What is a Metatarsal Guard?

What is a Metatarsal GuardAre you looking to purchase metatarsal boots or shoes having metatarsal guards? Perhaps, you have been asked to do so at your workplace.

Metatarsal safety boots are an important work accessory and a part of the Personal Protection Equipment in many workplaces. They help in protecting the metatarsal bones of the feet under rough and tough working conditions – mainly from crush-and-compression injuries.

Many work places make it mandatory for all workers to wear boots having metatarsal guards (or met-guards as they are known). This is paramount for the workers’ safety.

So what is a metatarsal guard? And how is it different than regular steel toe or composite toe boots?

Let us find out.

Steel Toe/composite toe and Metatarsal Guard Difference

The major difference between steel toe and metatarsal guard is the amount of area of the feet protected.

Metatarsal bones are bones right behind the toe region. A steel toe boot covers only about 1 to 1.5 inches of the toe region which means the metatarsal bones are not completely protected.

This is where a metatarsal guard can make a difference.

Metatarsal guards cover nearly 3-4 inches from the toe to the end of the metatarsal bones and even some of the bone or arch area behind it.

This is a great feature to have when you work in environments where there is a risk of falling debris, heavy objects What is a Metatarsal Guardmoving over the feet, or sharp tools.

In case of boots with just a steel toe, if a heavy object falls on the toe, the metatarsal bones are at a risk of breaking. A met-guard can protect these delicate bones and prevent those painful injuries and wounds.

The human feet are incredibly complex and consist of more than 25 bones with over 30 joints. Fractures of the metatarsal and toe region are not only painful, they are also very slow to heal. Many times, these injuries take more than 2-3 months to heal complete and even when they do, there can be lingering pain for months or even years.

All this can lead to loss of productivity and also cost a lot of money on the healthcare of a worker.

Metatarsal boots are boots that come with a metatarsal guard as well as steel toe protection. Thus, the boots offer ‘best of both’ worlds and prevent breaks and painful fractures of the delicate metatarsal bones.

That is the reason why, more and more workplaces are making it mandatory to use boots with met- guards anywhere there is a danger of falling objects, chemicals, hot liquids, etc.

Uses of Metatarsal Guards

As stated before, Metatarsal guards are mandatory in many workplaces.

They are especially required as a part of PPE or Personal Protection Equipment for workers that are required to move or roll very heavy objects like pipes or heavy tools and materials in construction, warehouses, factories etc.

Any workplace that has the potential to cause injury to a worker’s foot due to heavy or sharp objects, rolling tools What is a Metatarsal Guardor objects, hot liquids, chemicals, molten metals, etc. must make it a point to have workers use metatarsal guards in their boots.

Welders are also required to wear boots with guards. They can help prevent shocks and burns caused by open electric circuits, falling embers, sparks, and hot objects.

In jobs where you have to deal with sharp tools like axes and saws also require you to wear these boots.

Types of Metatarsal Guards

Metatarsal guards or boots with metatarsal guards are of the following two types:

External Met-guards

You can easily tell when a boot has an external guard. It appears bulky and is distinctly seen protruding as a thick metallic padding over the boot right where the laces are on normal shoes.

These external paddings start just behind the toe box area. The toe box itself could be composite or metal or steel toe. It extends all the way to the point where the laces begin. Note that the guards will cover the laces completely. The thick and dense padding is very heavy but is able to easily withstand crush and compression injuries.

You can have the padding in the form of thick leather, aluminum, rigid and tough plastic, or other steel and composite metals. Foam based paddings have the ability to harden when an object hits the padding. It absorbs the entire shock of the falling object and distributes the force evenly. The cushioning impact protects the delicate metatarsal bones as well as the toes from what would otherwise have been extremely painful injuries.

The advantage of choosing external guard is that it can be removed when you want to simply use the boots for What is a Metatarsal Guardless-dangerous activities. The downside to these external guards is that the boot appears quite bulky and also might weigh down the user’s feet leading to fatigue.

Internal Met-guards

As the name indicates, internal met guards are in-built in the boot in the toe to lace region. This means that the boot will look just like any regular work boot but they still offer a greater degree of protection compared to boots without reinforcements.

Some manufacturers emboss the letter ‘M’ on the side of the tongue to show that a boot has an internal met-guard.

The reinforcement or padding may be present just below the tongue area and, in addition, the boot might have urethane padding over the tongue too.

What is a Metatarsal Guard

Internal met-guards are as effective in protecting the metatarsal bones as external met guards. However, some people believe that they might not be as effective against compressive and crushing injuries.

Internal met-guards also work like the external guards above. The padding, upon impact, hardens and slows down the momentum of the falling objects thereby protecting the feet and its delicate bones.

To summarize the differences between internal and external met-guards: internal guards might not cover the entire toe area as the external guards do. Also, internal guards are not as effective against crush-and-compression injury protection as external guards are.

Features You Should Look For

If you are planning on buying metatarsal guards, look for the following features:

Should fit over any boots

Sturdy metatarsal boots come with optional attachment straps that can fit over any boots with ease or users should be able to attach them using the boot’s existing laces. They should be designed to complement any steel-toe boot.

Aluminum guards come toe-clips, crossbars, and/or rubber-strap with tension buckles for secure attachment to existing work boots.


What is a Metatarsal Guard

Depending on the style of the guards, its dimensions will vary. In case of aluminum guards, the height of the guards is about 5 inches with a length of at least 5 ½ -inches. These dimensions are usually known to fit standard boots and can protect the in-step and the entire front portion of the foot from rolling, falling, or flying objects.

Lightweight and comfortable yet strong

Look for meta-guards that are light enough to be worn for prolonged periods without causing fatigue. At the same time, they should be strong enough to withstand impacts of at least 75-ft-lbs.

Made of sturdy material

Most metatarsal guards come in polyurethane or polycarbonate materials. These are non-conductive to heat and electricity. You can also buy external guards in aluminum, Kevlar, fiber, fiberglass, plastic, or metals.

Suitable for your particular needs

Look for guards that are versatile and suitable for use in mining, construction, retail trade, woodworking, automotive, transport, warehousing, packaging, pipes, forestry, etc.

Tested extensively

Always ensure highest quality when selecting meta guards. Do not base your selection on the price alone. If your workplace demands OSHA compliance, look for the same.

Go in for guards that have undergone stringent testing and meet Worldwide Safety Footwear Standards.


What are metatarsal guards made of?

These days, you can get lightweight met-guards made of aluminum or fiberglass and special foams. You can also find ones made of sturdy plastic, steel, Kevlar, or other composite materials.

How do you break into boots having internal metatarsal guards?

What is a Metatarsal Guard

If you opt for boots having in-built met-guards, you may want to try on several pairs before you buy one. This will help you ensure that the boots actually fit – very important if you have to wear the boots all-day. Do not overlook pinches and hotspots – if they occur, use mink oil or leather conditioner to prevent them. Always condition the boots as recommended by the boot manufacturer. Never apply direct heat to the boots.

What are met-pads? Are they same as guards?What is a Metatarsal Guard

Metatarsal pads or met pads are supportive pads that perform more of a corrective function than a protective one as met-guards do. You simply insert the met-pads under the metatarsal bones to bring about better arch alignment and provide comfort to aching feet.

Metatarsal Guards – Key Takeaways

Metatarsal guards perform an important function of protecting the feet against crushing or compressive impacts. They are usually made of sturdy plastic, metal, aluminum, steel, Kevlar, or composite materials. These guards can be in-built (or internal) or you can choose external guards to wear over regular steel-toe work boots.

Many workplaces make it mandatory to use metatarsal guards.