Workplace Solutions Foot protection

Innovations in women’s footwear

What are some recent innovations in women’s footwear that workers and safety pros should consider?

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Responding is Kristin Hamilton, director of merchandising, Red Wing Shoe Co., Red Wing, MN.

Many companies, trade schools and organizations are working to enhance their programs as more women join the trades. These actions include creating apprenticeship programs and scholarships, as well as expanding product lines, to support a more diverse workforce.

There’s no better time, as diversifying the workforce and attracting new talent of all backgrounds are critical to closing shortage gaps and ensuring continued progress. Although many initiatives that support women in the trades exist and should be considered, one of the first steps is to review personal protective equipment programs that offer proper fit while keeping everyone safe and comfortable on the job.

Safety footwear, in particular, is a personal and crucial purchase for workers. Historically, it’s often been even more difficult for female workers to find the right footwear that fits well and still provides the comfort and protection needed on the job.

Progressive footwear manufacturers are closely examining the differences and introducing purpose-built options for women, offering new technologies and enhancing styles to achieve a true female fit.

From the arch to the heel, a woman’s foot is different than a man’s foot. Footwear providers and product teams have the opportunity to develop footwear that fits properly by using gender-specific lasts (a foot-shaped form) and patterns to ensure the best fit possible.

In addition, the right size and width of a work boot can help ensure all-day comfort and minimize the chances of injury. New technologies can provide workers with a custom fit to address the unique size, shape, arch height and pressure points of each foot.

Material innovations have played a significant role in the creation of safety footwear that’s remarkably lightweight yet performs well under tough conditions.

For example, the use of nonmetallic safety toe caps can help lighten the weight of a shoe or boot while still providing the same level of safety as steel toe caps without the extra weight and bulk, allowing for more all-day comfort.

In addition, many new lightweight outsole and upper materials offer superior protection and durability without sacrificing performance.

Further, more breathable components are being added to safety footwear. New cooling textiles are being used as lining in shoes and boots to make a long day on the job more comfortable for workers in warmer climates or hot work environments.

Freezing temperatures, on the other hand, require insulation, and paper-thin aluminum technology that reflects and retains body heat is being implemented in some modern safety footwear – adding warmth without bulk.

As the industry evolves, new innovations – from lighter materials to the right textiles – continue to help safety professionals.

And above all, recognizing diversity and achieving a variety of fits not only can make the purchasing process easier, but support a more diverse workforce and safety for all.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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