The Effects of Poor Safety Footwear on Health
By Alexandra Serban
February 06, 2020
Walking is very important to our well-being. The way we walk affects our overall health, body shape, posture, and mood. It seems easy to do, but, as with any physical activity, there are ways to walk better both inside as well as outside a working environment. And comfortable shoes play a key role.
Here is what you need to know about walking, posture and the consequences of wearing improper safety shoes on your health and overall well-being.
Put on your walking shoes
Walking correctly strengthens muscles, improves sleep, but more importantly, prevents illnesses such as cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases.
Posture is the first step for walking comfortably and energetically. A good walking posture engages our core muscles and ensures a natural walking stride. It requires having adequate muscle flexibility and strength, normal joint motion in the spine and balanced muscles to support the spine.
While there is no gold standard of good posture, here are some posture pointers for a stronger walking stride:
- Chin parallel to the ground
- Even, relaxed shoulders
- Eyes on the horizon
- Neutral spine
- Arms bent
- Even hips and knees
- Bodyweight distributed evenly on both feet
“Good posture demonstrates confidence, balance, pain-free movement and enhanced physiologic function of your body”, the American Posture Institute. writes on their website. “Whereas poor posture causes additional stress to the body, spinal degeneration, and diffuse pain.”
Poor posture places increased stress on the joints. A 2012 knee health study links poor posture with arthritis, saying that crooked walking causes arthritic pain.
“Simply correcting your posture can enhance the quality of your life and overall health. Good posture promotes movement efficiency and endurance and contributes to an overall feeling of well-being”, the institute adds.
Secondly, a good walking technique pays attention to arm and foot motion. Proper step motion is comprised of three steps:
1. The impact phase - striking the ground with the heel.
2. The stability phase - transferring the weight forward, from heel to toe
3. The propulsion phase - impulse to the next step.
Walking correctly means your feet should step in a rolling action, from heel to toe. The heel-first foot posture is an ancestral body feature, inherited from apes, a study by the University of Utah states. It’s also economical, as landing on the heel carries people farther and faster than if the foot slaps down on the ground with each step.
“Compared with heel-first walking, it takes 53 percent more energy to walk on the balls of your feet, and 83 percent more energy to walk on your toes,” according to the same study.
The effects of poor footwear on walking
Wearing comfortable, well-fitted shoes when walking or doing any type of activity is paramount to doing it correctly.
Footwear that is too tight, too big or badly insulated can cause short-term discomfort as well as long-term health problems, from foot pain to foot conditions, such as lesser toe deformity (hammertoe), corns, and calluses. These can lead to falls, reduced mobility, and ultimately, lower quality of life.
Low-quality safety shoes affect walking, as rigid materials put pressure on feet, causing deformities, blisters, swelling, and pain.
The wrong shoe fit is also a serious problem. From a group of older adults with a history of foot lesions, such as corns and calluses, only 14% were wearing the right size shoes, a 2017 study says.
If shoes are too big, the constant friction between the foot and shoe will cause blisters, irritate the joints and even arthritis. To make sure this does not happen, test for length by sliding your foot forward until toes touch the front of the boot or shoe. Bend the knee and test both feet to see if the width of your index finger fits between the heel and the back of the shoe.
Other correct shoe sizing tips include:
- Trying safety shoes with the same type of socks as you use daily
- Try shoes at the end of the day, when feet are slightly swollen
- Pay attention to the model, to see if it was designed for wide or narrow feet
When it comes to steel or composite toe caps necessary in tough working environments, the consequences can become even more serious, as they impede flexibility. Typically, toe caps should cover all toes and shoes should flex where the foot does naturally. If the toe cap is too small, the pressure on the tip of the foot can cause inflammation of the bones and nerves. Long-term, this contributes to the development of musculoskeletal disorders.
Also, if the heel is too high, the soles are stressed, and workers can experience sharp pain in the metatarsus, phalanges and the sesamoid bones.
Shaping comfortable safety shoes
Recognizing the importance of ergonomics, Honeywell put a lot of thought into creating a very comfortable safety shoe.
The Honeywell Ultimate Footwear range enables smooth, effortless motion over any terrain, mimicking the foot’s natural movement.
“The S-wave concept respects the natural biomechanics of walking, following the surface of contact of the foot, Boris Dodin, Global Footwear Offering Manager at Honeywell, says. “The anti-slip outsole also offers stability during all phases of walking.”
The design and testing processes were carefully thought out, to meet the requirements of all relevant safety standards and certifications.
“The initial design studies started almost 1 year before serial production,” Kamil Des, Senior Mechanical Design Engineer at Honeywell, says. “Our designers have had time to discuss every detail of the shoe construction. This generated a lot of ideas on how to not compromise safety over comfort.”
The modular insole fitting system ensures proper shoe fit is not an issue. It allows users to adjust the space inside the shoes to achieve a narrower fit or to create more room, for larger feet. The cushioned heel provides high shock absorption through carefully positioned holes.
“When it comes to impact resistance, the team performed toecap impact tests (to 200J) of 16mm and 21mm, exceeding the standard requirements of EN ISO 20345:2011. The tests helped us understand how shoe construction is deformed and consequently, how to adapt design and construction to provide maximum safety to the end-user,” Des added. “We also did a forklift test, where a forklift vehicle ran over toecaps to test resistance”.
Design engineers also put a lot of emphasis on the new outsole wearing indicators, a feature meant to let wearers know when they need to replace their shoes.
“We had to develop a completely new tester which was used to test the abrasion of the outsole.”