Title:
Safety footwear having metatarsal guard, and methods
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A metatarsal guard inserted in the upper of a safety shoe is made of plastic and defines an arch extending from the sole of the shoe on one side of the wearer's instep to the sole on the other side of the wearer's instep. A rear portion of the metatarsal guard includes at least one longitudinal tongue extending away from the toe portion of the guard, preferably three tongues. An appropriately sized metatarsal guard is used for each size of footwear. The guard is shaped and size by the last used to make the footwear.



Inventors:
Bartlett, Timothy Joe (Lake City, MN, US)
Isaacson, James Alan (Cannon Falls, MN, US)
Application Number:
09/777411
Publication Date:
08/08/2002
Filing Date:
02/06/2001
Assignee:
BARTLETT TIMOTHY JOE
ISAACSON JAMES ALAN
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
36/72R, 12/146D
International Classes:
A43B7/32; (IPC1-7): A43B23/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20100132227METHOD FOR MANUFACTURING A WATERTIGHT, BREATHABLE SHOE STRUCTUREJune, 2010Pavelescu et al.
20140338222UPPER OF FOOTWEAR AND MANUFACTURING METHOD THEREOFNovember, 2014Song
20120311890FOOTWEAR WITH IMPROVED UPPERDecember, 2012Berthet et al.
20150000165VERSATILE FOOTWEAR COVERS AND METHODS RELATING TO SAMEJanuary, 2015Reiff
20150296919OVERSHOE COMPRISING AN EXPANDABLE OPENING AND METHOD OF PRODUCING SAMEOctober, 2015Kingsley-poole
20120060304CUSHIONING DEVICEMarch, 2012Yang et al.
20120131816FLEXIBLE PRESSURE SHEETMay, 2012Chasco
20090260260Flip-Flop Type Shoes and Method of Fastening Straps on the Soles of Flip-Flop Type ShoesOctober, 2009Whitaker et al.
20140189964SHOES OF AUTOMATED PROCESS PRODUCTION AND SHOEMAKING METHOD THEREOFJuly, 2014Wen et al.
20130067769FOOTWEAR DEVICEMarch, 2013Hamel
20120159721FOOT ALIGNMENT TOOLJune, 2012Smith



Primary Examiner:
KAVANAUGH, JOHN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MERCHANT & GOULD P.C. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:

What is claimed:



1. A method of making a safety footwear, the safety footwear comprising a sole, an upper including a first layer and a second layer, and a metatarsal guard positioned between the first and second layers of the upper, the method comprising the steps of: (a) forming a metatarsal guard having a shape determined by a first last; (b) building the safety footwear on a second last, wherein the first last and the second last have the same shape.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of forming a metatarsal guard having a shape determined by a first last comprises: (a) molding a sheet of material to the first last to provide the metatarsal guard.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of forming a metatarsal guard having a shape determined by a first last comprises: (a) injection molding a mass of material using a mold having been shaped by the first last.

4. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of building the safety footwear on a second last comprises: (a) providing the sole; (b) positioning the metatarsal guard between the first layer and the second layer of the upper; and (c) attaching the upper to the sole.

5. The method according to claim 4, wherein the step of positioning the metatarsal guard between the first layer and the second layer of the upper is done prior to the step of attaching the upper to the sole.

6. The method according to claim 4, the safety footwear further comprising a safety toe box, the method further comprising: (a) positioning the toe box between the first layer and the second layer of the upper.

7. The method according to claim 1, wherein the first last and the second last are the same last.

8. A method of making a metatarsal guard, the method comprising: (a) shaping a flat sheet of plastic by a mold, the mold having a shape and size of a last, the last being used to construct footwear into which the metatarsal guard will be incorporated.

9. The method according to claim 8, wherein the step of shaping a flat sheet of plastic by a mold comprises: (a) heating the flat sheet of plastic to the shape of the last.

10. A metatarsal guard made by the process of: (a) shaping a flat sheet of plastic by a mold, the mold having a shape and size of a last, the last being used to construct footwear into which the metatarsal guard will be incorporated.

11. A method of making a plurality of safety footwear, the plurality of safety footwear being similar except for their size, the plurality comprising a first footwear having a first size, a second footwear having a second size different than the first size, and a third footwear having a third size different than each of the first size and the second size, the method comprising: (a) making the first footwear on a first last, comprising the steps of: (i) forming a first metatarsal guard having a shape determined by a second last, the second last having a shape similar to a shape of the first last; (ii) building the first footwear on the first last; (b) making the second footwear on a third last, comprising the steps of: (i) forming a second metatarsal guard having a shape determined by a fourth last, the fourth last having a shape similar to a shape of the third last; (ii) building the second footwear on the third last; (c) making the third footwear on a fifth last, comprising the steps of: (i) forming a third metatarsal guard having a shape determined by a sixth last, the sixth last having a shape similar to a shape of the fifth last; (ii) building the third footwear on the fifth last.

