Those working in any industrial environment have come to realize that steel toe boots are a requirement just as basic as safety glasses themselves. Sliding into those Ariats or Red Wings is as second nature as grabbing that favorite travel mug of coffee for the ride into work.
There is more to it, however, than just hitting your local retailer for a pair of “steel toes.” Instead, some thought must be given to the purchase. A variety of factors should influence the purchase, and they should be given the same consideration as purchasing a tool. After all, “steel toes” serve as a tool themselves.
How they feel should be a major concern. You’re going to be wearing them nonstop for 8 to 12 hours. A twelve-hour workday in an uncomfortable pair of shoes is downright miserable and can lead to injury. Take the time and try on several variations of “steel toes” when committing to the purchase. They come in different sizes and styles. The wearer can certainly find something appealing to the feet. A cushioned sole can carry the weight throughout the day. They’re available in different sole technologies that can lift and support the arch, pad the heel, and even lessen the blow to the feet upon contacting the earth. Trying them on and demonstrating new “steel toes” can assist in making the correct purchase.
Proper consideration should be given to the type of work conducted. While a steel toe shoe can provide adequate support for those working in an office environment with limited trips made into a manufacturing facility, a boot can provide additional support for those commanding untamed earth and working environments.
For those walking around on uneven ground, littered with rock and other hazardous debris, a good steel toe boot can support the foot and ankle and help to avoid twisting and muscle strain. A lace-up boot that encompasses the shin can be tightly fastened to lock the foot, ankle and shin as one unit. A slip-on variation might be needed instead to provide protection of the upper leg. While these provide added leg protection, the ankle claims the ability to twist and move. Depending on the type of work being conducted, the benefits of the slip-on might outweigh the lace-up and vice versa.
Other considerations should be made when purchasing a steel toe boot. Everyone has heard the “quarter-inch heel” speech, but it is doubtful that many truly understand this concept. Many areas of work specify that a quarter-inch heel is a requirement. This is to restrict slipping.
A prime example is found in climbing ladders. Workers wearing steel toe boots with a quarter-inch heel receive additional protection whether they realize it or not. As the foot is applied to each rung of a ladder, it slides forward. The quarter-inch definition of the heel serves as a locking mechanism. The foot slides forward, but the height difference in the heel locks or catches the front of the rung. This prevents the foot from sliding forward off the rung, causing a fall from a ladder.
This same technology assists in climbing stairs as the heel locks the riser or face of the stair tread. The quarter-inch heel definition additionally serves the employee as he navigates uneven earth. The height variation from heel to toe can cause a locking action on ruts and uneven ground.
While comfort and fit are paramount, some job requirements might dictate the purchase. Those working in areas where chemicals and fluids can spill will more than likely be directed to wear steel toe boots with non-slip soles. Selections might be slightly limited but will be driven by the requirement.
Employees working with high voltage electricity will be directed to wear boots with shockproof soles. As with non-slip soles, job requirements will specify the selection and limitations may be experienced. It is crucial that all factors are considered when making the decision.
Dropping the Dollars
The best advice followed in purchasing your pair of trusty “steel toes” is to take the time to make a responsible purchase and commit to spending more money than you would like. Your feet deserve pampering. Remember, steel toe boots are just another tool and should be considered an investment.
Prior to making the purchase, make sure you have the right information at hand so the correct purchase is made. Consult with managers and peers and ask if they have a recommendation. You can learn what to wear and what not to wear based on someone else’s previous pain experience.
Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 Nick@shalemag.com