If you work in an environment where the floors are often wet, oily, or otherwise slick, you’re most likely required to wear slip-resistant shoes. Some employers are now recommending certain boots or shoes for employees, but most leave the shopping and selection up to you.
That brings us to a big question: how do you pick out the best pair of slip-resistant work shoes?
There are a variety of factors to consider, including the size of the tread on the bottom of the shoes and the quality of the uppers. This guide will walk you through a variety of factors to consider. Our goal is to help you select safe footwear for any work environment that you find yourself in.
What Counts as a Slip-Resistant Shoe?
Shoe manufacturers must test their shoes and prove that they produce a minimum level of friction with the ground before they can legally add the words “slip resistant” to their marketing and product packaging. The United States first released its guidelines for slip-resistant qualifications with ASTM F3445. Updates can come at any time, and manufacturers are required to abide by legal standards.
That explains why you may see words like “ASTM compliant” on the packaging or when reading about slip-resistant shoes online. That information will tell you whether the shoes are compliant with the current standards. In some cases, manufacturers claim to surpass the standards by creating soles that are even better at creating friction in wet environments.
You may come across shoes in stores that appear to have slip-resistant soles, but you notice that they aren’t labeled slip-resistant. That’s likely because they don’t meet the standards to use those words on the label or haven’t been tested to see how they perform on wet, oily, or otherwise slick surfaces.
If your safety depends on slip-resistant work shoes, then it’s best to stick with products that have been tested and are proven to resist slips.
You’re ready to start shopping and protecting your feet with work shoes that look just as great as they perform. What are you looking for, and how do you know when you’ve found a good pair? We have suggestions and tips to help you maneuver the crowded market of slip-resistant work shoes.
Added Oil Resistance
If you often encounter oil on the floor at work, then make sure the work shoes you wear are oil and slip resistant. Not all slip-resistant work shoes are also effective on oily surfaces, so pay attention to the labels on the packaging or in online product descriptions.
Tread Pattern & Size
All slip-resistant shoes have a patterned tread on the bottom of the sole. The design is intended to generate friction and stop moisture from collecting along the bottom of the shoe. That’s how anti-slip shoes prevent your feet from slipping when you encounter a wet, oily, or otherwise slippery floor.
Slip-resistant shoes may have squiggly designs, circles, or hexagons on the tread. You may notice other patterns emerging in the future, but those are the three primary tread designs in circulation today. You want to look at the pattern on each shoe you find and think about how it might work on the surfaces that you often encounter at work.
You should also consider the size of the pattern along the bottom of the shoe or boot. The smaller the shapes within the pattern, the more slip resistance you can expect the soles to provide. That’s a general rule of thumb, but keep in mind that not all patterns are 100% protective against all slips in all environments. There’s a little trial and error that often goes into finding the ideal shoe for any workplace.
Water and Stain Resistance
The quality and resistance properties of your uppers are just as important as the soles. You want durable uppers that are resistant to water and stains at the least. If you work in a wet environment or often perform tasks outdoors, then look for shoes that are waterproof.
Water resistance means that the shoes won’t soak through immediately when your foot touches water. They may still leak and leave your feet wet if you walk through a deep puddle or get caught out in a vicious thunderstorm.
Waterproof refers to protective coatings that make the shoes even more resistant to water. You can walk through some puddles or make it through a rainstorm with dry feet if you select waterproof and slip-resistant work shoes.
Arch & Ankle Support
All slip-resistant shoes should have adequate arch support. If you’re purchasing work boots, then support for the ankle is also important. You want to purchase shoes with enough cushioning for comfort as well as support.
You can also add orthotics or inserts if you want to increase arch support or add extra padding to your shoes. Some shoes have removable inserts, so you can simply replace them without impacting the overall fit of the shoe or boot.
You may try one pair of shoes on and find them incredibly uncomfortable, while another design from the same brand feels like walking on clouds even after eight or 10 hours on your feet. If you want to shop online for slip-resistant shoes, consider visiting a local shoe store first to try on a variety of boots. If you find something you love, you can then compare those shoe prices online.
If you don’t have time to compare prices in local stores, then stick with recognizable brands and read customer reviews on multiple websites or marketplaces. What feels comfortable for a lot of other workers is a better pick than shoes that no one is reviewing or buying.
Think about your work environment and the tasks that you complete on a routine basis. What dangers and risk factors are in that environment? If you were to get injured, how would it likely happen? Do you use specific types of machinery or tools regularly?
For example, you may purchase slip-resistant shoes that are safe for ladders or stairs if you go up and down ladders or stairs regularly. You may also need different footwear for different seasons. For example, slip-resistant work boots that are designed for slippery conditions outdoors in the winter and lighter boots that are breathable for working outdoors in the summer heat.
If you don’t believe there are shoes designed for any specific part of your job, then look at the other factors on this list to determine the right shoes for your job.
Cost & Durability
We put cost and durability together because they influence one another. The more durable and sturdier your slip-resistant shoes, the less often you may have to replace them due to wear and tear.
It’s not necessarily true that you get what you pay for, so don’t assume that expensive slip-resistant work shoes are going to last longer than a more affordable pair. Look at the materials and read reviews online to determine the general quality and reputation of the brand name. You may also find some of the best slip-resistant work shoes on sale if you watch shoe store websites and general marketplaces like Amazon.
Buying Your First Pair of Slip-Resistant Work Shoes
At this point, you should have a good idea of what you’re looking at when comparing work shoes that are resistant to slipping. Keep in mind that not all shoes are slip-proof in all circumstances. It’s important to learn about the design of each shoe you consider and pick one that is likely to work well for your work environment.
For example, you may pick different shoes if you work in a slipper commercial kitchen than you would if working outdoors with the occasional slippery surface crossing your path. You also need your shoes to match other elements of your job, such as indoor or outdoor environments and the potential for sharp objects on the floor that may penetrate your soles.
If you aren’t sure about the type of shoes you need for work, pick out a few pairs online and ask your employer for feedback. They may have some recommendations based on their own experience and that of other employees.