When you are working a hazardous job, you need personal protective equipment to help safeguard yourself from workplace injuries. OSHA has specific standards when it comes to wearing the correct overall safety gear, which includes safety shoes.
But what type of footwear that protects your entire foot? All safety shoes, as long as they follow the safety regulations set by OSHA and have passed all the compliance tests from ASTM, are proven to protect your entire foot from workplace injuries.
Table of Contents
- Different Types of Safety Footwear and Where to Use Them
- Additional Safety Features
- Buying Tips
Different Types of Safety Footwear and Where to Use Them
Foot protection equipment has come a long way since it was mass-produced and introduced to the public in the 1800s. Google safety boots and you can find thousands of choices in different types and from different brands.
There are safety boots made for general use and specific use, but each has its unique features which can help you choose the right safety footwear. Below, we have identified the different types of PPE foot protection.
1. Safety-toed Footwear
A footwear is considered safety-toed if its toe caps are reinforced with an additional protective feature. The toe cap of a safety boot comes in three popular types: steel, composite, or alloy, and are manufactured to protect your toes.
They all provide foot protection, but they differ in the length of durability, the level of comfort they provide to your toes, and the cost. Steel-toed shoes are the cheapest among the three safety shoes. Composite toe boots are very comfortable, while the alloy toe is popular for being light in weight.
Where to use them
This type of footwear protects your toes from falling objects and being crushed, so if you work in a construction building, manufacturing, shipping, logistics and other work which involves handling a lot of heavy materials or equipment, you should wear safety-toed footwear.
Whether you wear steel-toed, composite toe or alloy toe shoes is entirely up to you. All of them can ensure your foot’s protection.
2. Steel-soled Footwear
Steel-soled footwear is a type of protective footwear where the sole is pressed with a steel plate. Because the insole is reinforced with a steel plate, it stiffens the sole of the shoes, making it difficult to bend.
The steel stabilizer plate will act as your feet’s first line of defense in case you step on sharp materials such as nails, broken glasses, and other sharp debris. The steel plate helps in ensuring that the sharp tools will not pierce through your shoes and wound your feet’s sole.
Where to use them
Wearing steel-soled footwear can be straining to the feet because of its inflexibility. The steel plate will make it hard for the shoes to bend when you walk or run, making them somehow uncomfortable. That’s why steel-soled shoes are recommended to use only when you spend most of your work shift sitting.
You should wear steel-soled shoes if you are working as a crane operator, heavy truck driver, and other jobs which involve a lot of pedaling. The steel plate will help in stabilizing the foot, reducing the chances of having joint and bone injuries.
3. Metatarsal Footwear
Metatarsal footwear is foot protection equipment that is created using materials such as steel, aluminum, composite, and other synthetic materials. The metatarsal guard can be integrated into the shoes or removed depending on your choice.
This type of safety footwear is designed to protect the metatarsal bones and the outer part of the entire foot. It ensures that the inside and outside of your feet are protected from compression or even from falling embers, heavy equipment, steel rod, molten metals, heavy pipes and more.
Meanwhile, you might want to check out this video to see how a removable metatarsal guard is installed.
Where to use them
Using metatarsal footwear is very helpful if you are working in the metal industry, with large machinery, in heavy construction sites and other large manufacturing companies.
These industries pose a risk of falling or rolling objects that might injure your foot, and that’s why it’s important that you wear this type of protective footwear.
4. Metal Instep Footwear
A metal instep footwear is a type of safety shoe where the instep of the shoes is reinforced with a metal plate. Metal instep footwear might be a little heavier compared to other regular instep footwear because of the metal in the instep. This type of safety shoe provides overall protection to the entire foot.
Where to use them
The metal instep helps in preventing or minimizing outside foot injuries sustained through falling objects that are sharp or heavy such as hammers, nails, broken glasses, bricks, tiles, tools, etc.
You should wear a safety shoe with a metal instep if you work in a glass factory, construction sites, and other work environments where there is a risk of falling sharp objects.
Additional Safety Features
Wearing PPE foot protection is your defense against accidents that might occur while doing your job. The types of safety footwear mentioned above can also come with other features that will give additional protection for your entire foot.
Below are the additional features you might need to check before buying a pair of safety footwear.
1. Electrical Hazard
If you work as an electrician, then consider buying safety footwear that is designed to reduce electric shock, especially if you are working with a high voltage.
If you are working in a wet environment or if your work involves using water, such as a firefighter, then you need to consider buying a safety shoe that is waterproof. This will keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Consider buying a heat-resistant protective shoe if your work requires you to do metal casting or welding in a car shop or other metal industry.
Slip-resistant shoes are very useful, especially if you work in a slippery or wet environment. Before you buy one, make sure to check the outsoles of the shoes to see if it has a good grip to the surfaces of your work environment.
It is best if your safety shoes are chemical-resistant if you are working in an industry that processes or handles chemicals; spillage might be inevitable, so you need to be prepared all the time.
1. Bring your work sock
When fitting for a safety shoe, make sure to bring your work socks. You need to fit the safety shoes together with your work socks since they will add to the size of your feet. This way, you will be able to get the exact feel and size of the safety shoes.
2. Get the right size
Make sure that you check the size of the shoes. If you’re unsure of your size, always ask for help from the salesperson so you will be guided. Getting just the right size is the most important thing when buying a safety shoe.
3. Leave room for the toes
Wearing a safety boot for a whole day can be a bit discomforting for your toes, especially if you are constantly moving. That is why you need to consider your toes and provide them with enough space in the toe box to avoid toe pains.
4. Walk around for several minutes
Put on the safety shoes and walk around the store for several minutes. This will give you an idea of whether wearing the shoe for a long period will strain your feet or not.
5. Check the comfort
This is also very important when choosing your protective footwear. Always make sure that you are satisfied with the comfort that the shoes provide because you don’t want to wear a safety shoe that is painful to your feet.
6. Ask questions
Always ask questions about the shoes.
So, what type of footwear that protects your entire foot can one use? The types of safety footwear mentioned above are all designed to provide overall foot protection.
Accidents or injuries in hazardous work environments are inevitable, and according to the International Labour Organization, up to 340 million work-related accidents happen annually.
This is exactly the reason why wearing personal protective equipment, including safety footwear, is very important to ensure that you are protected while doing your job.
This is Edward Manning, the editor in chief of Construction Informer. Quite a bit of my time is spent researching the market and interviewing experts in the field so that I can give you reliable information.