One of the most frequently asked questions regarding occupational footwear: what is a soft toe safety footwear, also called occupational footwear?
What kind of characteristics should this footwear include?
What kind of outsole?
What kind of leather?
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What additional properties might it have?
In this article I’ll explain to you technically what to do if you need soft toe safety footwear.
After reading this article I bet you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to find the perfect product for yourself!
Let’s start from one important difference and one of the most asked questions: why should I look for a non-steel toe safety footwear and not use regular casual shoes for my work? What is the real difference between soft toe safety footwear and casual shoes?
Well, the answer is so important for you to know: the steel toe safety footwear and also the soft toe safety footwear are built with some characteristics that casual shoes don’t have for example:
- the upper is studied to be breathable for some jobs, and water repellent for some other jobs
- the outsole has an electrical resistance, it can be isolating or conductive, depending on your job
- the outsole has chemical and oils resistance in most cases
- the outsole is most of the times slip resistance, in some cases very slip resistance
I could continue with this list, the fact is that steel and soft toe safety footwear are made for workers, they give you protection at work, they are not just regular casual footwear with no protection for you, somebody has engineered them to protect you. For this reason, you need to wear professional shoes at work, forget about the casual shoes, use steel toe and soft toe safety footwear at work, it’s a matter of safety for yourself, even if you don’t need toe protection!
Now, there’s a huge variety of products on the market and you need to choose, let me explain to you, technically, what exists on the market, what technical specifications you have to look at to find the perfect soft toe safety footwear for your needs.
- 1 In general, some average situations where you could do a distinction between soft toe safety footwear:
- 2 The standard for soft toe safety footwear is the ASTM F2413-11 (America) and CSA Z195-14 (Canada)
- 3 The most common types of outsoles used for soft toe safety footwear are:
- 4 The most common types of leather used for soft toe safety footwear are:
- 5 SLIP RESISTANCE
In general, some average situations where you could do a distinction between soft toe safety footwear:
- You work indoor, no risk of water sprays, no need of protection for your toes, but you need a good breathability? Then you need a breathable and non water resistant soft toe safety footwear, maybe a suede leather or textile upper non-steel toe safety footwear
- You work indoor, no risk of water sprays, no need of protection for your toes, but you need protection against perforation and a good breathability? Then you need soft toe safety footwear with puncture resistant plate
You work outdoor, no need of protection for your toes but you need protection against water sprays? Then you need non-steel toe safety footwear with a water repellent leather, it can be a full grain leather or a nubuck leather
You work outdoor, no need of protection for your toes, but you need protection against perforation and against water sprays? Then you need soft toe safety footwear with a water repellent leather and a puncture resistant plate
- What other features should I consider for my soft toe safety footwear?
As you can see, the biggest difference between different types of soft toe safety footwear consists in the resistance to water sprays and the puncture resistant plate.
Many workers do not use safety shoes or work shoes. The typical phrase is “I don’t need toe protection at work”. Indeed many jobs do not involve this risk but there are many other risks that a worker can run and for this there are shoes that do not have a protective toe but still have many other protections or excellent characteristics for the worker. A soft toe work shoe has defined electrical characteristics, for example the SD or EH sole, has a tested slip resistance, has certain parameters of abrasion resistance of the materials, has undergone tear tests, has a certified resistance to liquids, has the materials tested against contaminants .. and all these protections are available and certified in a soft toe shoe that does not have a safety toe, but which still guarantees greater protection for the worker against normal casual or sports shoes.
Best soft toe safety shoes picks, selected by SafetyShoesToday
The standard for soft toe safety footwear is the ASTM F2413-11 (America) and CSA Z195-14 (Canada)
The soft toe safety footwear can also have some other markings if it has additional features, basically needed in special work applications:
- PR: if it is equipped with puncture resistant plate
- EH: if the footwear has an electrically insulated outsole (Electrical Hazard)
- SD: if the footwear has a Static Dissipative outsole
- MT: if the footwear is equipped with a metatarsal protection (MT/75 standard)
Now let’s look at some construction features for your soft toe safety footwear
What type of outsole do you need? What type of leather? And what about slip resistance?
