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Foot Protection - Put Your Feet First

Safety boots have come a long way in the last few years, and the availability of choices in safety footwear is staggering. Safety work boots can vary widely in quality and features. When considering safety footwear, certainly you want to consider the level of protection your boots are going to provide given your work environment, but you also want to take into consideration the features they offer with regard to comfort and overall foot health.

Let’s face it, when you’re on the job, and potentially on your feet for hours at a time, you don’t want to be distracted by your feet. So, what do you want to consider when choosing safety footwear?

Certainly, one of the first things you want to look for is a boot that is certified to ASTM F2413 for toe protection. Back in the day, there was ANSI Z41, but ASTM F2413 superseded that standard back in 2005. Most modern-day safety shoes are now certified to the ASTM standard. The most current edition is the ASTM F2413-2018 edition (meaning the edition was revised in 2018), replacing ASTM F2413-2011 edition. Since it takes a bit of time for manufacturers to go through a third-party certification process, especially when a new version of a standard comes out, boots certified to the new 2018 edition will just be hitting the market.

Safety work boots can be certified just for the basic impact (I) and compression (C) for the toe caps, or manufacturers can choose to get additional optional certifications as well. Optional add on certifications are metatarsal protection (Mt), Conductive protection (Cd), Electrical hazard protection (EH), Static Dissipative protection (SD) and Puncture resistance (PR). All certified boots will have a combination of these abbreviations on the inside label of the boot, depending on what it is certified for.

Take into consideration what you need for working at your particular job, such as the need for electrical hazard protection or puncture resistance in the sole. Bear in mind that electrical hazard protection and static dissipative features are mutually exclusive. A boot can only be one or the other, but not both. Think of it this way, one helps to prevent electricity from coming into the body (EH), the other helps to prevent you from emitting static electricity (SD). Boots that are certified conductive (Cd) are similar to static dissipative boots; conductive boots just “conduct” the static electricity faster and more completely than static dissipative boots. Also be aware that in the case of EH rated boots, they are not meant to be the primary source of protection, but only a secondary source of protection.

Since we are talking about safety boots, toe protection certainly is the biggest player here. The question then becomes, whether the toe caps should be steel or composite. Composite toe caps are becoming more and more popular as they can help reduce the weight of a boot.

Manufacturers are designing boots using newer, more modern technologies to make boots lighter and more comfortable. One thing to note with composite toe caps, you may have a smaller toe box than with a steel toe. This is because the thickness of the toe cap must be thicker in a composite toe than a steel toe in order to provide enough protection from the impact and compression as dictated by ASTM. In the end, it is more a matter of personal preference whether to go with a composite or a steel toe.

Other factors to consider when choosing quality safety boots is whether you would like leather or fabric. Good quality leather will be more durable, and some leathers, like HAIX leather, are breathable as well. If you need a waterproof boot, look for a waterproof inner liner like GORETEX that will also wick moisture and allow your feet to breathe. This will help prevent your feet from getting too hot and sweaty, and moisture wicking properties will help keep your feet dry.

Not to be left out, consider what type of sole you need for the job that you do. Slip resistance can certainly be a factor in a lot of jobs, look for a sole that mentions it offers slip resistance. Oil and fuel resistance may be needed in some environments, and there are soles that are able to withstand exposure to these chemicals over time better than others; look for a sole that mentions it is oil and fuel resistant.

If you are you outdoors in cold weather, you may need to consider a softer sole that won’t harden in colder temperatures, which could certainly be a hazard for slip and falls. On the flip side, however, maybe you have exposure to higher temperature surfaces and need a sole that is heat resistant. Also consider whether you need to have puncture protection in your soles, ASTM does offer puncture resistance (PR) as part of its optional testing, so be sure to look for that to be mentioned on the label.

As mentioned, there is a wide array of safety shoe models on the market to choose from. You want to protect your feet, not only from hazards in the workplace, but you want to protect the health of your feet as well. Invest in a good quality pair of boots that will take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you. A good pair of quality boots will last longer and treat you better in the long run. Do some research and get what’s best for you, and not just what looks eye-catching on the shelf.

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