The 4 Most Important Features of Work Shoes Explained

Posted June 6, 2022 by in Career

Safety shoes are required by law and can protect workers, yes, but that’s not why you wear them. This modest item of your work attire, believe it or not, can save your limbs and perhaps your life. To avoid mishaps, anyone working with heavy machinery, hazardous materials, or chemicals should wear the appropriate safety shoes. 

Fortunately, we now have tight laws surrounding safety shoes, and they are considerably more comfortable to wear, which means we can move more freely, and we can do our tasks better and with less strain. Today, there is also a large selection of work shoes for women and men, so you only need to learn how to choose the best pair for yourself.

And that’s what this article will do – we will help you learn about the 4 most important safety features of work shoes. By the end, you should have no trouble understanding the ratings and what kind of protection you need. Let’s get started.

Safety Ratings

There are eight levels of protection provided for safety shoes. Those are SB, SBP, S1, S1P, S2, S3, S4, and S5.

Remember that additional features can be added to all of these types of working shoes, which are always labeled with additional symbols (example, ESD – electro-static discharge resistant).

  • SB – Safety Basic – this is the basic standard for safety footwear. It has toe protection that can withstand a 200 joule impact.
  • SBP – As SB with additional mid-sole protection against penetration.
  • S1 – Anti-Static, oil-resistant, and energy absorption.
  • S1P – Same as S1, but with additional mid-sole protection against penetration.
  • S2 – Same as S1, plus prevents water penetration.
  • S3 – Same as S2, with mid-sole penetration resistance.
  • S4 – S1 that is is molded from a polymer or rubber, making them leakproof.
  • S5 – S4 standard with added mid-sole penetration resistance.
  1. What Are the Best Safety Shoes for Me?

First and foremost, you need to know the safety standards and the conditions you will be working in. However, you will need some additional information before you buy, but keep in mind that you should be shooting to cover both protection and comfort.


1. How They Fit You

The first factor to consider for best comfort is a proper fit. Always ensure that the safety shoe does not fit too tightly and that it can be laced to a comfortable fit. Instead of “slipping into” the shoe every day (which can also be damaging for the shoe itself), lace it up again every morning to ensure a snug fit on your foot. This way you would avoid blisters and injuries.

2. Are The Shoes Comfortable Enough?

It is also critical to select safety shoes with enough padding. Why? It sets the base for a comfortable working environment, especially on hard industrial floors. A strong energy return provides less weariness on your joints. Cushioning protects your joints, bones, back, and entire body. All of this results in fewer illnesses and lost work hours.

For example, shoes with metal steel toes can be uncomfortable, in comparison to shoes with composite toes, especially after being worn for a longer period of time and in a temperature-challenging environment.

3. Shoe Durability

Durability is important when the safety shoes are subjected to a high daily load. The top material should be both strong and light. Soles constructed of tough materials last substantially longer and ensure that the shoes do not need to be replaced after only a few weeks.

Also, taking a proper care of the work shoes will significantly prolong their life span, and minimize the possibility of injury. You should replace your shoes immediately if you have a dented toe, leakage, if they are worn out or torn. 


4. Shoe Safety

Metatarsal shoes are there to protect your entire upper part of the foot, unlike safety toes shoes, which cover only your toes.

Insole shoes will protect your feet from an impact from below, and they also have different subtypes – steel will protect you from joint injury, polyurethane inside soles are very protective from acids, slipping, high temperatures, and are anti-static, and can be also tear protective. Their prices differ depending on their features.

There are also the rubber sole shoes, which are one of the toughest working shoes – but their price is higher and the shoes are bulkier and heavier.

So, how to choose the best working shoes for your working environment?

Construction concept background of tool belt yellow boots goggles ant tools on plywood

Types of Work Shoes And Their Features


The reason why there are so many work shoes to choose from is the broad specter of environments they are used in and their features. Their first and most important task is to protect your feet.

Steel safety toe shoes will protect you from a heavy object falling on your feet, but will not protect you from spilled chemicals. Also, they are heat conductive, meaning you will be cold or too hot in them if you are working in challenging temperatures.

Safety-Toe Shoes

This is the most common type of safety footwear. A special material is capped around the toes to keep them safe from hazardous accidents. People who handle and work near heavy industrial materials and equipment should wear these. Foot accidents can take place at any time and they usually happen very frequently.

