Getting to the Bottom of Foot Protection

Just like the tires on your car provide traction and safety, your footwear does the same thing. The amount of traction you receive depends on the shoes and boots you choose. And, selecting the right footwear depends on the hazards you face in your workplace.

Slips, trips, and falls are a leading cause of on-the-job injuries. The right footwear can help keep you safe in slippery conditions. It all comes down to choosing the proper outsole.

Outsoles are the part of the boots that come in contact with the ground. They’re most commonly made of rubber because of its excellent abrasion, oil-, and slip-resistant qualities. However, new materials, such as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), polyurethane (PU), and ethylene-vinyl-acetate (EVA), are lighter in weight and more flexible. PU and EVA also provide greater cushioning.

Outsoles are available in different tread patterns, from very aggressive to nearly smooth.

  • Vibram lug outsoles have hard rubber cleats (lugs) with sharp outside edges for digging and wedging into surfaces, such as rocks, dry dirt, or clay. They’re the ideal outsole for rugged terrain.
  • Shallow tread outsoles have a tread with a thin, wavy pattern for wear in mud, grass, and other slippery walking surfaces. The primary purpose of this type of outsole is to provide traction in slick areas, without picking up mud. 

  • Hiking, or athletic outsoles have multi-directional lugs for use in a wide variety of applications. This outsole is lightweight and provides good traction, making it great for all-purpose use.

In addition to choices of outsoles, there are also choices in the outsole construction. 



  • Cement is the strongest construction. The outsole is bonded to the leather upper with an adhesive. 

  • Goodyear welt construction is when the outsole is sewn to the leather upper. This type of construction allows the boot to be re-soled. 

  • Direct attach construction is where the sole is injected into the leather upper in a liquid state and dried onto the boot. It’s the weakest type of outsole construction.



Choosing the proper footwear is an important part of staying safe on the job. If you need help making the right selection for your workplace, give our Technical Support reps a call at 800-922-8553, or email techsupport@northernsafety.com. They’re here to help!

Northern Safety Co., Inc.
PO Box 4250. Utica, NY 13504-4250
Phone: 1-800-571-4646
Fax: 1-800-635-1591

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