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Best work boots | A guide to selecting work boots

selecting work boots
Selecting the right boot can minimise a world of back, knee, ankle and foot pain

If you’re trying to find the best work boots for the job it can be a daunting task. There are literally hundreds of different models on the market to choose from and many offer a range of features and benefits specifically designed for specific tasks and hazards. It’s fair to say that it can be confusing…even for the professionals. We have prepared a range of information to assist you in making the best decision when selecting the right work boots.

What is the key function of a work boot?

Ultimately a work boot should be designed to protect your foot from a range of hazards that you may be exposed to in undertaking your work. These hazards might include falling or impacting objects, corrosive materials, penetrating injuries from sharp objects, cut related injuries, electrical hazards, molten metals and hot surfaces, water and wet conditions and last but certainly not least, musculoskeletal injuries.

It is therefore critical that the selection of a work boot should be based on the hazard and risk level that you may be exposed to in your job.

Every industry (including mining) requires work boots designed to protect against specific hazards. For example, work boots with toe protection are required for jobs where the danger of heavy objects dropping on your feet is of concern. Heat-resistant soles may be required to protect your feet against hot surfaces. Electrically conductive work boots may protect against the buildup of static electricity to mitigate the risk of a spark resulting in a fire or explosion risk. Slip-resistant soles may vary according to walking surfaces encountered.

Selecting the right boot

A requirement under work health and safety legislation exists that requires that your employer assess and quantify the risks for specific tasks. Employers must chose a range of control measures to remove or mitigate the effects of hazards when selecting the right work boot. Personal protective equipment is one of those control measures albeit, the lowest in the hierarchy of safety-related controls.

Your employer should be able to provide guidance in the selection of the appropriate work boot for the job and tasks at hand. A site safety professional or external consultant may conduct this task assessment with members of the workforce to objectively determine specific footwear requirements under legislation or existing standards.

Ultimately, you will be the person who will be wearing the boot every day so while there may be minimum standards of compliance, the boot still should meet your personal comfort level and that’s where it can become difficult for employers. Employers who have a mature approach to safety footwear provide a broad selection of brands and comfort fitting levels for employees.

Personal comfort can be somewhat subjective but ultimately foot, lower back, knee and ankle pain may result from work boots that are not meeting comfort levels. Worse still, ongoing sore feet or pressure blisters can lead to reduced productivity and potential compensation related claims.

What standards apply to work boots?

All work boots sold in Australia must pass the general requirements of Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2210 however there are classes of safety footwear that might apply when selecting work boots. There is also a range of performance characteristics within each of the test requirements (an important one to think about – meaning that while all boots might meet the standard, their individual performance in a test may vary significantly).

AS/NZS 2210.2 is a specification for occupational protective footwear; AS/NZS 2210.3 is a specification for safety footwear with an impact rating of up to 200 joules; AS/NZS 2210.4 is a specification for safety footwear with an impact rating of up to 100 joules; and AS/NZS 2210.5 is a specification for occupational footwear without toecaps.

Of course many manufacturers of work boots certified to International and European Safety Footwear Certification EN ISO 20345 as well as American Safety Footwear Certification ASTM F2413.

Still sounds confusing? Your safety footwear supplier will have a good idea of the requirements that might apply to you.

How can you make sure your work boots are right?

There are a few things that you can do to make sure your work boots are right and ready for the job.

Firstly, after you know that they do the job of protecting you from the hazard, get them fitted for your feet by someone who knows what they’re doing. Many people chose oversized work boots to get the width right and end up with lower back, knee and ankle pain in the longer term.

Secondly, try and wear good quality work socks and change them every day to prevent moisture buildup.

Finally, if they’re still not right after a week on the job…they’re not the right boots for you. A good work boot should be comfortable from day one and shouldn’t need weeks of getting your feet used to them.

By making sure that your work boots are comfortable, you can prevent long term foot related conditions and increase your productivity on the job. Choosing a good quality, well-fitted work boot can really help you reduce fatigue and protect against the long term effects of knee and joint pain.

Safety footwear has changed

Many leading work boot and safety footwear suppliers have put the ‘high tech’ into the traditional work boot. By researching and understanding the biodynamic impact of designs, suppliers have broadened their range of features to offer functionality in style, increased levels of comfort, shock absorption characteristics (not dissimilar to sporting shoes), lightweight designs, flexibility of soles that enable workers to bend down on uneven surfaces, quality leather uppers that prevent cuts and piercing, non-chafing linings, and a range of metatarsal guards over the instep of the foot.

Selecting the right work boot is as important as selecting the tools you need for the job. Take time and understand the requirements of the job, the standards needed to protect your feet from the hazards of the job but most importantly find a boot that is comfortable from the outset. You’ll be glad you did!

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