The Different Sole Compounds

It is a part of your safety shoe or safety boot that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Again, a critical component that needs understanding in order to make an informed decision prior to your purchase. All shoes have a sole, which is the bottom of a shoe, the part that comes into full contact with the ground. Soles can be made from a variety of materials, although most modern safety shoes have soles made from either PU (Polyurethane), TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) or Rubber. Prior to these compounds – during the 90’s – polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was popular. Today however, it is fairly rare and rather obsolete.

More than 90% of the safety footwear sold and purchased globally will be manufactured out of Polyurethane. Either single density or dual/double density. Dual density has become the global standard due to the fact it offers both a hard-wearing outsole (which takes the impact and pounding of the earth below) and a softer, more cushioned midsole. The midsole, being of a different shore hardness (Shore Hardness is a measure of the resistance a material has to indentation) allows spring and cushioning which provides comfort. Single density doesn’t have this best of both worlds scenario – so has to compromise on either the longevity of a hard wearing outsole or the comfort factor. This ends up either being very hard and inflexible… or not hard wearing enough.

Polyurethane injected soles in safety footwear; are intrinsically flexible, lightweight, antistatic, oil/acid/petrol & diesel resistant, slip resistant and has a heat resistance of around 90’ degrees to 110’ degrees (on better quality chemicals). Due to the massive quantities sold worldwide, it is the cheapest of the predominantly utilised compounds.

Thermoplastic Polyurethane soled product is more specialist; a little less flexible, very lightweight, oil/acid/petrol & diesel resistant, but slightly less slip resistant. It also carries a 90’ degree heat resistant but most importantly, it does have the impressive quality of being cut resistant. A nice feature. Due to its specialist nature – it does carry a price premium.

And that brings us to the heavy duty sole offering, which is Rubber. More expensive, heavier, but designed to take on the harshest work environments in construction, engineering and mining. It has a harder compound, offering a superior degree of both cut and puncture resistance, as well as resistance to some harsher chemicals. It also boasts a 300’ degree heat resistant outsole which also makes it non-conductive. Great for applications around both heat, extreme cold and electrical current.

ProFit Safety Footwear makes use of a range of 5 different anti-static, dual density polyurethane soles – and 4 different heat-resistant and non-conductive rubber soles.

Leather : The Various “Grades” and What You NEED to Know!

Make no mistake (and it’s an eye-opening fact for many to sometimes hear) if you are walking in a pair of genuine leather shoes… those leather uppers once walked around themselves. Leather is an animal skin (or hide), predominantly bovine – from a cow or buffalo in the sense of safety footwear. It is a NATURAL material. The largest suppliers globally of safety footwear leathers are India and China. But they are also available from Brazil. The greatest “Leather City” is found in India (known as the leather capital), which has been producing since the early 19th century where British forces made their base. With the cow being a sacred animal in India, buffalo hides make up the majority of the skins available for purchase and converting. Cow is however available in certain states.

Leather is used because it can be cut and shaped with ease. It is strong, light, very supple but most importantly – it breathes! Despite massive leaps and developments is synthetic materials – predominantly for sports shoes, leather remains very popular due to durability and comfort when wearing for long hours.

An animal hide is very thick, and can be broken down into layers (often colloquially called; grades). A cross section of an animal hide will show you the outer layer which was covered by hair – all the way to the inner flesh layer closest to the inside organs. Between that lies the full grain / top grain and split. All are classified as genuine leather.

But what part of the genuine leather are you getting? And that’s what you need to know. After the split, you end up with bonded leather. Bonded leather is comprised of very little genuine leather; more flakes of leather held together with a form of polyurethane of latex for bond (and can comprise of as little as 10% leather flakes).

Now obviously the part that held the skin and hair is exceptionally strong – the epidermis layer. This would comprise of the full grain / top grain. This layer has been exposed to everything from the elements (wind, hail and rain) to fly bites, bee stings and barbed wire fencing cuts. It’s the animals protective layer looking after the insides.

In order to have leathers one can work with – cut and shape – you need to reduce the thickness of the leather once it’s off the animal. Once removed it will swell to around 4mm/6mm in substance. And this is why it needs to be split into the various layers (grades). When one splits the leather – try picture peeling bark off a tree. The splitting process then feeds the thick leather between two heavy and giant metal rollers which are turning and pulling the skin inwards – which have settings to move the rollers closer together or further apart (depending on thickness required). On entering the rollers at rapid speed, the leather skin is met on the other side by a super sharp blade running the length of the rollers – which divides (or splits) the leather skin into separate layers. Ah! The puzzle pieces are falling into place now. The picture is becoming clearer. The top layer is the full grain. What’s left underneath forms the start of the split. Some skins can be split again. This is often where the split is thinned and the fibres and flakes are removed. Those final pieces are compacted and joined with latex to create bonded leather. This is really the closest one gets to a synthetic material whilst still using the word “leather”.

