Episode 42: Steel Toe-Cap Amputation, Bottle Rocket Blast-off

Air Date: November 9, 2005

Steel-toe boots are more dangerous to your toes than normal boots when a heavy weight is dropped on them. Whereas a normal boot would just crush your toes, a steel toe would curl and crumple in, cutting your toes off.


Using similar tests to those used to test steel toe boot certification, Adam and Jamie determine that your toes are much safer with steel toe boots than without. There was no toe-cutting curling of the steel toe, and even using a blade attachment didn’t work, only glancing off the steel toe to cut right above where it ended.

According to a Japanese trivia game show, it’s possible to use fifteen 3-liter sized water bottle rockets to launch a human 40 meters.


While bottle rockets, on their own, could launch 1/15 of Kari’s weight a fair distance, their combination into one super-rocket system did not have enough thrust to give the crash test dummy the trajectory or distance stated by the television show, and was considered too dangerous by paramedics to feasibly launch a human being. More bottle rockets proved only to add to the difficulty and complications. The Build Team also found that water cooler jugs, while able to launch higher at the standard air/water ratio for water bottle rockets, were weaker than standard soda bottles, failing at around 60 psi (413 kPa) less than the soda bottles (90 as opposed to 150 / 600 kPa as opposed to 1000 kPa).


  1. P Skalla says:

    I had the steel toe boot thing explained once. For normal weights that would merely break toes, the steel toe is meant to deflect the blow. When you get to weights that would start to crush things, the steel toe is meant to actually sever the toes, because severed toes are easier to reattach than those that have been squashed. But this feature doesn’t happen until you’ve dropped a couple of tons on your toe.

  2. Jon says:

    They actually did use enough weight to crush the steel toe entirely. It still didn’t sever any part of the foot. The weight merely crushed the toes under the steel portion.

    • john says:

      not true, the part holding the steel up is strong enough to where it wouldnt bend in so it would merely sever it

  3. mike g says:

    A steeltoe boot when trapped in rotating machinery, might try to amputate part of the foot as the tip is pulled away from the boot. It is a accident that has happened to oilfield wireline workers, as they work near rotating wireline drums. There is a policy that the drum has to be stopped when there is a need to go near them.

  4. Franky says:

    An idea for revisiting the bottle rocket myth, the dummy was placed flat on the bottle rig. What if the bottle rig was producing thrust towards the dummy’s feet?

  5. Alex says:

    Okay, regarding this episode which I watched last night, I must say I am disappointed that the drop test didn’t try an angle drop test which is more like the real world. Normally it would be very unlikely for a weight to drop directly on the steel toe for any boot. So why didn’t you try a test that involved an angle of the toe? And the rocket myth, personally I think it is do-able, but I don’t believe the team did enough to make it work. There is alot of pressure released during that kind of reaction taking place with water and air, it is after all explosive. I seriously think it needs to be revisited.

  6. Rick says:

    Steel toe boots will save your foot period!On 10/20/07 a 18 ton broderson crane’s outrigger which goes down on a 45 degree angle landed on my foot crane weighs 4-5 ton.Result boot ruinedfoot big toe broken in 5 spots foot badly swollen.No steel toes half of foot would have been sqaushed into jelly.Please where them they will save your foot.

    • Christian says:

      That’s like when I was workin in my garage and I dropped an engine block on my foot. My boot saved my foot.

  7. Rick R. says:

    Steel-toe boots are considered part of what is called PPE(Personal Protective Equipment) and should be worn by all workers. Then, if something does happen your covered by your workplace insurance. You might be considered negligent,if you choose not to wear any part of your PPE!!

  8. Darryl says:

    I’ve had steel toe boots with the cap loose in the leather,I had a heavy container on wheels roll up against the boot one day causing the cap to back up inside the boot far enough hurt the top of my foot pretty bad,if I had been on uneven ground it is possible the cap could have tilted enough to do more damage with the weight pushing it into my foot,I believe in steel toe boots but they need to be inpected for defects just like any other saftey equipment

  9. Christopher says:

    Darryl – perhaps you should also consider boots with metatarsal protection that will cover the top of the foot as well as the toes.

  10. Philip says:

    When I watched this episode I got bored and I turned it off.

