Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Every craftsman, home builder and hobbyist knows that safety is very important on the building site or during DIY work. That is why we have compiled important information about safety footwear in our large safety footwear test 2022.

In the following test, you can find out which protection class is suitable for you and for which activities safety shoes are particularly important. Find out about wearing comfort, weight, sole, climate control and design of the shoes and find the best safety shoes for you and your craft experiments. Your feet and toes should be well protected at all times.




Summary

  • You can distinguish between seven protection classes for safety shoes: SB, S1, S1P, S2, S3, S4 and S5. Depending on the class, the safety shoes have different protective properties.
  • Safety shoes protect the feet during dangerous activities and activities in dangerous places. They should therefore not be underestimated and must be worn if the work activity requires it.
  • Safety shoes are part of the protective equipment that every worker must wear if protective clothing is prescribed at their workplace. If protective clothing is prescribed, the worker bears the cost.

The Best Safety Shoes: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying safety shoes

Before we show you what types of safety shoes are available, we want to explain a few basic questions. Here you can find out why safety shoes are important, how they should fit and how often you need to change them.

You can also read all about the costs and find out who has to pay for them. Finally, we show you where you can buy these shoes.

What are the advantages of safety shoes compared to work shoes without protective functions and why are they important?

Whether in the fire brigade, trade, construction site, gastronomy, hospital, construction site or industry - safety shoes are a must in many sectors!

Workers must wear the safety shoes prescribed for them at work. They are part of the protective equipment that protects the worker from various dangers at the workplace.

Foot injuries have been at the top of the DGUV statistics for years. Such accidents can even lead to occupational disability.

Dangers must not be underestimated: The foot is the second most endangered part of the body in occupational accidents.

In summary, known hazards in the workplace that your safety shoes can protect you from are as follows:

  • Mechanical hazards: Sharp and pointed nails, pieces of glass and metal, falling objects
  • Ergonomic hazards: Twisting an ankle, slipping, bumping, tripping
  • Electrical hazards: Sparks, electronic charges, contact with electricity
  • Chemical hazards: Contact with alkalis, oils, fuels, acids, grease
  • Thermal hazards: Contact heat, strong influences of cold and heat, glowing and burning objects and liquids

If you work in an occupation where the risk of injury is increased, you are required by law to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Safety footwear is part of this.

If you do not wear the required protective clothing and do not wear it in case of an accident, this will have legal consequences for you and can lead to dismissal.

How do safety shoes look and how should they fit?

Many shoppers think they have to buy their safety shoes one size bigger because the toe cap takes up space. But this is wrong.

You can buy safety shoes in the same size as your street shoes.

You do not have to order your safety shoes with toe cap larger than your usual street shoes. The loss of space for the protective toe cap has already been taken into account during production.

When it comes to the fit, pay attention to the length and width of the shoe. If the protective shoe is too wide, it cannot provide a secure hold. If the shoe is too tight, this can lead to insufficient blood circulation. The result is cold feet and sweaty feet.

If the shoes are short in length, they can change the angle of the toes. If the shoe is too long, the risk of falling, slipping and twisting is high.

How often should you change your safety shoes?

You should always make sure that your safety shoes always guarantee your safety. In this case, the shoes are not meant as a fashion item, but to protect your health.

Only by changing your shoes regularly can you ensure that you are continuously protected.

Even the best safety shoes will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. After about a year, you should buy new safety shoes.

Engelbert StraussSpecialist shop for workwear
"It is better to use 2 pairs of shoes - this way you will extend the life of both pairs considerably. Professional work shoes can take an extreme beating, but even they need a break. Although leather shoes in particular can absorb moisture very well, they need up to 24 hours to release it again. That's why we recommend using two different pairs. That way, one can always recover from work, making both last even longer in the long run." (Source: engelbert-strauss.de)

How much do safety shoes cost?

There are different price classes for safety shoes in each protection class. From the cheap version to safety shoes in the three-digit range, everything is there.

However, you should not forget that this is a product that ensures your safety and therefore you should pay attention to the quality of the shoes.

The prices for safety shoes in each class start very low at 15 - 20 euros. Safety shoes are available for very little money.

The protective features can be made of different materials. For example, there are safety shoes with protective caps made of steel, plastic or aluminium, which vary in price.

Class Price
Safety shoes SB 15-100 €
Safety shoes S1 20-200 €
Safety shoes S1P 20-200 €
Safety shoes S2 20-270 €
Safety shoes S3 20-300 €
Safety shoes S4 40-100 €
Safety shoes S5 20-100 €

You should be careful with very low prices. Materials that are of high quality and meet the safety standards of the DIN norm are not cheap.

