In this article we will be talking about the metatarsal guard. The metatarsal guard also known as Met Guards or Meta Guard is a protective device use to protect the metatarsals. Before we continue, lets understand the part of the body we call the metatarsal.
The metatarsal bones are the five (5) long thin bones of the midfoot which connects the toes to the ankle and can break easily. A metatarsal fracture occurs when one of these long bones is broken which may be due to sudden injury – Typically an object dropped on the foot.
The metatarsal bones break easily and such an injury can take months or years to heal. In acute fractures you may hear a sound at the time of the break, and experience pain, swelling, and difficulty putting weight on the foot. Because your feet stick out in front of your body line, they are likely to be hit by a falling object. Metatarsals are not protected by steel toe shoes. Steel toe shoes protect the toes (and puncture from underneath).
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.
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The Metatarsal Guard
Metatarsal guards play a huge role in protecting your feet in the workplace. Everyday you get up, go to work, come home, and get up the next day to repeat the cycle over again. Not once does it cross your mind about what would happen if something were to fall on your foot at work, and throw a wrench in your daily lifestyle due to a foot injury.
Metatarsal guards are a form of personal protective equipment (PPE). They protect the top of the foot from heavy weights that may cause injuries by heavy items falling, dropping, or rolling onto the top of the foot. Metatarsal guards are manufactured from aluminum, steel, lightweight composites or synthetic materials to help prevent injuries for workplace safety shoes.
The metatarsal guard is there for one reason: To ensure that nothing will crush your foot.
Employers are required to ensure that workers are working with footwear that reduces the possibility of workplace injuries. When an impact to the top of the foot is possible, metatarsal guards are used to limit injury caused by crushing of the bones in the foot (metatarsals). Such injuries are particularly common in workplaces where employees are involved in moving heavy materials from one place to another, and when the object has potential to roll under its own momentum. For example, in the case of piping, the hazard is magnified.
Employer purchasing requirements
OSHA requires employers to contribute to workers’ basic personal protective equipment (PPE) needs, including foot protection, holding employers responsible for employees meeting the minimum level of PPE required by the standards. If an employer decides to use upgraded PPE to meet the requirements, the employer must pay for the upgraded PPE. If an employer provides PPE at no cost and an employee chooses to use different PPE, then the employer is not required to pay for the item.
Overall, employers should help workers find and wear work boots that are appropriate for their jobs. A workplace hazard assessment by a trained footwear expert can help determine whether your employees require metatarsal protection. Although metguard boots cannot protect against all potential foot injuries caused by falling objects, they do provide a vital layer of protection for an employer’s most valuable asset which is their employees.
When is Metatarsal Protection Required?
The legislation says that metatarsal protection should be provided when there is a “substantial risk of a crushing injury” to the foot. Metatarsal boots are mostly required when lifting or rolling heavy and typically metal objects (train wheels, loaded drums of liquid, etc.). The hazard is greater when the object.
For example, a 50 pound bag of flour would not need metatarsal protection because the weight is distributed over a large area. The risk or likelihood of dropping the object is also a consideration. The risk of dropping can be increased if the object is large, awkward to carry/move or is slippery (from oil or other lubricants). Consider this; An OSHA study indicated that the typical foot injury was caused by mostly metal objects with a median weight of 65 pounds and dropping less than 4 feet. If injuries typically occur under these conditions, the threshold for having metatarsal protection should be less than these conditions. The Bureau of Labour Statistics calculates that 80% of foot injuries occur from objects that weigh 30 pounds or more. The legislation calls for metatarsal protection when there is a substantial risk of injury. It is suggested that a 30 pound weight and significant potential to be dropped on the foot for a metal object is a working definition of “substantial risk”. For objects or materials that are rolled, it would take more weight than if it were dropped, but the force typically strikes only the outer or inner metatarsal. It is suggested that rolling an object of more than 50 pounds would require metatarsal protection.
Metatarsal guards also provide better protection from molten metal, falling embers, etc. They are often required PPE in foundries for this reason but also provide better protection for welders.
It is a 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. The metatarsal region is a sensitive area with the bones being more easily breakable or susceptible to a foot injury. Therefore, i 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.
Types of 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 dense foam padding for comfort and impact absorption. Since they are on the outside of the rubber or leather 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. Another positive to investing in an external metatarsal guard would be the ability to remove the guard when working on less dangerous activities. This gives you freedom to choose the size and level of protection you want without having to worry about carrying the extra weight around in less-threatening situations.
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. Not to mention the extreme levels of heat that are present in a welding profession, meta guards should be an essential form of safety precaution. 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. Additionally, in other jobs that require the use of high powered cutting tools, meta guards can also be a necessary safety precaution. A metatarsal boot will help safeguard against large cuts or sharp blades that can severely injure your foot.
Internal met guards
Internal guards are integrated into the shoe beneath the laces. They are 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. The internal met guard technology offers protection that is 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.
How to choose the best Met boots for your job
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 are exposed to molten metal from welding, external met guards will deliver superior protection. Ultimately, it is up to the wearer to determine which type of metatarsal boot is best for them. By considering factors such as your work environment and ideal comfort level, it will help you identify which metatarsal work boot is best for you!
How to identify a metatarsal boots
Shoes labeled MT meet or exceed the ANSI Z41 PT99 standard for Metatarsal Guard footwear. They are designed to help protect the wearer from injuries to the upper foot (metatarsal bones). This is applicable to the internal metatarsal boots.