Walk in the Shoes of a Floridian Grower – Survey Results

An example of a work boot in the Florida fern industry
Florida Fern Grower Work boot with reinforced toe.(Photo Credit Bobby Greenlund)

Podophobia – fear of feet. This phobia is rarely so severe that it should require specialist help. However, in very mild forms, it is most commonly just not wishing to be near or even looking at other people’s feet.

I wonder….does this include behavior of neglecting our own feet?

What are your ideal choice of work shoes for our Florida conditions? In addition, what brands do you prefer and what price did you pay for your shoes?

I asked those questions in a survey to 174 professionals (151 males and 24 females) with diverse jobs in sports turf, landscapes maintenance, aquatic, road maintenance and growers of groves, fields and ferneries. Could we improve the Florida farmer foot to be better adapted for our tropical conditions?

The survey followed up with asking if they had any complaints about their feet. This was part of an extension study in hopes of gaining insight in work shoe safety and foot health. The responses to the survey was quite insightful.

Horticultural occupational workers rely on comfy, waterproof and lightweight work shoes (Photo Credit: Chuck Smith)
What did the results show?
  • 16% surveyed preferred the Wolverine Inc. brand work boot with Timberland Pro a close second (10%)………….no endorsement, just transparency
  • Comfort (#1), waterproofness (#2) and lightweight (#3) characteristics were key indicators they were seeking in the shoe.
  • The largest percentage wore leather shoe/boot with reinforced toe (RI) insert (55%), followed by leather shoe/boot without RI (18%) and rubber boots (16%).

What was spent on average in work wear. When $200 was the upper limit?

They spent:
  • $84.20 on work footwear, $57.29 on clothing, $37.86 on hand protection/gloves and $36.42 was on sun protection/hats/sunscreen.

Finally, I asked them to self-assess and if they had any complaints about their feet.

feet in a work boot and bandage on toe
Foot issues are common in the Florida agriculture industry. (Photo credit: Johnny Hoblick)
Self assessment:
  • One a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best), their current foot health had an average rating of 7.1.
  • 48% experienced pain or soreness of their feet
  • 21% experienced leg pain
  • 17% had symptoms of hammer toe, bunions (athletes foot/nail fungus)
  • 7% fallen arches
  • 5% had other symptoms – tingly, burning or dry skin
  • 31% had no symptoms

What is surprising is that 1/3 (about 54) of all that were surveyed out of 174 did not experience any symptoms. Nearly 2/3 of all the surveyed clientele are dealing with some issue with their feet and they are not addressing it or seeking help with it! With an overall rating of 7.1 (or a solid 70% ‘C’ grade), I ascertained that there was room for improvement.

There was a need to bring educational programming on foot health and safety to the industry. Stay tuned for what happened next……………………


Posted: November 30, 2021

Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Foot Safety, Health, Work Boot

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