As a podiatrist, I have found myself referring for work boots, safety boots, and safety shoes that I was never 100% satisfied with. It is vitally important to have a great work boot as a foundation for treating foot pains and foot injuries at work.
Choosing the best work boot from the current brands on the Australian market was difficult to get all of the aspects needed to keep your feet injury-free. Over the last 20 years as a podiatrist, I have seen almost every brand and style of a work boot, work shoe, safety shoe, and running shoe.
There are functional aspects of all of these styles of shoes that we love and there are also some components missing from some of our favorites from a podiatry viewpoint. So we set about making a safety boot with all of our favorite bits and built-in arch support to make an excellent all-around boot.
Below is an outline of how we have come to make our Ergonx range of boots and what elements we have added and felt were important.
Initially, this article was aimed more at our internal staff to outline why we have included some of the elements in our work boots. However, we hope you will find the information below helpful when selecting a work boot for yourself.
The Work Environment
When working in a trade-based or manual handling job, the day-to-day tasks are very repetitive due to the nature of the work. Over time the same movements of the job repeated over and over eventually take their toll on the body, this can lead to fatigue, pain, and injury.
Choosing the work boots that suit your daily activity is very important because they can help to prevent these overuse injuries. The more hours we do the more important it is to choose the best work boot for your feet.
Finding the most comfortable work boots is important because supporting your feet will make them work less which will make them less painful day to day.
What General Features Are Best in Work Boots
The components that make Australia’s best work boots are similar to what you would find in an athletic shoe but with some added components of protection and support. This is the key difference between a safety boot and a safety shoe.
We have found that the better boots in the Australian marketplace pay attention to the functional aspects and gait patterns when walking. Arch support, an inbuilt shank (steel shank or polymer), and how the boot is fastened to the foot are some of the more important features that most feet will benefit from.
Arch support will support the foot and help with pain relief, the overall fit of the boot, and also increase the comfort for day-to-day wear. By adding our ultra-soft arch supportive insole as standard to all of our boots range we have made the fit and feel of our boots extremely comfortable across the work day.
What Makes Feet Pain-Free?
Healthy feet are comfortable feet. Foot health and foot comfort are very important for all workers who are on their feet all day. Without healthy pain-free feet, the thought of an enjoyable work day is almost impossible.
When we support our feet they are placed under less stress and work less for the same amount of activity. Over an entire day supporting the feet will lead to less injury and pain in the feet.
The work environment can be very challenging and we wanted our boots to offer the support and protection of a work boot but the comfort of a running shoe.
We have searched the Australian market and although there were some boots (Brands such as Steel Blue boots, Southern Cross, Ascent, and Cat to name a few) that we have been using in the clinic for years, we have not found anything that we were 100% happy with.
Best Orthotic and Orthopedic Work Boots Australia
We set out to make the best orthotic and orthopedic work boot range in Australia.
When you think about it safety boots and safety shoes are the one piece of gear that you will use every day without fail, so you could argue that it is the most important tool you can own.
Choosing what elements to include in the best work boots in Australia is not straightforward. We had to collate all of the aspects and testing from our 20 years of experience treating foot pain and make them all fit into the one boot.
The result of this is that we believe we have created the best all-around work boot in Australia. Our wider base of support safety boots will help to increase foot comfort and decrease foot pain on the work site.
To understand why we believe this you need some more information on what makes a good work boot.
How To Choose The Right Pair Of Work Boots
When there are so many brands of work boots on the market it can be difficult to decide on the right boot for the job when you are faced with a wall of safety boots in the workwear shop. There can be some pressure as you will be stuck wearing the work boot for the next year.
Fortunately, we have put together a checklist to assess any pair of work boots (and any of your athletic shoes) to see which work boot is the best all-rounder
If you work through the checklist below and score each element out of 5 this will help you to select the right boot for your specific requirements.
1. Where does the work boot bend?
The boot should only bend where your foot bends (at the joint of the big toe). This helps the foot to function in the normal heel-to-toe motion in walking.
2. Where does the work boot Twist?
The boot should resist being twisted (wrung out). When walking on uneven ground, having a work boot that is resistant to twisting will keep your foot in a more neutral and rested position.
3. Heel Counter in a work boot
The heel counter should be fully enclosed and firm. In our boots, we have made this more mouldable as we often have customers that need to fit a wider foot in the boot. The leather construction counter will adapt to the foot shape but also offer support
4. Toe Box in a work boot
The toe box region should be deep and roomy to accommodate wide and deep feet.
5. Length of the work boot
The boot should be a thumb width longer than the longest toe. You can check this against the length of the insole in the boot. If your toes touch the end of the insole then the boot is too small.
6. How is the safety boot fastened to the foot
Ideally, the boot should be able to be fastened to the foot by a buckle, belt, strap, elastic, or laces. Our preference is for laces and zip as you can have the benefits of a slip-on (zip-on) and then as the boot leather stretches over time, the boot can be tightened with the laces to fit the foot.
