The process of design is an iterative one. It is rare that the best designs are the product manufacturers first attempt. The process is usually one of starting with an original idea, testing it, noting any deficiencies in the design, and then improving upon those deficiencies to improve the whole product. I love seeing examples of really good design utilized in everyday products from both in the home and at work. Take for instance something as mundane as the everyday work boot. Now, this is about as far from being a high-tech product as you can possibly get, in fact you could say that it’s about as low-tech an item as you can get. However if you were to track the design developments of modern work boot over say the last 100 years you would see a remarkable transformation.
The Safety Toe
The original work boot used to have toes with a steel protector. However, this is an expensive material and difficult to work with. As a result the steel toe has gradually been replaced with a variety of alternatives made from predominantly specialized plastic. This new type of safety toe has a number of advantages over the steel toe protector. Perhaps the first and most important one is that modern day engineering techniques in respect of plastics has made the plastics significantly stronger than the steel alternative. As a result it provides significantly greater protection to the workman’s foot. In addition to this most plastics are significantly lighter than the metal alternatives and as a result the boot is more comfortable to wear for long periods of time and easier to get around in. Finally, although perhaps a relatively minor point, plastic does not conduct electricity whereas steel does, again making the plastic alternative still safer.
The modern work boot is a great deal more comfortable than the boots of old. Manufacturers quite quickly worked out that greater comfort for the wearer meant improved levels of productivity. Significant effort has been expended on making the boot as comfortable as possible to wear for a significant amount of time. Most modern workboots are extremely comfortable to wear these days, at least as good as a comfortable pair of regular shoes.
It is perhaps stating the obvious, but most work boots are worn in tough outdoor working environments. As a result they need to be both hard wearing, warm and perhaps most important of all, waterproof. However, not all boots need all these three things at the same time. For instance someone working on an oil rig in the desert doesn’t want heavily insulated boots that make his feet uncomfortably hot within a very few minutes of arriving at work, such a worker would much rather have tough, comfortable, lightweight and relatively cool footwear. Alternatively, someone working on a building site on a winter’s day would clearly require a warm and comfortable and waterproof boot.
Fortunately, as a result of the vast improvement in shoe manufacture, there is almost always a boot available for a specific working environment. No longer is it a one size fits all work boot world.
Quality of the Soles
One of the most important features other work boot is its longevity. In very simple terms this means that the soul of the boot must be able to withstand the hard knocks of the working environment for a very long time before it wears out. Over the years, the greater the effort has been put into ensuring that the sole of the shoe is very hard-working without making it uncomfortable on the sole of the foot.
This has been made possible by the introduction of different structures by which the sole of the shoe is made. As a result of these improvements, where the older boot might wear out despite being perfectly usable in all other aspects, the modern work boot can literally last for years and years.
Additional Safety Enhancements
Finally, it is worth noting, that the modern work boot has not just taken each of the various components of the traditional work boot and made them significantly better, there have been a number of additional safety features incorporated into the shoe to ensure that it is not just your toes that are given protection. These additional safety features include souls that are puncture resistant, additional grip in order to prevent slipping from wet floors and even the ability to dissipate static electricity in order to prevent damage, or even conduction, from stray electrical buildup.
In conclusion, it should be obvious that the iterative design process, when applied to even everyday working boots, can yield significant enhancements not just the look of the boot, but to its practical use in an everyday working environment. If the worker is safe and comfortable in his working environment is likely to be far more productive, and for this reason if no other, the modern work boot is doing its job, due to the quite numerous design improvements.