The tests carried out by independent testing institutes to ensure that the shoes protect properly are also costly for the manufacturers.

If the price is too low, it is possible that the shoes are defective or counterfeit. In the event of an accident, these shoes may not provide sufficient protection.

Who pays for the cost of your safety shoes?

One thing is for sure: If it is compulsory in your industry to wear protective clothing, the employer pays for it. Normally, this case is regulated in such a way that there are legal obligations that force the employer to provide protective clothing.

Employers pay for protective clothing, not work clothing.

However, this only applies if your clothes are actual protective clothing. The employer is not obliged to pay for normal work clothes that do not meet the standard for protective clothing.

Important: If you wear the safety shoes outside the workplace for personal reasons, for example to protect your private clothes, you may have to pay for the costs.

Decision: What types of safety shoes are there and which is the right one for you?

The European standard DIN EN 20345 defines the basic requirements a safety shoe must fulfil. In summary, you can distinguish between seven different protection classes of safety shoes:

  • Safety shoes SB
  • Safety shoes S1
  • Safety shoes S1P
  • Safety shoes S2
  • Safety shoes S3
  • Safety shoes S4
  • Safety shoes S5

The safety shoes of the respective classes must fulfil certain safety features in order to be classified in the respective category. Each safety shoe has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Which safety shoe is right for you depends on your occupation. Every field of activity requires individual safety measures, and your work shoe must be adapted to these.

We have summarised the individual categories with the corresponding safety requirements and the meanings of the letters on the shoes in a compact table:

Class Protection requirements
SB Basic requirements (FO)
S1 Additional requirements (A+FO+E)
S1P Additional requirements (A+FO+E+P)
S2 as S1 + waterproof (A+FO+E+WRU)
S3 as S2 + puncture resistance (A+FO+E+WRU+P)
S4 as S1, but as waterproof boot
S5 as S4 + puncture resistance

The following table summarises the meaning of the shoe markings:

letter meaning
A antistatic
C conductive
E energy absorption in the heel area
P penetration resistance
CI cold insulation
HI thermal insulation
FO oil and petrol resistant sole
HRO Behaviour towards contact heat
SRA slip resistance (ceramic tile/cleaning agent)
SRB slip resistance (steel floor/glycerine)
SRC slip resistance (SRA + SRB)
WR entire shoe protected against water penetration and water absorption
WRU upper part of shoe protected against water penetration and water absorption

In the following section we would like to help you find out which class of safety shoes is suitable for you.

What are SB safety shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

SB is the basic class of safety footwear and thus refers to the very light work safety footwear. These include kitchen shoes, medical shoes and laboratory shoes.

So if you work in the catering industry, in medicine or in the laboratory, SB class safety shoes are suitable for you.

Advantages
  • Toe cap
  • slip-resistant sole
  • comfortable footbed
Disadvantages
  • Unprotected heel area
  • No energy absorption in the heel area
  • No heel

These work shoes have the two basic requirements of safety shoes: a protective toe cap made of metal, plastic or aluminium and a slip-resistant sole.

The toe cap is the minimum requirement for any safety shoe and for any foot protection. A protective toe cap must withstand up to 200 joules of pressure or impact.

However, class SB shoes are usually open in the heel area and are only closed with a strap. This makes the shoes easy to put on and take off.

However, these shoes do not absorb energy in the heel area. These shoes must not have a high heel, which is what many women want in safety shoes.

Shoes in the SB category are usually also equipped with a comfortable and pleasant footbed. This is especially important for long walks, such as in hospitals, to protect the feet. This prevents pain and rapid fatigue.

The designation OB can often be found on work shoes. However, these shoes do not belong to the category of safety shoes because they do not have a protective toe cap.

All protective work shoes must have a protective toe cap. If this is not the case, they cannot be called safety shoes.

Shoes that have a protective toe cap but can only withstand between 100 and < 200 joules of mechanical impact are also not classified as safety shoes, but as occupational shoes.

What are S1 safety shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Safety shoes S1 is the next level of occupational safety shoes and fulfils higher safety requirements than the basic class SB. If you work in the kitchen and want to have a higher level of protection than the SB, or if you work in warehousing, logistics or industry, then the S1 category is for you.

It is often forgotten that safety shoes do not offer protection against water ingress and should therefore only be used indoors. (Photo: pixabay.com / stevepb)

The S1 safety shoes have a closed and thus protected heel area. Due to the closed heel, the shoe also offers a special energy absorption capacity at the heel.

