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    Sole Comfort | Fall 2006 Out Here Magazine

    Choose the best footwear to get the job done right

    person in boots standing on the tailgate of a pickup
    Consider comfortable, functional footwear as one of the tools for getting chores done around the farm.
    Out Here

    By Carol Davis

    Photography courtesy of Wolverine

    Whether you're mucking stalls, repairing fencing, or plowing the south 40, choosing the right footwear just might mean the difference between a job well done and foot blisters, sore toes, or an aching back.

    Doing a job right requires the right tools. You don't use garden tillers to plow the pasture or the lawn tractor to bush hog your fields; you shouldn't expect one pair of boots to be all things to all chores, either.

    "One mainstay product on the American farm is the knee boot which is about 15 inches in height," says Arlen Stensrud, vice president of marketing for Norcross Safety Products, which manufactures footwear such as The Original Muck Boot.

    "They're waterproof, and if all you're going to be around is water, then it doesn't matter which style you select," he says. "But if you're actually working in pesticides, fertilizers, or in a pig or cattle lot — one of worst enemies of footwear is animal waste — then you need a (boot) specifically designed for agriculture applications."

    Those boots are designed and manufactured with materials that prevent them from breaking down due to exposure to chemicals and animal waste, he says.

    Tread is a key part of a boot's function, so examine the design of the sole to make sure it fits your need, Stensrud says.

    "There's nothing more frustrating than being in mud and getting that all packed in the tread of outsole," he says. "The outsole should have an open pattern. It should be rugged, durable, and slip-resistant, but it should have self-cleaning characteristics."

    Self-cleaning soles work so that when you flex your foot as you walk, the tread opens up to rid itself of mud and other accumulated material. "If the tread fills up, the boot can be slippery," Stensrud explains.

    Some footwear is specifically tailored to prevent electrical shock and static, says Mike Donabauer, vice president of marketing for footwear manufacturer Wolverine.

    "In working around electrical material, obviously, static dissipating is important," he says. Not only is it a good safety measure to avoid electrical shocks, but anti-static footwear is popular among those in computer production, where static electricity can wreak havoc.

    Even steel-toed boots, which are essential to working around heavy equipment, are made so that they don't conduct electricity, so there's no reason not to wear them, Stensrud says.

    "I'm surprised at how many people who are working around heavy equipment and things that can fall on your feet elect not to wear steel toes," he says. "Every job has some risk, but any time you're around heavy equipment, there's always that risk."

    Whatever job you're doing, your footwear must fit correctly — for both comfort and safety's sake, Stensrud says.

    "Rule No. 1 is try them on in the store," he advises. "It's the only way to know that you're getting a good fit. A size 12 is not the same from one person to another."

    Indeed, well-fitting, well-functioning footwear is a tool to a job well done.

    "In every survey we've ever done with consumers, the No. 1 thing is comfort," Donabauer says. "It's all about returning energy as you walk each and every step that makes that boot comfortable and something you can work in day in and day out."

    Out Here editor Carol Davis has a pair of dusty, well-worn steel-toed boots in her closet.


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