Work Boots for the Industrial Environment

Industrial Medicine on the worksite

For most people who work in the industrial/manufacturing setting, a majority of the day is spent standing or walking for long distances.  Unless we have experienced some type of foot pain resulting from long periods of weight bearing, we often take for granted the amount of stress we place on our feet throughout the day.  Although spending less for some items we use in our daily lives may work for some of the things we use, the same approach should be avoided when it comes to footwear.  Purchasing a quality work boot should be looked at as an investment in the health of your feet.  A durable work boot can assist in the prevention of aches and pains that commonly occur not only in the feet but also the knees, hips and back.   

Depending on the work environment, a protective work boot may be required.  Although work boots are designed to protect your feet, some boots may not possess additional qualities that can assist in preventing various foot problems.  This may result in boots that are initially comfortable at the beginning of a shift, to a boot that can have your feet very unhappy by the end of the day.  Understanding various features of the work boot that help provide a good fit, will go a long way in finding the best fitting boot that also meets the footwear requirements of your job. 

As we all understand, good fitting footwear is important.  Unfortunately, good quality doesn’t always equal good fit.  So, what features should be considered when purchasing a new work boot?  Although work boots are designed to protect and support the foot, they may fail to provide adequate arch support.  Purchasing an additional arch support insert may be necessary to improve fit and provide sufficient support to the foot.  A good arch support can help prevent foot injuries in a few different ways.  First, supporting the arch helps reduce stress on the ligament that runs from the ball of the foot to the heel.  This is known as the plantar fascia.  Second, proper support helps distribute the forces evenly throughout the foot, thus decreasing localized areas of pressure on the ball of the foot as well as the bottom of the heel.  Finally, providing the proper amount of arch support to the foot will help maintain proper foot mechanics when walking which ensures that all aspects of the foot are working together.  If you are looking to invest in a pair of arch support inserts, keep in mind, the arch support must be strong enough.  If the arch support is placed on a flat surface and the arch can be easily flattened out, it is not going to provide sufficient support.  .  

Additional work boot features that should be considered include boot height, weight, water resistance, safety toes, insulation, boot construction, and style.  Selecting boots with some or all of these features will help find the boot best suited for that particular job.  A taller boot may provide better protection around the ankle if your job requires walking on uneven terrain. Unfortunately, taller boots are likely to be heavier and may be more difficult to put on.  Boots that weigh less can also decrease muscle fatigue throughout the lower extremities.  If you need a boot that is water resistant, remember that water resistant materials do not allow your feet to breath and your feet will remain hot and feel wet throughout the day.  Also, water resistant material takes a long time to dry which could mean you have to wear damp boots to work if additional precautions are not taken.  If your job requires boots with steel toes or other protective features, work boots are available with toe and foot protection made of a composite material.  This will allow your feet to stay warmer in the cold weather and the boot will weigh less.  If you work in parts of the country that experience cold winter months, an insulated boot is essential.   However, keep in mind that insulated boots will make your feet hotter and cause your feet to sweat more.  If your geographical area is one which both hot and cold temperatures are experienced as the seasons change, you should consider an additional pair of boots made of a mesh type material for warmer weather.

Below is a list of additional considerations when purchasing new work boots:

  1. When trying on a work boot, wear socks that are made of polyester or wool synthetic blends.  This will keep your feet comfortable winter or summer in addition to providing extra cushion.
  2. To ensure the boot is the proper length for your foot, when trying them on, slide your foot all the way to the front, bend your knee forward. You should be able to fit the width of your index finger between your heel and the back of the boot
  3. Do the laces, without excessively tightening them, hold the feet in place and do not allow them to move around inside the shoe?
  4. Make sure the boots flex at the ball of the foot and not at the arch.  If the shoe flexes at the arch they are too big.
  5. Keep in mind that feet will swell by the end of the day.  Trying on boots at this time will help account for an increase in the size of your foot.

As you can see, there are many features to consider when choosing the work boot that best meets your needs.  Although a quality work boot may be more expensive, view this as an investment in the health of your feet.   In addition, proper fitting footwear will help avoid some of the common causes of foot pain that can occur with prolonged weight bearing. 

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