New computer model might help with workplace shoe selection

Model predicts tread wear and tear to prevent slips and falls

Posted February 5, 2018

Slips, trips, and falls are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries. Making sure workers’ shoes have adequate tread to provide friction with walking surfaces is an important part of preventing slips and falls. But according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), not all treads provide the same amount of protection.

NIOSH says some footwear features tread patterns that create strong traction with the floor, while others have insufficient tread to grip the floor during walking, especially when the surface is wet.

To get a better grip on the situation, NIOSH funded a project at the University of Pittsburgh to develop a computer model that measures and predicts the traction or friction of shoe trends. Scientists calculated contract regions and the friction forces generated in these contract regions to estimate how a shoe’s design impacted friction, and the findings were published in the January online edition of the Journal of Biomechanics.

A comparison of the computer model’s predictions to real-life tests of eight different shoe designs and two different flooring types shows the computer model accurately predicted 73 percent of the friction between the different shoes’ treads. The ability to estimate contact regions and friction forces is critical for developing models that predict a shoe’s durability, which is an important factor in assessing footwear.

NIOSH believes the findings from the study demonstrate the usefulness of computer models in designing slip-resistant shoes to decrease work-related slips and falls. The computer model is being evaluated as a potential industry standard for designing shoes for use in the workplace.

NIOSH says the research is still ongoing and additional studies with a wider range of shoe and flooring materials will improve the computer model. Further, the research will be extended to include the impacts of wear on shoe treads.


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