Whether you work on an oil rig, construction site, or in a factory, work boots are one of the most important types of protective wear you can purchase. Not all work boots are created equal, so you should take the time to compare several different pairs before making a decision. Here are some important safety features to look for when buying work boots.
Toe protection is the first thing that most people will look for when buying work boots. Steel-toed boots are the traditional option, but there are other materials that are used to make toe guards that have their merits as well. Workers who are looking for lightweight protection may choose to buy boots with aluminum toe guards instead. Aluminum guards are lighter and thicker than steel guards, improving your mobility without sacrificing protection.
Some work boots have toe guards that are made from a composite material rather than metal. Carbon fiber and Kevlar are the most common alternatives to steel or aluminum. Like aluminum, composite toe guards are lightweight, but they are also more suitable for workplaces where having metal on your person is inconvenient or is not permitted. For example, composite toe guards will not trigger metal detectors that many workers have to walk through on a daily basis.
Your toes aren't the only part of the foot that can be injured by falling objects. For the ultimate in impact protection, you should look for work boots that feature metatarsal shields to protect the bones in the top of your foot. In some cases, metatarsal shields are nothing more than elongated toe guards on the inside of the boots. Other designs have metatarsal shields on the outsides of the boots that cover all but the top row of laces, which are laced through the shield itself.
Protecting the bottoms of your feet from sharp objects is just as important as protecting them from falling objects. Some work boots have puncture plates installed below the insoles that resist nails, rubble, and other materials that could pierce even the thickest rubber outsoles. Like toe guards, puncture plates can be made from steel, aluminum, or composite materials.
Falling down in a hazardous workplace can lead to much more severe injuries than a broken foot. In one respect, the outsoles are the most important part of any pair of work boots, as they are responsible for maintaining traction on ladders, scaffolding, and slippery or uneven terrain.
Work boot outsoles are made from a number of materials, each suited to particular applications. Traditional rubber outsoles are still in common use because of their excellent grip strength. Workers in environments where chemical exposure is common will benefit from thermoplastic polyurethane soles that are highly resistant to corrosion and chemical permeation.
No matter how many safety features are included, boots that are uncomfortable can be a hazard of their own. Boots that fit poorly can lead to blisters, bunions, and chronic foot pain when worn on a daily basis. Uncomfortable work boots can also be a distraction that leads to unnecessary injury if your job requires constant focus.
Comfort features to look for in work boots include air cushion or memory foam insoles, padded collars, and moisture wicking to draw perspiration away from the skin. Water-resistant and insulated work boots are essential for working in wet and/or cold environments.
Choosing the right work boots involves more than finding a pair with steel toes. Keep these tips in mind when looking for new work boots so you can find the pair that is best suited for your safety needs.