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What are Safety Shoes?
Safety shoes, also known as protective shoes, are a type of footwear intended for occupational activities. They help you walk through hazardous environments but without the risk of slipping or injuring yourself. In most cases, work-related footwear safety is a requirement of the law, job contract, or even company policy.
The history of safety shoes and work boots goes back to the early 1920s. During that time, new laws were enacted that compensating (or replacing) injured employees too expensive. Instead, many companies opted for injury protection; one of the ways to protect workers was by wearing safety shoes.
As their name implies, worker safety shoes are designed with protection in mind. They shield the wearer’s feet and lower legs from electrical shocks, impacts, sharp objects, and other kinds of injuries. What makes safety footwear different from regular shoes? Continue below to find out.
The Safety Shoe Construction
In order to offer reliable protection, safety shoes for work sites must withstand hazardous conditions. Some of the materials used to make them include leather, PU (polyurethane), PVC plastic, rubber, steel, Kevlar, carbon fiber, and several others. Safety shoes also feature a special design that makes them more protective. Typically, the safety shoes parts include the following:
Safety Shoe Sole
The safety shoe sole is bottom part of the shoe. Apart from supporting the upper shoe and providing foot comfort, it protects you from the hazards. The sole generally denotes the part that makes contact with the ground. However, there are other minor soles:
- Outsole– the bottom part of the shoe which makes contact with the ground. Often treaded to increase grip.
- Midsole– the part in-between the outsole and the insole. It absorbs shock. In puncture-resistant safety shoes, it’s usually either steel or Kevlar, sometimes also aluminum.
- Insole– the part of the shoe that contacts your foot when you wear it. Normally a soft and moisture absorbing material.
- Heel– The bottom back part. It helps absorb energy and prevent work fatigue.
- Shank– the part found in between the insole and outsole. Serves to stabilize the shoe and make it rigid.
- Shoe Texture– the pattern or cleats on the bottom of the safety shoe which help you grip surfaces.
Different materials are used for the safety shoe sole. Examples are polyurethane (PU), Thermoplastic PU (TPU), and rubber- sometimes even EVA. The type of material depends on the kind of environment where the shoe will be used.
Safety Shoe Upper
This is the top part of a work safety shoe and includes the tongue, vamp, and quarter. It encloses your upper foot, and must be both comfortable and protective. The sections that make the upper parts of most safety shoes are:
- Tongue– the piece of material that covers the vamp and is sewn to the quarter.
- Vamp– the top part of the upper that covers the front of your foot.
- Lining– the part that directly contacts your foot and usually cotton, leather or synthetics. Lining material that can absorbs moisture makes one of the most comfortable safety shoes.
- Quarter– the part of the upper that wraps around your ankle. It helps keep your ankle supported and stabilized while you are working on the job.
- Laces– these are used in lace-up safety shoes. The help tighten the shoe around your foot and are normally made from
- Eyelets– the eyelets are metal rings used to hold the shoelaces.
Just like the sole, safety shoes manufacturers use a range of materials for the upper. Most often, the shoe upper is leather, although synthetic materials are also used. Leather safety shoes offer the advantage of remaining stable in a broad range of conditions.
Safety Shoe Toe Cap
The safety shoes toe cap is the hardened metal or non-metal shell that forms the front of the shoe. This particular part protects your toes from getting injuries when objects come falling or rolling toward your feet. It’s the part that people refer to when they talk about steel toes shoes.
Materials for the safety toe cap include steel, other metal alloys, and composites, sometimes also plastic or aluminum. Steel toes are sturdier and make the best safety shoes when it comes to toes protection. However, they tend to be heavier and more bulky.
Composite safety toes produce one of the lightest weight safety shoes. Aluminum toes are also lightweight but less sturdy than steel or other metal alloy toes. Note that every safety toe material will suit specific conditions. Some situations can only use steel toes, while others may best suit composite toes.
Why are Safety Shoes Important?
Industrial safety shoes are designed to protect your feet in different conditions where you are at risk of getting injured. These include all kinds of factories, warehouses, constructing sites, oil and gas industry, labs, restaurants, and many more. Safety Shoes protect you or your workers from these risks:
- Sharp objects– safety shoes with Kevlar or steel midsoles
- Falling or rolling objects– safety shoes with steel toe, alloy toe, composite toe, and plastic or aluminum toes and metatarsal bone protection.
