With the influx of new generations of workers, advances in materials science and mounting regulation and litigation on worker safety, the future of industrial footwear is changing. Prognosticating the safety culture of tomorrow, here are five industry predictions on safety footwear between now and 2020:
1) Lighten up, but Have Purpose – Generally speaking, lighter and more breathable materials are in high demand with no immediate signs of letting up. Today’s industrial footwear manufacturers are wrestling with how to use lightweight textiles while continuing to have their products hold up. The market eventually will focus on the balance between lightweight and traditional materials to ensure products are able to withstand harsh work environments.
2) Greater Consideration of the “Toe Package” – Safety professionals are learning that non-metallic toe footwear meets the same ASTM standards as traditional steel-toe products. In reality, the decision to include or not include a metallic toe is usually driven by a functional need based on the footwear’s intended environment, which may significantly affect the desired shape, weight and heat/cold transfer properties of the product.
3) Environment-Specific Footwear – Workers across several industries used to lace up the same pair of boots each day, resulting in the ubiquitous term “work boot.” Increasingly, new materials technology and engineering ingenuity are creating an array of features that can offer enhanced flexibility, stability and performance for work environments with very unique and specific needs. A new product for workers in the food and beverage processing industry uses injected polyurethane boots combined with waterproof construction a urethane sole for slip resistance, thermal properties to stay warm in refrigerated conditions, a special chevron sole with wide channels for easy cleaning, an antimicrobial liner and varying colors to prevent cross-contamination of materials from one part of a plant to another.
4) Female-Friendly Footwear – Many personal protective equipment (PPE) options, including footwear, have been sold as unisex or universal fit for years, providing women smaller sizes of footwear made for men. As women comprise more of the industrial workplace and encounter sizing and safety hazard issues, the industry is moving from a “shrink it and pink it” mentality to offering new products specifically designed for women with fit and comfort in mind.
5) The Appeal of “Brick and Mortar” – The popularity and capabilities associated with e-commerce continues to grow dramatically, yet when it comes to industrial footwear, many workers still prefer the traditional experience of trying on boots for themselves and receiving 1:1 customer service to ensure the selection best protects and fits. With demand for convenient, personalized service growing, physical stores are regaining favor and on-site mobile shoe stores allowing skilled workers specialized fittings and trials right on the jobsite are also very popular.
Source: Red Wing Shoe s www.redwingshoes.com.