  11. Gifford says:

    I had a fork truck with a pallet, one inch off The ground, facing me at a 45 degree angle down. While I was reaching to grab a bag off of the pallet, the operators foot slipped off of the clutch, and ran over my foot. The pallet hit the steel toe, and pinned my foot to the floor. As it came foreward it rolled the steel cap over and shoved the corners of it through the sole of the boot.The top of the cap cut a minor gash acrossed the base of my toes. If it had not stopoped when it did, It would have cut them off. Never walk close to equipment that is running.Your never completly safe.

  12. CodeMonkey says:

    the water bottle rocket looked so awsome my friend and I are doing it for our science fair project! exept we are gonna fire ourselfs straight up not forward…

  13. SafetyDoctor says:

    Bottom line is that your toes are safer in steel-toed shoes than not – PERIOD! I have seen the research and injury data… I had a friend who argued he didn’t want to wear a seatbelt in his car because he might run off of the road into a creek, pond, or river and dround. I told him, that if he hadn’t noticed there were a lot more pine trees and concrete barriers around than water. The same goes for steel-toed shoes. Wear them, they make a bunch of sense.

  14. dan says:

    i think the air+water rocker was heaps cool and im gona bild on at home and try to get my teacher to do it in a since leson but i think that the dummy wight more then what carey wights.

    • Kerry says:

      Uh, Dan, maybe you should learn to spell “Science” and “Build” and “lesson” and “weighs” and “rocket” and “gonna/going to” before you attempt to build anything. I’m just sayin!

  15. meffordm says:

    What about composite toed boots?

  16. Trevor says:

    There is a local guy building water bottle rockets easily hitting 200 M, or for our backwards neighbors over 600 feet.

  17. Robby Eidem says:

    As a construction safety professional for over 20 years I have seen numerous foot / toe injuries. All but one (30 estimated total) involved substantial injuries of the foot without steeltoed boots. The only one with steeltoes caused trauma to the metatarsal region of the foot. 5 of the above lost parts of the foot, except for the metatarsal injury. He was fine. Steel toes are worth wearing, unless you are fond of pain and look good with a limp.

  18. josh says:

    does any 1 have plans 4 the bottle rockets

  19. Shaun says:

    Not for you. I wont have your death on my concience/ darwin awards book.

  20. Ryan says:

    How many accidents are caused by the added weight/lowered mobility of work boots over running shoes?

  21. Biggan says:

    In general one should take these tests with some television-minded understanding. I have a friend who saw when a guy got his toes cut of in his steel-toe shoes by a rail waggon loaded with a sailboat. So the busted is busted. No scientist would say these mythbusting tests are accurate, but from television point of view fun to watch…

  22. patrick says:

    I have work in the steel industry for the last decade and have had material land on my feet and would you believe it the items that fell by the time it reach my foot was heading strait for the center of the Earth, thats right strait down. There was an ocasion where a large beam was moving at an angle but the individual in the path decided to catch it with his neck…. My first experience with toe protection was a pair of Vans shoes. I was in an old wharehouse looking for something the Boss needed and in the dark a large piece of metal fell of the edge of a counter and my foot had magicaly caght that item, after doing the irish jig of “O’ crap, O’ crap” and jumping up and down like id just won the lottery on 1 foot, i was rushed to the clinic by my i think legal citizen and personal assistant Pablo.
    At the Clinic they drilled a hole through my toe nail to relieve the preasure and bleed me. The toe nail eventually fell off and something that reminds of “dawn of the dead” grew back. Since that day i have worn steel toe boots and have had several occasions where Item fell, hit steel toe, i said “oh im glad i got steel toed boots” and just got my day on. Most of the time my foot had been where it shouldn’t have and thats the bigest problem. People who get there feet ran over by really really big things (2 tons or more)are standing in the wrong place just like the beam catcher i mentioned above, he was standing where everybody knew he shouldnt have and nobody told him to move………..

  23. Mim says:

    Is there any way I can view Episode 42 on steel toed work boots??

