Did you know that slips and falls are the most commonly reported workplace injuries in the US?
Traditionally, slip resistant shoes were analogous to work shoes, especially industrial shoes. Gradually, athletic footwear also embraced the term. Basically, it was a very exclusive niche.
But it wasn’t long before the general public started demanding waterproof slip resistant shoes for everyday wear. Now, shoe manufacturers had to get a grip-so to speak- and incorporate this feature in most of their shoes.
These days, there is no shortage of waterproof slip resistant shoes. However, there isn’t a universal standard for “slip resistance.” So, while certain shoes might have a “slip resistant” stamp on them, they might not be up to your standards.
The best thing you can do is to know exactly what to look out for.
Step 1: Check The Outsole
It turns out, waterproof slip resistant shoes have very particular anatomy, especially in terms of the outsole.
In case you didn’t already know, “outsole” is common footwear jargon. It refers to the bottom of the shoe that comes in direct contact with the ground. When it comes to waterproof slip resistant shoes, the outsole is where the magic happens.
Basically, the shape, material, density, and thickness come together to give life to waterproof slip resistant shoes.
Here is everything you need to look out for in the outsole:
- The tread
- The material
- The grip rating
Step 2: Check
The Tread People often use the terms “tread” and “outsole” interchangeably, but they’re actually very different things.
You can think of the tread as a defining feature of the outsole. Specifically, it refers to the grooves on the outsole.
As you can imagine, different shoes will have different treads. The type of tread depends on three things:
- The grooves
- The patterns of the groove
- The depth of the grooves
If you’ve taken elementary-level science, you probably know that friction and surface area are directly proportional to each other. In other words, the more surface is in contact with the ground, the greater friction it creates.
Take Formula One race cars, for example. F1 tires have absolutely no grooves, so the cars can glide over the race tracks without slipping.
So then why do shoe outsoles have grooves at all? Doesn’t that end up decreasing the surface area?
The thing is, these asphalt race tracks are often treated with an extremely sticky resin-based compound. Moreover, the surface is never wet, oily, or loose. Unfortunately, these perfect conditions don’t exist in the real world.
That’s why we have grooves on our shoes (as well as on regular car tires).
Water is naturally cohesive, which means that water molecules like to stick together and form droplets.
Now, if the outsole is completely flat, then the water has nowhere to go, and it will most likely cause you to slip.
However, the grooves act as a channel and allow the water to flow away from the soles. The same goes for sand, mud, and other small items that might prevent surface contact between the outsole and the ground.
If you’ve ever seen the bottom of your shoes, you’ve probably noticed the weird, random patterns. These patterns can be geometric like hexagons and squares or just random squiggly lines. Some even have a combination of various patterns.
While it may not be obvious to you, the type of pattern is actually very important. If the patterns are closed-off, such as squares and diamonds, the water has nowhere to go.
Circular tread patterns with rounded outsole edges often do the best job at guiding water towards the edges.
The depth of the grooves often varies from shoe type to shoe type.
For example, hiking boots and snow boots often have deep grooves, creating outward-extending lugs. These teeth-like lugs bite into the earth and grip the soil. As a rule of thumb, the deeper the lugs, the greater the traction will be.
In contrast, running shoes or casual footwear don’t often have protruding lugs because they don’t really need to grab the surface below them.
Step 3: Know Your Grip Profile
As we just saw, there are vastly different types of treads. Basically, the tread type determines the grip type.
Macro grip and micro grip are umbrella terms that describe the grip profile.
- Macro grip refers to the kind of grip created by large grooves and lugs. These shoes are ideal for muddy and snowy terrains where it’s necessary to grab the surface below. Hiking shoes, trail shoes, and snowshoes often have macro grip.
- Micro grip refers to the kind of grip created by small grooves. These shoes are well-suited for hard-packed, paved surfaces.
As you can imagine, macro grip shoes are often bulkier than micro grip shoes, which also means that they’re heavier.
Step 4: Look Out For Vibram Outsoles
The best modern-day footwear, such as Senja Shoes, use Vibram Outsoles. But what makes Vibram so special? Well, there are a number of factors:
Versatile. Vibram rubber is a special type of vulcanized rubber that is optimized for traction on all surfaces.
Step 5: Check the Grip Ratings
Flexible. Vibram rubber is extremely flexible, which makes it comfortable for full-day wear.
Waterproof. The treated rubber material is waterproof so that your socks and feet remain dry.
Protective. Vibram rubber soles are very sturdy and ensure that jugged surfaces don’t injure your feet.
Durable. Vibram was originally meant for the extreme wear and tear brought about by hardcore hiking. These days, Vibram rubber soles outlast any other type of outsole materials.
Step 5: Check the Grip Ratings
Most companies will claim that their shoes are slip-resistant. But the truth is, there is no universal understanding of what it means for a shoe to be slip-resistant. As such, there is no universal traction or grip rating system either.
However, some shoe manufacturers will use a scale based on the Coefficient of Friction (COF) to assign a grip rating.
The COF scale ranges from 0.00 to 1.00. The higher the rating, the more slip resistant the shoes are. The minimum standard for slip-resistant shoes is 0.40.
Tips for Buying Waterproof Slip Resistant Shoes
So far, we’ve learned a lot about the technicalities of waterproof slip resistant shoes. Using this, you can easily tell whether or not a shoe is slip resistant.
But the thing is, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to waterproof slip resistant shoes. Instead, you need to consider a number of things apart from the properties of the shoe itself.
If you’re still unsure, keep the following in mind to tell if a shoe fits your slip-resistance needs.
Know Your Purpose
The first thing you need to do is commit to a purpose. There are four broad categories that can define your purpose: running, light trail walking, heavy trail walking, and gymming.
Depending on what you choose, you can then pick your tread:
- Road tread for running or everyday casual wear. These are lightweight, flexible treads that are designed for running on hard surfaces. Most running shoes have road treads.
- Light trail tread for trail walking. These have small lugs, with an ideal lug size of 2mm to 5mm.
- Heavy trail tread for hardcore hiking. These have deeper and harder lugs meant to facilitate more technical terrains.
- Training tread for gym sessions. Training treads ensure more surface contact with the ground for increased stability and lateral support.
Similarly, you should also know the type of terrains you’re most likely to encounter.
Different types of shoes are tested for different types of surfaces. A shoe that performs well on hard-packed surfaces like paved roads will not necessarily perform well on loose ground.
Know Your Gait
If you want to know your natural gait, observe the soles of your old, worn-out shoes. You’ll notice that some parts of the sole are more worn out than others.
- Lateral Gait. If the outer curve of your soles is more worn out, then you have a lateral gait. In this case, you will need more friction around the outer third of your soles.
- Neutral Gait. If there is an equal amount of wear throughout the width of the sole, then you have a neutral gait.
- Medial Gait. If the inner curve of the soles is more worn out, then you have a medial gait. In this case, you will need more friction around the inner third of your soles.
Check the Company’s Website
Now that you know your requirements, you can easily cross-reference with the tread patterns, tread material, and grip profiles that we have discussed.
Before you go out and buy your new kicks, check the website for more information on your shoes.
Usually, you’ll be able to find technical details such as the COF rating and outsole materials on company websites.
Trying to find information on the internet can be a slippery slope. Conflicting information and technical jargon can easily throw you off.
Luckily for you, we’ve talked about everything you need to know when buying waterproof slip resistant shoes. So put your newfound knowledge to use and treat yourself to a new pair of kicks!