Learning something about the historical evolution of safety shoes could make you understand the importance of these products in your work. From the roots to the birth of innovative technologies used in current safety footwear, let us examine the history of this kind of gear and its development, as well as the evolution of the products that are currently on the market. Let’s talk about leather shoes and rubber boots.
- 1 From military footwear and up until now
- 2 Leather safety shoes
- 3 Rubber shoes
- 4 The impact of war
- 5 History of Leather safety shoes and rubber boots: the turning point
- 6 The chemical innovations include:
- 7 The influence of sport
- 8 Examples of technical innovations:
From military footwear and up until now
The safety footwear used nowadays in the oil and gas industry evolved directly from military shoes.
The Industrial production of footwear had remained dormant in the previous century and a half, with the exception of some special military corps, which needed shoes. From this initial market demand the need for new products apt to satisfy the customers’ needs has developed, both in industry and in the military field.
Some types of leather safety shoes and rubber boots come mainly from the army, who has always used boots for assistance interventions, occupational footwear, waterproof boots, engineer’s shoes, cold weather insulation, to name a few.
In the century XIX the most used materials were two: leather and vulcanized rubber. From such materials two kinds of safety footwear have been developed: leather safety shoes and rubber boots. They are two very different types of safety footwear, and up until now they have mostly been used in different work environments.
Leather safety shoes
The specialized producers of leather safety shoes rely strongly on Goodyear construction techniques, a process perfected by Charles Goodyear Junior, using existing machines and techniques in order to obtain a more standardized quality of the production.
This technique led industries and factories all over the world to adopt this process. The favorite solution was vegetable tanned leather, low-cost and easy to produce.
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As regards the producers of rubber footwear, at first the applications were limited to old fabrication methods. The process evolved to vulcanized soles, and finally, to boots created in injection molds.
The impact of war
In view of World War II products with rubber soles came to light, which allowed the mass production of products made of leather and rubber. Nowadays, footwear from the ‘30s with soles of vulcanized rubber and uppers of distressed leather are among the most-wanted vintage objects. During World War II some of the greatest minds of the time in the scientific and engineering fields started looking at footwear from a new perspective. The idea of occupational footwear was born, because footwear producers were now asked to create boots that had to be used from pilots, from soldiers in the jungle, in deserts, in mines and on other difficult grounds.
History of Leather safety shoes and rubber boots: the turning point
There was a period in the late ‘50s when, inspired by American products and marketing, a company launched a new industrial Brand called “TUF”, which threatened some of the traditional British bootmakers. This company used a new technique to weld PVC soles.
Regarding the production of leather and rubber safety footwear this can be considered the only important process which was patented in the last 50 years, because the subsequent innovations are related to the development of new synthetic materials and new chemical processes, not related to the fabrication process.
The chemical innovations include:
• Rubber with blowing agents, which has become micro-cellular foam.
• PVC with blowing agents has become PVC foam
• EVA rubber has become the first patterned-compression midsole, and later it evolved into controlled-expansion and compression-moulded EVA.
• The injection-moulding of polyurethane has changed from unstable molding processed into controlled-density processed. Also, new methods of combining the basic chemicals involved in the process have been developed.
• Ceramic toecaps have evolved into metallic ones, and then into those of composite materials, glass and carbon fiber.
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The influence of sport
Since the ‘70s many of the new approaches to safety footwear took inspiration from sport shoes. The industrial market has quickly adopted biomechanical analysis from the sports market and nowadays most of the technologies of safety footwear are different compared to then.
Compared to fashion and sport shoes, the style of safety footwear used to be rather dull. Currently, instead, the trend is changing and safety shoes are becoming more and more good-looking, almost to the point of being trendy!
Examples of technical innovations:
• Coatings today are often impregnated with antibacterial agents
• Insoles now are ergonomic
• Midsoles have nowadays different densities in their different parts, strategically placed for the best support of the feet.
With the creation of new chemical compounds that can be synthetized and injected, the footwear industry can now satisfy even the most specific needs of each worker.
Features can now be selected for each risk, from accidents to chemical reactions and so on, that a worker may incur.
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Leather safety shoes and rubber boots: Conclusions
These were just some hints of the evolution of leather safety shoes and rubber safety boots throughout history.
As soon as you choose the safety footwear with the right type of rubber and materials for your specific needs, you will be more protected at work.
I assure you that if you use the right safety footwear for your needs working will become a better experience for you!
What do you think of the evolution of safety footwear throughout history?
Leather safety shoes and rubber boots. Do you have any points to add?
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