Choosing the Best Protective Footwear: What to Look Out For

Choosing PPE is an activity that requires care and attention, whatever your purpose for choosing it. Health and safety laws are stringent for a reason, and protection from injury is a vital consideration for any project or enterprise – be it a personal home project or a 100-strong workforce. Choosing footwear is an especially involved task, with many variables to consider; what are they?

Abbreviations and Terminology

There are some key abbreviations that you will encounter when shopping for safety footwear. Understanding them can help you arrive at a meaningful decision much sooner. One key abbreviation is SR for slip resistance. If a boot is ‘SRA’, it has been tested on a soaped-up ceramic tile. If ‘SRB’, it has been tested on a glycerol-coated steel surface. ‘SRC’ boots have been tested on both. Slip resistance is ranked from SB (B for basic) to S5.

Other letters mean other specific things; for example, P stands for penetration and refers to the level of pierce resistance a boot offers. WR stands for water resistance, CR stands for cut resistance and C stands for conductive.

Factors to Consider

First and foremost, the nature of the work will naturally inform the suitability of a given item of footwear. The following factors can help you narrow down exactly what your work demands, and how suitable particular items might be as a result. For example, roadworkers will encounter more environmental risk than others, making slip resistance and climate control more prominent factors in their protective workwear as opposed to warehouse workers who may benefit more from a more comfortable, ergonomic and durable shoe.

Slip Resistance

Slip resistance is essentially determined by the make-up of the sole. Different rubber compounds offer different levels of traction on certain surfaces, as do tread depth and tread pattern variables. A chunkier rubber sole with deep tread will be more effective on mud and snow than a thin sole – and an S4 work boot would be overkill for an administrative environment.

Climate and Temperature

Safety footwear also differs from type to type with regard to temperature control and climate suitability. Footwear designed to be worn in warm conditions will be breathable, allowing air to circulate via membranes; outdoor work boots are much more likely to be sealed and insulated for comfort.


Durability is another factor that sees a broad range of differences occur in protective footwear. Not all protective items are heavyweight, with electricians’ shoes being a good example; their chief requirement is isolation from the ground, meaning not all pairs need to meet the same standards as steel toe-capped construction boots.


Lastly, but just as important is the issue of comfort. Realistically, all footwear should be somewhat comfortable, but concessions may need to be made for durability or climate control purposes. Padded boots with arch support might be more suitable for long stretches of wearing.

Choosing the right pair of safety footwear for your given role or task needn’t be a drawn-out affair. The above considerations are simply guidelines for you to follow when making an executive or common-sense decision, whether for yourself or on behalf of a business.

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