What is a Met Guard in Boots? 3 Reasons You Need a Metatarsal Guard

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by  Jon Wadsworth | Last Updated: 

Part of being safe at work is making sure you’re wearing the right PPE. Your boots need to protect you, and sometimes a steel toe just isn’t enough. 

Today’s your lucky day if you need complete protection for your feet and don’t know what a met guard is. I’ve not seen foot protection this comprehensive on anything less than a suit of armor, so I thought I would share with you just how safe your feet could be wrapped in a metatarsal guard.

What is a Met Guard?

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A met guard is a protective cover that prevents severe injuries to your metatarsal bones; think steel toe cap, only extended over the top of your foot. Met guards are designed to offer additional protection for your feet; if you’ve ever used a kiltie on your boots before, a met guard covers a similar area, only with much greater protection. 

If you’re unsure where your metatarsal bones are, they’re the small bones in the top of your foot (look here for an in-depth explanation).

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The hard, bony bit on the top of your foot doesn’t get the protection it needs; there’s very little fat, no muscle, and nothing to protect you apart from the work boots you’re wearing. A met guard solves this problem for you by adding a layer of protection that can stop all kinds of accidental injuries. 

From sudden impacts such as dropping things on your foot to slow compression injuries like having a log or truck roll over your foot, a met guard can be the difference between a bruised foot and a shattered metatarsal. Depending on your needs, or even whether you want a boot with a met guard hidden or in plain sight, you’ve got two options, an internal met guard or an external. 

Internal Met Guards

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A pair of boots with an internal met guard looks exactly like every other pair of boots; the guard is hidden behind the tongue of the boot and extends down beneath the leather, right to the toe box. An internal metatarsal guard will stop sudden impacts and debris from penetrating the top of the boot and even offers some fire protection. 

As the met guard is on the inside of the boot, it needs to be flexible enough to move when you do; a rigid internal met guard would feel like walking around with a steel bar strapped to your foot. To combat that, internal met guards are made of pliable materials that are then covered in fabric to keep your boot feeling comfortable. 

The met guard won’t affect your foot’s movement as the met guard is composed of many smaller sections that are then overlapped, a bit like a suit of armor or a snake’s scales. Internal met guards can also be covered with Urethane to add even more shock absorbing capabilities. 

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A pair of boots with an internal met guard could be perfect for workplaces where there are loose, heavy materials that could drop onto your feet. You can go for work boots, tall boots, or even something a little sleeker, such as the Keen Utility Detroit XT Low Steel Toe Metatarsal Guard Work Shoe; the name is a mouthful, but your feet will thank you for the added protection.

KEEN Utility Metatarsal Guard Work Shoe
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External Met Guards

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External met guards are, unsurprisingly, on the outside of the boot and act as a protective shell for the top of your feet. External met guards offer premium protection for your feet and are especially adept at protecting your foot from being crushed. A great example of an external met guard can be found on the Timberland Pro Endurance 6” Metguard Steel Toe Work Boot.

While internal met guards offer the same damage limitation from dropping something heavy on your foot, an external met guard acts like a tortoise shell. They’re not the most attractive things to look at, but in a dangerous work environment where there’s a serious risk of your feet being crushed, I would dress as a rubber chicken if I thought it would help keep me safe.

Timberland PRO Endurance MetGuard Boot
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Why Get a Boot with a Metatarsal Guard?

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Before Health And Safety laws, you could wear what you wanted, but if you got injured, it was on your head; if your injury prevented you from working, you didn’t get paid. Thanks to better legislation, and a healthy dose of common sense, workers now need to wear PPE at work to keep them safe; steel toe boots are a prime example of this.

I’m not saying that met guard boots will become required in every work environment, but if you know that there’s a risk of a foot injury, and you’re relying on whatever drops or rolls onto your foot hitting the steel toe, then why not think about investing in a pair of boots with a met guard? 

In steelworks, where heavy machinery and loads can land on top of your foot, and even hot materials that could potentially burn your foot, an external met guard will keep you as safe as humanly possible. It could be that the question is, “why haven’t you got a pair of boots with a met guard?” 

Are Metatarsal Guards Comfortable?

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Boots with internal or external metatarsal guards can be just as comfortable as your everyday footwear. Met guards aren’t overly obtrusive; admittedly, external met guards aren’t stunning, but you’re wearing them to protect your feet, not go on a hot date. Internal met guards are invisible to the naked eye, and offer nearly the same level of protection, they’re also thin enough not to be noticeable when wearing your met boots.

External met guards aren’t touching your foot so that they won’t impact the feel of your boot, and internal met guards are flexible and well padded. One thing you need to ensure, though, is the fit of your boots.

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While many boots will, over time, stretch and become even more comfortable, everything I’ve been able to find online suggests that this isn’t the case with met guard boots. It’s hardly surprising; an external met guard is a solid, robust covering of either metal or composite. It’s unlikely to stretch with wear.

Overall, a met boot is just as comfortable as any other boot, and many styles of boot are now available with a met guard. Styles range from tall rubber boots such as the Muck Boot Men’s Chore Max Met Guard boot, which is as comfortable as it is waterproof, to work boots like the Timberland Pro Endurance Met Guard Steel Toe Boot

Muck Boot Men’s Chore Max Met Guard
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Are Metatarsal Guards Expensive?

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Prices vary for safety boots, you’ll always pay a premium for quality, but the addition of a met guard doesn’t impact the cost too much. Both the Timberland Pro Endurance Met Guard and the Chore Max Met Guard boot from the Muck Boot Company are reasonably priced. 

Timberland PRO Endurance MetGuard Boot
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After extensive online research, nearly all the boots I found to have met guards were comparable in price to standard work boots. If you’re considering upgrading to a safer pair of boots and are worried your employer won’t cover the extra cost, you should be fine; if they paid for regular work boots, they’d probably pay for met guard boots too.

Conclusion

You don’t see many people wearing boots with met guards, not external ones anyway, but that’s probably going to change; PPE and workplace safety are big business. And any boot with the level of protection that the Timberland Pro Endurance Met Guard Steel Toe Boot offers is okay by me. 

I recommend you look into met guards if you work in hazardous environments where the top of your feet is at risk. Workman’s comp isn’t as nice as it sounds. 


FAQs

Are met guards and metatarsal guards the same?

Met guard and metatarsal guard cover the same safety feature; a met guard is just a shortened term for a metatarsal guard. Many boot manufacturers use the two terms interchangeably and often have the word “met” in the product description to advise that the boots have a metatarsal guard built in.

Are metatarsal guards required?

Certain employers may now require that workers wear boots with a met guard, in much the same way that steel toe boots are a requirement in some environments. It is up to each employer to determine whether met guards are a must, and if the company decides that they are, they should provide them for employees.

Boots with a met guard are often not noticeably more expensive than regular safety boots, so your employer should have no issue buying the boots or reimbursing you if you buy your own.

Do metatarsal guards work?

Absolutely; most people who need to wear steel toe boots for work know that the steel toe protects against numerous dangers, and once met boots become more widespread, the benefits will become much more well-known. 

Internal met guards are superb at stopping your foot from being injured if something is dropped on them; they also prevent sharp objects from getting through, much like a kiltie would. An external met guard offers much more protection over a wider area of your foot than a steel toe does and is superb at preventing your foot from being crushed by heavy objects.