Choosing the Right Safety Shoes

Safety shoes allow you to work safely without sacrificing comfort. Today, most working environments require special attention, and for this reason, companies are increasingly obliged to comply with norms that require the use of safety shoes!

This guide aims to help you choose your safety shoes. You will find a detailed description below of the selection criteria according to your work environment and position within your company.

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  • How to choose your safety shoes?

    PFANNER S3 safety shoes

    When choosing your safety shoes, you should take a certain number of criteria into account, not just those related to personal safety, such as the choice of protection level and anticipated additional protection, but also aesthetic and comfort criteria for the people who will be wearing them, for example the material used and the shape of the shoes. If you work in Europe you should of course ensure that the shoes you choose have CE marking. You should also verify that they meet the security norms concerning the risks related to your business. For safety shoes, the EN ISO 20345:2011 norm defines the different criteria according to the protection you need. Be careful not to confuse safety shoes, protective shoes and work shoes. When choosing your shoes you should take into account the differences related to the presence of a toe cap, namely:

    • EN ISO 345 safety shoes: 200 joule impact resistant toe cap.
    • EN ISO 346 protective shoes: 100 joule impact resistant toe cap.
    • EN ISO 347 work shoes: no toe cap.

    Main selection criteria:

    • material
    • type of protection
    • norms
    • comfort
  • Why wear safety shoes?

    7% of wounds caused by workplace accidents are foot injuries.Safety shoes must be provided, maintained and replaced by the employer. Employees must wear these shoes when working in or entering high-risk areas. Labor inspection is entitled to sanction the employer if the latter does not provide each employee with suitable safety shoes.

    Safety shoes are primarily designed to protect the user’s feet, but ESD shoes also protect electronic components from electrostatic discharges.

    Check your country’s labor code, generally, the law requires wearing safety shoes in high-risk environments.

  • Which safety shoes should you choose?

    Example of Jalas anti-perforation safety shoes

    The safety shoes you choose will depend on the level of protection you need while taking into account comfort, aesthetics and price criteria.

    All shoes that are EN ISO 20345:2011 compliant are equipped with an anti-crushing toe cap that resists an impact of 200 joules. Safety shoes must also be a minimum anti-slip on smooth and greasy floors in industrial environments and the soles must be hydrocarbon resistant. It may be necessary to check whether the soles are classified anti-perforation in particular for interventions in mechanical workshops, anti-static in particular for workshops likely to have electrostatic discharges, or fire-retardant, for example in welding workshops. The shoes must also show good wear resistance to avoid premature wear.

    Once the necessary types of protection have been determined, one of the first criteria for choosing the most comfortable shoes possible is to determine whether the employees concerned can wear low shoes or whether they should wear high shoes. Then you can decide whether the shoes can be leather or fabric, or if they need to be made of polymeric materials to ensure waterproofness. The material chosen will often determine the weight of the shoes: the lighter the material, the more comfortable they will be. Another vital element to consider when it comes to the comfort of the shoes is the type of material used for the toe cap.

    Generally, safety shoe sizes are a bit big, but you should avoid ordering smaller shoe sizes than usual as manufacturers anticipate that they will be worn with thick socks in order to improve the user’s comfort.

    The main kinds of protection safety shoes offer:

    • anti-perforation
    • anti-abrasion
    • anti-slip
    • anti-static
    • fire-retardant
  • What are the work, safety and protective shoe norms?

    Example of a Lotto Works S3 safety shoe

    Safety shoes must meet the EN ISO 20345 norm which requires:

    • 200 joule impact resistance at the front of the shoe,
    • anti-slip soles on smooth and greasy floors in industrial environments (XPS 73012 norm),
    • closed back of the shoe.