In addition to the protective toe cap, the S1 class shoes also have antistatic properties and a sole that is fuel-resistant.

Advantages
  • Antistatic
  • Fuel resistant
  • Protected heel area
Disadvantages
  • Water penetration
  • No penetration-resistant sole
  • No profiled sole

Mostly these shoes, like the shoes of class SB, are made of plastic or leather. The sole is made of rubber, PU or thermoplastic elastomers. Therefore, they are not suitable for outdoor use, otherwise there is a risk of contact with water or other liquids.

The shoes therefore have no protection against water penetration and are only intended for indoor use. Furthermore, they do not have a penetration-resistant or profiled outsole.

Normally, safety shoes are known as low shoes. However, S1 safety shoes are also available in various other designs:

  • Safety shoes
  • Safety sandals
  • Safety clogs
  • Safety lace-up shoes/ ankle shoes
  • Slippers

What are S1P safety shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

If S1 safety shoes suit you, but you have to deal with dangerous small parts, such as nails, at work and also need a firm and safe sole, then the S1P protection class is the right one for you.

This is because the S1 and S1P classes are initially identical. This means that the S1P shoe also has a protected heel area, a protective toe cap and special energy absorption capacity at the heel. It is antistatic and fuel-resistant.

Advantages
  • Penetration-resistant sole
  • Antistatic
  • Fuel-resistant
Disadvantages
  • Water penetration
  • No treaded sole
  • Not water repellent

The difference between the types S1 and S1P is an additional penetration resistance in the sole, which the class S1P has.

In this way, the foot is protected from sharp small parts that are on the floor and cannot be stepped on through the sole. This additional protection is indicated by the letter "P" in the classification.

This class also lacks sufficient protection against water and other liquids. A profiled sole is also missing.

What are safety shoes S2 and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Safety shoes S2 are mainly used outdoors. So if you have an outdoor job and often work with chippers or power hoes in areas such as road maintenance, gardening or landscaping, then S2 safety shoes are your choice.

Advantages
  • No water penetration
  • Water-repellent upper
  • Oil and petrol-resistant sole
Disadvantages
  • No profiled outsole
  • No anti-puncture sole
  • No shoe variations

Because the S2 safety shoes have a further plus in addition to the protective toe cap, the non-slip and fuel-resistant sole and the energy absorption capacity in the heel area:

S2 safety shoes are made of waterproof and water-repellent upper material and thus offer good protection against the penetration of liquids. They are therefore resistant to wetness and moisture. With the correct care of the shoes, this protection against moisture is also maintained for a long time.

The oil and petrol resistant sole also makes it possible to work outdoors with these shoes without hesitation. However, this shoe does not have a profiled and tear-resistant outsole. Different shoe variants, as in class S1, are not available in this category. The protective shoe comes in the form of a boot or a low shoe.

What are S3 safety shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Do you need protective shoes that are particularly weatherproof and waterproof because you work in forestry, for example? Then you should go for safety shoes of protection class S3.

These low shoes are mainly worn outdoors because they protect the foot from changing weather conditions both upwards and downwards.

They also meet the requirements of a protective toe cap, a slip-resistant sole, an energy-absorbing heel area and are antistatic and fuel-resistant.

In addition, compared to S2, this category has a penetration protection and a profiled sole. However, the additional protective features of this shoe cause the shoes to be heavier.

Advantages
  • Puncture-resistant sole
  • Profiled sole
  • No water penetration
Disadvantages
  • No shoe variations
  • No quick putting on and taking off
  • More weight

What are S4 safety shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

S4 safety shoes have a very high protection factor. You need work shoes that are particularly waterproof and protect against electricity and chemical effects? Then class S4 shoes are the right choice for you.

These shoes are antistatic, have an oil and petrol resistant sole and have a closed heel area that allows energy absorption. A special feature that distinguishes the S4 safety shoes from the previous categories, however, is the high degree of waterproofness.

Advantages
  • Highly waterproof
  • protection against electronic charges
  • protection against chemical effects
Disadvantages
  • Heavier weight
  • No puncture-resistant sole
  • No profiled outsole

The S4 safety shoes are boots and are designed in such a way that the shoes are only allowed to absorb a very specific amount of liquid after a certain period of time.

Therefore, the S4 safety shoes are excellent for those who work professionally in wet areas. But of course, the S4 work safety shoes also reliably protect against mechanical impacts.

This class also offers important protection against electrical exposure, electronic charges and painful entrapments.

In addition, you are also on the safe side in the case of chemical and thermal effects with shoes from the S4 category. For example, the slaughterhouse is an environment where workers wear S4 safety footwear.

