The guide to choosing safety shoes and boots

Working in the construction, engineering, or trade industries can be hazardous to your feet, so you must wear the proper footwear to keep them safe and protected.

However, determining which type of protection to use can be difficult. Safety footwear is available as boots, shoes, trainers, and even Wellington boots. Depending on your role, each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

So, what is the best protective footwear for you?

What is safety footwear?

Safety shoes are a type of footwear designed to keep your feet safe while performing dangerous tasks. When worn correctly, it significantly reduces the risk of injury across industries. Safety footwear is designed:

  • For use on-site in the engineering industry.

  • For use on-site in the trade sector.

  • For use when porters are moving heavy machinery and trolleys in the healthcare industry.

  • For use by chefs in the catering industry to protect their feet from falling items in the kitchen.

  • For store assistants to wheel cages around the store in the retail sector.

  • When performing DIY tasks at home.

This footwear’s design protects your entire foot, including your toes, sole, and ankle. Safety footwear can protect you from the following hazards:

  • Heavy items that can fall onto your feet

  • Sharp objects that could be stepped on or fall

  • Water, oil or other fluids that could cause slips

  • Electrical shocks

  • High temperatures

What types of safety footwear exist?

The three basic types of safety footwear are boots, shoes, and trainers. Each offers a unique level of security and can be used in various scenarios and settings. There are also safety Wellington boots for more specific outdoor tasks.

To qualify as ‘safety footwear’ in the UK, an item of footwear must conform to EN ISO 20345 standards, which specify the basic standards for safety shoes.

According to EN ISO 20345, safety footwear should protect the wearer from injury caused by objects that are bumped into or pose a risk to the foot by crushing, falling or rolling. In addition, safety footwear should also be designed to protect the wearer from injury by stepping on sharp or pointed objects or those that are extremely hot or cold.

Safety boots

The most common type of safety footwear is safety boots. They are known for their protective toecaps, slip-resistant soles, non-penetrating midsoles, and insulation to keep feet warm or cold. In addition, safety boots frequently have protective reinforcing at the front to increase their durability.

Safety boots typically have a steel or composite plate within the instep and outer sole to provide crush and puncture protection. According to EN ISO standards, this plate must withstand pressures of up to 200 joules.

Safety shoes

Safety shoes are ideal for people who work in warehouses, healthcare, retail, and offices and must occasionally enter potentially hazardous areas as part of their job.

Safety shoes and work trainers, like safety boots, provide protection through steel toe caps or a non-metal composite alternative that makes the shoes lighter.

Safety shoes can help reduce fatigue and be more comfortable to wear all day because they are lighter, less bulky, and often have more padded soles than safety boots. In addition, they are frequently lined with moisture-wicking fabrics to keep your feet dry and warm.

Safety trainers

Safety trainers are a more casual type of safety shoe for those who prefer a more comfortable or fashion-forward fit. Safety trainers’ easy and comfortable appearance makes them ideal for craftsmen and delivery drivers, and they can also be a popular choice for school and university activities.

While more aesthetically pleasing, safety trainers also include steel toe caps or composite toecaps to protect your feet.

Safety Wellies

If you work outside or in wet and rainy conditions, safety Wellington boots are an excellent choice. Wellies are often very easy to clean due to their waterproof nature while still providing the necessary safety features.

Safety Wellington boots are most commonly worn by those who work in agriculture or on wet and muddy construction sites. These safety wellies are simple to put on and take off, and they are reinforced and lined to keep you warm and safe from debris and the elements.

How to find safety footwear that fits

Always check the safety regulations and requirements for the specific task you will be performing before selecting safety footwear to ensure that they are appropriate for the job.

Allow about an inch of space between your toes, and keep your heel firmly in place when wearing safety boots. Check that it isn’t pressing against the back of the boot, as this can cause blisters, and if the pressure is causing you discomfort, you should try a larger size.

After that, you should try on multiple pairs of safety shoes because sizes differ based on the style. Also, keep in mind that your feet expand throughout the day, so try on the shoes at different times.

Always try to replicate professional settings, such as work-like movements, by strolling through a store to acquire a feel for the safety shoes. Also, always put on your work socks when assessing the fit of any safety footwear, as they may differ in thickness from your casual ones.

Finally, ensure that any shoes or boots you purchase are compatible with your work trousers. For example, some work trousers have a slim leg fit which can struggle to accommodate the sleeve or a safety boot, thus making safety shoes or trainers more practical.

Alexandra has a large selection of safety shoes and construction site accessories for tradespeople in the facilities industries. We stock leading safety brands like Dr Martens, Blackrock, and Delta, all of which are designed to meet EN ISO 20345 standards and protect all tradespeople against the daily risks of their roles.

Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.