Steel Toe

Steel safety toes are one of the first industry standards. They provide protection from falling objects and equipment. However, they are quite bulky, heavy and can be uncomfortable to wear. Also, metal conducts outside temperatures, so your feet could be very cold or unbearably hot. On the other side – they are usually the cheapest choice. Plus, these are the most resilient toe protection out there.

Aluminum Toe

Aluminum or alloy are lightweight materials. This means they can be 30% to 50% lighter than steel. They also provide the same level of safety as steel but offer a bit more room in your shoes. If you need the same level of protection as the steel toe shoe but need a better level of movement, this type of work shoe would be a better choice for you.

Composite (non-metal) Toe

These work shoes contain non-metallic safety toe caps and are the lightest in this category. They also have better electrical resistance. Because composite toes are metal-free, they do not conduct heat and cold and are the best choice when working in extremely high or low temperatures. 

One of the most popular composite toe shoes today is made of carbon nano-fiber material. It’s the lightest toe protection on the market in this category. Also, their weight is only half of those with steel toe protection. They are gaining popularity all over the world but can be pricier.

A well worn pair of classic brown boots.

Metatarsal Shoes

These shoes are specially designed to protect not only your toes but also the upper part of your feet. They are also known as “drop hazards” and they protect your feet both internally and externally. These are usually worn in construction sites or jobs that involve the lifting of heavy equipment and machines, like factories.

Insole Shoes

Steel Soles

These work shoes use steel inserts to help in keeping the foot protected from common joint problems. Those problems are common for bike riders, and anybody who pushes pedals and drives trucks. These shoes keep the foot in place, preventing them from sliding inside the shoe and injuring joints. If you need very comfortable shoes – this type of work shoe could be right for you because they are some of the most comfortable safety footwear.

Polyurethane Soles

Working shoes with polyurethane injected soles are almost an all-in-one. They are anti-static, oil-, acid-, petrol- & diesel-resistant, then flexible, lightweight, slip-resistant and have heat resistance to almost 110 degrees. They are very popular due to their diversity and are sold worldwide in large quantities. Which also makes them one of the cheapest options to buy.

Thermoplastic Polyurethane

Work shoes with thermoplastic polyurethane in their soles are less flexible. They are lightweight, oil-, acid-, petrol-, and diesel- resistant, and up to 90 degrees heat resistant, but less slip-resistant. However, they are cut-resistant. And because of this additional feature – they are more on the pricey side.

Rubber Soles

These are heavy-duty sole offerings. They are more expensive and are heavier. However, they are designed to take on the harshest work environments. Rubber-sole shoes are superior in protecting from cuts and punctures, as well as resistant to some harsher chemicals. Plus, they are non-conductive, as they are also up to 300 degrees heat resistant.

Metal Instep Footwear

This type of safety shoe has been specially designed to protect and safeguard your feet from sharp and pointy objects like nails, glass pieces, and similar. It helps prevent these sharp objects from penetrating through the sole to the feet, causing injury.

Electric Hazard Shoes

As electric hazards are most common and can cause death, employees that work with any type of electricity must wear this type of footwear. They are specially made with a sole that helps reduce the potential of anyone receiving an electric shock when exposed to high voltage circuits and electricity.

Today, the market is rich with all types of working shoes, in all shapes, colors, and sizes. They are made from the most famous commercial brands to the brands that make equipment for the heaviest types of physical work.

Your choice should depend on what you need, your taste, and how much money are you ready to invest in them. Also, you may have to choose between how safe and how comfortable your working shoes are, as these features often have a negative correlation.

A Few Additional Notes

Today, the market is rich with all types of working shoes, in all shapes, colors, and sizes. They are made from the most famous commercial brands to the brands that make equipment for the heaviest types of physical work.

Your choice should depend on what you need, your taste, and how much money are you ready to invest in them. Also, you may have to choose between how safe and how comfortable your working shoes are, as these features often have a negative correlation.

Male cobbler in traditional shoe shop on ladder selecting shoe last

For example – the carbon-fiber toe safety shoes are the newest and lightest on the market in their category. But no matter how uncomfortable the steel toe shoes are, they provide better protection.

And always keep in mind that proper care for your work shoes is a must – otherwise, they will get damaged and won’t be as effective in preventing injuries. Also, taking care of your working shoes will help them last longer, and protect you better, making them a better investment.

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