A safety shoe is a type of footwear designed to protect the wearer from certain workplace hazards or conditions. These shoes are often found in industrial, construction, military, and medical settings and are designed with features to reinforce the foot and ankle against potential injury caused by sharp objects, spills, electrical shock, slippery surfaces, crushing weights and other threats. Safety shoes are typically seen as an important component of a safe work environment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have set standards for safety footwear in various industries. OSHA requires employers to provide employees with protective toe and sole footwear in certain settings where there is a risk of foot injuries due to sharp objects, heavy objects falling on feet and incidental contact with electrical sources.
Safety shoe design varies based on the type of hazard being protected against, which could be slips, punctures, electrical shocks, compression, or chemical exposure. Common features seen in safety shoes include steel or composite toes (or toes made of other rigid material), slip-resistant soles, extra insulation, water-resistance, chemical-resistance, acid-resistance, electric-static dissipation, heat-resistance, additional cushioning and support for the heel and arch of the foot, and laces or straps for added security. Toe and sole protection is often achieved through incorporation of materials like steel or Kevlar into the forefoot and sole of the shoe. For those working in environments at risk for slips or electrocution due to water, electrical components may be added to the shoe to reduce the risk of injury.
Other features associated with safety footwear include reinforced metatarsal guards that provide additional protection for the top of the foot just beyond the toes; special lace systems designed to prevent laces from getting caught in moving machinery; steel or plastic midsoles or shanks that increase strength in order to protect feet from stepping on sharp objects; insoles with moisture-wicking fabric and anti-microbial liner; and ankle protection tags that reach up over the ankle to provide additional protection.
As a final note on safety shoe design and standards, OSHA requires protective footwear manufacturers to meet standards that address foot protection when exposed to electrical hazards. For example, testing procedures are conducted to assess whether footwear meeting these requirements can withstand specified electric shock voltages under both wet and dry conditions. When selecting footwear for enhanced safety against electric shock, look for products that meet ASTM F2413-11 requirements for electrical hazard (EH) rating.