Following a visit to specialist protective footwear supplier Haix, editor Andrew Lynch reports from Germany on a family-run business that has grown into one of the world’s leading providers of boots for emergency responders.
FOUNDED IN MAINBURG NEAR MUNICH in 1948, Haix has become a market leader for high-quality functional footwear across Europe. The company has a unique approach to innovation, combining functionality with old-fashioned handicraft production using high-quality raw materials and high-tech machinery. During the last ten years, Haix boots have become the footwear of choice for police, army and firefighters across Europe.
With 30 percent of the UK fire market, Haix is proud to be known as a high-quality and high-priced boot provider. With over 500 employees, 100 of whom are based in Munich, they remain close to their customers, who understand the value of the product.
Although the company has a strong global presence, on my visit I found the 60-year-old company to still have an active family-orientated approach and reassuring passion and pride for their product.
Protect and Serve
I was guided around the Mainburg plant by Wolfgang Plein who informed me of the company’s ethos. “To protect or save somebody’s life we assume first of all that you have to protect yourself with the best equipment possible during the mission. The feet, in particular, have a very special importance,” Wolfgang emphasised.
“They carry our body, as well as all the equipment necessary to perform the rescue or operation. They keep us moving through rough terrain. They provide safe footholds. They ensure that we do not lose our footing. While only possible, however, if you are equipped with functional footwear that unites foot and shoe.”
During the factory visit, I was surprised at how each stage of the process is handled by footwear experts, from moulding the sole to testing that the final product is waterproof. Whilst the machinery is high-tech, the essential craft of shoe-making is regarded as pivotal to all employees. It is this dedication to detail which is reflected in the enthusiasm of end users. The Haix commercial outlet is visited by police officers and firefighters the world over badges, helmets and memorabilia adorn the walls, donated by emergency responders from South America, Asia and the USA.
It is the attention to detail and understanding of the role of emergency responders that gives Haix the edge, Wolfgang told me. He explained how crucial high-standard boots are to the end user. “A balanced foot climate does play a very important role. Anatomical points of view are often not considered a norm but are very important to avoid long-term damages to the human body as far as it is technically possible.
“Good functional professional footwear should therefore not only protect from incoming moisture. They should also have systems which absorb foot perspiration during the daily usage and transport the foot perspiration outside using a membrane and conditioning system. This is what our HAIX[R]-Climate-System provides.”
To reduce the daily pressure of body weight and equipment on the feet, footwear should suitable in a way that the weight is absorbed during trading and the rising energy is converted into kinetic energy.
The right outsole plays a special role here. It has to support the natural rolling movement of the foot, produces anti-skid and has features that ease the wearer’s tasks. “For this, foot and boot have to unite,” Wolfgang informed. “Therefore, the correct shoe size and the anatomic shape of the inner shoe have a particular importance.
“If the inner side of the footwear corresponds to the anatomical form of the human heel as far as possible, foot and boot can unite. The footwear then becomes the flexible foundation of the human body. It protects the wearer, eases their tasks and avoids, as far as possible, long-term health damages.”
Haix boots, Wolfgang tells me, combine all these elements. “To guarantee all these characteristics during the whole lifespan of the footwear, it is a necessary precondition to select quality materials. Here, the correct choice of leather and its processing is decisive. Only leathers that are worked to keep their shape for a long period can base and support the foot.
“This, of course, affects the price. HAIX[R], Germany’s leading supplier of functional footwear, does produce footwear with these required characteristics.”
According to Hax:
The most important aspect of daily operations is footwear, which has to give hold and safety to the foot. For well-being and improved performance, functional footwear is a rising priority for organisations and their employees.
With the basic norm DIN EN 15090 for Firefighting and DIN EN ISO 20344/20345 for Workwear Footwear, standard safety footwear only fulfils a part of the functionality people need to prove their activity and performance capability. Safety footwear that only corresponds to the basic demands of this norm, however, discounts orthopaedic factors. Correct fit and conformity differ from shoe manufacturer to shoe manufacturer.
Under the aspects of the modern orthopaedic awareness, shoe engineers and technicians from HAIX[R] developed a product range of footwear which offers the wearer a revolutionary comfort and fitting form. The HAIX[R] footwear solution typifies all values which are connected with fitting form, wear and moving comfort, lifespan and safety.
Accurate workmanship, technical know-how and using a material such as the GORETEX [R] membrane combined with other strictly controlled raw materials, create practically orientated products which one can fully rely on in every situation.