Foot protection

Trends in ... foot protection

‘Address the right hazard with the right technology’

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Because it’s worn for long periods of time, footwear is “a foundational element of workwear,” says James Iwanski, director of industrial business North America at Red Wing Shoe Co. “Improperly fitting, uncomfortable footwear can negatively affect both an employee’s job satisfaction and productivity. Safety footwear that’s selected for a given environment and is preferred by employees will be worn consistently, therefore reducing risks from the jobsite.”

Here, Iwanski and other experts share with Safety+Health their observations on foot protection.

A better understanding

What does Brent Jennings, vice president of marketing for Warson Brands, wish employers and workers better understood about foot protection in the workplace? The need to “make sure that you address the right hazard with the right technology – for instance, utilizing or mandating a met guard if there are objects that could fall on the top of the foot or roll over the foot.”

Employers also need to “be generous,” Jennings said. “To get premium features and longevity out of a shoe, you don’t want workers to feel as though they have to dig the money out of their own pockets.”

Iwanski echoed that thought: “One thing we find helpful in the development of that program is a reminder that footwear is actually very personal. It’s important to view safety footwear as an investment.”

Recent innovations

New foams and compounds that are softer but harden on impact, improved midsole compounds for a more athletic performance, and shock absorption are some of the recent innovations in footwear, Jennings said.

Added Kristin Hamilton, director of merchandising at Red Wing Shoe Co.: “Between material advancements and new lightweight designs, there have definitely been recent innovations in foot protection resulting in safety footwear that is lighter than ever. Nonmetallic safety toes, lightweight outsole materials, innovative support systems and mixed material construction are making it possible to create modern-looking, versatile footwear products that look like everyday shoes but perform like work boots. All-day comfort leads to happier employees, and these new footwear options mean workers don’t have to compromise between comfort and safety.”

One thing customers are asking for? More styles for women, Jennings said. And Iwanski said it’s not uncommon “for customers to ask us for footwear recommendations to protect against a specific worksite hazard or common danger.”

His advice? “Always ensure footwear fits into a broader safety program.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Ladders
  • Heat protection

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