Splits are still incredibly useful and valuable – and are often corrected, to create a finished surface which still looks similar to a top grain quality leather. These are used predominantly on Econo type styles. Others used in areas on the shoe and boot which will be under less strain or impact, as a more natural suede (tongue, trim or panel).

Leathers can range anywhere from 0.8mm upwards. But for safety footwear uppers we need something more robust and hard wearing. Leathers need to range from entry level 1.6mm/1.8mm up to 2.0/2.2mm for the very top end footwear. Thinner leathers can be used for the comfort collar lining and tongue.

And this is where the price variations come into play between econo styles and heavy duty styles. The best hides are reserved for the best styles. As you create a boot with features to withstand harsher work environments, you use stronger (more resistant) leathers. And the Full Grain / Top Grain is the highest quality leather available.

Through the tanning and finishing process, which takes the actual skin on a journey of treatment and colouring we end up with the workable product which is then cut into panels and stitched together to create the wonderful uppers you see on your shoes and boots. The less panels, the more expensive the boots. The more natural looking and feeling of the upper – the higher the grade of the leather. The softer and more flexible, the better the quality. And watch out for those “plumping up” their thin 1.2/1.4mm leather uppers with synthetic EVA type materials. Often easily seen if you look at the raw edges of the stitched panels. Make sure you are getting what you paid for! Breathability is the most important for comfort!

AND… Always look for the LEATHER LOGO, which is an image of an animal skin laying flat on the ground depicting the full hide spread out. No head, no legs, belly and no tail.

 

SIZING: The Single Most Important Factor when Buying Safety Footwear

It’s probably been a very long time since you were a kid, experiencing the years pass you by between age 6 and 18. I recall vividly, the annual (or sometimes bi-annual) anguish my parents visually expressed when I advised them my school shoes no longer fitted my feet. That rapid growth from kiddies size 11 to adult size 5 over the space of just 4 or 5 years goes to shows the remarkable and ever changing foot growth we experience. It’s important to remember that whilst around age 18 things start to become more “stable” and growth does plateau… but, your feet never stop growing. Now when wearing a slipslop, sandal, running shoe, dress shoe or even slippers, all these upper materials can and will stretch and distort. They are flexible and designed to do so. Of course you need to be in the correct “ball-park” size, but even if you are out a little bit, you don’t experience serious discomfort or fatigue. The soles are soft and super flexible, made from super lightweight PVC or EVA. And for example, if you are a Size 8, that will be the first size you ask for when trying on a new pair in store. Often, you may even ask for a Size 7 and Size 9 to accompany the fitting session. You walk around a bit, maybe jump up and down once or twice and even do a little Usain Bolt sprint over a few metres. And once satisfied, you purchase.

In the industrial sector, we have a few things to take into consideration.

Firstly, you (or your company procurement manager) may be making a bulk purchase of one style of shoe or boot for an entire workforce. This, simply issued to you based on previous purchase records from the years’ before, or on your stating your size at your new place of work.

Secondly, the upper materials on safety footwear are not fabrics or materials, but thick leather animal hides. They are able to be “broken-in”, and soften over a week or two with the application of polish (nourishment) and exposure to heat (like the sun) and your daily foot movement.

Thirdly, we now have an immovable steel toe cap at the front. Which will cover your forefoot and toes. It does not bend, flex or stretch. It will not be broken!

These three factors above are the founding principles of why accurate sizing is crucial to comfort, safety and productivity. And why it is so important to ensure you are getting into the correct size safety boot or shoe.

We always stress to our clients, that our footwear is graded and measured to be purchased in UK sizing. Often errors are made when someone buys in US sizing, which is a full size difference out. That will bring a whole world of hurt, confusion and irritation to the purchaser who will argue that the “boot is a problem”, where the entire exercise can simply be resolved with asking if they ordered based on UK or US sizing. And what about continental (EUR) sizing? Size 42 for example, is a UK Size 8.

