Steel and composite safety toe footwear is regulated by a strict standards and compliance system. The components of the shoe must meet testing specifications to be designated as safety footwear. Steel toe footwear is classified with an ANSI or ASTM rating that confirms the footwear meets these safety standards. Whether the shoe is steel toe or composite toe, it will be required to meet the same safety standards.
ANSI is an abbreviation for the American National Standards Institute. This organization coordinates voluntary national standards in the private and public sector. These standards relate to products, services, processes, systems and personnel. The classification of ANSI 75 in relation to steel toe footwear refers to the impact and compression forces the safety toe is rated to protect against. Steel and safety toe footwear are rated between the level of ANSI 41 and ANSI 75.
The ANSI rating of 75 is separated into two distinct safety measurements. The rating of I/75 means the steel toe is tested to withstand an impact rating of 75 lb. If the steel toe withstands the force of a 75-pound weight dropped from 3 feet in height, it will achieve this classification. The rating of C/75 means the steel toe is tested to withstand a compression rating of 75, which is equal to 2,500 lb. of pressure.
The ANSI rating system in the safety toe industry has been replaced with the ASTM standards classification. ASTM, previously known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, is now the premiere standards organization internationally. As of 2005, manufacturers have been phasing out the ANSI rating in their inventory in deference to the new standard system of the ASTM. As the actual testing methods for these standards have not changed, the ANSI rated steel toe should not be considered inferior in safety qualifications to the newer ASTM rating system.
The ASTM has allowed for manufacturers to continue to produce footwear using existing inventory tags with the ANSI rating system. The ANSI rating of 75 falls under the ANSI Z75, Standard for Personal Protection Protective Footwear, which has been replaced by the new ASTM International standards entitled F2412-05 Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection and F2413-05 Standard Requirements for Protective Footwear. Any of these ratings can be found inside the tongue or interior sides of standards compliant safety footwear. Common phrasing you will find on compliant footwear is "engineered to meet or exceed ASTM standards for safety toe footwear." Many manufacturers still include the ANSI standard specifications in addition to the ASTM ratings.
Testing has proven that a compliant steel toe is much safer than the alternative. The misconception that extreme weights will cause the steel toe to crush and amputate the wearers toes is categorically false. The weight required to crush a steel toe would also easily crush an unprotected foot, effectively amputating the toes. In most cases, the engineering of the steel toe causes the impact force to be redirected.