What are S5 safety shoes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

S5 safety shoes are also high boots that are particularly impermeable to water. This class is the highest among the seven categories because this shoe has an additional protective feature compared to the S4 class shoe: the puncture-resistant sole.

The S5 work shoe also has a protective toe cap, a closed heel area with energy absorption and a profiled outsole. It is antistatic, fuel resistant to petrol and oil, and water repellent.

As a big extra, the S5 shoe also has an anti-puncture sole and thus has all the protective mechanisms mentioned in the previous classes.

Advantages
  • Penetration-resistant sole
  • Highly water-repellent
  • Profiled outsole
Disadvantages
  • Higher weight
  • No shoe variations
  • No quick putting on and taking off

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate safety shoes

In the following we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate safety shoes. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a certain product is suitable for you or not.

In summary, these are:

  • Shoe shape
  • Upper material
  • Inner material
  • Sole material
  • Toe cap material
  • Shape of toe cap
  • Closure type
  • Design
  • Gender
  • Weight

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Tip: Take a look at our safety shoe comparison table. In this easy-to-understand overview, we have compared the currently most important safety shoes with each other on the basis of the safety shoes presented here.

Shoe type

Safety shoes can basically be divided into the shoe forms half shoe and boot. The models of the classes S4 and S5 are only available as boots.

Quality and price play an important role. The upper material varies from shoe to shoe. The leather versions are more expensive than the plastic ones. (Photo: pixabay.com / danisampa)

Only the SB protection class has several versions of safety shoes, in terms of their shoe shape.

The SB safety shoes also come in safety low shoes, safety sandals, safety clogs, safety lace-up shoes/ankle shoes and slip-on shoes.

Upper material

The upper material of safety shoes is usually made of either leather or textile. Leather safety shoes have been very popular for a long time.

This is mainly because shoes made of leather retain their shape, are flexible, hard-wearing and supple. They also last a long time. In addition, leather safety shoes are thermally insulating and breathable.

A distinction can be made between suede leather (suede and nubuck) and full leather.

Nowadays, of course, more and more high-tech textiles are being used to make shoes. Breathable textiles are used especially for shoe models of safety classes S1 and S1P, where protection against wetness is not mandatory.

In addition, it is possible that a safety shoe made of textile weighs less than a safety shoe made of full leather.

Inner material

A distinction can also be made between leather and textile for the inner material. The leather for the upper material must meet different criteria than the leather in the lining material of a safety shoe.

For safety classes S1, S1P, S2 and S3, it is essential that the leather lining has a good internal shoe climate. In addition to the leather lining, there are also various functional linings, breathable functional linings and textile linings.

Sole material

The outsole of safety shoes is made of nitrile rubber, PU (polyurethane) or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane).

Outsoles made of nitrile rubber are resistant to oils, fuels, many acids and faeces. They are also very robust, slip-resistant and durable. They also rub off very little.

In addition, they can withstand heat up to 300°C. Nitrile rubber soles are a little heavier than PU soles.

Polyurethane outsoles are also resistant to oils, fuels and some chemicals. They are lighter than rubber and have good cushioning properties. PU outsoles are resistant to a temperature of approx. 120°C.

TPU is a special polyurethane. The material has the same advantages as PU. However, it has additional positive properties, such as higher fatigue bending behaviour, lower abrasion and better slip resistance.

Toe cap material

According to EN 20345, safety shoes must have a protective toe cap and withstand an impact energy of 200 joules. It does not matter which material is used.

Every material used must withstand 200 joules. 200 joules are reached when a 20 kg weight falls from a height of one metre.

Furthermore, toe caps are tested to withstand a static pressure of 1.5 tonnes (15 kilonewtons). Toe caps can be made of three different materials - steel, aluminium and plastic.

  • Steel toecaps: These offer tremendous strength and have been used for safety shoes for a long time. A steel toe cap weighs about 100 grams for a size 42 shoe.
  • Aluminium caps: These, on the other hand, are much lighter than steel caps. A whole 40%. However, aluminium offers much less strength than steel. To provide the required strength in aluminium toe caps, they are slightly thicker than steel toe caps. Aluminium toe caps are also anti-magnetic.
  • Plastic caps: These are also lighter than steel caps. They are also more comfortable to wear due to their flexibility. Plastic toe caps are also metal-free and thermally non-conductive. When you hear the term "composite cap", the name refers to the fact that several plastic materials have been moulded into one cap.

