If you work in a context that predisposes you to foot injuries, then your employer will insist that you wear steel toed shoes. These work contexts include construction sites, warehouses and any other place where employees are involved in lifting or exposed to electrical circuits. Steel toed shoes or boots have steel toe reinforcement that shields your foot from the impact of falling objects and compression. They also have a sole plate boosting that works against punctures.
Because steel toed shoes are heavy and enclosed, they may not be readily recommended for people with foot issues. Diabetics are among people who may have to deal with such issues and hence require special footwear. What if they work in these danger-prone contexts, can diabetics wear steel toed shoes?
Before answering this question, it is important to comprehend the reasons why your employer will insist on the use of steel toed shoes.
Why wear steel toed shoes?
2 general reasons inform the use of steel toed shoes in work contexts where employees may be exposed to foot injuries.
Adherence to OSHA safety and health guidelines
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agency, employees working in contexts that expose them to dangers of falling or rolling objects, sharp objects that could perforate the sole of their footwear or exposure them to electrical hazards should wear steel toed shoes. These standards are spelled out in section 29 CFR 1910.132 of the OSHA Personal Protective Equipment Standards and Requirements. In collaboration with OSHA, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) provides the standards and procedures for safety footwear at ASTM Standard F2413.
Compliance with ASTM Standard F2413 requires that footwear be compression and impact-resistant. In addition, the footwear should pass the test for conductance as protection from electric shocks, the protection of bones between the ankle and the toes or metatarsal test, puncture protection, and static dissipative protection. Passing the ASTM test implies that the footwear is stamped or stitched with a label that indicates compliance. The shoes must also bear the manufacturer’s name, logo or trademark, an identification number, and fitting or size.
A protective measure from the multiple workplace hazards
There are several workplace dangers that steel toed shoes protect the employee from. They include:
- Protection from falling or rolling objects: steel toed shoes can resist up to 75 pounds of a falling weight. This ensures that your foot and toes stay safe.
- Protection from sole perforations: if an employee should step on a sharp object, the soleplate reinforcement blocks any form of puncture and protects your foot from harm.
- Protection from electrical hazards: steel shoes that have passed the ASTM test will shield you from electric shocks and static electricity.
- Protection from tripping: steel toed shoes have a firm grip on the ground and will help you keep your balance on slippery floors. Falls are rated top among the causes of death in construction sites. Wearing steel toed shoes is an effective way of curbing fatal falls.
- Protection from harsh weather: have you heard that cold feet can increase the risk of catching colds and flu? Wearing a good pair of steel toed shoes will keep your feet warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather. Besides, they are waterproof and will keep your feet dry.
So, can diabetics wear steel toed shoes?
Persons with diabetes have high levels of sugar in their blood. This condition often comes with several complications some of which manifest on your feet. Among the foot issues associated with diabetes is diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy is symptomized in pain and a tingling feeling which may progress to loss of feeling altogether. When this happens, you can hurt your foot and not notice it, which then implies unattended wounds or cuts and uncontrolled infection.
With diabetes also comes poor blood flow in the feet. This has similar effects as diabetic neuropathy because it slows the rate of healing for any injuries that might be incurred. Eventually, chronic wounds turn to gangrene, a precondition for foot amputation.
To preempt or check the effects of these health issues, one of the key measures that diabetics should take is to use the right footwear. Any podiatrist or foot doctor will advise their patient to always keep their shoes on and to wear a comfortable pair of socks that controls moisture and allows good flow of blood. While there are shoes specifically manufactured for diabetics, the question whether diabetics can wear steel toed shoes at work still stands.
Some people may easily dismiss the possibility of diabetics wearing steel toed shoes and advise them to quit jobs that require them to use such footwear. Others may recommend steel toed shoes as appropriate footwear for diabetics given their protective qualities. A list of the features of good diabetic shoes may help us decide.
Good diabetic shoes should:
- Have core safety features including a steel toe, a protective metal plate in the sole and protection from electric hazards.
- Have a wide toe space to protect the toes from knocks and allow them consistent movement.
- Be waterproof to keep the feet dry.
- Have moisture-wicking material on the inside and allow breathability.
- Be slip-resistant with shock-absorbent material both in the inside and the outside.
- Be seamless on the inside to avoid blisters.
- Have a deep heel cup that allows the heel to sit comfortably.
These features do not seem to contradict the features of the steel toed shoes designed for workplace safety. Besides, in an era where production in industries is driven by consumer demand, manufacturers are already responding to safety footwear needs for diabetics. Diabetics are spoilt for choice with the online options for diabetic steel toed shoes. All they need to do is to ensure that the shoes are OSHA compliant and have passed the ASTM test.
In the long run, every diabetic patient works closely with their podiatrist in order to answer the question of can diabetics wear steel toed shoes. If your foot doctor insists against the use of steel toed shoes, he/she will certainly give their reasons. Maybe you have feet that are consistently swollen from poor blood flow or already suffering from chronic wounds on the extremities. Your doctor may advise you against steel toed shoes in such cases.