What’s the deal with met guards and metatarsal boots?
For years, safety toe boots were the gold standard of workplace shoe safety. But, as safety standards and technology have advanced, more workers are going beyond the toe to choose metatarsal guards, also known as met guards.
A steel or composite toe protects the phalanges (aka your toes). The drawback? These safety toe boxes only cover about 1” to 1.5” of the foot, leaving the metatarsals—the long bones that connect the toes to the ankle—unprotected. So, if a heavy object is dropped closer to the body, your foot is still at risk. A met guard reduces this risk by extending the protection of the safety toe all the way to the ankle joint.
Metatarsal boots—work boots that contain met guards (nearly all of which also have safety toes)—are used in many industries, including transportation and shipping, manufacturing and production, construction, mining, and maintenance. We believe that a met guard boot should be the standard for any workplace where heavy objects or dangerous materials may come in contact with the top of the foot.
Save Yourself a Whole Lot of Foot Trouble
The human foot is an incredibly complex structure, containing 26 bones and 33 joints. Metatarsal fractures make up 5% of all foot fractures and can occur because of falls, direct trauma, or rotational injuries, according to MDedge.
Most workplace metatarsal injuries are caused by direct trauma (like the impact of a falling object), resulting in acute fractures. Many of these injuries can take up to 12 weeks to heal and may require surgery. A fracture at the fifth metatarsal, known as a Jones fracture, can take even longer because of a lack of blood in the area.
Treatment of metatarsal injuries includes immobilization through casts, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy.
As the saying goes, the best medicine is prevention.
Choosing the Right Metatarsal Boots
There are two types of metatarsal boots: those with external met guards and those with internal met guards.
External metatarsal guards
External guards form a shell-like cover over the instep area of a shoe or boot just behind the safety toe cap. They typically cover the shoelaces and are made of a rigid, protective piece of plastic or metal wrapped in leather or other materials and backed with a dense foam padding for comfort and impact absorption. Since they’re on the outside of the shoe, they cover a larger surface area than internal met guards. When an object hits an external met guard, the object impacts the firm shell on top of the foot while the soft backing of the metatarsal guard absorbs and distributes this impact with its cushioning and thus offers an increased protection to the fragile metatarsal bones over those designs without a metatarsal guard.
These guards work especially well for jobs that require welding to protect the worker’s feet, laces and shoes from sparks, slag and falling chunks of metal. In the case of a slower impact (which applies more of a compression-like pressure)—for example, where a truck slowly rolls over your foot, the design of external met guard boots offers slightly more protection than internal metatarsal boots.
Internal met guards
Internal guards are integrated into the shoe beneath the laces. They’re typically composed of one of two types of design and materials:
Material structured like maneuverable and flexible scales wrapped in a soft padding, almost like a snake’s belly on top of the foot behind the tongue; or
Soft, absorptive material (specially designed Urethane) also behind the tongue to absorb impact.
Both of these types provide flexibility. They are smaller and more inconspicuous than the external metatarsal guard and the internal met guard technology offers protection that’s on par with external guards in terms of sudden impacts but possibly less than the external on slow compression. The absorptive material in particular has an impressive ability to tighten up its structure on quick, sudden impact, softly catching and slowing the velocity of the fallen item as soon as it comes into contact with the shoe and displacing its energy. Internal guards also provide a more streamlined aesthetic look. For workplaces where getting caught on machinery is a concern, an internal metatarsal boot is a safer option than external metatarsal boots.
While these two materials function differently, neither type of internal met guard covers as large of a surface area as external met guards. Internal met guards also offer less protection from slow, compression impacts compared to external guards.
Every ASTM-certified met guard will still provide the same minimum level of protection, regardless if it uses external or internal technology. But how do you decide which type of metatarsal boot is the best option? If your workplace has more risks of sudden impacts from falling objects, internal met guards may be a better choice. If you’re around a lot of moving machinery or equipment that could roll over your foot, or you’re exposed to molten metal from welding, external met guards will deliver superior protection.
A Wide Selection of Metatarsal Guard Boots
More industries are moving toward making met guards standard personal protection equipment. But you don’t have to wait. Unlike most retailers, Boot World has a variety of metatarsal boots—including women’s metatarsal boots, which can be hard to find. Every met guard boot carries the “MET” symbol to indicate compliance with ASTM standards for metatarsal safety.
When you shop one of our convenient locations or online at www.bootworld.com, look for the “MET” symbol and Boot World’s 11 other Advantage Icons to ensure that you’ve selected the right boot for the job.