Whatever work you do, whether at home or at work, make sure that you are provided with the right work shoes with the right toe protection, or buy them yourself. This criterion is indispensable.

Shape of the toe protection

There are also different shapes of toe caps. There are two different shapes that adapt to two different types of foot shapes:

  • Symmetrical cap: These are mainly used for normal wide and slender feet. With this foot shape, the instep runs relatively centrally to the second toe. This is then also usually the longest toe. Safety shoes with symmetrical caps have a sporty and dynamic look.
  • Asymmetrical cap: These are often used for wider feet. With this foot shape, the instep runs to the big toe. This is then also usually the longest toe. Safety shoes with asymmetrical caps offer more space in the area of the big toe.

Closure types

Another important criterion for safety shoes is the secure closure type. The safety shoes of the different classes have different closures:

  • Turn fastener
  • Velcro fastener
  • Zip fastener
  • Buckle
  • Quick release fastener
  • Lacing

Which type of closure is best suited for your safety shoes depends on your occupation. For example, there are areas where it is important to be able to slip in and out of the shoes quickly.

Design

There is a wide variety of safety footwear available today. The demand for visually appealing models is increasing. The manufacturers have adapted to this.

Many buyers do not want their safety shoes to be very different from their street shoes, or to be extremely conspicuous.

For example, there are sporty safety shoes that look like trainers or modern trainers. Also, safety shoes are no longer available in the boring colours black and brown, but in different colours such as white, red, green, blue or mixed colours.

Women no longer have to settle for clunky, masculine safety shoes. Safety shoes with heels are also made for them.

For both women and men, safety shoes are also available in elegant and chic designs.

Gender

Gender plays an important role in the purchase of safety shoes and should be taken into account in the fit. Men have a different foot anatomy than women.

Ladies should therefore make sure that the safety shoes provided by the employer are made for women and that it is a feminine shoe construction.

Masculine shoe models in smaller sizes are not suitable for women and do not provide full protection. Many shoe models are on the market as unisex models.

Weight

Of course, any worker who is required to wear safety footwear wants the lightest possible shoe. After all, you wear the protective footwear eight hours a day at work.

Manufacturers have adapted to this desire, so that nowadays there is a large selection of lightweight safety shoes from many different manufacturers.

The light work shoes can make your strenuous working day much easier. It is not only a matter of pure weight saving, but also of wearing comfort, which is much higher with lightweight shoes.

Today, for example, newly developed lightweight materials can replace the heavy full-grain leather that used to be used to make the shoe robust and durable. In this way, a lot of weight can already be reduced enormously.

But weight can also be reduced by another aspect. Because most of the weight is provided by the outsole.

In lightweight safety shoes, the soles are moulded on in a complex process. In contrast, the old, heavy safety shoes were glued on in several layers.

In the case of the toe caps, the difference in weight is only very slight and is in the gram range. The steel toe cap can be made thinner than plastic or aluminium.

The difference between a textile penetration protection and a steel midsole is also very small.

Find out exactly what kind of protective but lightweight work shoe you need. Women in particular still have difficulties wearing work shoes for long periods of time. Your employer may be able to help you find more comfortable shoes.

Facts worth knowing about safety shoes

Finally, in this section we have compiled some additional and interesting information on the subject of safety shoes.

How much do safety shoes weigh?

The weight of safety shoes logically depends on the shoe size.

In the following, we have created a table for you that shows the weight of a shoe in size 42 in the classes S1 to S3, as these classes are the most common among the protection classes.

Class Weight
S1 200-500 g
S1P 370-640 g
S2 495 g-1.1 kg
S3 640 g-1.5 kg

At first, 1.5 kilograms may sound like a lot. But the earlier models were twice as heavy. There is no specification of how heavy a safety shoe may be. But of course manufacturers strive to produce lightweight safety shoes.

What can safety shoes withstand?

A safety shoe must be able to withstand 200 joules of energy. It is therefore not possible to name a weight limit because the area over which the weight is distributed and the speed at which the weight hits are decisive.

An object that falls from a height of 30 cm has much less impact than an object that falls from a height of 80 cm. An object weighing 100 kilograms can be placed on the shoe without any problems.

Did you know that you can deduct workwear from your taxes? If you paid for the safety shoes yourself, you can deduct the costs. Please note that the clothing you have bought must be for professional use only.

However, it is more problematic if the object would fall from a height of one metre. However, the weight must fall directly on the shoe.

Another situation is when, for example, a forklift truck weighing considerably more than 100 kilograms drives over the shoe. It weighs much more, but its weight is distributed over several wheels and over a larger area.

Picture source: pixabay.com / stevepb

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