A safety shoe is a protected-toe boot (sometimes called a safety boot, steel-capped boot, or an occupational shoe). It is a durable boot or shoe worn by men and women in many industries including the armed forces, manufacturing, chemical engineering, fire fighting, and construction.
A safety shoe is designed to protect your workers’ feet from heat, chemical spills, slippery floors, wild life, sharp objects, electrical shock, and other hazards. A good safety shoe will have protective reinforcement in the toe (a steel or composite toe) which protects your workers’ feet from falling objects or compression. They may also include a mid-sole plate, a composite metatarsal guide, to protect against punctures from below.
Before you purchase safety shoes for your company, make sure to invest in shoes that meet the specific needs of your workers and organization. Also be sure to source shoes that meet international or national standards, such as compliance with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) or ISO (International Organization for Standardization):
What to Look for: the Sole
Safety shoes may have a polyurethane (PU), rubber, or rubber composite sole. Ideally, the sole should be directly bonded to the upper. It is also best to choose a shoe that is “slip resistant” and “shock absorbent”, this can be true for rubber or PU soles.
PU soles are heat resistant, making them a good choice for fire fighters. PU is also a good choice for chemical engineers, who should make sure that their soles (as well as their uppers) are resistant to acid, alkaline, and oils. Workers that are exposed to lighting or electricity will need “anti-static” soles (XO Footwear makes soles that will protect from 100 Kilo Ohms to 1000 Mega Ohms of electricity.) A steel, or penetration resistant, mid-sole is another important feature for construction workers or other workers that regularly traverse rough terrain. A solid mid-sole is an extra layer of protection when stepping on metal, rocks, or other sharp objects.
What to Look for: the Toe
A hard toe is usually the most distinguishing feature of safety shoes. Good safety shoes, should either have a steel or hard composite toe which protects workers in many different industries from falling objects and other hazards. The toe should also feature a broad fitting cap, designed to be comfortable for the worker, as well as to protect from compression if the shoes should become impacted.
What to Look for: the Upper
Safety shoe uppers come in a variety of different materials including canvas, leather, suede, or synthetic. A soft, full grain leather is usually the best, most comfortable choice. Typically the leather will be treated to be water proof. It may also have a chemical coat to protect against snake bites.
What to Look for: the Lining
Ultimately a safety shoe must be light weight and comfortable. Thus it is necessary to choose a shoe with a comfortable lining. For instance, a full-padded, water-proof inner lining will provide added protection and should be comfortable to wear through out a long work day.