When working in a heavy-duty industry, it is essential and advisable to follow safety rules. And, safety shoes are one of the most important personal protective equipment (PPE). For many, safety shoes are bulky and over-sized boots people in construction industry wear every day. But, that’s a small part of the picture. Safety shoes are of different types and designed for different industries. These keep your foot safe from workplace hazards and discomforts. Today, numerous brands have entered the market to sell safety shoes but it is necessary for you to understand your needs and know about the shoes you are planning to purchase. So here is all you need to know about safety shoes and make the best buy.
Types of Safety Shoes
Safety Shoes are categorized on various elements such as the toe type, sole, industry type, etc. Let’s understand them in details
Steel Toes: These are one of the most preferred safety shoe types. The protective toe cap is made of steel. It protects the foot from any heavy metal or object injury. The steel does not come in touch with the feet. It is well covered and can conduct temperature. Brands keep launching new steel toe safety shoes with a better fit and more comfort to make these wearable for more working hours.
Composite Toes: These are specially designed for people working under a metal detector or need to stand/walk for long. Composite toe safety shoes are much lighter as they do not have any metal object set within them. Being non-metallic, these cannot transfer cold or heat.
Aluminum toes: These are lightweight safety shoes but thicker than steel toes. It is a good option for workers who need to wear safety shoes but carry heavyweight footwear.
Metatarsal guard: These are an advanced version of safety toe shoes. Metatarsal guard covers the toe and upper foot area offering protection from falling of heavy objects, hot materials, embers, etc. This is most preferred by the welders, glass moulters and others.
Types of Sole
Rubber outsole: Rubber outsole is the most widely used form of the outsole, present at the bottom of the shoes. It is resistant to oil, abrasion, and slip. It can be a good option for electrical and chemical industry workers. It works well on the wet surface and rugged terrains.
TPU outsole: Thermo Poly Urethane or TPU also forms a great outsole. It is resistant to chemicals, oil, and abrasions. TPU sole is lighter in weight. With a tough design, it does not get split easily. TPU outsole has a longer life as well.
Midsole: Another important element of safety shoes is its midsole. Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) is a great midsole that provides stability to the foot by dispersing the weight throughout the shoe. It is a light-weight material that feels like a cushion to the foot.
Irrespective of material, type or weight, what matters the most is the fit. After wearing your safety shoes for 8-9 hours or more, your feet should not have blisters and abrasions. Incorrect size will never serve the real purpose of wearing shoes. With a loose fit, your toes will never feel comfortable in the safety toe cap. Also, shoes will always feel heavy on your feet or cause strains. Similarly, in the case of tight-fitting shoes, there can be a foot ailment such as hurting nails corns, etc. Never assume that the shoe would stretch with time and fit your feet, especially in the case of steel toe shoes.
What is the importance of safety shoes?
Safety shoes have various features and roles to play depending upon the industry they are being used it. Let’s discuss some of them
- Protection from falling or rolling objects
Safety shoes act as a savior for the ones working in heavy metal manufacturing and construction industry since they are prone to hazards all the time. Such dynamic industries have people and objects moving all around. There could be an object rolling on the floor or something might suddenly drop on your feet. Steel toe safety shoes are the best protection one can have when working in such industries. It saves feet from any fracture or major injury.
- Protection from skid
Workplace injuries or accidents can happen because of numerous reasons and slip or fall is a common one. So, your shoes need to be anti-skid to protect you from slipping or falling. When working with lubricants or water it is necessary to have anti-skid safety shoes. Even for people working of heights who are required to do frequent ladder/stair climbing since falling from such things will hurt really bad.
- Protects foot from chemicals
Another important function of a safety shoe is to protect the feet from chemicals. When working in a chemical or cement industry with a lot of chemical spilling all over the floor a worker cannot risk wearing simple shoes. Such safety shoes need to have a pure rubber thick sole. There could be washing chemical spread everywhere or battery construction companies where chemical can fall down on foot while filling a battery. Chemical industries can anytime contaminate your feet or result in burns, so always remember to use safety shoes when working here.
- Protects from cold weather
Everybody knows how shoes protect in cold weather. To work smoothly during extreme weather conditions one needs to have extra protection for foot against frostbite and other injuries when working in the refrigerated or wet workplace. It is must to keep the feet warm to maintain the body temperature when working in a cold environment.
- Protects from electric shocks
A person working as an electrician or in an electrical company should necessarily wear safety boots for protection against electrical hazards. Shocks can be due to the accumulation of static current of when working on a live wire with current flowing through it. Safety shoes for such professionals are made from non-conductive materials such as leather, rubber, etc. In areas of static current, anti-static materials are used to reduce accumulation of static current on the body and prevent electric sparks.
- Protects from cuts
Safety shoes are a must if working with moving machinery parts or sharp objects, especially the ones working with chainsaws. The cut resistant material will not let the sharp object get in touch with your foot and damage it. The hard outer body and the steel toe acts as a shield for the foot.
- Prevent tiredness
Apart from protection, safety shoes also provide comfort that does not let you feel tired. If you are working at a construction site or need to stand for hours on concrete surfaces, your feet, back and gradually bod muscles will grow tired. Things can get worse if this is a daily task and you are not wearing comfortable footwear. Safety shoes have a cushioning innersole that minimizes any strain on your feet caused by standing for hours. This will help you do your task for long and with more attention.
When to replace safety shoes?
Everything has a lifespan and the same is with safety shoes. Here are the conditions that indicate it’s the right time to change your safety shoes
- If the outer body of the shoes is damaged or worn out and you can see the steel toe
- If the outer sole has lost its pasting and grip
- If the outer sole is cracked or crumbly
- If the steel toe cap is out of place
- If the inner sole or lining feels cracked
- If the shoe material has turned too hard and lost its flexibility
- If there is some leakage allowing water or chemicals to reach the feet.
Things to remember when shopping for safety shoes
You cannot just go and shop for any safety shoes for yourself or your workers. Here are points to consider for the best buy
- Analyze the requirement of your industry, your work profile and your foot health
- Try shoe size in the evening as by the day your feet and fingers tend to swell and increase in size. Choosing a size when your feet are largest will make you comfortable all day.
- Brand should be considered but not over your comfort. Today, various safety shoe brands are launching new products where modern comfort features are taken care of properly.
- The toe shape should have space for free movement of your toes.
- Along with tuff outsole, the inner sole should be breathable and allow absorbing sweat
- Have at least two pairs of safety shoes at a time. Wearing a single shoe every day to work is likely to get worn out soon.
- It is always better to wear socks and then try the safety shoes for the best fit.
- Take proper care of your safety shoes for a longer life and durability.