On Your Toes
Get the best shoes for trucking tasks
By Jim Kneiszel
Just like you need T-shirts and jeans for working in the backyard and a suit and tie for church on Sunday, many truckers will tell you that they can’t get by with one pair of shoes during a cross-country run.
Different work conditions call for different footwear, and it might be tough to find that perfect set of boots that are comfy on your feet when the pedal is to the metal all day, and provide suitable protection for your toes and ankles when you get out of the cab. Tennis shoes might be perfect when you’re behind the wheel, but they are an invitation to a crushed toe when you’re trying to safely navigate a loading dock.
You may wear tennis shoes in the truck, but it’s imperative that you switch into something more substantial when you hop down to the pavement.
Where do you work?
Your work area should dictate the type of shoe required for drivers, says Doug Cook, vice president of safety for Covenant Transport. Cook recommends steel or composite toe shoes if the driver works in an area that has a potential for crushing from falling freight. Ankle-high lace-up leather boots are a good choice to prevent turned ankles when walking on uneven surfaces.
Further, Cook recommends anti-slip, grease- and oil-resistant soles when you encounter a lot of wet surfaces, such as at maintenance facilities. Thick and soft sole leather shoes with a low heel are perfect for drivers who find themselves on concrete and other hard surfaces all day long.
“The ideal shoe for the OTR driver is a leather lace oxford or boot with a slip resistant sole and low heel,” Cook says. “Footwear should address the potential hazards in the work environment such as non-slip soles when walking on a wet or oily surface to prevent slips and falls.’’
Dustin England, vice president of safety for C.R. England Trucking, said safety footwear isn’t a huge issue with the company’s drivers, who mostly haul refrigerator trailers and seldom touch a load. The company doesn’t have footwear requirements for drivers, but there’s certainly one rule he wants all drivers to adhere to: “We encourage them to be smart about what they’re doing,” he says. We don’t want them to wear flip-flops or sandals.’’
What do you wear?
A recent post on a trucker’s website forum shows that shoes are no small issue for drivers who put on thousands of miles and encounter a wide variety of working conditions every month. One poster asked a simple question: “What shoes do you wear on the job?” Dozens of drivers weighed in, pointing out that there’s no perfect solution for safety and comfort. But they also cautioned against open-toed shoes.
“This is not a four-wheeler you’re driving around in and not a vacation you’re on,’’ one driver wrote. “I know you think it’s OK and cool and comfortable, but you’re working! Dress the part at least and be safe while working.’’
Look for these features
If the carrier you haul for doesn’t outline specific footwear requirements, turn to OSHA guidelines for some safety suggestions. The agency’s PPE (personal protection equipment) summary says work footwear must meet requirements of the American National Standards Institute, depending on the work environment. Look for these safety features if they are applicable to your working conditions:
Compression protection Most drivers will want work shoes with a toe guard, whether it’s made of steel, plastic or a composite material, to work safely around heavy objects or potentially unstable loads. Metatarsal guards protect the upper portion of the foot and some boots also offer leggings that protect above the ankle.
Impact performance Tough leather uppers and metal insoles protect your feet from sharp objects such as nails or spikes.
Electrical hazard safety Shoes with non-conductive safety soles are designed so they don’t conduct electricity and allow you to complete an electrical circuit when you work in areas where dangerous shocks might be a risk.
Heat resistance Foundry shoes, with special protective soles and uppers, prevent intrusion of molten metals and keep the bottom of your feet cool and safe from burning on hot surfaces you might encounter in factory settings.