Your Guide to the Different Types of Safety Shoes
Safety shoes are essential to ensure safe and healthy feet, but you might not know that there are different types of safety shoes. While each type is designed to help prevent injuries that can occur in the workplace, it’s important to know about the different safety shoes and how they can protect your feet.
How Many Types of Safety Shoes Are There?
There are five different types of safety shoes. Each type protects your feet in different ways and is used in different industries.
Safety Toed Shoe
Also known as steel-toed shoes, this type of safety shoe is the most common for most jobs. Its most defining feature is a metal cap that covers the front of the shoe. This cap not only helps protect against falling objects, but it can also defend against cuts, burns, and punctures.
Steel Insole Shoes
Steel insoles are like the gel and foam insoles you might already have, but they are designed to support, stabilize, and protect your foot. Steel insoles help stabilize the foot, which can help minimize pain from foot arthritis, metatarsalgia, and metatarsophalangeal joint injuries. These shoes are most often used in industries where your foot is continually flexing and bending, like driving heavy trucks, riding bikes, or pushing pedals.
Your metatarsal is the top of your foot between your ankle and your toes. Internal metatarsal guards are very similar to the metal caps in steel-toed boots. Rather than only protecting your toes, metatarsal shoes help protect your entire foot from drop hazards.
Electric Hazard Shoes
This kind of protective footwear is designed specifically for people who work with high voltage machines, circuits, wiring, or electricity. They have non-conductive soles and heels, making it harder for electricity to flow through them. This means it’s harder to be electrocuted if you’re wearing electric hazard shoes.
Metal Instep Footwear
Metal insteps safeguard the bottom of your feet when accidentally stepping onto sharp objects like nails, blades, or glass.
What Are Considered Safety Shoes?
There’s a wide variety of purposes for safety shoes, but they each help protect workers from injury. Safety shoes are specialized in how they protect you, and it’s essential to make sure you get the right shoe for your needs. For example, electric hazard shoes are great for anyone working with electricity or high voltage machinery but useless in protecting against falling objects.
To be considered a safety shoe, a shoe has to meet the guidelines set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). If your shoe is compliant, it will have a code that shows which standards it meets.
The code will look like this:
The first line identifies which ASTM standard it is following. The most important number to note in this line is the last two digits: 18 means it follows the 2018 standard (the most recent). Some shoes have an 11 or earlier number showing they are following the 2011 or earlier standard.
The second and third lines indicate what protection the footwear provides. Each letter is a code for a form of protection. Here is a list of potential codes and what they mean:
M or W - Men’s or women’s
I - Impact protection
C - Compression protection
MT - Metatarsal protection
PR - Puncture resistance
CD - Conductive protection
EH - Electrical hazard resistance
SD - Static dissipative
There should be clear guidelines about which protections your shoes must have at your workplace. If your shoe does not fit those protective measures, it is not an OSHA-approved safety shoe for your workplace.
What Is a Composite Safety Toe?
Not all steel-toed boots are actually made from steel. Other metals or composite materials can be part of a safety toe and provide protection without the weight of a steel toe cap. Alternate toe cap materials can include kevlar, carbon fiber, plastic, or fiberglass. Composite safety toe shoes can be OSHA and ASTM compliant.