Everything You Need to Know About Steel Toe Shoes
Let’s give a quick round of applause for our toes – without them, we wouldn’t be standing or walking the way we do today. Our feet wouldn’t be able to support our body weight, and our sense of balance would disappear immediately. Life as we know it would change drastically, and it wouldn’t change for the better!
With that said, the toes aren’t the first body part we think to protect when getting dressed in the morning – but they should be. They’re some of the most vulnerable and fragile bones in the human body, so we should be doing whatever possible to keep our toes healthy, strong, protected, and out of harm’s way.
Just think about the last time you stubbed your toe or dropped something heavy on the top of your foot – the pain won’t last forever, but it’s excruciating in that moment and can truly put a damper on anyone’s day. Don’t worry – moments like those are 100% avoidable when the proper precautions are taken.
What Are Steel Toe Shoes?
Steel-toe shoes are the gold standard for protective footwear and safety toe shoes. They’re designed with a steel capping over the toes to reinforce the area and provide protection from heavy falling objects – making them a reliable and preferred option for those who work in warehouses with heavy machinery.
Regular shoes are flimsy and unstable over the toe area – since there’s nothing reinforcing this area, your toes are one step away from a potential tragedy. It doesn’t matter if you stub your toe while walking or if something falls on top of your toes while standing, there’s nothing protecting your toes from a disaster.
Of course, none of this is a concern when wearing steel-toe boots or shoes. That’s why employers around the world require their employees to wear protective footwear when working in dangerous, hazardous, or high-risk environments – it’s an investment, but an investment that makes all the difference in the world.
Pros and Cons of Steel Toe Shoes
Steel-toe boots are a no-brainer in most situations, but not everyone is on board with them – in fact, some people will do whatever they can to avoid having to wear them. In the interest of full transparency, let’s take a look at some of the most prominent advantages and disadvantages of wearing steel-toe shoes.
First, let’s take a look at the pros of wearing steel-toe shoes or boots:
- Protects the toes from falling objects
- Protects the toes from punctures or cutting hazards
- Steel-toe shoes are usually slip-resistant
- Usually designed to protect from electrical hazards
- Comply with OSHA standards, when applicable
- Less foot and toe injuries in the workplace
- Less expensive than composite toe shoes
- Available in a wide range of styles and color options
Next, let’s take a look at the cons of wearing steel-toe shoes or boots:
- Much heavier than other men's safety toe boots
- The steel toe will set off metal detectors
- Not the most comfortable shoe to wear for long periods
- Not designed for hot weather and extreme temperatures
There’s a longstanding myth about steel-toe shoes that says if something heavy enough were to fall onto the toe, the steel would curl in and cut off your toes. This, of course, has been debunked and is nothing more than a myth – steel-toe boots won’t cut your toes off and are designed to withstand heavy impact.
When & Where to Use Steel Toe Boots
Steel-toe shoes are a luxury no matter what line of work you’re in, but they’re also mandated and required in certain work environments. For example, some employers require employees to wear safety shoes in PPE-designated areas, and even OSHA has strict guidelines that employers and workers must follow.
At the end of the day, steel-toe shoes should be worn in any environment that exposes a worker to heavy items, falling objects, large and movable machinery, sharp materials or tools, and/or slippery floors. Most employers will post a warning sign in areas that have been designated as PPE areas, so keep an eye out!
Other Types of Safety Shoes for Work
Steel-toe boots are one of the most popular types of safety toe shoes in the world – there’s a reason so many people swear by them. With that said, the industry for protective footwear continues to grow more robust as we identify new materials, manufacturing methods, and new features to enhance performance.
Let’s take a look at some of the other types of work and safety shoes available today:
- Composite Toe Shoes - instead of the toe cap being made out of steel, the toe cap is made of non-metal materials (Kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic, fiberglass, etc.).
- Alloy Toe Shoes - instead of the toe cap being made of steel, the toe cap is made of lightweight materials (Silicon, Iron, Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, Chromium, Zinc, and Titanium).
- Electrical Hazard Protection Shoes - these protective shoes feature shock-resistant soles and heels to withstand 18,000 volts or 60 Hertz for up to one minute.
- Moisture Protection Shoes - these protective shoes are either waterproof or water-resistant to ensure your feet remain dry throughout your workday.
While steel-toe shoes are the gold standard, that doesn’t mean they’re suitable for everyone. You’ll have to consider the type of environment you work in and the types of hazards you’ll be exposed to on a regular basis – once you identify that, you’ll have a better understanding of what type of shoe you need.
Promoting Safety & Compliance in the Workplace
There’s nothing more important than ensuring your employees and guests are safe and out of harm’s way. Not only should employers determine which areas of their business are designated as PPE areas, but they should make sure those areas are well-documented with the proper signage and warnings.
Businesses should also make sure they’re complying with ADA requirements with the signage throughout their facility. Don’t worry, our team at ADA Central can help you figure out what types of signs you need, where you need them, what they need to say, and how to design them. Contact us today to learn more!