I was having a conversation with a gentleman on Twitter the other day when he Tweeted: “Almost all Nike’s are slip resistant”. This makes sense, right? After all, basketball players don’t want to slip on hardwood floors, so they must wear slip resistant shoes, right?
There are several factors that go into making a great pair slip resistant shoes for work. The distinguishing features of a slip resistant shoe are the outsole design, tread pattern, and material used in the outsole. Here’s a breakdown of what separates a slip resistant shoe from a regular shoe.
The outsole is more commonly referred to as the “sole” of the shoe, but to avoid confusion with the insole and midsole, the outsole is the part of the shoe that comes in direct contact with the ground. A slip resistant outsole is softer, and made of rubber that is more slip resistant when exposed to water and oil than other outsole compounds. This softer rubber outsole means that a slip resistant shoe can more effectively grip a slick floor. This means even on quarry tile or hardwood or linoleum flooring, a slip resistant shoe will be able to grab hold whereas a shoe with a harder, stiffer outsole would not be able to.
Now, you may be wondering about a basketball shoe, designed to work on hardwood courts. Wouldn’t that also grip well on slicker flooring? Yes, if it was dry. But athletic shoes are not tested or designed to work in wet oily conditions.
If you’ve ever played or watched basketball, you know that when liquid gets on the court, serious injuries can occur due to slippage. The National Basketball Association even employs people whose only job is quickly wipe up sweat and water from the floor to keep it clean.
If you’re using a shoe with an enclosed tread pattern (see above), there is no place for the liquid to go. It gets trapped under your shoe and forms a barrier between your shoe and the floor, similar to a car hydroplaning, sliding on top of the water without getting a grip on the road. The solution? Slip resistant shoes features an interlocked tread pattern that doesn’t close the water in (see below), so that it is channeled away from your foot, allowing the slip resistant sole to contact the floor and provide better slip resistance.
A good slip resistant shoe will also provide more surface contact with the tread pattern. Why? If the tread pattern and outsole material is designed to be slip resistant, it only makes sense that the more of it that comes into contact with the floor the better the shoe will work.