The Best Safety Shoes for Any Job – A Guide

Whether it’s a pair of sturdy and comfortable shoes to offer support to your feet during a long shift or a pair of hard-wearing steel toed shoes to keep your feet safe on site, safety shoes are an essential part of any workplace PPE where there is an established risk to your feet. But while comfort and steel toe protection are important, these are just two of the factors that you need to consider when buying safety shoes.

This guide covers everything you need to know about foot protection in a range of different working environments. We’re going to take a closer look at what safety shoes are, how they offer protection to your feet, and how you go about choosing the right pair for your needs.

What are safety shoes?

A safety shoe is generally considered to be any shoe that has a safety toe in the form of a steel, alloy, or reinforced composite cap. This is designed to protect the toes, which are the most vulnerable part of the foot, and the area that is most likely to get damaged or injured on site. Steel toe shoes or boots offer protection against crushing, compression, falling objects, as well as impact damage. In the US, certified safety shoes will have been tested by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to meet certain safety standards.

However, modern safety shoes also need to be designed with a range of other safety features. These can include a midsole plate to prevent puncture from below, metatarsal guards to prevent damage to the bones of the foot, electrical protection against shocks, as well as static dissipating functionality to prevent the build-up of electrical charge from contact with the floor. Other work safety shoes are designed to be non-slip for use in wet or slippery environments.

What is the ANSI standard for safety shoes?

In the US, the standard for safety shoes is created and enforced by the ANSI, ASTM (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHO). These organizations require that companies and businesses across the country comply with regulations and ensure that their employees are provided with or have access to the correct safety equipment in the workplace, including safety shoes and boots if required.

The guidelines include three levels of ASTM safety toe impact protection, three levels of metatarsal protection, three levels of compression protection, electrical hazard protection and static dissipation protection. Safety shoes and boots need to meet the requirements of these standards and must be labelled accordingly. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure staff are equipped with the correct level of protection for their specific workplace. Safety shoes had previously been ANSI labelled but in 2005 the OSHA decided only the ASTM label was required. However, ANSI standards are aligned with ASTM.

What are the most comfortable safety toe shoes?

Of course, compliance with legislation is essential and, in many cases, a legal requirement in various places of work. But this is not the only consideration. As well as compliance, steel toe work shoes also need to be comfortable and have a suitable appearance for specific work sites. Many workers who require safety shoes spend large periods of time on their feet, as such, cushioning and comfort are very important to prevent fatigue, blistering, and other injuries.

Industrial shoes also need to have an adequate amount of grip, especially when working in areas with slippery or uneven floors. And safety work shoes also need to be durable, able to withstand the rigors of a work site day after day.

Safety toe shoes also need to look the part too. On some sites the color, style, and design of the safety shoe may have no bearing, but in other workplaces where uniform and staff appearance are more important, even safety shoes need to be in keeping with the rest of employee workwear, while still maintaining high levels of safety.

How should safety shoes fit?

Ideally safety shoes need to be about half a size to a size larger than normal shoes. So, if you normally take a size ten, then try a 10.5 or 11 safety shoe. This is because the hard cap in the toe part of the shoe takes up room and is a lot less flexible than normal soft toe shoes. You ideally don’t want your toes rubbing against the hard cap, as this will cause irritation and blisters. When trying on a safety shoe, you should be able to wiggle your toes without touching the hard cap.

If you are choosing safety boots, then you need a secure heel and supportive ankles. The boot should feel snug against the sides and top of your foot without being uncomfortable. If your feet are moving around inside the shoe, then they may be too big, and you could be at risk of blisters and slipping. Remember when you try on your boots or order online that you may be wearing them with thicker socks at work, so adjust the choice of size accordingly.

Safety shoes are an essential, and sometimes legal requirement for working in certain conditions. If there is any risk of compression or impact injuries to your feet, then a good quality composite or steel toe shoe is an absolute must. And if you are looking to complete your workwear ensemble, then check out the range of other American made custom workwear and apparel at All Seasons Uniforms or build your own uniform from scratch.

About the Author

Nick Warrick is the Sales Manager at All Seasons Uniforms. With over 15 years of experience in the work uniform business, he has worked with hundreds of clients across 20 different industries. Holding bachelor’s degrees in both Business Administration and Information Technology, Nick revamped the company’s online presence, offering its customers a new uniform shopping experience.

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