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Research: Unveiling Safer Safety Shoes

Tripping, twisting, and falling are common injuries in the workplace. New research from Aalborg University and Odense University Hospital reveals that traditional safety shoes might increase the risk of such injuries compared to regular shoes. Fortunately, solutions are potentially on the horizon to make safety shoes safer. A research project in collaboration between Odense University Hospital, Aalborg University, and Spraino ApS aims to provide new insights into how safety shoes can be made safer.

Research: Unveiling Safer Safety Shoes

"At Odense University Hospital, we're not only interested in improving the treatment of patients after a fall has occurred but also in preventing accidents and thereby enhancing the physical work environment," says Anders Holsgaard, professor at Odense University Hospital and the University of Southern Denmark. He is the overall head of the research project, which includes both lab tests and field studies with TDC, Denmark's largest telecommunications provider.

"Our initial results show that safety shoes are, in fact, less safe than ordinary shoes when it comes to tripping. However, our project also seeks to improve safety shoes to prevent tripping, twisting, and falling injuries, making them safer. Fortunately, our initial results with modified safety shoes suggest that we can make these shoes less prone to tripping," explains Professor Pascal Madeleine from Aalborg University.

"Moreover, previous research indicates that we can integrate protection against ankle twists into shoes, thus preventing such injuries," says Director and Doctor Thor Grønlykke from Spraino ApS.

Lab tests offer specific knowledge about the safety shoes of the future. “These tests provide us with knowledge about the forces involved when one trips over unforeseen objects and give us specific information on the potential features of future safety shoes compared to traditional ones," shares Mathias Munk-Hansen, a PhD student at Aalborg University.

The field studies, testing a new type of safety shoes with fall-modifying elements, will take place with TDC Net Field Service West.

"This project provides us with new knowledge that can benefit our employees and help numerous other workplaces. We are delighted to participate," says Thomas Hermann, Health and Safety Chief at TDC. This is complemented by workplace representative Tonny Jensen and service chief in fiber, Ole Kjær, who stress the strong focus on safety at the workplace, especially regarding falls, twists, and trips.

Contact information:

Professor, Anders Holsgaard Larsen, tel. 26503912,

Professor Pascal Madeleine, tel. 30553633,

Ph.D. Fellow Mathias Munk-Hansen, tel. 29804233,

Spraino ApS, Thor Grønlykke, tel. 27601430,


About the project: The project is supported by the Work Environment Research Fund with 2.8 million DKK. Participating in the project are Odense University Hospital, Aalborg University, and Spraino ApS. Other participants include TDC, Dansk Metal (a major Danish trade union), and Dansk Industri (Denmark's largest employer organization).

Research on Safety Shoes: There is limited knowledge about tripping injuries and ankle twists in workplaces, but injury reports suggest it's a frequent problem with significant consequences for both the individual and the employer if they result in fall injuries. This research project presents an opportunity to prevent tripping and twisting injuries by controlling the shoe's friction.

Initial scientific results from the research group have already indicated a particular issue with tripping in current safety shoes. However, the braking force on the shoe that causes tripping can be reduced by up to 70% with prototypes featuring fall-modifying shoe elements. Additionally, previous Danish studies show that twist-protection can be built into shoes without the user noticing.

For workers who move both indoors and outdoors and whose tasks vary throughout the week, like craftsmen and construction workers, it's nearly impossible to control external conditions (clear walkways, flooring type, lighting, level differences, lifting, etc.). An effective footwear intervention is thus a great way to reduce the risk of falls and injuries. This is especially true for groups like technicians, which is why TDC is involved in the project regarding tests.

This research will contribute knowledge on how to reduce the risk of tripping and twisting injuries in safety shoes. This knowledge can be utilized to improve safety in many workplaces. Potentially, this can reduce sick leave, prevent productivity losses, and most importantly, spare employees from foot/ankle pain.

The development of the technology related to the new tripping and twist-prevention shoe elements has been done by the Danish company Spraino ApS.

Progress and Development:

Progress: The first part of the project involves mechanical and biomechanical laboratory investigations at Aalborg University. These have been specially designed for the purpose and will establish knowledge for optimizing shoe properties through simulated tests that mimic real fall and twist situations.

In the project's second phase, the researchers will test safety shoes at TDC, where employees will have the opportunity to try out safety shoes with built-in elements to reduce tripping and twisting injuries.

The Shoes: For ankle twists, it's the outer edge of the shoe/sole where friction is reduced, allowing the shoe to move outward and return to its normal flat position relative to the ground rather than causing a strain on the ankle's outer side. A previous study on athletes showed that 53% of severe ankle injuries could be prevented using this technology. This now needs to be integrated into a safety shoe.

For tripping protection, it's primarily the shoe's tip where the design has been created to minimize braking force during collisions with objects or level differences, theoretically allowing a person to regain balance more easily and thus prevent a fall. Initial mechanical tests have shown a reduction in braking force of up to 70%.

Link to scientific article below. Poster presentations can be sent upon request.

The biomechanical differences of wearing safety shoes compared with everyday shoes on dynamic balance when tripping over an obstacle - ScienceDirect

Key points and takeaways:

  • Traditional safety shoes may increase the risk of tripping, twisting, and falling injuries compared to regular shoes.
  • The research project aims to improve the design of safety shoes to make them safer.
  • Odense University Hospital and Aalborg University are involved in the project, and it is funded with 2.8 million DKK from the Occupational Safety Research Foundation.
  • The research focuses on two main areas:
    - Trip prevention: Reduction of braking force during collisions, allowing the person to regain balance more easily.
    - Twist prevention: Allowing the shoe to return to a neutral position after a potential twist to prevent ankle injury.
  • Part of the research involves field studies where a new type of safety shoe is being tested by employees at TDC, the largest Danish telecommunications provider.
  • Spraino ApS is a Danish company working on the technology behind the new tripping and twisting preventive shoe elements.
  • This research has the potential to benefit many workplaces by reducing the number of accidents, saving sick days, and avoiding loss of productivity. This, in addition to protecting employees from pain and injury.

This project underscores the importance of constant innovation, even in areas where one might think the best solution has already been found. It's clear that while traditional safety shoes protect against some threats (such as heavy falling objects), they can inadvertently increase the risk for other types of injuries, making this research essential.