As North America emerges from the height of the pandemic, we are experiencing an uptick in the construction and manufacturing industries. Projects put on hold are getting the green light, and workers are going back to work. With this recovery, tradespeople are investing in the tools they need on the job, and getting the right pair of work boots is essential for all-day comfort and safety purposes.
Work brands such as The Original Muck Boot Company, XTRATUF and Servus offer a broad assortment of footwear options for construction and manufacturing industries. But what key features should you look for when finding footwear for the job?
Footwear is critical to a productive, safe and comfortable day at work. Specific features can help you avoid injuries while on the job, especially when you are on your feet for long periods.
Fit can be the most important consideration. No matter the quality of materials or design excellence, a boot that does not match your foot’s shape will be uncomfortable and not allow you to work to your potential. Things to consider when looking for a boot:
- Do your toes have room to move?
- Is there noticeable heel slippage?
- Are the lining materials rough or have heavy seams that could rub?
- Does the insole have too much or too little structure?
Once you find a boot or shoe that fits properly, it will be crucial to factor in the protective elements you need.
Slip resistance is an essential part of staying safe on the job and something all workers should consider. The challenge for many workers in selecting appropriate slip-resistant work boots is determining what level or rating of slip resistance is required for their specific needs.
Many products will say they are slip-resistant or call out slip resistance ratings as “fair,” “good,” or use another subjective term. If you are genuinely looking for footwear to be compliant with a Slip Hazard Assessment Plan, it is crucial to review the manufacturer’s actual slip scores in the standardized tests.
The current standard for slip-resistant testing is the SATRA, a whole shoe test. Older tests were designed to test the floor, not the shoe, and are considered obsolete. We suggest looking for a minimum of an SRA-rated outsole and selecting an SRC slip-rated outsole when superior slip-resistance is required. If an outsole has a passing score on the Slip Resistance A test – soapy water on quarry tile -- it can be labeled SRA.
If an outsole has a passing score on the Slip Resistance B test – glycerol on stainless steel -- it can be labeled SRB. If it passes both tests, it can be labeled as SRC.
Safety Toe, Plate & Met Guards
While Composite or Carbon fiber toes might sometimes be perceived as superior to steel or alloy toes because those materials are more modern, that does not mean they have superior safety attributes. As with most things, they present the consumer with additional options for wear that depend upon the environment in which they work.
The test for toe protection is pass/fail, so one cannot claim to be ultimately superior to another. While the tests for CSA and ASTM differ slightly, generally, any safety toe that passes one test will pass the other. Following is a list of safety toe options and their benefits.
- Composite Fiberglass/Carbon Fiber are non-metallic fibers suspended in a plastic resin. The main benefit of these non-metallic toes is that they conduct heat and cold more slowly and don’t have a magnetic signature. As such, workers in cold environments or those concerned with magnetic signature – security, nuclear power plants, smelters, and MRI machines - will choose this option.
- Aluminum Alloy Toes are generally non-magnetic and suitable for security and are the lightest weight of the three generally available toes.
- Steel Toes are also available, but there may be some question as to why someone would choose a steel toe when more advanced, lighter compounds are known. The weight difference between steel and the alternatives is about 45 grams – about eight quarters. Significant in your hand, but in context of the footwear, worth considering in a sneaker or a shoe, but less of a concern in a logger or a 10” welted pull on.
Similarly, there are options in underfoot plates, with different materials dependent on occupational needs.
- Non-Metallic plates are similar to composite toes. These are non-metallic fiberboards that protect without metal, so workers concerned about magnetics should start here.
- Steel Plates are ideal for waste management workers and environments with many nails, brads or needles. Over time, thinner nails can slowly work through the fiberboards, whereas steel is more secure.
Waterproof & Weatherproof
Waterproof footwear is nice to have, but if you perspire a lot, you may have dampness in your boots from your sweat before any outside water would have penetrated.
Bagged products cost more than seam-sealed but tend to last longer and protect the foot more if you sweat. In year-round construction, weatherproof design is very important. Choosing a boot from The Original Muck Boot Company is 100 percent waterproof, and many styles also include moisture management technology and insulation for cold weather workdays.
There are different types of waterproof material. Rubber and PVC are high-performance materials that have many applications in work boots. However, due to their signature chemical nature, they respond differently to compounds found in the workplace.
Neoprene refers to a family of synthetic rubber that can be used in liquid and foamed executions. The liquid form is used in the XTRATUF line, where boots are dipped in liquid neoprene and then vulcanized. This results in a flexible upper with no exposed seams. The neoprene can also be foamed with a blowing agent resulting in a material used in wet suits. The benefit of this foamed version is that it is naturally insulating and cushioning.
Footwear is an essential piece of equipment for workers to stay safe and comfortable while on the job. The Rocky Brands family of industrial work footwear offers options ideal for the manufacturing and construction industries.
From a 6-inch steel toe Chore boot from our Muck line to Muck tall Chore Max and Chore Cool ranges of workboots, each style offers the performance and safety features necessary for the job site.
Depending upon the job at hand, brother brand XTRATUF, the leader in the marine space, also offers steel toe solutions. At the same time, SERVUS boots are ideal for food processing and manufacturing jobs. Rocky Brands offers a vast family of brands to choose from based on the job at hand.