  24. Jason says:

    I recently watched this one on a re-run and was disappointed that what (to me) was the most common version of the myth… That a loaded forklift with solid rubber tires on a concrete warehouse floor running over your foot would indeed amputate if wearing steel toed shoes… it struck me as funny since in the episode there was a forklift sitting in the background, I thought for sure they would try that test, and mabey simulate in in an outdoor setting as well (ie a yardlift with soft tires in gravel or mud)_

  25. julie says:

    i was ran over bye a forklift back in april of 2009. The steel in my boot started to come out the side of my boot. I could of lost my toes or part of my foot.But as of today 10/17/09 I still have my foot and toes.I don’t have the feeling in all of my foot or toes but the sec.. surgery is coming up soon. And I thank the people that invented steel toed boots

  26. K says:

    I work with horses and the “most common version” of the myth I know is that if a horse stepped on your foot while wearing steel toed boots, it would crush your foot and it would be stuck inside the boot. – I was glad to see this episode because I’m sick of hearing that I shouldn’t wear steel toe boots around horses.

  27. K says:

    Try this with 100 PSI in the bottles. It will launch any dummy the distance you want.

  28. pw says:

    In my youth, back in the mid Pleistocene, I was employed by the railways as a shunter. We were of course issued with steel caps, and rightly so. However, we wryly figured that if push came to shove and we were run over by 1700tonnes of lumbering rolling stuck and locomotives, the only bit left worth saving would be the well protected toes…

  29. Gordon says:

    In the bottle rocket scenes at the dock, there is a ufo visible ib=n the sky in the background.

  30. Brian says:

    I was recently injured at work wearing steel toed boots when a vehicle lift that goes into the ground failed and came down on my foot with a car on it and the steel toe of the boot curled and traped my toes when my foot got sucked into the ground by the falling lift

  31. Alana says:


  32. Will says:

    I agree with the steel toe thing. Its always safer with em.

    But they tested bottle rockets individually going straight up. The dummy was at an angle. At an angle, the water would not gather at the nozzle, and not propel the bottle because the air would flow freely out. You would need to put the bottles straight up or add more water. Also, the position of the dummy would change the results.

    So….. Get to revisiting.

  33. Rob Smakman/the Netherlands says:

    Rob:Around six years ago I was involved in a heavy accident on a Irish fishing trawler,fishing in the English channel spot on between S.E.of Ireland and Wales.My foot got trapped between one of the steel netdrums and a steel beam.By misstake the netdrum started turning dragging my footend between the beam and the drum.Only because one of the crew noticed me screaming on the top of my lungs(the sound of the engine and the hydrolics is deaffening)they stopt the netdrum from turning after reversing the drum they were able to get the foot out.The steel toecap of my wellington(Dunlop)was caved in.My big toe was crushed and the next two toes were clipped off.The two toes next to that were broken and crushed.They actualy had to dig in the welly to free the two poor toes because they were trapped in the nose.After my airlift to hospital they told me they were mush so im going around on three toes on one foot so busted?I dont think so,I’m living prove!!!! All the best Rob

  34. Ben Yamen says:

    does any-one know where you can find the vid. of the chinese rocket! i have been searching.

  35. Matt says:

    Hey guys,I once worked at an airport.My job was to download and upload cargo planes.The storage cans on the top deck were heavy,3,000lbs+.They had rollers underneath and you pushed or rolled them into position.Steel toe boots were not allowed for work because of the possible fire hazard from sparks.I had to barrow a pair from a room mate one day,no choice in the matter,to use at work.The weight was wrong,the plane shifted and a can we were pushing rolled back over my foot.The steel cup turned to a near vertical position and nearly cut my toes off.This may be a possible reason for the myth.

  36. Doug says:

    Actually, having the steel toe cut your toes off would be better than having them crushed without the boots, b/c severed toes are A LOT easier to reattach then crushed ones.

    And Matt, why wouldn’t the airport let you wear steel toes? How could sparks happen if the steel is encased in leather, which cannot spark, burn, or melt. Maybe you should sue them.

    And, “nearly cut” is a LOT better than “actually crushed”

  37. Angelo says:

    A legit reason against steel toes may be founded in a belief that the heavier steel toes may actually cause more work related injuries through repetitive stress, etc.

