Product Focus Foot Protection

Trends in ... foot protection

‘Invest in quality’

Punctures and lacerations, sprains and strains, crushed and broken bones, electric shock, and amputations are some of the foot injuries that can occur at work. And aside from injuries, standing for long periods can lead to tired, aching feet.

So what can employers and workers do to help prevent these injuries and foot fatigue? Industry insiders weigh in.

Innovative technology

Overexertion and fatigue can have negative impacts on workers’ feet, but new technology can help track these issues, said Kevan Orvitz, president and founder of Tustin, CA-based MEGAComfort Inc. “Wearable technology started with the wrist and has evolved into enhancing footwear,” Orvitz said. “One of the most groundbreaking footwear technologies is a smart insole that collects data with every step and provides the information on your smart phone. It combines anti-fatigue properties, comfort and powerful walking analytics.”

Noting that slip resistance continues to be “top of mind” among jobsite safety directors, Kristin Anderson, senior product merchandising manager at Red Wing, MN-based Red Wing Shoe Co., said new outsoles can stand up to Mother Nature. “Recently, new outsole technologies have entered the market with innovative features like best-in-class slip resistance with extreme comfort and durability while still being incredibly lightweight,” Anderson said. “These advanced high-performing outsoles underscore the importance of consistent innovation in safety footwear.”

Use as intended

“People often think that because their footwear has been slip test-rated that they can use it without maintaining the outsole or maintaining their workspace,” said Xavier Kawula, product marketing manager for Charlotte, NC-based Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions.

Kawula cautioned, however, that using slip-resistant footwear is just one part of a slip hazard reduction assessment program. “Like anything else in a safety management program, we all have a responsibility to make sure that maintenance takes place, whether it be with our footwear or with our working spaces,” he said, adding that safety footwear is not a “set it and forget it” product.

The biggest challenge regarding foot protection products and technologies is neglect, Orvitz claimed. “People frequently overlook the importance of routine footwear inspection,” he said. “Checking footwear for signs of wear, such as tearing, cracking or damage, helps determine if the shoe’s protective qualities are still intact.”

If workers aren’t selecting the correct boot for their specific work environment, Anderson said, it won’t matter how advanced the technology or product is. “This potential issue can be avoided by purchasing work boots from a company with purpose-built footwear and shopping in-person to get properly fitted in the best boot,” she said. “A safety footwear retailer should have experts who can assist with fit and offer advice on the optimal size and model for tailored needs, including jobsite conditions and safety requirements.”

Final thoughts

“Be willing to invest in quality footwear because it will pay off during long days on the job,” Anderson said.

And don’t forget: Education is key. Having employees who “understand the importance of foot protection – that it not only protects their feet but their entire body from pain, fatigue and injury – ensures that workers are engaged in proper footwear maintenance,” Orvitz said.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Hand protection
  • Spill containment/absorbents