Product Focus: Foot Protection

Trends in ... foot protection

‘Getting better every day’

What do workers want from their foot protection? What do they need to know?

As part of their efforts to prevent foot injuries in the workplace, foot protection manufacturers are paying attention to what end users are saying.

Ray Carney, product executive and director for Westport, Ireland-based Portwest, said worker requests include wider shoes for better comfort, increased breathability for better foot health and less bulkiness.

Yahn Lebo, global product line manager for Rockford, MI-based Wolverine, spoke of new products designed to make footwear lighter. “Some new technologies in footwear include thinner, lighter composite compounds and carbon nanotubes in safety toecaps that in turn create an all-around more comfortable safety-toe boot,” Lebo said.

Be informed

A common sentiment from the experts interviewed is that workers and safety professionals should be as knowledgeable as possible about the foot protection they use. “End users should also demand more information from footwear suppliers and make sure the boot or shoe they are wearing is suitable for the working environment and suitable for their own needs,” Carney said. And although it is smart to know everything your foot protection does, users need to understand its limitations.

“One of the main issues with safety footwear regarding ‘misuse’ is that the associate will use their footwear to kick, push, pull, etc., objects or materials on the floor,” said Don Stallings, national account manager for Rockford, MI-based HYTEST Safety Footwear. “This can lead to premature separation of the sole at the point of impact, and also the premature wear on the leather upper due to unnecessary abrasion being applied to the leather.”

Before slipping on your safety shoes, Lebo recommends checking the weather. “Wearing insulated boots in warm weather … will cause unnecessary perspiration and discomfort,” he said. Additionally, he notes that a worker who has reduced circulation or diabetes should refrain from wearing a steel toe shoe in cold weather because steel conducts cold. Instead, in both of these cases, Lebo recommends wearing a composite toe shoe because it is non-conductive.

You have options

Regardless of what workers need, they have choices. “For every potential hazard or area of need related to footwear on the job, there’s a technology feature that addresses it,” said Brandon Barker, brand manager for Fort Worth, TX-based Justin Original Workboots. “And the available technology is getting better every day.”

Coming next month … 
Hand protection

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association