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Types of Safety Shoe: Choosing the Best Pair

Types of Safety Shoe: Choosing the Best Pair

Trying to find the right pair of shoes is often a difficult task. With literally thousands of available options, narrowing your options down and picking a pair can take a lot longer than we would like. This is especially true when trying to decide what kind of safety footwear to get, as there’s not just the style that’s important to you, it’s also important to consider how they fit and how practical they will be.

When deciding which safety shoes & boots are going to be the best for you should take into consideration the nature of your job, how often you will be wearing them & for how long, and if you have a uniform dress code to adhere to. Whether you’re looking for safety shoes for men or safety shoes for women, there are certain questions that you want to ask while doing your research (again, your preferences will determine their priority):

  • Which safety shoes are the most comfortable
  • Which safety boots are the best for my job position
  • Which is the best safety shoes brand (again, this may be preference)
  • What are good safety shoes (again, this depends on your job role)

This is a good set of guidelines to help you choose your safety boots, and you can add your specific criteria based upon what you want from your pair. We recommend making notes of any pairs that stand out as the most promising options whilst you search, this will prevent you forgetting and help you decide which safety boots ticked the most boxes.

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Types of Safety Shoes & Boots

To make the search for your pair even easier, we have broken down the various categories of safety shoes & boots available on the market.

Composite Safety Shoes & Boots

Composite toe safety shoes & boots are similar to steel toe cap boots but are made of a ‘composite’ material. This style meets the same ANSI standards as a steel toe cap boot. The composite material that is used in place of steel is often created using a combination of plastic, carbon fibre, and Kevlar aramid fibre.

Metatarsal Safety Shoes

Metatarsal safety shoes & boots often look similar to steel toe cap boots and composite safety shoes; however they also include a protective plate covering the metatarsal area of the foot. This area is the upper area of the foot between the bottom of the shin and the toes. Some styles will display this protective plate above the tongue and some will discreetly place it inside. This style can be found for steel toe and composite safety boots.

Protection Ratings

When you’re searching for safety boots for men you’re likely to see protection ratings being applied. There are six possible ratings and here’s what they mean:

Rating Safety Factor
SB Safety basic – toe protection
S1 Antistatic, oil-resistant & energy absorption
S2 Prevents water penetration
S3 Midsole penetration resistance
S4 Leak-proof
S5 Leak-proof with midsole penetration resistance

It’s important to know the above information (or have it to hand!) when looking for your new safety boots. It’s also important to know what you will be using the boots for (if for work then ask what your duties will include).

ESD safety shoe

ESD stands for electrostatic discharge. This style of shoe protects the wearer from transferring a static charge to items that they are in contact with. From a health & safety perspective, these shoes allow the user to safely handle flammable materials without risking the static igniting the material. These are also the best safety shoes for electricians as they prevent a static charge from affecting electrical products that the wearer is handling.

For more information on safety shoe rules & regulations, check out our detailed article.

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Safety Boots for Different Professions & Requirements

Safety Boots for Different Professions & Requirements

Let’s take a look at which style of safety shoes & boots are suitable for different professions. If your job role falls within one of these categories then this should help you speed up the selection process:

Safety Shoes for Truck Drivers

If there is a level of goods movement involved in your driving role, perhaps the use of a forklift or pallet truck, then opt for a steel/composite toe cap style to prevent heavy objects landing/rolling over the toes. This is the basic level of protection you should choose, with the metatarsal safety boot providing extra protection. A boot will be preferential to a shoe as it will provide extra ankle protection. This recommendation of safety boot is the same for all driving roles.

Safety Shoes for Electricians

As mentioned above, if you’re working with electrics in any form then you should be choosing the ESD safety shoe. Reducing the risk of igniting flammable materials and preventing damage to electrical products is vital. If you spend much of your day mobile then a shoe may be a better option, but if you’re around heavy machinery or stationary then a boot is the recommended safety choice for electrical work.

Safety Shoes for Roofers

It’s vital that you protect your toes with a steel/composite toe cap safety boot. If your role involves the moving of heavy objects (roof tiles etc) then you should consider the metatarsal safety boot option to ensure maximum protection at all times.

Safety Shoes for Construction

You will need toe protection at the very minimum for any role in construction sites. Moving heavy materials daily and being located on a work site makes you vulnerable to a huge number of potential accidents. If you can, opt for the metatarsal safety shoe to protect the upper portion of your foot. Avoid safety shoes and select safety boots as this will provide the most protection to the ankle and leg. This style is also the best safety option for mechanics.

Safety Shoes for Engineers

If you have contact with electronic products and static charges during your role then you will require the ESD safety shoes or boots. If you have no contact with these products at any point during your work then the steel/composite toe cap safety boot will suffice. This style of safety boot is also recommended for welding activities.

Safety Shoes for Restaurants

This may not seem like an obvious use for safety shoes but toe protection is very important when in constant contact with sharp objects (knives) and heavy loads (a tray of plates). To fit in with your uniform, the safety shoe is the best option for waiters or those working in the kitchen.

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Safety Shoes vs Boots

Now, the final thing to consider is whether you choose safety shoes or safety boots. We’ve used both terms, and briefly mentioned the differences between them above but let’s provide a closer insight.

The safety shoe is a lighter and often more comfortable option as it allows the leg to ‘breathe’. It is possible to find safety shoes without a steel toe cap, as these can still protect the ankle and side of the foot. If you want a safety shoe with a non-metallic finish for uniform purposes then you’ll find these are available in a large range of options. If you’re asking “what are the lightest safety shoes?” then the option that wins will be that without the steel/composite toe cap; but remember, this provides less protection!

Although safety shoes are the lighter and often more comfortable option, the safety boot provides superior comfort. The safety boot provides more ankle protection and, depending on the style, can provide protection for the lower shin also. This option is heavier but is the recommended option for anybody using heavy machinery, moving heavy loads, or working in a busy construction environment.

The information above will outline what to search for depending on your job role and requirements. This isn’t an exhaustive list though so make sure to come prepared with your own list of ‘must haves’ for your ideal pair of safety shoes or boots. Whichever option you choose, make sure it has enough protection to keep your feet safe at all times.

Now Choose the Safety Shoes for You!

Ready to pick your safety shoes? Now you know the different types, you'll have no problem finding the ones for you…

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