The most common types of outsoles used for soft toe safety footwear are:
- PU MONO (SINGLE) DENSITY: It is a material with a very low weight and a good comfort. It has a good resistance to the chemical agents and oils, but no resistance to the strong acids. The resistance to temperatures goes from 14/-4 to +266 max +284 Farenheit degrees . The softness gives a good grip to this material giving it a slip resistance similar to TPU and rubber. RECOMMENDED USAGE: indoor and not very aggressive work places.
- PU/PU: it is a double-density profile sole made of PU. It has a good resistance to the chemical agents and oils, but no resistance to the strong acids. The resistance to temperatures goes from 14/-4 to 248 max 302 degrees. The soft PU midsole provides good impact absorption and wearing comfort. RECOMMENDED USAGE: indoor and outdoor, not really suggested for contacts with chemical agents.
- PU/TPU: It is particularly sturdy, abrasion-resistant and flexible. TPU therefore provides higher performances: abrasion resistance, slip resistance at a very good level like single density PU and rubber, flexibility. In the average it is more durable than PU and it has an higher resistance to the cold from 23 up to -4 degrees. Not very resistant to high temperatures: maximum 212 degrees. RECOMMENDED USAGE: indoor and outdoor, cold weather, not really suggested for contacts with hot surfaces.
- MONO DENSITY RUBBER: exceptionally sturdy: temperature-resistant from -22 up to +572°F, hard to penetrate for sharp objects and resistant to fuels, oils, microbes and numerous chemicals. However, rubber is heavier than PU and TPU, and is less flexible when submitted to cold temperatures. The rubber outsoles are also known for the great slip resistance as single density PU and TPU. RECOMMENDED USAGE: indoor and outdoor, in contact with oils, chemicals, acids. If it contains Nitrile in the composition, it is also recommended for contacts with hot surfaces. It is a compact and heavy material so it is not the best choice if you need extremely light footwear.
- PU/RUBBER: (generally an injection molded outsole). Keeping the properties of rubber for the outsole, in this type of footwear the midsole is made of PU so the footwear is lighter. The PU in this case is the weak point in the toughest situations where the rubber performs the best. RECOMMENDED USAGE: indoor and outdoor, in contact with oils, chemicals, acids. If it contains Nitrile in the composition, it is also recommended for the contact with hot floors. It is a compact and heavy material, so to make it lighter it is joined with PU.
- EVA/RUBBER: RECOMMENDED USAGE: indoor and outdoor, for the contact with oils, chemicals, acids. If it contains Nitrile in the composition, it is also recommended for the contact with hot floors. It is a compact and heavy material, so to make it lighter it is joined with PU.
The most common types of leather used for soft toe safety footwear are:
FULL GRAIN LEATHER: In the average it’s the most breathable, flexible and durable. It has a very nice feeling to the touch, and the most natural appearance.
SPLIT PRINTED LEATHER: In the average it is less breathable, but is tough and economic. The flaws are covered with a PU coating and then printed for a better look.
NUBUCK LEATHER: Often it comes from grain leather, with a different sanded finish, it is breathable, tough and oil resistant. It looks wicker than full grain leather but in most cases it performs just about the same.
SUEDE LEATHER: It is often used for non water resistant safety footwear, but there are also waterproof products in suede leather. It is very breathable and quite sturdy. It can be either economic or expensive, depending if it comes from grain or split leather.
- SYNTETIC LEATHER: MICROFIBER: It is a very light and flexible material. It has very good resistance against soft chemicals and organic acids, in most cases it is washable at an average of 104 F degrees. Being it synthetic it is recommendable in sanitary and food industry. Breathability depends from the quality of the product. It is used very often in sanitary, food, and sport safety footwear.
Best soft toe safety shoes picks, selected by SafetyShoesToday
This is one of the most important features to look for when you are choosing your soft toe safety footwear. Take care and read properly what is the grade of slip resistance of your footwear when buying it.
These are the recommendations that I suggest to you when you’re looking for the best soft toe safety footwear for your needs.
When you’ll have selected your soft toe safety footwear you’ll be more protected at work.
I guarantee that if you use the right plain toe safety footwear you’ll live a better working experience.
What do you think about plain toe safety footwear?
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