While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) does require the use of protective footwear when working under risky conditions, I’ve also heard some pretty gruesome testimonies about steel toe work boots actually being more dangerous than regular, soft toe ones.
Picture this: You’re working in a tractor factory, when a 1000 lb chunk accidentally falls on your foot. The steel insert in your work boots, instead of deflecting the weight, yields to the pressure and curls in — cutting off your toes. In that case, the very piece of steel that’s supposed to protect your foot ironically becomes the cause of more injury.
The Verdict: Are Steel Toe Work Boots Still Advisable?
In search of a reasonable answer to this question, I surveyed both the testimonials of steel toe work boot horrors and actual experiments done to prove or disprove the reported dangers of wearing steel toe shoes. All things considered, more evidences still show that wearing steel-toed boots is a better bet than wearing regular boots. For instance, an arbor press test showed that the steel-toed shoe was able to withstand 6000 lbs of pressure before total failure, while the regular boot failed at about 1200 lbs.
As for the cited testimonies of amputation due to injury while wearing steel toe work boots, one could see that considering the degree of injury, there would still be amputation regardless of the type of boot used. As one argument rightly pointed out, all protective equipment has limitations, and severe injury should be avoided by better engineering controls and not merely by depending on protective footwear.
How to Choose the Right Boots for You
For maximum protection, and comfort, look for the following key features when buying steel toe work boots.
First, check for durable leather construction. The best ones are made of full-grain leather, which has the most fiber strength and durability and also allows for more breath-ability.
Also, look for boots that not only protect the top of your feet, but also the soles. Anti-skid, lightweight, rubber soles that are resistant to slips and punctures are ideal.
As for the inside of the shoes, look for padded insoles that absorb shock and water resistant linings that can keep your feet dry.
Most importantly, ensure that you get a pair of boots in the right size. Buy boots that aren’t too snugly fit. This will allow space for both air to circulate and for the swelling that typically occurs when you spend all day on your feet.
Keep in mind that you are the one in the best position to ensure your own safety. Now that you know what makes the best pair of steel-toed boots, you are better equipped to make informed choices. Steel toe work shoes are not a fail-safe guarantee against injury, but they are among the first steps.