Work Shoe Guide

The Guide for Professional Work Shoes

When it comes to buying shoes for a work environment, all the words, codes and logos can get very confusing. This blog post is here to help you understand the different important safety features of a good work shoe. Perhaps you’ve been told by your employer what kind of shoes you need or maybe you are looking for that added safety for yourself?

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What is an EN ISO Number?

When buying new safety shoes for work, you need to buy the correct footwear. There are many different numbers that you will see, that all mean different things! Footwear that is designed for your safety within different work environments will usually be given a specific Safety Standard Number. This will usually consist of an EN ISO followed by a five digit number. Some common ones are EN ISO 20347 and EN ISO 20345.

When starting a new job your employer may ask that you buy EN ISO 20347 which is the safety standard for occupational footwear.

Occupational shoes do not require steel or composite toe caps but they are expected to have:

  • Antistatic, enclosed and energy absorbing heel

  • Water absorption and penetration resistance

  • Slip resistant sole

  • Outsole resistant to fuel oil

A common misconception that people often make when purchasing new shoes for work is that EN ISO 20347 describes all types of safety shoes. However this specific occupational work shoe does not provide protection from heavy compression or impact force to the feet.

EN ISO 20345 safety shoes are fitted with toe caps as well as all listed above to provide that added protection

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What does ‘CE Marked’ mean?

CE Marked is a certification mark within the European Union. Products with ‘CE Marked’ meet all the requirements regarding the health, safety and environment. ‘CE’ stands for ‘Conformité Européenne’ which translates to 'in conformance with European regulations'. All CE marked products may be sold and used within the European Union. So if you live in the EEA, you know your shoes are up to standard.

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What does ‘Antistatic’ mean and how does it work?

The antistatic property in a safety shoe means the footwear protects electrical equipment by sending (conducting) electrical charges to the ground, preventing a static shock, charge or spike. Conductive safety shoes are often worn in industries where a static shock may be problematic or could trigger a fire or an explosion.

Antistatic safety shoes have a low electrical resistance between 0.1 and 1000 MegaOhm(MΩ). The use of antistatic shoes prevent the build up of static electrical charges within the human body by sending these charges to the ground, preventing the sudden flow of electricity between electrically charged objects caused by contact.

Antistatic shoes are often used in industries such as medical, hospitals, laboratories, computer manufacturing, electrical engineering and many others.

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What is ‘Slip Resistance’ (non-slip) and how does it work?

When working in almost any environment safety is of vital importance. Non-slip or Slip Resistant shoes help reduce and prevent slips, trips and falls. The Slip-resistant grip on the tread of the hoes help the wearer stay on their feet when walking on wet and even greasy surfaces.

People who work in food services, catering, healthcare, construction, manufacturing and many others benefit from wearing non-slip shoes.

Shoes which provide higher friction have deeper tread grooves. These deep grooves resist against slips and falls due because they grip to the ground. Usually the more grooves you have on your shoes the more slip-resistant they are. The shape patterns on the outsole can also aid in the shoes’ grip. Circle and multiple designs increase grip on wet or oily floors. The material is also another element of the non-slip shoe. High grade rubber has proven to be successful when it comes to gripping greasy surfaces and provide strong traction.

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What is a ‘Safety Toe Cap’ and how does it work?

The Safety Toe Cap is a reinforced protective hard shell on the inside of a shoe or boot that covers the toes, to protect the feet from heavy falling objects within the work environment. In the past steel toe caps were the most popular in work safety shoes. However now composite toe caps have become more ingrained within many work shoe brands providing equal safety to the steel toe caps.

The benefits of composite safety toe caps is that it consists of lighter non-metal materials usually consisting of plastic, carbon fibre or fibreglass. They are more comfortable when working in extreme outdoor conditions where steel can conduct the cold. Composites are also lighter than steel, meaning a reduction in fatigue on long shifts. Unlike steel, composite safety toe caps cannot conduct electricity making it a much more versatile shoe for a large variety of work environments.

Shoes with the EN ISO 20345 are fitted with toecaps that have been tested to protect feet from impacts of more than 200J and tested to survive a compressed load of at least 15 kilo newtons.

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What is an ‘Autoclavable’ shoe and how does it work?

An autoclave is a medical device that uses steam to sterilise equipment and other objects like shoes! Having a shoe with the capability of becoming sterile within an autoclave is incredibly important for many in the healthcare field. This could be professionals who work within a sterile theatre environment but also one that works with extremely vulnerable patients.

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Open vs Closed, Perforation vs. No Perforation:

A common requirement for many work shoes is that they are closed. This could be due to hazardous materials seeping into the shoes. Another issue can be due to heavy loads and the damage that could cause to the back or the front of the foot. Many professions don’t have a closed shoe requirement and actually benefit from having a clog shape rather than a shoe format. Easy to put on shoes can be vital when in a time-sensitive job or one that requires frequent moving between posts with differing requirements.

Perforations and the lack there of in shoes is also an important element to consider. Much like hazardous liquids and open shoes, perforated or vented shoes also have the same issue. However in many industries, a well vented shoe is a welcome addition, especially for those long working hours.

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Shock Absorbing:

This is all about comfort. Shock absorbing shoes are fantastic for people who are on their feet all day. Another brilliant reason for having shock absorbing shoes is the improvement of ankle, knee and even hip health. High impact on joints for long periods of time can cause stress and discomfort in the joints, so having a softened landing can really improve the aches and pains after a long shift.

Medical Team in Safety Footwear

In the end work shoes have to work for you.

It all depends on the requirements of the user’s industry. Professional work shoes or work clogs play a huge part in maintaining the health and safety of any work environment. Often an employer will provide all the details needed so that you can make the best decision for your feet!

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