- Slippery surfaces– safety shoes with anti-slip soles
- Electric shock– safety shoes with electric ESD properties or voltage protection features
- Chemical hazards– safety shoes with materials to stand up to the chemicals
- Extreme temperatures– heat-resistant safety shoe materials
- Exposure to wet environments– water-resistant and water-proof safety shoes
- Uneven grounds– lace up safety shoes with ankle protection
Generally, people in the following occupations need to wear worker safety shoes: employees who deal with sharp objects, workers on scaffolds, workers involved in demolitions or construction, and all military personnel.
There are also safety shoes for electricians, carpenters, plumbers, lab technicians, factory workers, warehouse employees, chefs, and safety shoes for mechanics- the list goes on and on.
Types of Safety Shoes
Apart from safety shoes for men and safety shoes for women, protective footwear is classified under many different categories. They can be metallic or metal free safety shoes, low cut or high-cut safety shoes, and so on. But most of the time, protective footwear is categorized by the type of protection that it offers.
The following list features some of the most common safety shoe types. It is not exhaustive, but it should give you a good overview of what’s available on the market today.
These are one of the most common types of safety footwear. Foot protection boots usually have a steel or composite safety toe and meet ASTM standards. The uppers are normally leather, suede, or other material to make the shoes more durable and easier to maintain in tough workplaces. Work boots will also provide the wearer with electrical resistance and different levels of insulation from heat and cold, among other features.
Steel Toe Safety Shoes
These safety shoes types are among the most popular. They feature a steel shell or cap for the toe area and protect your feet from getting injuries from object that may fall or hit your foot’s front. Steel toed safety shoes suit construction sites and factories. The material is the strongest, and can withstand higher load impacts.
Composite Toe Safety Shoes
Safety shoes with composite toe caps use a combination of various non-metallic materials for the cap. Although not as sturdy as the steel types, composite shoes offer the advantage of being lighter than steel toes. They also make the best metal-free, airport safety shoes.
Slip Resistant Safety Shoes
These have slip-resistant soles suitable for walking on wet, oily, or greasy surfaces. The anti-slip outsoles have a coarser texture are designed with 2.5mm cleat height. These shoes may also be labeled as non-slip. Non-slip safety shoes provide a good grip even on smooth, slippery floors or other surfaces.
Oil Resistant Safety Shoes
Oil-resistant safety shoes are designed to prevent the penetration of oil or other liquids into shoes. They are made of more than one layer, usually including a layer of rubber or synthetic resin material, various net fabrics and leather. The surface is often painted with fluorine treatment to have better oil resistance.
Chemical Resistant safety Shoes
These function pretty the same way as slip resistant shoes, but they also provide protection against chemicals. If you work in the oil and gas industries or somewhere else where you’re exposed to harsh chemicals on a regular basis, these are the shoes for you.
Heat Resistant Safety Shoes
These are specially designed for jobs that require you to be in places where hot objects are handled regularly. The outer sole is usually made up of a special material that can resist a temperature of up to 300 degrees. This allows the shoe to withstand very high temperatures without hurting your feet.
Puncture Proof Safety Shoes
Puncture-resistant safety shoes will protect your feet from getting injuries from sharp objects. They’re best used by construction and factory workers who may step on nails, screws, stray pieces of glass, and so on. The shoes a midsole made of strong materials like steel or Kevlar insert to stop sharp objects from reaching your feet.
Water Resistant Safety Shoes
If you work in wet or moist environments and want some safety footwear to protect your feet, then water-resistant safety shoes will be perfect for you. They are made with water-resistant material that is designed to keep your feet dry throughout the day.
Waterproof Safety Shoes
If you work around liquids like chemicals or oil on a regular basis, waterproof safety shoes make the best choice. They are made from special materials that keep water and other liquids away from your feet. Waterproof safety shoes offer a higher protection level than the water resistant types.
Metatarsal Safety Shoes
Safety shoes with metatarsal protection include a piece of protective material to cover the metatarsal bone on your foot. These types of safety shoes are meant to protect more than your toes, and are suited for specific work sites where the metatarsal area is likely to get injured. These include factories and construction sites.