    I have a handful of guys in my shop that are constantly walking up and down concrete floors alongside machinery, and every so often, dealing with large, heavy paper rolls. One could argue that the roll handling aspect should require steel toes, but as someone who has spent hours walking those floors, an argument for the most comfortable shoes possible has more merit. These guys have spent decades doing this job in sneakers that they wear out in about three months. Articulation takes some priority in their choice over safety in what are, for us, some extreme instances.

    I could see that sort of thinking and similar scenarios driving the choice away from steel toes, and possibly generating a few myths along the way.

    • AL Herzog says:

      Ridiculous. I wear steel toes (not required) every day and I pound the pavement 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week, in a warehouse. I’ve worn steel toes for over 18 years. “Uncomfortable” over “safe” is inexcusable. Oh. I’m 5’2″ and female. Tell your “guys” to quit being babies.

  38. M Webber says:

    There are exceptions for every rule. You rarely hear stories where something happened the way it’s expected even though it occurs far more frequently than anything else happening.

    Out of 1000 foot related injuries, yeah, maybe one will result in steel toes failing in some way to protect the wearer, but there are 999 times where they save someone’s feet. So the myth is 99.99% busted. I’ll keep wearing my safety toed boots as they’ve saved my toes more than once.

  39. L Cass says:

    I was thinking about buying some boots with steel toe caps for my sixteen year old daughter who works with horses but have heard that the toe caps could do more damage?? What is the safest boots and should I buy her them I just want to keep her safe as possible

    • mel says:

      I have been wearing regular boots mainly with horses but I am attending farrier school soon and got a pair of steel toe after an incident with my 750lb mare. She spooked and knocked me down and stepped on the side of my foot. If I had steel toed boots then it would have stopped it from even feeling it.

      • mel says:

        One more note tho about steel toe and horses, I’m not sure about riding in them. Only because I don’t know how much the flexing difference would affect riding style. Steel toe doesn’t let your foot flex as much as a regular boot. But I’ve never tried riding in them either.

  40. David says:

    Okay, I am a Safety Manager, and I believe in steel toe boots. I think it is obvious that steel toe boots offer more protection than non-safety toe shoes. Has anyone seen a comparison between steel toe and composite toe safety shoes? Is there any information on which one is stronger at the end of the day? The manufacturers can only tell you that they meet the minimum strength requirements for ASTM F-2413-2005, but they won’t tell you the maximum capacity for comparison.

  41. Nick says:

    Obviously it all depends on what brand of steel cap boot you are buying. If your cheap and buy the 50$ pair of steel cap boots, don’t complain when they do get crushed. Some don’t even meet the minimum strength standard, those are simply for extra protection for a DIY handyman. If you buy a high quality pair of steel cap boots, they would be near uncrushable.

  42. AL Herzog says:

    I wear steel toed boots to keep my feet safe. “Uncomfortable”. “Ugly”. “Unsafe”. I’ve heard it all. It’s like the people who refuse to wear seat-belts because they heard a friend of a co-worker say he knew someone’s girlfriend who worked with the niece of someone else whose mother died when her car stalled at a railroad crossing and her seat-belt jammed and she couldn’t get out of her car.

  43. dakota says:

    how did you release the air and water

  44. parentwm says:

    My dad had two toes cut cut off from his steal toed boots – they were able to put one back on – though poorly done. So I would have to say its true to the myth. Just the same he always wore them even after the accident.

  45. DJ says:

    Steel toe shoes are required at many jobs. There is no dispute about that. I wear them everyday. Get good quality boots and you won’t be uncomfortable.

  46. Mary says:

    Thank you for doing this episode. My brother-in-law dropped a board on his toe at work-a temp job. This gave him 6 more weeks of work. He told his boss that he had on his steel toed boots. He is very upset with us that we called him on it. It doesn’t pay to lie.

  47. DH says:

    For a while (around -95?) steel toe shoes were ‘in fashion’ and sold in normal retail shops. Those shoes of course had sub par strength and would cut of toes even in minor accidents. Thus possibly giving rise to the myth, which of course is busted when using standard steel toe shoes.

  48. Carpenter says:

    2 days ago i dropped a sheet of plywood straight down on my toes snapping my big toe I am hoping i can exchange a new pair of timberland pros for the steel toe version. Its plain stupid to not wear them.

