Working on snow and ice? Right boots offer safety, warmth
Mark Wertman of Altamont is very fussy about his boots.
Wertman, who has worked for the New York state Department of Transportation for 27 years, wears a pair of slip-on, steel toe Dunham boots.
“The pair I’m wearing are very warm,” said Wertman, who runs a tractor snowblower in Schenectady. “The newer boots made with carbon are a lot lighter and more comfortable, and in my opinion, they keep my feet warmer.”
Wertman said he tries to clean the salt and calcium from his boots each time he wears them, but he usually has to buy a new pair each year.
“I rinse them down with a hose,” said Wertman. “They are waterproof, but the salt and calcium just tear them apart.”
Depending on the weather, Wertman said he could be outdoors for several hours a day.
“Sometimes because of emergencies like the ice storm, I could be out there in the truck for 12 hours without getting inside to get warmed up,” said Wertman. “These boots keep me warm. Once your feet are cold, you’re done.”
The state gives its employees a $100 allowance for boots each year, but Wertman said he paid about $190 for his boots.
“I pay a little more, but it’s worth it,” he said. “They’re just a plain leather work boot — probably 11 inches high that you slide into. I like that instead of having to tie them.”
Peter Van Keuren, spokesman for the Capital Region Office of the state DOT, said boots worn by agency employees have to offer some kind of toe protection like steel plate or composite plastic toes.
“In our line of work, there are certain hazards out there,” said Van Keuren. “Accidents can happen. So we want to make sure that everyone is protected.”
During a rough winter, Van Keuren said people can go through a pair of boots in a year.
“Certainly if you find a pair you really like, you might be willing to hold on to them longer, as long as they meet the requirements,” he said. “There has to be a certain degree of traction and a good sole and grip on the bottom to help protect against falling.”
Joe Ryan of the Schenectady County Highway Department said while all employees have their own preference, boots must provide adequate protection.
“They get a clothing allowance of $150, but they have a choice of what to buy as long as it is within our safety footwear policy,” said Ryan.
John Foley, safety and health coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service for 123 ZIP code delivery area, said depending on the time of the year, you look for a waterproof, slip-resistant sole with a good tread.
“High-top boots are good because they prevent ankle strain and sprain,” said Foley, who has been a letter carrier for 34 years. “Footwear has changed a lot over the years. The quality of insulation and waterproofing has improved a great deal.”
Variety of options
Gary Ranze, a postal carrier for 14 years, likes to wear Icebug boots.
“It’s a boot with treads on the bottom, and they are waterproof and stay very warm,” said Ranze. “Another carrier gave them to me because he said they were too warm. I only wear them on really frigid days. I have other types of footwear I wear on days that aren’t so cold.”
On days when the temperature is more moderate, Ranze said he wears Grips, over-the-shoe all traction footwear designed to increase traction in a variety of slick conditions from snow and ice to oil and grease. The sole of Grips features bands of sandpaper-like aluminum oxide that offer traction.
Ranze also wears Ice Grips, lightweight, yet heavy-duty, rubber treads with four steel spokes, worn over the shoes.
Connie Provenzano, also a postal letter carrier, said she likes to wear NEOS (New England Overshoes).
“You wear your normal shoes and you put them inside the NEOS boot,” said Provenzano. “They are very warm and waterproof, and you can get cleats on the bottom of them. I’ve had mine for about two years. The cleats wear out, and we replace those, but the boots last a long time.”
Provenzano stressed that the public can be helpful to postal workers by keeping their sidewalks and stairs free from snow and ice.
“Boots and overshoes can only do so much,” she said. “We really rely on the public to help us.
“If you’re walking through three feet of snow on top of ice, there’s a good chance you’re going to fall, regardless of your footwear,” added Ranze. “So we really rely on our customers acting as partners with us in helping us get to their houses.”
Tracy Pedersen, barn manager for Honor Way Farms, a horse farm in Schenectady, said she wears a mid-calf Bass boot with a rubber sole bottom.
“Between cleaning stalls, standing outside and teaching lessons, I’m in and out of the barn all day,” said Pedersen. “I like these boots because they are easy to get on and off. They’re very warm, but I’m constantly moving. If I had to stand still for any length of time, they might not be warm enough. I think my feet would get cold, and I’d have to find something warmer.”