When most of us think of protective footgear, we think of toe caps first, then possibly ankle support followed by thick soles to absorb shocks, protect our feet from puncture wounds and prevent hazardous chemicals from burning our feet.
One part of the foot that tends to be forgotten about, however, is the top of the foot, which is composed of the metatarsal bones. These five long bones which form the main internal structure of the foot are vulnerable to injury, especially fractures and breaks. There’s not much tissue over the metatarsals to protect them – only skin and some fat essentially – so they definitely need extra padding.
A broken metatarsal needs specialist attention and often surgery to help to repair it and it can take up to two months for the bone to be fully healed.
A construction site, or any workplace where there are heavy objects to be lifted and carried about, presents hazards to feet, so it’s essential that the tops of the feet are as well-protected as the toes. Environments that involve forklift trucks are also particularly hazardous, as many a foot has been run over, breaking at least one metatarsal bone.
Adequate footwear is vital
In the riskier environments, boots with metatarsal protectors should be issued as standard PPE and worn at all times. Many workers complain that these boots are cumbersome and inflexible, which may be true, but a fractured metatarsal is not only very painful, it’s also very debilitating.
The patient will need to wear a plaster cast for at least a month and if the fifth metatarsal has been broken, further surgery is often needed to speed up healing and return full (or as near to full as possible) function to the foot. Most often, though, it’s the second, third and fourth metatarsals that take the impact of a heavy object dropped onto the foot. Whichever bone it is, however, means several weeks off work and several more on light duties until the foot is completely healed.