It’s not often that when we think of shop safety that our thoughts turn to our feet, but think about it for a minute. Do you hand plane? You probably stand to do that. Rip boards on the table saw? Probably standing. Rout mortises with a plunge router? Up on your feet. Gotta walk across the shop to get the only chisel in your set that you really REALLY need to use to precisely trim a joint, but you forgot in your tool box. Feet, don’t fail me now!
Yet, still, we often think about the puppies after everything else has been considered.
Well, my job today is to get your feet to the top of your mind… so to speak. Let’s take a look at some of the footwear options in the shop.
Barefoot. I’m sure this was the footwear of choice of woodworkers for millenia. And, I’m also willing to bet that this level of footwear served its owner well. Of course, there are a few downsides to this option. There’s no protection from temperature extremes, stuff laying on the ground you could step on or things dropping onto your foot. Also, it’s absolutely miserable to stand on a concrete shop floor for a long time with no sort of cushioning. This may not be the best option in today’s shop.
Socks. Not as silly as it seems. In the Japanese woodworking tradition, special socks with split toes are worn by woodworkers. This gives them the flexibility to use their bodies as weights to hold boards down as they work on their projects. It also helps that the traditional Japanese woodworking is done on the floor or at low trestles.This reduces the likelihood that something could be dropped onto your feet.
Sandals. I’m sure they were popular in places such as the Roman Empire (where many western woodworking traditions began) as well as Florida. They are a step up from bare feet, but still offers no protection from the occasional gravity test.
Athletic shoes. Super comfortable and supportive, these babies make standing for a long time very easy on the feet. They also have skid resistant soles, which can prevent an unexpected slip. Of course, the only issue is if something gets dropped onto your feet from a bench.
Boots. This is what I prefer to work in when I’m in the shop. I use some gel insoles in them for added comfort. My boots have steel toes and are made of thick leather, which gives me a lot of confidence that should anything fall, my feet will be protected. They also have slip resistant soles. Now, they are heavier that any of the other options, so they can make my legs tired, but I’m willing to deal with that.
Gosh, it seems as if I’m spending a lot of time worrying about something falling off the bench onto my foot. Sure, I might be overreacting… but this video shows what happens when a 27 pound cast block of iron falls on a steel toed boot.
No, I’m not likely to drop cast blocks of iron onto my feet, but, hey, ya never know what else could fall.
And, protecting your feet can prevent the need to get back on your feet after an accident.