Protect MOST Of Your Foot, Not Just Your Toes: Discover The World of Metatarsal Boots and Learn if You Need a Pair

PPE for workers is an ever expanding market, and it’s good to know about your options to stay safe on the job.

One of these features is known as a metatarsal boot, and I’m going to take the time today to cover everything you need to know about this protective boot style. 

What’s a Metatarsal Boot?

A metatarsal boot is a style of protective footwear that protects a larger area of the foot from injury than traditional toe caps. It extends protection to the metatarsal bones, an area often referred to as “the top of the foot.”

In layman’s terms, consider it as a toe cap that extends further up the foot.

There’s a little more to it than this, but that description allows you to build on a familiar feature to understand an unfamiliar one.  

If you want to know what type of footwear protects your entire foot then please be sure to have a read.

Who Usually Uses Metatarsal Boots? What Jobs Require Metatarsal Boots?

Metatarsal boots are usually worn by people involved in welding, shipping, heavy machinery, heavy industry or any industry where carrying heavy objects and tools is routine.

There are few trade jobs that couldn’t be made safer by a pair of metatarsal boots.

Quick question: have you ever dropped something at work and breathed a sigh of relief when it missed your foot?

Yeah, you could benefit from a metatarsal boot.

Is a Metatarsal Boot Just a Different Name For Steel Toe or Safety Toe?

No, toe caps and metatarsal guards are different things and are not interchangeable terms.

Toe caps will protect your toes, but won’t do anything to protect the other areas of your foot. 

Are Metatarsal Boots Required by OSHA?

OSHA supports the use of metatarsal boots, but they don’t yet require them like they do toe caps.

There has been a steady increase of employers that require their workers to buy metatarsal boots, and you can expect this number to increase in the coming years.

Why Are More Employers Requiring Metatarsal Boots?

Employers are requiring metatarsal boots because it results in a healthier workforce.

This PPE also results in a better bottom line as their insurance, workers compensation payments, and the need to train new workers all decrease.

This financial savings includes situations in which the employer is actually buying boots for their employees. Confused?

Keep reading.

Foot injuries are responsible for over 100,000 work absences in the US each year. The average absence is 10 days, so that’s a tremendous amount of lost productivity for business owners.

It’s a far better situation for them to buy their workers better PPE and keep their workers working.

Don’t get confused, this is one of those situations you should be on the bosses’ side as they try to keep you on the job. 

Even if there is a financial incentive at the heart of this decision in many cases, it’s an instance in which their desire for profit and your desire to be healthy overlap.

I’ve Heard About Metatarsal Guards, is That the Same Thing as Metatarsal Boots or is it Something Different?

Metatarsal guards are not the same as metatarsal boots.

An “external metatarsal guard” is an accessory that can be attached to many styles of boots.

Metatarsal boots refer to a boot where this accessory is built into the boot itself.

Sometimes you might hear these boots referred to as an internal metatarsal guard boot; don’t get confused if this happens.

It’s no different than understanding a toe cap is an independent material separate from the boot itself. 

In the case of steel toe caps, there’s no safe way to attach that material to a boot externally.

With metatarsal guards this is possible, and some manufacturers choose to do this.

What is the Metatarsal Guard Made of?

Metatarsal guards are made of steel, alloys, or super durable composite materials like TPU. 

The materials used in the construction of steel and composite toe caps are often the same as the ones used to make metatarsal guards.

Are Metatarsal Guards Uncomfortable or Dangerous?

No, metatarsal boots will fit your feet just like any other work boots you’ve ever worn.  

Your metatarsal guards are built right into boots, so you probably won’t even notice this added protective feature unless you’re looking at them.

Prior to their inclusion in the actual boot, external Metatarsal Guards were a removable accessory.

That design had a reputation for being clunky, awkward, and creating a danger to the people that wore them.

How Can I Tell If a Pair of Boots is Metatarsal?

Metatarsal boots almost always have this feature displayed right in their name, so it won’t be hard to find out.

