KEEN-parison: Met Guard Shoes for Enhanced Foot Protection

KEEN-parison: Met Guard Shoes for Enhanced Foot Protection

Demo crew or construction. HVAC or landscaping. Each trade has its own unique set of challenges. That's why, here at KEEN Utility, we’re dedicated to making boots and shoes that can handle the hazards of any worksite. Because staying safe on the job starts with finding the right footwear. 

When your work involves handling heavy objects, operating heavy machinery, or tackling tough tasks, met guard boots might be just what the job calls for. These styles provide more coverage than standard safety toe shoes, helping protect the top of your foot from impact—or compression-related injuries. 

What is a Metatarsal Guard?

Your metatarsal bones are a group of five long bones that connect your toes to your mid and hind foot. They’re rather delicate, making them vulnerable to injury when you’re working with heavy machinery or loose objects that might fall on your feet. That’s where metatarsal guards (also called met guards) come in. 

While safety toe caps only cover about 1.5 inches of the foot, metatarsal guards offer extra coverage to help protect your metatarsal bones. You can think of them like armor for your feet. Metatarsal guards are often required on jobsites that involve lifting or rolling heavy objects. But they also provide helpful protection (and peace of mind) during any task.

External or Internal Metatarsal Guard?

There are two types of metatarsal guards: external and internal. External met guards are attached to the exterior of your shoe for a durable build that protects the top of your foot. Internal met guards are built into the interior of your shoe for a lighter, more flexible feel. While both types of guards are tested to meet ASTM/CSA standards, you may find that you prefer one over the other. Here’s a quick guide: 

KEEN Work Boot with external Met Guard

External Met Guard

  • Pros: Covers a large area of the foot. Protects against impact, sharp objects, and compression from something rolling over your foot.
  • Cons: Less flexible than internal met guards.
KEEN Work Boot with internal met guard

Internal Met Guard

  • Pros: Absorbs and disperses impact to protect the foot. Allows freedom of movement for crouching and climbing.
  • Cons: May provide slightly less protection against compression-related injuries.

Met Guard Work Boots by Features

The chart below breaks down five of our met guard work shoes by toe type, guard type, waterproofing, outsole rating, and upper. 

Internal Met Guard External Met Guard Carbon-Fiber Toe Steel Toe KEEN.DRY Waterproof Leather Upper Engineered Mesh Upper
Vista Energy X   X       X
Independence X   X   X X  
Louisville X     X X X  
Mt. Vernon   X   X X X  
Detroit XT X     X   X  
Camden X   X   X X  


Now that you have an overview of your met guard options, let’s do a deeper dive into each series. 

KEEN Camden Work boot on gravel


Think of the Camden like a heavyweight wrestler who went on a diet to reach the next-lowest weight class. Same strength and ability, but with less weight to haul around. What this means for you is that the Camden can handle brutal jobsites and tasks like landscaping, excavation, and construction — but doesn’t feel like you’re wearing cinder blocks on your feet. We’ve trimmed as much unnecessary material out of this boot as possible while leaving the capability unaffected. 

The met guard in this boot provides top-of-foot protection from dropped rocks, materials, tools, and more. Since it’s flexible and lightweight, you won’t feel it during day-to-day wear. However, it hardens upon direct impact, keeping your feet safe.  


KEEN Vista Energy Work shoe with Internal Met-guard

Vista Energy

Do you carry plywood around a shop all day, live under the hood of a car, or work in a warehouse? Whatever trade you work in, the men’s and women’s Vista Energy series with an internal met guard offers easy-wearing comfort and foot protection.

They have the build of a mid-cut sneaker and game-changing cushioning that’s so comfortable you might forget you’re wearing work footwear. But when you accidentally drop that tool or 2x4, you’ll be grateful for the carbon-fiber safety toes and the internal met guard that keeps your metatarsal bones safe. 

KEEN Utility fan says: 

“For the last 10 years, I wore Timberland Pro composite work boots. Work just informed us that we are going to need met guards. These are wonderful, and they give me the stability and comfort I need to wear them all day. I was worried about the break-in time, but no issues here. I can’t even tell there’s a met guard.” — Sylvia B.


KEEN Independence Work Boot with Internal Met Guard


The Independence 6" waterproof internal met boots may have a lightweight feel, but don’t be fooled. They’re as rugged as they come. Ideal for work ranging from landscaping to road construction, these boots are simple, tough, and comfortable. An internal metatarsal guard protects your feet from heavy falling objects, and the Electrical Hazard (EH)-rated outsole protects you when you come into contact with live circuits.

Because not all worksites are warm and cozy, a KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane sheds wet conditions to make sure your feet stay dry. From carpentry to construction, consider the Independence your daily driver.

KEEN Utility fan says: 

“Love these boots. Super comfortable. Well made. Look great. I will be scoring another pair.” — James


KEEN Louisville work boot with external met guard


Whether you’re a contractor or a roofer, an electrician or a mechanic, the Louisville 6" met waterproof boots are that burly pair you can always count on for comfort and protection. While their internal met guard protects against dropped objects, they also have a lightweight, flexible feel that lets you climb up that ladder to nail shingles.

Built to last, they feature an abrasion-resistant leather upper that holds up to the scuffs and scrapes of a hard day’s work. The KEEN.DRY is a waterproof, breathable membrane that keeps feet comfortably dry when you’re landscaping in wet weather. 

KEEN Utility fan says: 

“I have a pair of these boots, and they are one of the best out there. They have lasted me a year and a half. I work in a steel manufacturing plant, and I have put them through a lot, from chemicals (coolant spray, cleaning materials), cold weather, and kicking flat, sharp pieces of sheet metal, to my black lab puppy using them as a teething remedy. I highly recommend these to anyone.” — Henry

KEEN Mt. Vernon with Internal Met Guard

Mt. Vernon

If you spend your days holding a welding torch or operating machinery on hot asphalt, you need boots that are at least as tough as you are. With a steel toe and high-traction sole, the Mt Vernon 6" met waterproof boot is up for the job. The tougher the task, the better. Durable leather holds up to long days on the jobsite, and the rugged outsole handles heat up to 572℉. 

The real beauty of these boots is that they are every bit as comfortable as they are protective. Shock-absorbing cushioning helps reduce fatigue from working on your feet. An external met guard helps protect against injury from heavy objects striking or compressing your foot.

KEEN Utility fan says: 

“Perfect boot for any industrial-type job. Amazingly comfortable. Surprisingly light for a steel-toe boot, which leads to less fatigue at the end of the day. The metatarsal guards have saved me from a broken foot a few times. I love this boot and will buy it again and again.” — Cameron


KEEN Detroit XT with internal met guard

Detroit XT

Proof that metatarsal protection doesn’t have to be bulky and uncomfortable, the Detroit XT internal met shoes pair a hiking-inspired fit with top-to-bottom protection. Whether you’re working in the yard or working in your shop, these are the shoes you grab to get the job done. They have steel safety toes and an internal met guard, so you don’t have to worry about foot injuries while handling heavy, hard-to-carry objects. 

Even with all that protection, these shoes are easy to move in. Lightweight and flexible, they leave you free to crouch in the yard or climb ladders without restriction. 

KEEN Utility fan says: 

 “Best pair of met guard shoes I’ve owned. More comfortable than expected. Fit was spot on. Will definitely buy it again if I need to. Highly recommended.” — Mac

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