7. Heel Height in safety boots
A small raise helps to relieve some of the pressure on the calves and Achilles when working. It will also help to limit over-pronation in workers with tight calves. Limiting pronation will help to prevent wear and tear on the joints ligaments and muscles of the feet.
8. Shape of the work boot matches the foot
The shape of the boot should match the foot (curved last for a curved foot). If the shape of the boot does not match the foot, the boot can be uncomfortable.
9. Midsole of the safety boot
The midsole of the boot should be solid/firm yet shock absorbing. When the midsole is shock-absorbing the boot cushions more of the impact and so it is not transferred to your feet and knees leading to wear and tear.
Only the best work boots have the ideal mix of a midsole that is soft but not too soft for shock-absorbing, and firm but not too firm so the shoe will wear well. The midsole does need to be an all-rounder when it comes to function.
10. Flat Outsole Forefoot to Rearfoot
Is the shape of the outsole flat on the forefoot with respect to the rearfoot. This keeps the foot aligned and will keep the stress and strain on the midfoot and heels to a minimum.
11. Arch support
Adding supportive soft arch support to a work boot will help to limit over-pronation, reduce foot fatigue and make for a more comfortable work day. The Ergonx boots support the medial arch, lateral arch, and transverse arch of the foot. This limits abnormal movements so your feet are more comfortable on any job site.
12. Durable, Lightweight, and protection
In addition to the above, the shoe should be durable and lightweight and offer protection to the foot and toe area of the wearer (using a steel cap/fiber cap). How rugged the boot is will depend on the quality and type of construction. The weight will also depend on what features are included in the boot.
Features of Ergonx Elements Work Boots
In addition to the functional and general features above included in our Ergonx safety boots, each of the features below further helps to support the feet and perform more optimally to meet the specific requirements of each unique work site.
1. Eva Midsole
The EVA midsole helps to cushion the foot and reduce fatigue. By using the perfect density of Eva midsole (not too hard, not too soft) we can cushion the foot, knees, and leg, but also support the foot and legs. This leads to fewer aches and pain in the feet and legs and also a harder wearing midsole and a longer-lasting boot.
2. Price: $249.95 (New Boots Range: Ergonx Elements).
While this is at the upper end of the work boots price range, our work boots contain all of the features of the competitor’s work boots in Australia. At the end of a long day, your feet will thank you that you did not cheap out on price.
3. Pu arch supportive insole
The ultra-soft arch support insole helps to further cushion the foot, reduces fatigue, and makes our work boots extremely comfortable. By supporting the arches of the feet it helps to rest the supporting ligaments and muscles of the feet.
When we rest the structures of the feet it allows them to heal making them less painful. Because our boots are designed and recommended by a podiatrist they help in the prevention of plantar fasciitis and other injuries.
4. Anti Static work boots
Help to reduce the build-up and discharge-related accidents for the user.
5. Slip-resistant sole/outsole work boots
The outsole of our boots is slip-resistant providing a good grip to prevent slips and falls on the job site. Our tread pattern will also help to grip uneven ground on the work site. A hard-wearing rubber helps to make the outsole of our workboots more durable.
6. 4e Wide Fit / Wide feet friendly work boots
Our broad-fitting boots are made in a 4e fitting to suit wide feet. Just like when you are fitting your shoes, the width of a work boot is very important to accommodate the toe and forefoot to prevent pain in the feet.
The lighter the shoe the less work you do carrying the boot around the site. While it is difficult to keep the weight of a boot with so many features down, our work boots are at the lighter end of the weight range. This will help to limit fatigue at the end of a long day.
8. Full Grain Leather Safety Boots
Our full-grain leather upper is more durable and more adaptable to the feet. Full-grain leather will stretch and adapt to the foot shape over time giving the boot a more comfortable fit. Leather is also extremely hard-wearing. The leather details on our boots are also minimal to prevent the build-up of dirt and debris from the work site.
9. Poly Propylene Shank
We have modernized the traditional steel shank by changing the material to polypropylene to make it airport friendly and lighter. The shank helps to add stiffness to the boot which helps to reduce strain over the middle of the foot and prevent foot pain.
Uneven ground can be difficult to work on, so when working on rough or uneven job sites it is best to have a more rigid boot that works with the natural movements of your feet.
10. Lace-Up Vs Slip On Safety Boot Options
There are 2 broad types of work boots in our range. Elastic Sided (slip-on) and Lace-up with a zipper. While the elastic-sided boot is easier to get on, our preference is for the lace-up boots with a zip because these can be adjusted as the boot stretches and wears over the life of the shoe.
The fit can also be adjusted by different lacing techniques for ankle support and also to accommodate broad feet. These lacing techniques are similar to the way we would adjust an athletic shoe.
Getting the right fit in a pair of work boots
It is worth noting here that getting the right fit for the work boot is as important as the work boot features themselves.
When getting a pair of boots fitted is very important to measure both feet. It is not abnormal to have one foot that is 1/2 a size bigger than the other. In this situation, we would choose the pair of boots based on the larger foot size.