  49. Clarissa Vincent says:

    I’m doing my motorcycle licence and training recommends not using steel toe caps. A motorcyclist friend worked as a courier in London for 10 years, he wears steel toe cap boots (Dickies) and lives in them saying they’re as comfy as slippers. They have a zip up the side so can be slipped on and off without struggling on the floor with long boot laces. I’m not sure if wearing steel toe caps to my m/c test will disqualify me?

  50. Nick Barta says:

    My company, Bottom Line Loss Control, trains forklift and aerial lift operators and trainers. For 1 customer, I have demonstrated to the employees what a forklift will do to the human body by packing boots with 1/2 of a cut up chicken, and run them over with forklifts ranging from 8,600 pounds to 9,300 pounds.

    About 60 of the tests were done with steel or composite toes, and 45 of the tests were regular work boots. The demonstrations were all done for 1 customer, with locations in the US and Canada. The Canadian locations by law require steel/composite toes, the US locations do not.

    Without steel or composite toes, the damage is consistently horrific. We have seen the boot split down the side, and the meat “spooge” out the crack. We have had chunks of exploded chicken shoot across the floor up to 12 feet. We have seen the chicken parts explode through the leather and wrap around the wheel. Whatever the wheel runs over in a non-steel/composite shoe turns into a jello-like substance that no surgeon can fix.

    No regular work boot or shoe will protect the person when a forklift is on a foot.

    What about steel/composite toes?

    Of the 60 demonstrations that had steel/composite toes, the results were consistent and compelling. When loading the boot with the chicken, I put the wing in the toe area, the leg/thigh in the arch/heel area, and then the 1/2 breast in the ankle area, and then tie the top tightly. In 60 tests with steel/composite boots, the wing has never sustained damage…ever. Twice the pressure was so great the bottom edge of the steel toes dug into the cement as the boot was pushed 6 feet, but did not crush any of the “foot.” The pushing of the boot burned the rubber, and the steel toe was pushed through the sole and threw sparks as it cut into the cement-impressive……….

    In one test the top edge of the steel toe bent down 1/2 inch, but the majority of the tire went over the arch and ankle, which were completely turned into mush, making
    the steel toe cutting into the foot a moot point.

    Steel/composite boots are necessary in any industrial workplace where there is potential for heavy objects to land on the foot. This would cover any employees who operate forklifts, employees around forklifts, and employees exposed to the risk of falling heavy objects, even if the employee is not near forklift operations.

    Steel/composite toes are just common sense in an industrial work area. The employer needs to do the right thing, and require that steel/composite boots are mandatory in industrial jobs.

  51. Matt Moran says:

    The toecap injury thing comes from when people have used them for biking. When weights are dropped on them from above, the steel toecap does it’s job as expected. If it’s twinned up with a steel shank in the sole keeping the sole rigid, again, good protection, but in a bike crash, where there’s no sole reinforcement & the foot is hit from the front by something like a car, the toe part of the boot can curl up & cause the injury described. You’ll never come across it in an industrial setting but within bikers’ circles it’s quite a well-known thing, & the reason there are no steel toecaps on purpose built bike boots.

  52. Chris Hamilton says:

    I always wore my steel cap boots on my bike for thirty odd years. had a few offs, one at 120kph when I hit ice and the only injury I suffered was a bruised shin where the boot hit it when I rolled down the road. 3 years ago I bought a new bike and was talked into buying proper bike boots. I dropped the bike 6 weeks ago and it came down hard on my right foot breaking several bones and doing a lot of tissue damage. I’ve never had a bruise last 6 weeks before. When I checked out my bike boot the insole was peaked up right down the middle and it is fairy obvious from the marks on the outer that the boot simply folded down the middle with my foot in it. Now i’ve had a 2 ton forklift park on my foot and all I got from that was red toes that were sore for a couple of days. I can find out exactly what sort of testing that is done on steelcap boots whereas I can’t find out anything about how they test bike boots, so it’s back to steel caps for me.

  53. chris says:

    Just treated a guy in our ED that broke two of his toes when he tripped and the steel toe in his boot dug into the proximal end of his toes.

Leave a Reply