    The EN ISO 20345 norm is then divided into different categories corresponding to specific protections indicated by the letters:

    • A: anti-static footwear
    • Fo: hydrocarbon-resistant soles
    • E: heel and sole energy absorption
    • P: perforation-resistant soles
    • Wru: upper part of the shoe resistant to water penetration and water absorption
    • Wr: water-resistant shoes

    EN ISO 20345 compliant safety shoes:

    EN ISO 20345 norm categories: A Fo E P Wru Wr
    SBP X
    S1 X X X
    S1P X X X X
    S2 X X X X
    S3 X X X X X
    S4 (S2 + polymeric materials) X X X X X
    S5 (S3 + polymeric materials) X X X X X X

    The following levels of protection don’t enter into the above classification, but are also defined by the EN ISO 20345 norm:

    • Hro: heat contact resistant outsoles
    • Hi: heat-insulated soles
    • Ci: cold-insulated soles
    • C: soles with an electrical resistance lower than 100kW
    • CR: cut-resistant soles
    • ESD: electro static dissipative shoes (EN ISO 61340-4-3:2001 norm)
    • SRA: anti-slip soles on ceramic tile with dilute soap solution
    • SRB: anti-slip soles on steel with glycerol
    • SRC: anti-slip soles on ceramic tile with dilute soap solution and steel with glycerol

    When your business does not present risks related to heavy falling objects, you can consider protective shoes and work shoes which are, for equivalent protection (except crushing of the forefoot), more comfortable and less expensive than safety shoes.

    EN ISO 20347 compliant work shoes:

    Work shoes (EN ISO 20347) 1 2 3 4 5 Corresponding protection
    Protective boots X X
    Closed back X X X X X
    Hydrocarbon-resistant soles X X X X X Fo
    Anti-static X X X X X A
    Shock and energy absorbing heel X X X X X E
    Upper part of the shoe resistant to water penetration and water absorption X X Wru
    Anti-perforation soles with crampons X X P
    Electrical resistance lower than 100kW C


    Footwear can also be EN ISO 20346 compliant if equipped with 100 joule impact resistant toe caps. In this case they are called protective shoes.

  • What kind of shoes are appropriate for my work environment?

    Main uses for safety shoes

    Safety shoes must be worn in all industries where there is a risk of foot injury. You have to determine the type of shoes you will need for the work environment:

    • For indoor and outdoor work, for example on construction sites and in mines, it is better to favor S3 shoes or potentially S5 if it is necessary to intervene in a flooded environment regularly.
    • In the agri-food industry, generally work is done indoors and in a dry environment. In this case, it is possible to switch to S1 safety shoes or S1P shoes if there is a risk of perforation of the soles. Depending on the type of floor covering, you may also need to provide anti-slip protection such as SRA or SRB, or soles insulated against cold or heat.
    • In some laboratories, especially for the chemical industry, you will need to provide safety shoes, for example to prevent risks related to products used. In this case you can choose S1, or S2 if there is a spray risk.
    • On construction sites, often S1 or S1P shoes provide the necessary protection, but you will of course have to adapt the type of protection to your specific risks.
    • For the automotive industry, shoes must often meet specific risks such as those related to welding. In this case, you can for example look for S1 shoes that are also classified Hro.
    • construction sites and mines
    • agri-food industry
    • laboratory
    • automotive industry
  • Average price observed

    For the same category of protection, prices can easily vary from 1 to 10 depending on the materials chosen by the manufacturer.Generally speaking, it can be said that the cheapest shoes provide the minimum safety required by the protection category and that the higher the price, the more the manufacturer will have ensured user comfort and shoe aesthetic.

    Type of shoes Additional protection Minimum price recorded including all taxes
    EN ISO 20345 S1 €30
    EN ISO 20345 S1 ESD €60
    EN ISO 20345 S1 Hro €80
    EN ISO 20345 S1P €30
    EN ISO 20345 S1P ESD €50
    EN ISO 20345 S1P Hro €70
    EN ISO 20345 S1P SRC ESD €70
    EN ISO 20345 S2 €30
    EN ISO 20345 S2 ESD €60
    EN ISO 20345 S3 €20
    EN ISO 20345 S3 Hi €25
    EN ISO 20345 S3 ESD €50
    EN ISO 20345 S4 €30
    EN ISO 20345 S5 €15
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