Electrical Hazard Safety Shoes
These are divided into two different groups to suit different working environments: conductive, insulation, and antistatic safety shoes. Learn how each is different from the other below.
1. Conductive Safety shoes
Also known as electrostatic dissipating or ESD safety shoes, these are suited for places where static electricity tends to build. They help to safely dissipate electrostatic charges to the ground. The antistatic feature helps prevent explosions in places where employees work with volatile and flammable materials. Conductive Safety boots must offer an electrical resistance of below 100 KΩ.
2. Insulation Safety Shoes
These shoes use soles with very high resistance. They prevent electrical shock if a wearer accidentally steps on exposed wires or electrical circuits. These are the ideal safety shoes for electricians and those who work with high-voltage devices. Insulation safety shoes are normally built to 6kv and 12kv standards.
3. Antistatic Safety Shoes
Antistatic safety shoes prevent electrostatic charges from travelling through the sole and the wearer’s body. These are best suited for people who handle things that are sensitive to static charges, such as workers in the semiconductor electronics industry. Antistatic safety shoes provide between 100 KΩ and 1000 MΩ in electrical resistance.
Other Types of Safety Shoes
Protective footwear also comes as either slip-on safety shoes that use laces, lace-up shoes that use laces to hold to your foot, or snap-on safety shoes; sometimes even Velcro fastened shoes.
Some modern safety shoes even include fashionable styles or varieties for use by people in less demanding workplaces. In that lines are safety shoes for office workers, or footwear for use by factory visitors, and many more.
Safety Shoe Standards and Ratings
Various standards govern the safety shoes industry. These are aimed at regulating the safety aspects of safety footwear. The standards aim to provide guidelines for safety shoe requirements. These requirements are followed by manufacturers and ensured by wearers. It’s always advisable to check for these certifications while making a purchase decision. Here is a roundup of the major safety shoe standards.
The two major safety shoe standards are based off ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), and EN ISO 20345 which is the standard for protection footwear requirements across Europe. There are other standards by region but these majorly follow the guidelines of the main two standards.
Safety shoes are usually marked with symbols called safety shoes codes or ratings. These show the level of foot protection that a particular piece of shoe or boot can provide. Safety shoes ratings include the ability to withstand impact, compression, slip resistance, ability to protect from electrical shock, and many more features.
When buying protective footwear for your workers or yourself, it’s important that you’re aware of the safety symbols that different safety shoes manufacturers use. These determine the suitability of the footwear for specific job sizes.
Safety Shoes Price
How much is the cost of safety shoes? While it can be difficult to provide a specific value, we can give a general estimate. The price of safety shoes varies enormously depending on various factors such as quality of material, durability, the technology to make them, and application. Mostly, the amount ranges from $20 to $100 or higher. Here is a brief overview of how various features determine the cost of safety shoes.
Safety Shoe Material
Most often, the safety shoes price is impacted by the type of material used to make them, whether they are sold for industrial, medical, or military uses. Steel toed safety shoes, for example, are more expensive than composite toed varieties.
Safety Shoe Features
On the other hand, features such as slip-resistance and soles of puncture-proof-safety shoes tend to increase the price of a given model. The type of technology used in making the particular shoe, too, depending on the style and design.
The price of safety shoes depends on various market factors that are not dependent on the type of shoes or its features. For example, different safety shoes manufacturers offer different prices for their products. The same applies to different importers or safety shoes suppliers depending on your locality.
Where Can I Buy Safety Shoes?
You can buy protective footwear from any safety shoes store near you. These will usually have footwear to suit the demands of the locality. But if you are looking for bulk order of safety shoes, wholesale prices would be more advisable. They will help lower your business expenses significantly.
Buying your safety shoes online means the opportunity to compare prices and features. It also means the chance to read about the experiences of past clients. Needless to say, high quality safety shoes will cost more
Many buyers make the mistake of shopping for the product without researching about it first. Before deciding what to go for or narrowing down on a particular safety shoe type, be sure to obtain as much information about the protection features as you can.
Safety is an important factor when it comes to job sites- and PPE safety shoes one of the ways to reduce injuries. Safety shoes in the workplace ensure your employees are always protected and more productive. They are designed with foot comfort and safety in mind. Whether you need these shoes at home or on the job site, there will always be a style to meet your particular workplace requirements.