Even if you’re not in an industry where you need to worry about your boots meeting OSHA standards, knowing what OSHA is and what they do is a good way to judge whether a pair of boots is going to protect your feet.
Some work boot safety features that can meet OSHA requirements are:
Puncture Resistant Soles
Impact / Compression / Crushing
Slip / Oil Resistant Soles
Electrical Hazard (EH)
What are Work Boots Made From?
Work boots are made out of durable and study materials designed to handle work and and weather.
Work shoes can be made from a number of materials, but they are most frequently made with full-grain leather uppers.
This is the part of the boot that starts at the top down to where it meets the outsole.
Nylon and rubber are also used to construct the upper.
However, it’s widely accepted that full-grain leather is the material of choice for most companies making work boots.
The tanning process for leather results in a naturally water-resistant material.
Additional processes by manufacturers can upgrade your boot material from water-resistant to waterproof.
What may also surprise you is that ‘soft toe‘ boots exist that offer no toe protection.
We wont go into the detail in this article but they can also be classified as a safety shoe.
Outsoles are responsible for fighting back against the conditions you’re working in.
The outsoles of work boots, commonly referred to as simply “soles,” do way more than touch the ground. Modern outsoles can feature a number of resistance offerings that keep you safe no matter where you’re working
Slip resistance outsoles keep you on your feet and off your rear end.
There are two aspects of slip resistance.
The first is achieved by constructing outsoles with a softer rubber that allows for more traction and friction when they make contact with the ground. This is helpful when walking on smooth surfaces like polished concrete and tile.
The second is by creating a lug pattern (the notches) that allow for the boot to grip. This is helpful on both rough and smooth surfaces.
Slip resistance is something required by OSHA in almost all of its domains. This includes places that you might not initially consider like restaurants and hospitals, in addition to places you would expect, like factories and construction sites.
Electrical Hazard (EH) Resistance
EH resistance limits the shock to your body when accidentally making contact with a hot wire. I say shock in the figurative and literal sense.
EH resistance is another feature found in the outsoles of some work boots. Probably not something you need to work in the garden, but there are definitely instances in which a hidden wire can appear and you’ll be better off in EH resistant outsoles than to be without them.
Heat and Chemical Resistance
Heat and Chemical resistant outsoles stand strong in cases where normal outsoles would melt away.
For people that come in contact with high temperatures or dangerous chemicals, this is a feature that’s well worth the price.
Burns can take you out of work for a long time while you heal. It doesn’t matter either from heat or corrosive chemicals.
Insulated work boots allow you to spend extended periods in cold weather without discomfort or damage to your feet.
Insulation is nothing specific to work boots, every person on earth is likely to have some piece of clothing that’s insulated.
That said, if you live in a climate that can get cold, or even brisk, look into grabbing a pair of insulated work boots so your feet stay warm throughout whatever task you’re handling.
If you’re looking to purchase an insulated boot, technology such as Thinsulate by 3M is a good example.
Puncture resistant boots create a shield between the sole of your foot and anything that could pierce it.
On a job in heavy industry or construction, it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when you’ll step on something sharp that will pierce your outsoles.
For this reason, many boots offer puncture resistant midsoles that stop sharp objects before they reach your foot.
It’s one of the most notable features that distinguish work boots from other types of boots.
One of the key differences between the shoe you wear everyday and your safety boot is their ability to take a battering.
Work boots are meant to be tough.
They need to not only be comfortable, but be resilient in a number of really harsh conditions.
Work Boots at Work, Work Boots at Home
You don’t realize you need work boots until the moment of injury.
Accidents happen and when someone isn’t wearing work boots (like my experience this summer), it’s only luck that’s the difference between nothing and potentially life-changing injuries.
There’s nothing quite like the moment you realize your life would have changed for the worse if it wasn’t for the boots you were wearing.
Speak with anyone wearing safety shoes that’s been on the receiving end of an average lawn mower or weed wacker, they’ll tell you just how happy they were to be wearing work boots that day.
Whether your job requires it or you’re just learning about an unfamiliar product, work boots are a good investment.