Work Footwear 101
According to recent industry reports, home accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries for adults in America. Seven million Americans suffer home injuries each year with home improvement injuries being one of the most common. When the weekday professional decides to become a DIY weekend warrior and home-improvement projects are the to-do’s of the weekend, footwear safety is an important detail that should not be overlooked.
Deciding which footwear is the right fit for the job might seem overwhelming in a marketplace full of brands that, at first glance, may appear to be quite similar. However, by conducting research online or by visiting retailers to gather more information, a purchase can be easier than you think. It’s important to learn about the various technology features the different brands offer, and how these will contribute to protection in a potentially hazardous work environment similar to your own.
Before You Start
When purchasing protective footwear, it is important to consider the type of job, as different work environments will require different levels of protection. For example, if you’ll be working with exposed electrical wires, you’ll want boots with a thicker rubber outsole and electrical hazard protection. Find out what types of elements you’ll be exposed to on the job, and choose your boots accordingly.
When trying on footwear, wear the same socks you’d work in to ensure proper fit. Remember, feet swell through the day; waiting until the afternoon or early evening to try on boots will help you to achieve the best fit possible. Poorly fitting footwear can cause slips, trips and falls and increase your chances of becoming one of the thousands injured on the job each year.
Prepare for the Elements
Leather boots with rubber bottoms are often the best choice for heavy work in cold weather. Because leather is a porous material, it allows perspiration to evaporate, letting feet “breathe.” Leather boots can be waterproofed with certain products; however, some products block the pores in the leather, which locks moisture and sweat in. Boot with waterproofing capabilities are best for workers standing in water or slush. Technologies like GORE-TEX™ use a waterproof lining that keeps water molecules out while still allow vapor to evaporate from the foot, keeping feet and boots dry.
Cold weather also requires insulation. Selecting socks made from polypropylene will keep feet warm and dry by “wicking” moisture away from the skin, while layering with a thicker wool layer will keep feet warm. Many manufacturers offer boots insulated with Thinsulate® in varying levels from 200 gram to 1,200 gram insulation to suit different climates and seasons. By selecting a breathable boot that is both insulated and waterproof, workers can keep feet dry and comfortable year round.
Assess Your Safety Needs
Steel-toe boots protect the delicate bones in the toes and feet from getting crushed if something falls on them, as well as puncture protection from nails, wire and other intrusive foreign objects. Today, however, companies are offering composite toes and advanced carbon fiber technology into work boots that offer lightweight safety alternatives than the traditional steel-toe. Wolverine® is one such company, developing a unique safety toe, Wolverine® CarbonMax™, that is as strong as steel but 50 percent lighter. Equally resistant to heat and cold and non-conductive to electricity, it is a lightweight option that is equally as protective as the steel counterparts.
Start from the Ground, Up
A rubber sole is important, especially for workers who are around electricity. Choosing a sole with thick enough rubber to ground an electrical charge may save a life. A lug sole has rubber knobs that provide better traction, but a wedge sole provides additional comfort when working on concrete. Vibram® rubber soles are perfect for everyday and conform to natural foot movement. The durable Vibram material helps to provide increased durability and longevity to the outsole, while Kevlar soles withstand extreme temperatures like hot asphalt.
Select Comfort Options
Today’s occupational footwear incorporates modern comfort technologies to create a better wearing experience. Wolverine® was at the forefront of this trend, creating Wolverine® DuraShocks®, the first comfort outsole to be incorporated into work footwear. Wolverine® MultiShox®, a later generation of this technology is designed with individual compression pads in the heel and forefoot that absorb shock and return energy with each step. A removable cushioned footbed allows for increased stability and comfort. Footwear with these technologies also come with a 30-Day Comfort Guarantee to ensure the wearer has chosen the most comfortable boot to suit their needs.
Transition From Work to Weekend
Today’s work boot trends have introduced styles that go beyond the traditional work boot styles. Oxfords, chukkas, wellingtons, hiking and athletic styles now all feature the same benefits of a more traditional work boot. Buyers today have the option to choose a work boot closer to their own personal style that will allow them to transition from the workplace to the weekend seamlessly.