Protective footwear is crucial in professional and personal settings to prevent minor or severe injuries. One of the more common forms of protective footwear is non-slip shoes.
When determining if a shoe is non-slip, there are several traits to look for and identify: the materials used in the construction of the sole, the design of the outsole, the design of the tread, and any identifying markers on the packaging or shoe itself.
What is a non-slip shoe?
Invented in 1984, the first non-slip shoes were a solution to common injuries resulting from slips and falls on job sites and certain occupations.
As time went on, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) began to require employees working in an environment where they would be exposed to slippery or wet conditions to wear non-slip shoes.
A non-slip shoe is designed and constructed in such a way as to resist or reduce the effects of slippery or wet conditions. They are constructed with specific materials and are designed to be versatile in their applications for the wearer.
The reduced chance of slips and falls helps to offer the wearer peace of mind while working in slippery conditions.
In what circumstances should I be concerned if my shoes are non-slip?
The most common application of non-slip shoes is on various job sites that require employees to wear non-slip shoes per OSHA regulations.
Numerous occupations require slip-resistant footwear to help keep their employees safe and the job site functional. Any job site or occupation that may expose an employee to slippery conditions is likely to fall under OSHA regulations regarding slip-resistant footwear.
Some examples of these occupations include but are not limited to restaurant workers, custodial staff, delivery drivers, construction contractors, police officers, and department of corrections staff (i.e. prison officers).
Each of these occupations requires some sort of safety footwear for its employees, though the style of footwear may vary depending on the responsibilities of the job.
For example, it is common for law enforcement and construction contractors to wear non-slip boots for on-site work.
Still, this type of work may require other protective aspects such as steel toe, reinforced toe, or waterproofing.
Employers may require slip-resistant footwear to have a more formal dress style for occupations such as restaurant workers.
There are also reasons outside of occupational concerns that someone would look for non-slip footwear. For example, outdoor enthusiasts find themselves in a variety of situations that would require slip-resistant shoes.
Someone who resides in a climate of heavy rainfall would find use in slip-resistant footwear since tracking water indoors would be common.
Another individual who lives in a cold and snowy climate would find use in slip-resistant footwear due to frequent snowfall, as well as its subsequent thaw, and iced-over terrain.
Common Materials for Non-Slip Shoes
Slip-resistant footwear on the market today can utilize a variety of materials in the construction of the outsole.
Some common materials used are EVA rubber, vulcanized rubber, and polyurethane. In addition, each of the materials used in the production of non-slip shoes has different ideal applications to get the most out of their slip resistance.
EVA rubber is a general-purpose rubber used in many cost-effective non-slip shoes. It is sturdy yet comfortable and is a great option for those who need a non-slip shoe and will be on their feet in indoor environments.
Vulcanized rubber and polyurethane are common in the construction of hard-use work boots and shoes. The material creates a durable sole that with proper tread design can produce an effective non-slip boot.
Types of Tread Design
The other major component in the construction is the design of the tread on the outsole.
Often the tread design on the outsole of non-slip shoes will be a tightly packed geometric pattern of some type.
Typically, the pattern is composed of diamonds, hexagons, or circles. There may be a slight break in the tread design of a non-slip shoe as it reaches the arch of the sole, though there will likely be a continuation of some tread design in the arch itself.
The rubber used in the manufacture of outsoles for slip-resistant shoes must be sturdy, durable, and lightweight, yet soft enough to increase its grip and traction on slippery or wet surfaces.
The sturdiness and durability offer long-lasting and protective pieces of footwear for workers and hobbyists.
The lightweight design of rubber outsoles reduces wear on the body, and the softness of the rubber increases grip and traction.
A softer rubber presses down easier on a surface expanding the overall exposure of the outsole.
The more the outsole is expanded increases the more surface area contact. This increased contact means the tread will resist skidding and slipping, therefore improving the wearer’s safety.
Design of the Tread on the Outsole
The tread on the outsole is where most of the strength of slip-resistant shoes comes from. The traction generated from the outsole of the shoe increases the ability to resist slips and falls.
If a shoe has a flat outsole, it increases the amount of liquid that comes into contact with the shoe, preventing the liquid from being pushed away, and subsequently increasing the likelihood of a slip or fall.
To increase the traction a shoe provides, there must be deep tread grooves coming into contact with the floor or surface. The deeper the tread grooves and the more grooves there are increases the surface area traction and increases the slip resistance.
The shape of the tread also factors into how well the shoe will resist slippage.
Ideally, a non-slip shoe should have as much tread as possible that forces the liquid out and away from the sole of the shoe. Shapes like circles, squiggles, diamonds/squares, and hexagons force the liquid out from under the shoe instead of trapping it under the sole of the shoe.
This is the same principle used on car tires to prevent hydroplaning. For instance, more traction on the tire prevents water from being trapped under it, leading to a loss of control.
The more consistent and tightly packed a tread pattern is, the better slip resistance the shoe will have.
Ideal Traits of Non-Slip Shoes
The ideal non-slip shoes will be different for each wearer since they will have different reasons for why they are purchasing their shoe.
However, there are some general requirements a wearer should look for in their potential footwear.
- Durable, lightweight, and soft outsoles: These provide comfort for the wearer with a minimal break-in period and increase the longevity of the shoe, as well as its slip resistance.
- A reliable non-slip tread pattern: This pattern can be anything from squares and diamonds to squiggles and circles to tightly packed hexagons. As long as the tread pattern is consistent and tightly packed it will provide the best possible non-slip shoe. Wearers should prioritize hexagonal patterns because shoes that use this pattern will be able to provide the most tread to the surface area.
- Cushioning on the midsole: The most common use of non-slip shoes are workers in specific industries who will be on their feet for multiple hours a day. Cushioning provides much-needed comfort for the wearer.
- Roomy toe boxes: A shoe that confines the toes will be increasingly uncomfortable as the work day wears on and could potentially lead to health issues later on in life. Wearers should look for a shoe that gives wiggle room in the toes.
Some other traits to look for in non-slip footwear are water resistance or waterproofing, padded collars, and footbeds that offer orthopedic support.
If someone is going to be in an environment where they will be exposed to potential slip and fall hazards, a pair of non-slip shoes is highly recommended, and often required in professional settings.
One should be cognizant of the basics of what makes a non-slip shoe, i.e. what is the sole made of and is the tread pattern on the outsole is designed in such a way to maximize the slip resistance of the footwear.
When determining if a pair of shoes is non-slip, identify the material that the outsole is made of and if it aligns with safety standards and if other non-slip shoe manufacturers utilize said material. Prioritize examining the outsole tread since this is the best indicator of whether or not a shoe can function as safe non-slip footwear.
Diamond and hexagon patterns offer the best non-slip tread as they can be tightly packed together to cover as much surface area on the outsole of the shoe. This will give the shoe more traction in slippery and wet environments and improve the safety of the wearer.
Different occupations or environments may require a different shoe construction so make sure to select the right non-slip shoes for the job.