Three main categories to keep in mind while shopping for winter safety footwear include: waterproofing, warmth and comfort.
Waterproofing is paramount for comfort and stability in the winter months. Most waterproof boots are constructed with a waterproof leather and moisture barrier liner that helps to improve breathability, allowing sweat and moisture out but keeping outside moisture from coming in. GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane is a common addition for many footwear brands when it comes to water protection. Another option would be more proprietary technologies specific to certain brands.
Welt construction is generally preferred for waterproof boots. Most often you will see boots utilizing a Goodyear® Welt Construction known for its longevity and durability. The welt construction provides durability for footwear as the upper and inner soles are stitched together with a leather strip or ‘welt’. The sole is then stitched through the welt. This process allows boots to be re-soled or repaired, thus extending the longevity of the footwear.
It is also important to maintain and condition your boots for a longer performance life. Treat leather with mink oil or leather treatments to keep materials supple and resistant to water. Store your boots in a clean, dry place to reduce odors and preserve the leather.
Even if precipitation is at bay, freezing temperatures can be extremely hazardous to extremities. Steel toes are the traditional choice for protective toecaps but are also the heaviest and transfer heat and cold. While your feet aren’t exposed to the steel insert, steel toes can conduct temperature, often making toes feel colder. Aluminum toes are a lightweight toe protection option, but again can transfer temperatures.
Composite toes are often a preference in the chilly winter months. They are typically comprised of carbon fiber, plastic or Kevlar. Lighter than steel toes and in compliance with ANSI/ASTM safety requirements, they are the thickest option for a safety-toe and therefore have a more pronounced silhouette than their steel or aluminum counterparts. Composite toes do not transfer cold or heat and are non-metallic, ensuring toes stay warmer in the colder months. Additionally, they offer a great safety option for workers passing through metal detectors or working in an environment that needs to stay metal-free.
Insulation in boots can also impact foot warmth and comfort. Many footwear companies design proprietary insulation technology to meet the needs of their customers and their designs. Thinsulate™, produced by 3M™, is a popular insulation that is thinner than most polyester fiber linings. Its effectiveness comes from the increased density of fibers compared with more traditional insulation. As with most insulation, the space between fibers not only reduces the flow of air, but also allows moisture to escape. An eco-conscious lightweight and durable insulation made of charcoal and bamboo is also available that provides warmth across a range in temperatures. Remember, the higher the gram rating, the warmer the boot. A thermal heat shield footbed can also be beneficial in the colder months. The multilayer footbed captures warmth while providing comfort and support. Having a clear idea of the demands of the worksite and temperature range will help make the decision of insulation levels easier.
Following a few simple suggestions when shopping for work boots can make a huge difference in comfort. Feet tend to swell throughout the day, so shop in the afternoon or early evening when your feet are at their largest. Bring a pair of typical socks that you might wear to work to better understand how your boots will fit.
Socks made of moisture-wicking materials like merino wool can help keep feet dry while staying warm. Merino wool is a natural fiber that offers both moisture wicking and odor-management benefits. It is extremely soft and a great option for sensitive skin. Breathable and highly absorbent, merino wool pulls moisture away from the feet, helping to keep feet dry and reduce irritations and blisters.
Today’s work socks utilize innovative performance and comfort features including toe and heel pads to help relieve pressure where feet feel it most. Comfort seams, reinforced arches and a variety of other design additions make a good pair of socks the perfect partner for work boots.
Brands today incorporate many comfort features. Anti-microbial insoles, lighter, more asymmetrical steel-toes, additional padding, and other modern comfort features all go into making a pair of boots that will still feel as comfortable when you take them off as when you put them on.