Innovating Beyond Shrink It and Pink It

Q&A with Ana Kraft, Founder and CEO of Xena Workwear


What does Xena Workwear make? 

We engineer well-fitting and beautiful safety shoes for women to help them feel safe and confident at work. 

Why did you start Xena Workwear?

I spent years working in manufacturing environments as a project engineer and while I loved my job, I couldn’t stand wearing the required steel-toe boots. Women’s safety footwear styles are often labeled unisex when in reality they are designed for men and feature a bulky look that never fits quite right. I discovered that many traditional manufacturers apply the “shrink it and pink it” approach by making a men’s shoe smaller and applying a stereotypically feminine color to it. 

However, women are anatomically different from men with very different body shapes. It’s no wonder that scaled down versions of PPE including safety shoes don’t fit women well. It is difficult enough for women to succeed in traditionally male-centric work environments and having poorly fitting PPE is an unnecessary barrier. 

After years of experiencing this frustration myself, I decided to tackle the problem by making steel-toe shoes that working women would love to wear.

What makes your shoes different? 

All of our products are built on a woman’s last to achieve the perfect fit that enhances comfort and safety. Only after achieving the perfect fit, we send the boots to an independent lab to obtain the ASTM F2413 certification. 

While the right fit is a huge differentiator, it is important to note that the demands from working women are not just comfort based. Many women are looking for stylish workwear that will help them feel and look their best.

Our R&D process starts with real world needs based on research and customer inquiries. We then ideate how to solve these needs by developing innovative, new forms that will fit. I want women to love their PPE so they can wear it all day long to stay safe and work more efficiently without the need to change between their regular shoes and safety boots throughout the day. 

PPE should be versatile and prepared for any environment, just like the women who wear it. Xena subscribes to this belief and their boots are made to take women from the shop floor to the board room, feeling confident and powerful the entire time. Wearing Xena means women in demanding industries are truly dressed for success. For Xena Workwear, it’s about so much more than just the shoes. The overwhelming gender disparity in the STEM fields is always top of mind. That thought ultimately drives Xena’s vision—to strengthen a growing community of female leaders who will inspire the next generation of girls to explore careers in STEM and the trades. 

What are your best selling models? 

Our best-selling model is the Omega boot which has over 1,000 five-star reviews and is loved by women across industries. The Omega is lightweight, features a slip resisting dual-density outsole, a YKK zipper for easy on and off and a protective steel-toe cap. This model is also EH (Electric Hazard) certified.  It comes in three beautiful colors. Classic Black and Bourbon Brown, which are made using top-quality LWG-certified full grain leather as well as our Smoky Gray, made from a high-performance vegan material that is breathable, durable and chemical resistant. 

SAFETY Features

‣ ASTM Certified (F2413-18) 

‣ Electrical Hazard Certification (EH Rated)

‣ Impact & Compression Resistant (I/75 C/75)

‣ Oil & Chemical Resistant Outsole (D471)

‣ Low-Conductivity Zipper (Auto-Lock Tech)

‣ Dual-Density Slip Resisting Outsole (Dry & Wet Surfaces)

The second model we would like to highlight is the Spice Safety Boot. 


This ASTM F2413 certified boot is a new release. It features a higher boot shaft and laces for enhanced stability. The YKK zipper makes for quick on/off. The Spice is a versatile boot that our customers wear in manufacturing facilities, on construction sites, in warehouses and even for motorcycle riding. 



SAFETY Features

‣ ASTM Certified (F2413-18) 

‣ Impact & Compression Resistant (I/75 C/75)

‣ Oil & Chemical Resistant Outsole (D471)

‣ Triple-Braided Laces (Snug Fit & Ankle Stability)

‣ 6″ Shaft Height (Enhanced Ankle Stability)

‣ Dual-Density Slip Resisting Outsole (Dry & Wet Surfaces)

The last boot we would like to showcase is the Gravity 

This boot is designed to be the perfect safety shoe for women who constantly transition between the office and the manufacturing floor. It can easily go from the boardroom to the shop floor. This boot is loved by female engineers, facility managers, operations managers, safety managers, HR, Sales professionals and many more. 

SAFETY Features

‣ ASTM Certified (F2413-18) 

‣ Impact & Compression Resistant (I/75 C/75)

‣ Oil & Chemical Resistant Outsole (D471)

‣ Slip Resisting Outsole (Dry & Wet Surfaces)

How broad is your market (geo & professions)?

We’ve sold and shipped Xenas to every state in the U.S. as well as to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and nearly every country in Western Europe. The biggest surprise, which led to an official Xena expansion was in Oceania. Women from Australia and New Zealand were paying exorbitant freight fees to ship our boots across the world and were repeatedly asking for them to be available through a local supplier. After vetting multiple distributors who wanted to carry our boots, we selected one fantastic female-owned and operated partner who represents our brand in Oceania. 

Regarding professions, initially we thought the demand would solely come from the Manufacturing, Engineering, and Construction sectors. However, since launch we’ve seen professional women everywhere loving our products – architects, broadway stage managers, baristas, chefs, distillers, farmers, military personnel, warehouse workers, research scientists, bikers, and many more! The uniting factor between all these women is that they truly love what they do and want shoes that help them feel safe and confident.

As the founder of Xena, do you have a fashion background?

I don’t have a background in fashion design. I gained a degree in International Project Engineering from Reutlingen University in Germany. This program provided the perfect amount of knowledge in Materials Science, Electrical Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering and Project Management. This degree was really helpful to design highly technical safety shoe products that need to pass rigorous safety tests. Being an outsider to this industry allows me to push the boundaries of design while adhering to ASTM standards. The most important skill you learn as an engineer is to analyze the problem and find the right resources to come up with a solution. I am grateful to work with talented people who want to make a difference for working women. 

How do you sell your products? 

The majority of our sales are direct to consumer. We make it really easy to purchase our products through our Xena Workwear website, deliver the products in 3 – 8 business days and offering hassle-free Exchanges and Returns. 

We’ve also gradually expanded our business to business footprint by working more with distributors as well as partnering with Companies directly to add Xena as a preferred PPE vendor for their employees. We’ve had great success being flexible by offering digital voucher programs, group buys, and expense reimbursements. We are proud to work with Safety Managers who are ahead of the curve and understand the benefits of providing gender-specific PPE to their female workforce. 

Here is a link to get more information about our partnerships program: Corporate Partnerships- Xena Workwear 

What is next for Xena Workwear? 

We continue to work tirelessly on the development of three brand new safety shoe models that will cover the needs of women in the trades and a new untapped industry. In addition we will be releasing a few workwear products women have been asking for. 

I aspire to build a strong brand that will serve the needs of working women. That’s why our team always looks for ways to push our product innovation boundaries, to improve our environmental footprint, give back to women’s nonprofits, and to build lasting relationships with our customers. Our dream is a workforce full of women, feeling unencumbered by man-made limitations, wearing their confidence like a badge. Sometimes, that badge looks like a pair of badass boots.