Even the best work boots need to be fitted correctly to function at their optimum. If the boot size is not matched correctly to your foot the features of the boot, such as where it bend for example will not match where your foot bends. This will lead to the boot not supporting your foot correctly and the supporting features will wear prematurely.
The best way to fit any work boot in any range is to have your feet measured and the boot should be fitted a thumb width longer than your longest toe. This is the same for all brands of work boots.
Even the best brands not fitted correctly will make for an uncomfortable boot.
Australian Standards Testing of Ergonx Work Boots
We just don’t think that we have the best work boots in Australia, our Australia standards testing results in the following areas would suggest the same:
We have tested the following features in our work boots:
1. The Ergonx Elements Tests
Toe Cap / Steel Cap – we have replaced the traditional steel cap with a composite protective toe cap. The steel cap in most modern safety boots has been replaced with a composite cap.
P = Penetration resistance: Penetration resistance plate included in the footwear.
A = Antistatic: To prevent the build-up of electricity to cause a spark.
E = Energy Absorption: Extra shock absorption under the heel.
SRA = Slip Resistant: Slip Resistant ‘Ceramic tile with sodium lauryl sulfate’
HRO = Resistance to Hot Contact: The outsole does not melt, char, crack or craze when coming in contact with the 300℃ surface for one minute.
FO = Resistance to fuel oil: The increase in the volume of the outsole shall be not greater than 12% after immersing in the fuel oil for 22 hours.
2. The Test Standards
1. Safety Toe 200 Joules Impact
Benefit: The footwear protects the wearer’s toes against the risk of injury from falling objects when worn in industrial and commercial environments where potential hazards occur with the following protection plus, where applicable, additional protection.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019 Standard. To test the safety toe /safety shoe with a drop strike test machine at an impact energy of 200 Joule, the clearance under the toecap shall be by the standard of different sizes.
2. Safety Toe 15’000 Newton Compression
Benefit: The footwear protects the wearer’s toes against the risk of injury from crushing when worn in industrial and commercial environments where potential hazards occur with the following protection plus, where applicable, additional protection.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019 Standard. To test the safety toe with the plate of the compression machine until the load of 15000 Newton has been reached, the clearance under the toecap shall be by the standard of different sizes.
3. Safety Insert 1100 Newton Anti-Penetration
Benefit: The footwear prevents the wearer’s feet from puncturing or being injured by sharp objects or nails.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019 Standard. To test the whole sole assembly using a truncated nail of diameter 4,5 mm and a force of 1100 N.
Where: Penetration resistance insert
4. A: Antistatic Footwear – Anti Static Electricity
Benefit: Static electricity finds ground through the boots. The purpose is to prevent the build-up o causing a spark.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019 Additional Classification. Antistatic Footwear. After conditioning in a dry and wet atmosphere, the electrical resistance is above 100kΩ and less than or equal to 1000kΩ.
Where: Through the sole and insole of the boot.
5. E: Energy Absorption
Benefit: Superior shock absorption under the heel. See ‘Cushioning’ below for more details.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019 Additional Classification. Energy Absorption of Seat Region. Passes the test for shock absorption under the heel.
Where: Under the heel
6. SRA: Slip Resistant with sodium lauryl sulphate on Ceramic Tiles
Benefit: Provides sufficient slip resistance to prevent a fall when working on soapy wet tiles.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019. SLS (soapy water) solution on ceramic tile test. The slip resistance coefficient o contact is ≥0.28, and the slip resistance coefficient with whole shoe flat contact is ≥ 0.32.
7. HRO: Resistant to Hot Contact (300ºC)
Benefit: Ideal for people occasionally stepping on hot surfaces/objects while working.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019 Additional Classification. Resistance to Hot Contact. The outsole does not melt, char, crack or craze when coming in contact with the 300ºC surface for one minute.
8. FO: Resistant to Fuel Oil
Benefit: For people stepping on the floor with fuel oil while working.
What: Australian & NZ Standards AS 2210.3:2019 Additional Classification. To immerse the outsole in the reagent for 22 hours, the increase in volume shall be not greater than 12%.
So you can see from the above information that Choosing the best work boots in the Australian market is quite involved.
Our Ergonx elements work boots have used our 20 years of podiatry experience and taken elements from all of our favorite boots on in the market to create the best all-around boot in Australia.
The above information can be used to assess your current boots and see how they would stack up against our work boot range.
We have discovered over the last 20 years of work that the combination of the elements of work boots is greater than the sum of the parts. So please be careful when selecting a work boot that does not have all of the elements listed above as it may affect how the other aspects of the work boot will function.
About the Author:
Kent Elliot (Podiatrist). B App. Sc. Pod (Hons), B.Sc(HMS). M.A. Pod. A
Kent has been working as a Podiatrist since 2003.
Kent graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Human Movement Studies) and from Podiatry at QUT. During this time Kent took a special interest in exercise and conditioning training. Kent has a personal interest in and has participated in many sports including rugby, athletics, boxing, tennis, and running.