Safety Boots - From Wood to Kevlar a History of Design
One of the earliest types of foot protection were wooden clogs, also called 'sabots'. Textile workers in Europe wore them for protection in the first factories as did farmers while working in fields to avoid sharp objects on the ground and protection from animals feet. During the very early industrial revolution workers threw their 'sabots' into the gears of factory machines to protest about industrialisation and stop production. The word 'sabotage' is said to derive from this, however, the term 'sabot' is French, and 'saboter' means to knock with the foot, or work carelessly. We may never know the true origin of the word but the need for footwear protection has a long history.
The Origin of the Steel Toe Cap
The origin of the first steel toe boots may also be lost to history but the development may well have started at the start of the 20th century when industrial safety became an issue. Large companies became interested in investing in safer equipment and employee protection due to rising liability costs that came about from increasing legislation for the safety of workers.
Gone are the days of safety boots being black in colour, heavy and uncomfortable. Wearers can now choose from a wide variety of designs including safety hikers, safety trainers and fully waterproof safety boots. The latest generation of safety footwear means that the wearer can now purchase safety boots or shoes knowing they meet all the latest EU directive safety requirements and offer high levels of comfort and performance
Two of the key features that are a direct result of these technological advances are lightweight Kevlar midsoles, which are now replacing the inflexible traditional steel midsole, and composite lightweight toe caps, which have become increasingly popular over the old fashioned steel toe cap.
These are surrounded by traditional and synthetic leathers and a new generation of waterproof and breathable membrane fabrics which now make safety footwear lighter, more resilient.
You would be forgiven if you could not tell the difference in design between safety footwear and everyday casual footwear that can be purchased on the high street. Safety footwear manufacturers now take the in-vogue designs from the high street and replicate them for industrial use. This has taken the traditional safety boot from just a functional piece of industrial footwear, too a highly desirable fashion item. The Dr Martens range is a very good example of this trend. Today workers have the choice of numerous styles and designs that can be worn at work, but also can be worn with your friends down the pub.
In recent months with the influence of youth culture another evolution in safety footwear has spawned the safety sneaker. The new safety sneakers look exactly like the leisure wear equivalent and fully comply with EU Safety requirements, a truly remarkable evolution.
This constant striving for new methods of production and the advancement of material technologies brings to the wearer safety footwear that is comfortable, functional and aesthetically desirable.
One thing can be assured with consumers now demanding better looking, more comfortable and lightweight safety footwear the design of safety footwear will continue to evolve at a rapid rate.
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