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Protective Footwear

Viimati uuendatud: 25.11.2016

Protective Footwear

Protective footwear are meant to protect the user’s feet. In principle, the most basic wellingtons can be called protective footwear if their characteristics are marked with the symbol SB and they have at least toe protection or the safety toe. Earlier, all protective footwear tended to look alike and was often also uncomfortable and heavy. This was caused by the metal used to make the toe protection and sole puncture-proof. Contemporary protective footwear is comfortable to use during the entire workday (and even more), they look chic and weigh a lot less as the security toes and puncture-proof soles are now made of composite materials, Kevlar, or other similar materials.

Broadly, protective footwear is divided into:

  • footwear with puncture-proof soles that must be used at roadworks, construction sites (work on scaffolding, concrete works, installation of ready-made details, building and demolishing planking, etc.) and while working at roofs;
  • protective footwear with regular soles that must be used when installing steel constructions, in towers, poles, cranes, work related to huge containers and steel piping; building a furnace, installing heating and ventilation systems, metal construction works, landscaping, shipbuilding, cutting trees, transporting and railway building.

When working on hot and/or cold surfaces, it is mandatory to use protective footwear with temperature insulating soles (marked with letter combinations: HI – heat insulation, CI – cold insulation and HRO – resistant to high temperatures) and in the case of works where there is a danger that a fluid substance can penetrate the footwear, it is mandatory to use quickly removable
protective footwear

When working in an acidic environment, it is mandatory to use protective footwear with acid-proof soles (sole must comply with the standard EN 13832-1) and footwear with electricity insulating soles must comply with the standard EN 50321.

The following table gives an overview of markings that are good to know when purchasing new protective footwear.


Protective   footwear with basic safety, 200 joules toe protection and 15,000 N pressure, oil resistant outer sole.


As   SB + anti-static properties and fully enclosed energy absorbing heel.


As   S1 + upper layer that is resistant to water (up to 4 hours).


As   S2 + mid-sole for penetration resistance and cleated outsole.

P = midsole penetration protection, E = energy absorbing heel, WRU = water resistant upper layer, HRO = heat resistant outsole, HI = insulation against heat, CI = insulation against cold, A = antistatic protection, I = insulation against electricity

The energy unit joule (J) referred to in the aforementioned standard marks the blow energy that depends on the mass of the falling object and the height of falling. This means that a heavy object falling onto the toe protection from low height contains less energy than a light object falling from high. 20 J means approximately 20 kg falling from the height of 1 meter.

In general, low shank work footwear is used in Estonia. This does not protect the anklebone nor support feet enough, thus feet traumas and strains are common. Some countries in the world require that construction and other workers wear either half boots or full boots and low shank footwear is only allowed indoors and when working in light industry.

When buying protective footwear, consider the risks emanating from the work specifics and think whether sandals offer sufficient protection and are fit for using at outdoor works.

What to remember when choosing and using protective footwear?


  • Walk in the new footwear, make sure they are comfortable.
  • Check that you have enough toe space (in the shoe’s toe part, you should have 12-13 mm free space).
  • When trying on protective footwear, remember that you might need to wear also warmer and thicker socks.
  • Boots must feel comfortable around the heel and ankle.
  • Fully tighten the laces (or locks or Velcro straps).
  • Boots with high shank support the leg better and help to avoid ankle injuries.


  • Footwear must be kept clean and clean and dry when not in use.
  • Use protection cream (for leather outsoles) to guarantee waterproof and durable footwear.
  • If necessary, the protective footwear must be disinfected.
  • Footwear must be checked regularly. As different shoes are used for different working environments, there is no one and singular formula on how to check them all – follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • If the footwear has toe protection, check that it is unharmed. It is easy to detect if the toe protection is metal, as it does not restore the original shape; composite material could restore the original shape, but you might see cracks.
  • Soles must be cleaned, checked for wear and damage. Soles of puncture-proof footwear are resistant to water until you have stepped onto a nail. You will probably not harm your leg, but an almost invisible hole remains in the sole, and the shoe loses it waterproof qualities.
  • Wear of sole pattern and/or use in wet circumstances decreases resistance to electric shock.
  • Check that the laces, locks, buttons and other such fasteners are unharmed and in working order.
  • Worn or damaged footwear must either be mended or replaced.

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