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From Steel Toe to Puncture Resistant, Static Dissipative, Electical Hazard and so on, plus an abundance of comfort features; Safety footwear can have a lot of bells and whistles. Sifting through the saturation of brands, styles (hiker, wellington, 8-inch, etc.) and components and matching them up to your specific work conditions can be daunting. So where do you start and what do you need to consider?


Every work environment is different. Even if you have a specific trade, you may still encounter various work conditions from jobsite to jobsite, building to building, or room to room. So it's important to think about all the areas you and your employees will face when doing required work.

Footwear manufacturers are constantly striving to provide products that meet the need of specific work conditions or industry. A great example of this is the Rocky Elements collection - trade specific boots with distinct features and benefits to accommodate demanding job conditions and duties. Check out the promo video below.

In general, safety footwear is designed to help protect
a worker from at least one of the following hazards:

  1. Falling, rolling and flying
  2. Punctures
  3. Cutting Hazards
  4. Slips, Trips and Falls
  5. Burns
  6. Electrical Harm
  7. Fatigue
  8. Extreme temperatures / weather

The above workplace hazards are pretty basic and probably didn't surprise you. Why? Cause they're common sense. But since accidents are still happening workers must be thinking it's not going to happen to them - and that's probably cause it hasn't happened YET. But bad practices eventually lead to injury so it's best to learn, instruct and enforce wearing the right boot for the job.

Below is a handy chart of some of the more common features available in safety footwear and the benefit of each as well as how it applies to the above hazards and what job or work environment might require it.

Protective Toe - steel, composite, etc. Protects toes from impact and compression Dropped, falling and rolling Most industrial jobs with heavy pipes, bulk rolls, tires, heavy tools or parts, etc.
Steel Plate Puncture resistant - protects sole of foot from sharp penetrating outsole Punctures from nails, glass, scrap metal, needles, etc Construction site, glass factory, mechanic, landfills, recycling center
Metatarsal Guard Protects the metatarsal bones of the foot from impact Dropped, falling and rolling Forklift Driver, Steel
Industry, miner,
Electrical Hazard (EH) Reduces flow of electricity through shoe when exposed to open circuits of 600 volts or less under dry conditions Electrical shock and Electrocution Construction site, Electrician, Lineman, Maintenance, jobs around live electrical conductors
Static Dissipative (SD) Reduces (dissipates) static electricity build-up on body by allowing charge to pass from the body through the shoe to the ground Static shock discharge when touching metal or sensitive electronic equipment Computer technician, manufacturing process that creates static charge, clean rooms, hospitals
Conductive (CD) Conducts static electricity through shoes to the ground eliminating static build-up. Like SD but a faster and more complete discharge for highly sensitive areas Ignition when using or around highly flammable and explosive or volatile materials and vapors Gunpowder Factory, Printing Plant, Blasting Zone, working near exposed and energized circuits
Slip-Resistant Outsole
Outsole compound and tread design that repels oils and liquids to help maintain more surface contact Slips and Falls Plumber, water
treatment plant, oil
and gas industry,
construction site,
Machinist, Mechanic
Slip-Resistant Outsole
Outsole material and tread pattern design allow liquid, grease or chemicals to channel between sole and floor to help prevent hydroplaning Slips and Falls Healthcare, restaurant worker, cruise line, casino or gaming facility, grocery store, hotel maintenance, theme park
Chemical-Resistant Materials resist damage when exposed to chemicals Chemical burns,
Engineer, Landscaping, hazardous waste, chemical plants,
Oil-Resistant Outsole Outsole compound that repels oil to help maintain more surface contact Slips and Falls Oil and gas industry, construction site,
Machinist, Mechanic
Comfort Insoles
and Footbeds
Provides shock absorption, cushion, support breathability Fatigue All jobs
Insulation Provides warmth Frostbite, hypothermia, trench foot, chilblains, numbness All outdoor jobs
Waterproof Provides protection from wet feet Hypothermia, trench foot, decreased skin resistance increases chance of electric shock All jobs around a water source, outdoor jobs, rainy days
Provides rung-ripping traction, rigid arch for support and comfort, debris-releasing design, anti-slip compound Falls from a height All jobs that require ladder usage, large trucks with multiple steps
Shank Provides arch support Fatigue, Arch Pain Working with ladders, on railroad ballasts
Abrasion-Resistant Materials resists wear from continued contact with another surface or tool Machine wear, cutting hazards, quick excessive wear Machine worker, Jackhammer user,
Assembly line worker
Non-Metallic Materials Provides easy passage through metal detectors Metal Detector delay Airport worker, security guard
Materials hold up
under high heat
Flash fires, burns Bureau of Land
Management, Oil and gas operations
Dirt-Releasing Outsole No clogging of outsole which reduces traction Falls due to loss of traction All Outdoor workers

Certain safety features can be offered in more then one way. For example, current options of safety toe materials are steel, composite, alloy or fiber. For the differences between Steel and Composite Toe see our article Steel Toe vs. Composite Toe. Waterproofing and Insulation can be provided by different branded systems as well. Check out our Product Features and Technologies page for a great comparison list.


Buying the right safety footwear for the job can be overwhelming - especially if you are responsible for doing it for a large number of employees or making sure they purchase on their own. A comprehensive Safety Footwear Program like CustomFit can help alleviate that stress. If you have any questions or would like help figuring out the best safety boots for your specific work environments, please CONTACT US today through one of our many service options.

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