Manufacturers will indicate that their boots have been ASTM F2413 M tested and approved in the specifications section if it isn’t in the name.

You’ll also notice that the shape of metatarsal footwear looks slightly different to that of a traditional work boot.

The upper part of the boot will either looked a lot more ‘beefed up’ like a body builder, or there will be an obvious metatarsal fitting.

What Does The Word “Metatarsal” Mean?

Metatarsal refers to a group of the five bones in the top of your foot.

These bones are the connecting point between your toes and the bones that make up the ankle.

The metatarsals are among the most exposed in the human body, and you can even see them through your skin.

Ever look down at your foot, flex your toes and think it’s wild you can see the skeleton?

In that moment you’re putting eyes on your metatarsals.

Are Metatarsals and MetaCARPals the Same Thing? I feel like I’ve Heard That Word Too.

No, metatarsals and metacarpals are different bones. Metatarsals are in your foot, and metacarpals are in your hand.

They both serve the same function for your body however, and are equally fragile and important for full function of your vulnerable extremities.

As someone that has broken their 1st metacarpal (base of my thumb) and required surgery to repair it, I can tell you from experience that it’s no fun.

I can’t speak to the experience of breaking the comparable bone in my foot, but I can’t imagine it’s more fun or less dangerous.

Is There Anyone That SHOULDN’T Use Metatarsal Boots?

Any workers who put a premium on mobility, flexibility, and balance shouldn’t use metatarsal boots.

If the risk of slipping is greater than the risk of something falling on your foot, you should avoid metatarsal boots.

The first job that comes to mind would be an ironworker involved in high rise or transportation construction.

In those situations I would be more concerned about keeping a good footing than I would be about anything falling on my foot.

As with all trade work and the PPE decisions we have to make, it’s all about weighing the risks and benefits of various features.

If I’m trying to tuck my foot inside the nook of an I-beam while I’m 30 stories up, making sure my foot has no obstructions is of paramount importance.

If I’m cutting and welding gas lines for public utilities on ground level, I’m more concerned with having heavy pipe fall on my foot than anything. 

Are Metatarsal Boots Easy to Find? Can I Grab Them At WalMart?

Metatarsal boots are not the easiest style boot to find, but they’re sold at places like Walmart and Target.

With a little effort, you can grab a pair at most places you would regularly buy boots.

I do give this warning, however: don’t grab a pair of discount metatarsal boots from the first brand you find

Walmart, Target, and other general retailers are not in the business of providing top-notch footwear for workers.

Buying discount boots is a mistake that many workers have made and usually end up regretting.

If you want to see what’s on the market, then feel free to check these specialist industrial boot retailers online.

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Do All Boot Brands Make a Metatarsal Boot?

All the major work boot brands I checked do make at least one option for metatarsal boots.

Don’t expect a huge selection in this department though, the market for this style of protective footwear is still growing.

If you’re looking into Timberland, Red Wing, Thorogood, Georgia Boot, Wolverine, Keen, or other large scale boot manufacture, you’ll find a metatarsal option in their product catalog.

You might also be interested in reading about Thorogood vs Red Wing.

Can I have other safety features with a Metatarsal Guard?

Yes. A Met guard is literally an additional safety feature for your work boot.

If you require a steel toe boot with Goodyear Welt construction and electrical hazard capabilities then this is all possible.

A metatarsal shoe does not hinder you from having other safety toe protection and additional features.

You just need to ensure it adheres to your PPE requirements for your job.

How Much Do Metatarsal Boots Cost?

A good pair of metatarsal boots costs between $150-250, depending on the manufacturer.

This style doesn’t usually cost any more than comparable work boots, even by the same manufacturer. 

Summary

So next time someone asks you the question ‘What are Metatarsal boots?’, you’ll be in a good position to answer the question.

There are quite a variety of Met Guard boots available on the market so you should have something that will be suitable for you.

Hopefully it’s given you an insight into this particular type of work boot.