The future of employee safety requires a more holistic point of view. Today, when thinking about safety footwear, it is essential to consider comfort and fit along with protection against common hazards like slips, trips, falls and puncture wounds. After all, uncomfortable footwear can also increase the rate of injury or cause injury itself. Extreme fatigue, blisters, shin splits and more can be detrimental to worker productivity and job satisfaction just like other more commonly thought of injuries.

Fortunately, recent innovations in safety footwear leverage new materials and development methods for added options that work well in fit, form and function. Above all, innovative safety footwear is now lighter than ever while remaining tough. Below is an overview of advancements in safety footwear to consider in addition to the normal specifying criteria.

Material impact

New, innovative materials have played a significant role in the creation of safety footwear that is lighter than ever before yet performs well under tough conditions. One such change is the use of non-metallic safety toe caps. Laboratory and field trials show that non-metallic toe caps can meet the same safety standards as steel toe caps without the extra weight and bulk, allowing for more comfort and different footwear profiles. Lightweight outsole materials that offer superior traction are another example and are being applied to safety footwear with exciting slip resistance results.

More breathable components are also helping to improve safety footwear. For example, new cooling textiles are being used as lining in shoes and boots to make a long day on the job more comfortable for workers in warmer climates or hot work environments. On the opposite end, freezing temperatures require insulation, and paper-thin aluminum technology that reflects and retains body heat is being implemented in some modern safety footwear styles, adding warmth without the bulk of traditional insulation materials.

Fit for work

It can be difficult to achieve safety performance and better wellbeing if your employees are wearing improperly fitted footwear. The right size and width of a work boot can help ensure all-day comfort and help minimize the chances of jobsite injury. 

Working with a footwear partner that properly trains all associates to understand how to properly fit for not only length but also width goes a long way to ensuring the right fit for each individual. In addition to more traditional fitting methods, new technologies can provide revealing and indispensable data to offer a custom fit including the unique size, shape, arch height and pressure points on each foot.

It is also important to look at gender-specific footwear design, because women’s and men’s feet are shaped differently. Progressive footwear manufacturers are closely examining the differences and introducing purpose-built options made using gender-specific lasts or women’s specific patterns to ensure the best fit possible. Having the right footwear selection that considers all employees fosters safety, comfort and inclusivity.  

Footwear for the next generation

Boundaries are blurring for today’s and tomorrow’s workers. Not only do they expect safety and comfort, they seek style and versatility as well as the ability to select their PPE in-person and online, as they would make any other consumer goods purchase. 

With modern technology work boots don’t always need to look like traditional work boots. New, low-profile products that look like stylish sneakers but include important features like toe protection are increasingly common. These options not only meet jobsite safety standards but allow for an easy transition from work to everyday activities.

Finally, the right footwear partner can meet workers where they are – whether that’s through in-store retail locations, onsite mobile trucks or online, all with trained and knowledgeable personnel who understand the importance of safety, proper fit and satisfaction to equip any worker with the right work boot for the job.

It’s an exciting time for workers who need to wear safety footwear. Understanding and adopting the latest innovations will support selecting footwear that keeps employee’s safe and comfortable to do their best work. Afterall, footwear is extremely personal for workers and worn for long hours at a time. Now is a great time to take advantage of new innovations that will greatly support employee safety, comfort and overall wellness.