So it becomes very important to make sure you check your conversion country, and sizing annually. Age, bodyweight and work environment all play a part in foot sizing changing over the years or even during the course of the day. The foot is about 7% larger in the afternoon than when you woke and stood up on the same morning. So we always recommend measuring your feet in the afternoon, as to ensure the boot or shoe will fit best at your largest size during the day. Every extra 5kgs of weight you add to your frame, also applies further pressure onto your feet and makes them larger. In the same way your pants size changes.

We get calls from clients asking us to please tell them what size they should buy, based on what shoe they normally wear daily (the DWK; dans / werk and kerk). The easiest way to check this measurement is often to stand barefoot, on a blank A4 sheet of paper… corner to corner, and measure from the furthest point of the outer edge of your foot, from the centre of your heel to your big toe. Based on that centimetre reading, you will fall into a sizing chart.

We’ve added this sizing chart for you to review before your purchase.

And one final thing, a nice comfortable, snug fit is exactly what you want. Don’t buy a size up because of the steel toe cap. Toe caps are designed with a bit of “let” in the front. Buy the UK size you normally wear. You don’t want a boot or shoe that is too big (or you will slide around inside), nor too small (as the tightness will end up causing pressure on the nerves around the feet, blisters on the toes, and a burning sensation underneath the feet).

So get it right the first time, be comfortable and stay productive. It is not always the boot’s fault 😊

US SizesEuro SizesUK SizesInchesCM
6395.59.25″23.5
6.53969.5″24.1
7406.59.625″24.4
7.540-4179.75″24.8
8417.59.9375″25.4
8.541-42810.125″25.7
9428.510.25″26
9.542-43910.4375″26.7
10439.510.5625″27
10.543-441010.75″27.3
114410.510.9375″27.9
11.544-451111.125″28.3
124511.511.25″28.6
134612.511.5625″29.4
144713.511.875″30.2
154814.512.1875″31
164915.512.5″31.8

The Importance of choosing the Right Socks

Something as simple as the piece of fabric which covers the foot prior to sliding it into a shoe or boot, can make the world of difference during your day – not only from a comfort standpoint but also with regards to hygiene. The human body has a normal temperature of 37’ degrees centigrade. The temperature inside one’s standard shoe or boot is higher, and you can only imagine what happens when a steel toe cap safety shoe or boot is worn in and around an industrial or agricultural environment. NOW, picture all of that in the heart of summer! The first image that should be conjuring up in your head is sweat. Exactly.

Now, getting back to the hosiery. Different fabrics have different properties. Some are designed to be strong and lightweight, otherwise are thicker for padded comfort. Different fabrics are used for different applications, and sometimes it just comes down to what is the cheapest, so we save on price.

The most comfortable compound will always be cotton. And whilst bamboo socks are making inroads, they are currently prohibitively expensive and lack in demand. Then we have polyesters, rayons and nylons. All suitable in their own right. Often best when blended.

The same applies in the industrial footwear sector, where often in error – buyers are quick to purchase 100% cotton socks. This is obviously a bold and noble gesture, but misguided. Admirable but mistaken. The feet, make no mistake can perspire up to a cup (that is 200ml) of sweat per day – and the liquid needs to go somewhere.

And whilst safety boot linings are designed to be breathable, assistance is first obtained from the sock.

So, a 100% cotton sock would do a wonderful job in absorbing the sweat away from the feet but they become water-logged and hold all the liquid in the fibres. You’ve most certainly had the feeling of taking off an exceptionally wet and damp sock at the end of the work day. It literally makes a squish sound when it hits the floor.

And on the other side of the spectrum, a 100% polyester sock does absolutely nothing to absorb sweat and you are left simply with a wet foot and a smelly sock.

And then there is that horrible foot fungus which when exposed to this unpleasant environment (very suitable for the fungus; being dark, humid and moist), rapidly spreads to athlete’s foot. Which can worsen further still, without being addressed and no treatment.

This leaves us with the perfect industrial sock construction which is a polycotton blend, with an antibacterial agent and an antistatic thread. (Yes, if you want fully antistatic compliant footwear, the socks need to be antistatic too!)

The best blends are always around 72% – 76% cotton heavy with a polyester compliment of around 22% – 26%.

Our superiorly engineered ProFit Safety Footwear socks, manufactured on South African soil by our team of legendary mad scientists, are made up of a composition of 76% Cotton, 22% Polyamide and 2% Silver. They come in mens and ladies in OSFM (one size fits most). They are simply magnificent. Buy a few pairs and feel the magic!