade in order to get amputation with the steel toe boot and all their other tests showed much more damage to the foot when regular boots are used.

I found a nice Annotated version of this episode here. I also posted it in full after the jump in case the link breaks. If after reading this you still think this myth is true then I say let you do what you want. Don’t wear safety shoes if you think you are safer without them with one condition… if you get hurt and can’t work and you opted out of wearing safety shoes then no disability, no workers comp, your on your own with the hospital bills, and you pay your employer for the cost of replacing you. I’m sure to catch some flack for this but wear your safety shoes and forget this stupid myth. If you believe this you probably believe the hook on the door handle story.

Hanks Clothing

Read the full episode annotation after the jump…

Credit for this content below goes to Annotated Mythbusters

  • Steel toe boots have a higher amputation risk than regular boots:mythbusted

Steel Cap Amputation

Myth: Steel-toed boots are more dangerous than regular boots — if something falls on the boots, the steel can curl in and cut off your toes.

(Remeber…this is what the believers of this myth are saying. When something heavy hits the boot toe it causes the steel toe cap in the boot to compress down cutting off the toes. It’s not the object falling on the foot that causes the amputation but the object causing enough force that the steel toe cap in  the boot clamps down, cutting through the foot and bone and severing the toes.)

They were able to find one occurrence of amputation while wearing steel-toed boots occurring in real life. In 2002, an Australian worker lost his 3rd toe when some steel pipes feel from a forklift.

Adam and Jamie constructed various tests for this myth using both a guillotine toe-smasher and an arbor-press. Initially they used frangible feet that Adam made, but it turned out that they made a mistake in assuming that their frangible feet would model real human feet being crushed. For better comparisons they ended up using clay.

Frangible Feet Construction

Adam constructed frangible feet to test with based on landmine frangible feet. After testing chicken legs, bamboo, and fiberglass as substitutes for human bones, he decided to use fiberglass bones. The bones were set in a ballistics gel cast of Adam’s leg.

For those wondering, the full frangible leg construction process was: * Pour dental alginate over leg and surround with plaster bandages to get leg mold. (link to website on making plaster casting with dental alginate) * Fill alginate mold with silicon-based rubber to make a rubber leg * Make plaster mold of rubber leg * Make a plaster mold of a skeletal foot * Fill mold with hard resin fiberglass cocktail to make bones * Use hot glue gun to make tendons to connect bones * Place resin bones inside plaster leg mold and fill with ballistics gel mix (used a different ballistics gel mix than usual)

Guillotine drop test 1

NOTE: in turned out that the results from this test were somewhat invalid. After testing with the steel-toed boots they tested with the regular boots and discovered that the ballistics gel was too springy and was invalidating their results. While ballistics gel is good for simulating bullet impacts on flesh, it’s not so good for testing crushing.

Setup: * Guillotine-style toe crusher that drops a flag metal bar onto the toe of a boot beneath. * Used the highest-rated (ANSI-75) steel toe boots.

Results: * 75lbs from 3 feet (official ANSI test height and weight): mashed the leather down a bit, but nothing injurious. * 400lbs from 3 ft: more deformation in the steel plate, but only damage to frangible foot was a broken metatarsal (big toe). Adam: “I want to see some toes cut off or crushed beyond all recognition” * 400lbs from 6 ft: a lot of pancaking of steel cap and lots of broken bones beneath, but no toe amputation.

They didn’t detail the results from the regular boot because of their discovery about the ballistics gel being too springy.

Guillotine drop on boots filled with clay

Because of the ballistics gel problem they decided to use clay instead of the frangible bone legs they had constructed. Clay is the method ANSI uses to test boots.

At the official test height of 3ft with 75lbs there was 0.5″ of clay compression with the steel-toe boot, which is exactly to spec. The regular boot failed horribly, with the clay being completely splattered.

Arbor press test to find total failure point

They used an arbor press to squish boots to their total failure point. The steel-toe boot was able to take 6000lbs of pressure before total failure; the regular boot was only able to take about 1200lbs, which was hard to measure as it failed so quickly.

Shearing attachment tests

In order to test a worst case scenario, they made a shearing attachment, which was a thin metal plate that would hit the boot on edge.

They mounted the shearing attachment to the arbor press: at 750 lbs it broke every bone in the frangible foot; at 1400 lbs it severed all the bones in the feet.

They then mounted the shearing attachment on the guillotine and raised it to it’s max height of 6ft and max weight of 400lbs. The blade glanced off the steel plate, shearing the entire shoe in half. They tested again and got the same result. In this particular scenario, were a heavy blade to drop on your foot you could actually lose more of your foot as the steel cap could direct the glade further up the foot as it did in the test. This isn’t the failure mode described in the tests (remember…the myth is the steel toe cap cuts the toes off…not the object falling), though, and regardless of what type of boot you used there would be amputation.

Mythbusted: They had to mount a blade in order to get amputation with the steel toe boot and all their other tests showed much more damage to the foot when regular boots are used.

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