Safety Work boots are worn to protect from the accidental injury. When worn and fit properly, they will also prevent long-term chronic job-related pain. However, when the boot has been damaged or the construction starts to breakdown from normal to excessive wear, the safe and supportive benefits start to fail and can cause harm to feet and the entire body.
Signs of Breakdown and Their Negative Effects
|Area of Boot||Signs To Look For||Negative Effects|
|Outsole||Worn Tread||Causes inadvertent change in gait to correct instability that leads to knee and back pain, stressful jolts to joints and muscles from slipperiness / lack of traction|
|Uneven Tread Pattern||Feet out of balance causes body misalignment and pain in knees and back|
|Cuts And Cracks||Water leakage causes damp cold socks that leads to foot fungus and infections|
|Separation From Upper||Trip and fall hazard|
|Midsole||Loses shape and appears compressed and wrinkled, decreased height||Pressure in your legs and joints, from unabsorbed impact force can lead to plantar fasciitis, shin splints and more|
|Steel Toe Box||Dent, heavy object dropped or fallen on toe||Compromised protection, dent may protrude inside of boot causing friction and blisters or crowding and improper fit.|
|Comp Toe Box||Heavy object dropped or fallen on toe||With composite/non-metal toe boxes, dents and cracks are not visible, assume it has been compromised|
|Entire Boot||Holes, tears, cuts, stich rip, cracking, brittleness||Lessens the overall structure and support, exposes protective components, allows in dangerous chemicals, water leakage leads to foot fungus and infections, reduced EH protection|
|Overly flexible (toe bends to meet the heel)||Loss of structured support can lead to pain in foot arch, rolled ankles, shock absorption into the knees and back|
|Upper||Shaft tilting||Boot is not properly aligned and will cause the body to misalign for knee and back pain|
|Shaft sagging||Rolled ankle from lack of support|
|Insole/Footbed||Torn, cracked||Blisters from friction|
|Flat, compressed||Lack of cushioned comfort and less impact resistance leads to foot pain and stress on joints|
|Bad odor||Indicates bacteria or fungal growth that can cause infection|
|Heel Counter||Rubbed thin, lost shape and structure, unstitched and rolls down||Enables heel slipping that causes friction and blisters and instability|
|Shank||Weakens from use but no visible sign||Reduced support causes pain in foot arch|
|Lining||Ripped||Irritation from hole or bunching of fabric causes blister, reduced moisture-wicking can lead to bacteria buildup and infection|
Dependent on the work environment, different parts of a boot can wear out faster. The outsole is a common thing to break down first. Most last about 300-500 miles, so if you walk a lot, that can happen fast. However, if your job requires a lot of standing in one position you won't rack up the miles, but you will quickly breakdown the comfort footbed and midsole.
The feet are the foundation. Everyday working conditions such as walking and standing on hard surfaces for long shifts are stressful to the entire body. Foot ailments and misalignment can radiate up the Kinetic chain and cause full body pain and MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders). The negative impacts of unhealthy feet can be long-term and effect total quality of life.
To maintain or regain full body health, it is highly important to take care of your feet. The best way to do that is to make sure your footwear is fit to be worn.
Don't let the love of a good pair of boots lead to an injury. Check your boots for issues regularly and take advantage of company-supplied allowances. Replace work boots used in light to medium harsh environments at least once a year. Heavy industrial environments such as mining, masonry, a high-heat refinery, that require welding, etc., may require a new pair every 6 months.