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Safe Shoes for Slippery Situations

Many people work in situations that can be very slippery underfoot. For instance, a commercial (restaurant or fast-food) kitchen that might have grease on the floor from deep fryers that broadcast it into the air; or a hotel lobby’s glossy floor that needs to be cleaned nightly with detergent solution. In non-work situations, spa slippers can be safe or hazardous on wet floors, depending on the floor and the treads. (Treadless shoes are useless on a wet, slippery floor.)

How can you select shoe bottoms that will be as safe as possible under these conditions? A shoe store, with its carpet or clean, dry hard flooring doesn’t make a useful place to check out new shoes before you buy them. The behavior of solings under clean, dry conditions is not an indicator of how they’ll perform in wet and/or greasy conditions.

Fortunately the British government’s Health and Safety Laboratory has conducted exhaustive tests of many types of footwear made for slippery situations. They rate solings  by GRIP scores, up to five stars for the greatest slip resistance. Results from 2016 are at http://www.hsl.gov.uk/products/grip/grip-ratings. These solings are generally for use on hard flooring indoors or outdoors. They are not suitable for mud or other stuff (like on a farm?) that might get  caught between the tiny cleats and be difficult to remove.

Anti-slip solings in general have hundreds of small, sharp-cornered cleats of soft rubber. Like tires, they must be replaced when the tread wears off, even in a small but critical area. A bald shoe sole on a slippery floor is as dangerous as a bald tire on a wet road.

Manufacturers familiar to American consumers include Shoes for Crews and Keuka, both of which offer some solings rated five-star. Each unit is available with a wide range of uppers, including boots and posh ones for managers. The photo below shows some examples.

Star ratings (left) and sole designs for Shoes for Crews and Keuka footwear

Star ratings (left) and sole designs for Shoes for Crews and Keuka footwear

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