Foot Protection

Trends in … foot protection

The right fit. Ensuring stability. Protection from pain. Ergonomic elements. These are just some of the elements that need to be considered when selecting foot protection for workers. How are foot protection manufacturers meeting customer needs? Safety+Health talked with Janelle Kinnaird, director of marketing at Lehigh CustomFit, and Tito Warren, president of global industrial sales and operations at Red Wing Shoe Co., to find out.

A 360-degree view

To start, employers and workers need to know that “safety footwear goes beyond protection from the accidental injury,” Kinnaird said. “All boots are basically built the same, but they fit differently, and that matters to employee health and performance.”

This means foot protection needs to ensure stability, protect from pain and help reduce errors caused by distraction, she said.

Warren added: “Every jobsite situation requires specified safety gear for workers, and having the appropriate PPE available for your employees can have a huge effect on both safety and comfort.”

So, how can proper fit be ensured? One way is by using 3D cameras and artificial intelligence. “3D foot scanners are a transformational innovation to buying safety footwear,” Kinnaird said. “Capturing up to 16 points of data, workers learn their degree of pronation and misalignment, weight distribution, pressure points, exact length and width, and much more. All data is used to provide the best fitting boot and custom orthotic.

“This custom orthotic foot protection will protect from and aid in relieving long-term debilitating issues such as plantar fasciitis; diabetic feet; and knee, hip and back pain.”

That goes along with what Warren said about lightweight materials being used to create a more ergonomic shoe. “One of the more prominent innovations we’re seeing now is the push for the use of lightweight materials in PPE when the situation allows. For example, manufacturers are using aluminum to caps to reduce weight and bulk while maintaining protection standards. Additionally, new cooling (breathable) and heating (insulated) technologies now benefit workers who work in environments with extreme temperatures.”

When it comes to foot protection, Warren’s advice to workers is this: “PPE is not a one-size-fits-all operation, especially safety footwear. Ask questions, share expectations and listen to your safety professionals at your job. Advocate for your own safety.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Facility safety
  • Women’s PPE

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