Selecting Slip-Resistant Footwear for General Purpose Use

Slip and Fall Risks Get Personal

A former colleague of mine who is a commercial real estate appraiser related to me that he slipped and fell a couple of weeks ago as he was on a high-rise condominium tower walk-through. He related that the steel diamond plate decking on one of the exit stairways was damp, and his shoes were very worn. He went out the exit hallway door, took two steps onto the landing, and experienced a heel-slip leading to a fall.  He went down hard on his tailbone, and also hit his elbow on the ground as he fell. Thankfully, he was not seriously hurt. He called me today, recounting his incident and speculating that his poor footwear was the primary cause of his slip and fall. He asked me for advice on how to select shoes that would give him more confidence in the varied environments where he walked on the job.

Shoes that Help Keep You on Your Feet

I have done a lot of slip and fall prevention work with restaurant, hotel, manufacturing, and construction operations, all environments where there is generally  an understanding that footwear needs to perform for the job. My friend’s request, though opens up some broader considerations.  What about professionals who need to walk in varied environments and conditions, but need a business-casual look and a high degree of comfort as well. Here are some of the characteristics I told him to look for:

1. A good sole tread pattern. One of the most important things for good footwear traction on wet, contaminated, or loose surfaces is a good tread pattern. Look for mid-size tread blocks with many leading edges, with channels between the blocks wide enough to channel away liquids. Avoid smooth soles, lightly textured or patterned soles, or protruding ridges that run lengthwise along the sole.

2. A good sole compound. This is harder to discern when you are shopping, but an important factor that affects the ability of the shoe to provide good traction when wet or greasy. This is one area where some less reputable shoe brands have copied the tread pattern of industry-leading soles but have much harder sole material that exhibits poor slip resistance. A soft sole isn’t automatically going to have good slip resistance, but hard soles seldom do.

3. Good sole geometry. You want to make sure that there is a slight rise at the front of the shoe (known as “toe spring”) to prevent tripping over small changes in level, as well as good relationship between the angle of the sole and heel. Any shoe that angles the foot downward excessively may make it hard to maintain your balance in some situations.

Here are some examples from real-world shoe soles:

This sole has very good channels, both wide and narrow, that make for great performance on wet and greasy surfaces.

This sole has some large flat areas with a fairly shallow pattern, which are not great for slip resistance, but does have some good tread blocks on the perimeter of the sole. A good sole compound helps this shoe perform fairly well given its limitations.

This shoe has some good tread blocks and a good sole material, but lacks smaller channels for optimized performance on wet surfaces.  This particular shoe does have a very good sole material which makes for solid performance. 

This sole has a good lug design with good performance both on smooth surfaces and on loose dirt and gravel. It can be difficult to find a shoe sole well for both outdoor and indoor environments, but this one is very good in both environments.

This sole has very good cylindrical tread elements integral smaller channels, but has a relatively smooth surface on the critical heel-strike zone at the rear of the shoe. Balancing that out, though, is a good sole material compound, and the good grooves in the rear section. Also noteworthy is the consideration for wear patterns built into the sole, with extra material along the quick-wearing heel area, and a flexible section in the forefoot.

An example of a great all-around shoe for my colleague’s application. Good sole geometry, great tread pattern and material, and a stylistic fit for the application in question. If he was going to be walking on a lot of dirt and gravel, another choice would be better, but for his travels in and around various properties, these fit the bill nicely.

Every occupation and application has its own challenges and constraints, but hopefully these examples will provide some guidance about general factors.

Internet Warnings: Cell Phone Camera Risks

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You may have seen a warning circulating via social media recently about the dangers of taking and posting photos with camera phones.

This particular warning is pretty similar to many that come along regularly, and happens to be pretty much true. (As opposed to the many, many, warning notices that end up being mostly or even completely false. Even though this particular one is based on fact, though, the prevalence and implications of the risk can end up being hard to really discern the way that the threat is presented.

Here are some issues with warnings like this:

1. They may not be timely. The linked video in the circulating warning turns out to be almost four years old. The issue and related facts are still valid, but this sort of warning gives the impression that this is a new threat when it is has been in existence in its current form for at least five years.

2. They exaggerate one aspect of an issue beyond what is realistic. The news stories focus on how camera phones can embed location data in the photo file that could then be used to identify the location where it is taken. But what the news stories neglect to cover is why and under what circumstances such stalking is likely to take place. Certainly it is true that someone could be targeted completely at random, but that is not what is seen in most accounts of the abuses of this type of technology. It is much more common for someone to be targeted specifically, and often this is based on prior relationships.

3. They don’t mention the broader concepts of security online that can add to or reduce online risks far beyond this one issue. In particular, being careful about what you post online in general, and what security settings use use for the various social media sites that you visit. You can take steps to better secure your online presence, and get a better sense of the relative risks online that you need to consider. Stay Safe Online is an organization that provides a good set of tools and information about security online, as well as helping people understand that various dimensions of security online. Google has a pretty good overview of online security as well.  It’s also true that some very popular sites (yes, Facebook!) change things often enough that you need to check and update your settings regularly to ensure that you maintain your desired level of security. By the way, as far as Facebook security goes,  Lifehacker’s guide is regularly updated and a great place to start. Even with good settings, one fact remains: the only way to have something stay absolutely secure is to never post it online in the first place.

So I suggest that the next time you have a warning forwarded to you that implores you to “share it with everyone you know!”, that you check it out first. Snopes is a pioneer in this area and has good references for most of their articles. About.com also has good urban legends and hoax reference pages. There several others, as well. An interesting side note is that there was a forwarded e-mail a few years ago that sought to discredit Snopes, and the email itself ended up discredited by another source.

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If you want to disable location data posting from your phone, here are the steps:

On Android:
Open camera app
Open “Settings”
Scroll down to “GPS” and select “off”

On iPhone:
Go to “Settings”
Under that, Go to “General”
Under that, Go to “Location Services”
Under that, go to “Camera” and select “Off”

On Windows Phone:
Select “Settings”
Under that, select “Applications”
Under that, select “Pictures and Camera”
Turn “Include GPS Data” to “Off”

But more importantly:

1. Check out warnings before you pass them along

2. Know the basic steps to be safer online

3. Consider both the big picture and specific apps and networks you frequent

4. Be careful about what you post and where

5. Limit and supervise your children’s activity online

That approach will be a lot more useful than just chasing the latest warning to get forwarded your way.