In many job roles, especially those related to landscaping and construction, keeping your feet protected is essential. Because of that, it’s important to know how to choose the right safety footwear that can meet safety standards and not compromise your comfort.
There are a lot of potential threats in almost every working environment, whether you have a job in manufacturing, construction, or somewhere else. Therefore, most companies are obliged to follow the norms that require the use of safety shoes in the workplace.
There are some things you should look out for when you decide to buy your next pair of safety footwear. Not only are there different types but depending on where you work, there are also different requirements.
Although it might seem like an easy thing to do, choosing the right safety footwear can be tricky. Especially if you don’t really know what to look for. Luckily, we’re here to help, so let’s begin.
Why are safety shoes important?
High-quality safety shoes are one of the most important things you can have as a worker exposed to different kinds of threats. They’re a vital investment and they protect your feet from puncture, crush, or even burning.
On top of that, a good type of safety footwear will provide you with a grip, prevent static build-up, help with muscle fatigue, and avert electricity. They even help you perform better because of their comfort and flexibility. Who thought a pair of shoes could do all that?!
Good quality safety shoes will prevent:
- Sharp objects cutting or puncturing the foot
- Water, oil, or other spillages
- Falling objects crushing the foot
- Shocks from static build-up or even electricity
- Falling, tripping, or slipping
To get the best possible protection, it’s crucial that you find safety shoes that are designed for the work you do and the threats it brings.
How to choose the right safety footwear?
Safety footwear protects your whole foot, not only parts of it. However, with so many options available on the market, it’s normal that you get overwhelmed and confused as to what might be the best pair for you.
Although it might seem a bit pricey at first, a pair of high-quality safety shoes will save you a lot of money in the long run. It’s never a solution to exchange your protective pair for everyday footwear, no matter how expensive or difficult it might be to find the right ones for you.
Luckily, we’re here to make it a little bit easier for you. Here are our tips on how to choose the right safety footwear that will give you both protection and comfort.
1. Focus on the industry you’re working in
Not every industry has the same type of exposure to danger and threats that could lead to a foot injury. Because of that, knowing the safety requirements for your industry is crucial when choosing the right safety shoe.
For example, if you’re working in the mining or construction industry, it’s crucial that your protective shoe has steel toecaps and midsoles. This will prevent you from injury caused by heavy materials falling on your foot and crushing your toes.
If you work in the pharmaceutical industry, for example, there’s no need for your shoes to have this type of protection. For you, the best kind of safety footwear would be the one that can protect you from chemicals, any kind of liquid spillage, or slippery surfaces.
2. Look for durability
The best kind of safety footwear is the one that can last you for a long time. That way you, or the company you work at, will save time and money.
When deciding on durability, make sure you pay attention to what your shoes will have to go through and endure on a daily basis. Again, understanding your industry is the key here.
SANS 20345 requires that a toecap in safety shoes can withstand 1.5 tonnes. If this applies to your workplace, it’s important that the toecap in your safety footwear is made of steel rather than composite materials such as plastic, as it can handle more weight.
If you’re exposed to electricity or static build-up more than heavy materials, then a composite toecap might be a better option for you. It’s better suited for this type of work as it is non-conductive and can protect you from injuries related to electricity.
On top of that, think if your work requires you to work with fuel or oil. Not all safety footwear is liquid-resistant or anti-static. Of course, you can always play it safe and buy shoes that protect you from everything. However, purchasing footwear with unnecessary protection can be quite expensive.
3. Make sure they’re the right fit
When thinking of ways how to choose the right safety footwear, a lot of people focus strictly on protection, and nothing else. Because of that, you might be tempted to avoid going to the mall and looking for shoes when you can simply read what they offer and order them online. Although it might be easier, we advise you not to do it.
When it comes to safety shoes, it’s important to find the ones that fit you well. That means your feet will get enough room and you’ll be able to wiggle your toes, but they’ll still fit tightly everywhere else. Your heel must be secured in the shoe, as it will provide stability for the ankle.
Steel midsoles, on the other hand, provide arch support and protection, which help with back discomfort. If you have back or hip problems and you have to work on your feet the whole day, a larger fit and insoles will be the best choice for you.
If your shoes become uncomfortable over time, it might be time to change them, no matter how good they look on the outside. Choose comfort over looks when it comes to your protective footwear.
4. Safety footwear needs to be comfortable
And last but not least, make sure your protective shoes are comfortable. You’ll be working on your feet all day long, so comfort should be one of your top priorities. On top of that, if your safety footwear is uncomfortable, there’s a chance you’ll give up on wearing them altogether, which is never a good choice.
It’s important that you pay attention to the sole composition as it directly influences comfort. If you want to feel comfortable throughout the whole day, look for soles that are made of Polyurethane. Although PVC soles are great when it comes to chemical resistance, they can be pretty heavy and uncomfortable.
If you end up with shoes that are not the comfiest, you might end up with blisters or any other minor foot injuries that could be painful and distracting.
Types of safety footwear
Now that we’ve covered some of the main things about protective shoes, we hope you’ll no longer have to wonder how to choose the right safety footwear. It could also be helpful to know what kinds of protective footwear there are.
They’re mostly divided into three categories: shoes, boots, and trainers. They all offer different kinds of protection and can be worn in various workplaces.
1. Safety boots
No matter the industry you’re working in, safety boots will be a great choice for you as they provide high levels of protection. They’re the most popular type and often include:
- Slip-resistant soles that will prevent falling as they’re usually made of rubber that won’t crack
- Steel toecaps that can handle up to 20 kg of impact and protect your feet from heavy material
- Penetration resistant midsoles
- Heat resistance (Some boots can protect you from temperatures that go up to 300℃!)
- The padded collar which provides ankle support
- Chemical resistance.
2. Safety trainers
Safety trainers are a more casual version of safety footwear, perfect for those of you who are not big fans of the way protective footwear looks. Because of their comfort and style, they would be an ideal choice for people who work as drivers or tradesmen.
Although they look casual, they usually also have toecaps, although often plastic. They usually include:
- Penetration-resistant outsole and midsole
- Padded collar
- Slip-resistant soles
- Cushioned heel, perfect for those of you whose work requires a lot of walking.
3. Safety shoes
Just like it’s the case with protective boots, safety shoes also have steel toecaps, although usually much lighter. They’re a perfect choice for warehouse, healthcare, and office workers that don’t work in high-risk areas.
Although they’re not as protective as safety boots, they’ll still do a great job of protecting you against chemicals, shocks, and heat. Their soles have great padding that decreases fatigue and provides comfort.
They’re also a great choice for people who work in damp areas or on wet terrains. Most of them are lined with moisture-wicking materials, which as a result, keeps your feet dry and warm.