A worker’s feet are the unsung heroes of every workday. They bear a person’s body weight, keep everything upright and stable, and are with you every step of the way, no matter what your work day throws at you. However, that doesn’t mean they are immune to pain – even a stubbed toe or a heel blister can cause significant pain or discomfort. And our feet are usually out of our direct field of vision, which makes it easy to step on dangerous materials like nails or broken glass.
Injuries to feet can take a long time to heal and can impact your ability to get any type of work done. You need the right type of boot to protect your feet from the hazards that put them at risk.
Here are a few touch points to think about when considering the type of boot you'll need.
How does your body move during your workday? Is there a lot of walking? A lot of bending, or working from a kneeling position?
These activities demand arch support and comfort. Boots that move with your body need to be snug, but not too tight. They need to flex at the ankles and provide decent grip. They need to stay secured with laces or other closings that won't loosen and cause a trip hazard, or that can be adjusted while wearing gloves.
How often do your feet experience hard impact?
You'll have to consider both intentional and accidental impact. A common example of intentional impact is needing to kick or push doors open with your feet or holding them open, especially when your hands are busy carrying or pushing a load. Machinery operators might need to repeatedly press pedals or levers or kick dried mud off vehicle wheels. These are intentional activities that can lead to repetitive strain or impact injuries, especially if they're not wearing the right kind of work boot.
Accidental impact ranges from toes stubbed against immovable objects and dropped items landing on feet to pinching and crushing situations. The very real danger of these types of injuries, in all types of workplace situations, is why boots with steel toes or other safety toes are mandatory almost everywhere. Even in workplaces where they are not compulsory, it is very important for every worker to think through every possibility for injury, no matter how remote.
(Learn more in Safety Toes: An Overview of the Materials That Keep Your Feet Safe.)
What is your work environment like? Do you work on smooth concrete or hot surfaces like fresh asphalt? Do you walk across the uneven terrain of a construction site, or climb ladders? Is your work environment dry or wet? Indoors or outdoors?
If you work in wet environments, waterproof boots are the obvious choice, but there’s also warmth to consider. You might need detachable liners or lined boots for situations where cold weather and moisture join forces against you. Even if your environment is generally dry, like inside a building, you’ll still want protection on a rainy day.
Is your environment clean and smooth, or dusty and dirty? Are there more severe elements, such as sparks, fire, or welding materials? Do you encounter concrete, masonry, or other dry contaminants? These can all affect safety, from resulting in possible burns to creating tripping or slipping hazards.
Comfort and Foot Health
In addition to safety issues, it’s important to give some thought to how you wear your boots.
Do you wear them all day, every day, or do you change into them and out of them regularly? The speed and ease of putting them on and taking them off may be an important factor. Some accidents are caused by shortcuts taken when people do not lace up correctly, or skip putting their boots on because they’ll “just be on the site for a few minutes.”
It is easy for humidity to build up inside work boots, either from the external environment, or simply from sweat and exertion. Boots must be able to breathe, for the health of your feet and the boots themselves. The type of socks you wear will have a big impact on humidity control as well as comfort.
Something that is overlooked when choosing your boots is the noise they make when you walk. This might not be a big deal on a noisy construction site, but it might be distracting and annoying if they squeak or clomp loudly on surfaces in environments that are mostly quiet.
This might seem like a minor point, but imagine the inconvenience of having to use a rear door (the long way around) to access a job site because of noisy boots. It might lead to exposure to additional unforeseen hazards or might even take you out of the zone that has been protected and insured against injury.
Workers need head-to-toe protection when on site, traveling, or doing anything else that is work-related. Choosing a boot from a recognized and trusted manufacturer that will make it easy for you to figure out what boots you need is a wise investment. The value comes not just from the comfort and protection they give you, but in the confidence you get from knowing you are protected.
Work with a work boot manufacturer that asks about your job, shares knowledge, and wants to educate each customer on the type of boots they need for their job.