12. The method according to claim 11, wherein the first footwear has a first size, the second footwear has a second size, and the third footwear has a third size.

13. A unitary metatarsal guard comprising a unitary, non-segmented body defined by a front edge, a continuous inner edge, a continuous outer edge, and a back edge, the body comprising an impact-absorbing portion having a thickness of about 0.065 to 0.075 inches, and a first tongue, a second tongue, and a third tongue, each of the tongues extending longitudinally from the impact-absorbing portion and defined by the back edge, with the body made from a polymeric material from the group of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, polycarbonate, high density polyethylene, high density polypropylene, and acrylic polyvinyl chloride alloy plastic.

Description:
[0001] This application is directed to safety footwear. In particular, this application is directed to footwear having a metatarsal guard to protect the wearer's instep, and methods of making the metatarsal guard.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Many industries, particularly construction, production, and assembly industries, require that workers wear safety footwear to protect their feet against injury caused by falling objects, or by crushing activities. Even the most simple safety footwear includes a built-in toe protector, which is usually from steel or other metal. The toe protector is incorporated into the footwear during construction of the footwear and is an integral part of the shoe or boot. From here comes the common term “steel toed shoes” or “steel toed boots”.

[0003] The toe protector provides a protective box around the toes to protect the toes from falling and crushing objects. However, the toe protector typically extends only over the toes and a small portion of the rest of the foot. This leaves the remainder of the foot, in particular the instep, or metatarsal region, exposed to falling and crushing objects.

[0004] To protect the instep from injury, many types of footwear, specifically boots, incorporate a metatarsal guard in the construction. In older designs, the metatarsal guard is positioned on the exterior surface of the footwear; however, in most modern designs, the guard is positioned between various layers of the footwear construction. The metatarsal guard extends from the toe protector up over the instep or metatarsal area of the foot. Generally, the metatarsal guard is separate from, and not connected to, the toe protector. This allows the footwear to flex as the foot is moved. To improve flexibility of the metatarsal guard and the footwear, various segmented designs of metatarsal guards are known.

[0005] What is desired is an improved internal metatarsal guard that provides adequate instep protection yet can be easily incorporated into the construction of the footwear and that is comfortable to the wearer.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The present invention provides a metatarsal guard that can be easily molded from a polymeric material and incorporated into footwear. The metatarsal guard has a front edge which, when the guard is incorporated into footwear such as a boot, is in close proximity to a metal toe protector. The metatarsal guard has an opposite back edge, which defines at least one tongue, the tongue extending away from the toe protector.

[0007] Specifically, the invention is directed to a unitary metatarsal guard comprising a unitary, non-segmented body defined by a front edge, a continuous inner edge, a continuous outer edge, and a back edge. The body includes an impact-absorbing portion from which extends the tongue, the tongue extending longitudinally from the impact-absorbing portion and defined by the back edge. The tongue is generally flexible in relation to the impact-absorbing portion; that is, the tongue flexes, preferably at an area where the tongue joins a major portion of the impact-absorbing portion. The guard can include a second tongue and a third tongue, each of the second tongue and the third tongue also extending longitudinally from the impact-absorbing portion and defined by the back edge. Typically, the metatarsal guard is made from a polymeric material.

[0008] The metatarsal guard is intended to be incorporated into safety footwear, such as a work boot. Such safety footwear comprises a sole, an upper, and the metatarsal guard positioned within the upper. The present invention is directed to providing an appropriately sized metatarsal guard for a narrow range of different footwear. In accordance with the present invention, the metatarsal guard is generally sized and shaped to the shape of the boot, in particular, to the upper, in which the guard will be incorporated. Preferably, the metatarsal guard is specifically sized and shaped to the shape of the upper. Thus, in one embodiment, a metatarsal guard for a size 8 boot has a different shape and size than a guard for a size 10 boot, which is different than for a size 12 boot, and so on. In some embodiments, a guard may be used for a range of sizes, such as sizes 8, 8½ and 9.

[0009] The present invention also provides methods for making the metatarsal guard. The guard can be molded into its three-dimensional shape either from a flat sheet of plastic, or from an unshaped mass of material. In either method, the metatarsal guard is shaped and sized by the last used for the making of the boot in which the guard will be incorporated, or by using the shape of the last used to make the boot. In some embodiments, the last or shape of the last is used to form a mold that is used to form the metatarsal guard. This provides a metatarsal guard that better fits with the footwear in which it is incorporated.

[0010] Specifically, the invention includes a method of making safety footwear, the safety footwear comprising a sole, an upper, and a metatarsal guard. The method comprises the steps of forming a metatarsal guard having a shape determined by a last, and building the safety footwear on the last. Generally, different sized footwear will have a different sized metatarsal guard. For example, four different metatarsal guards can be provided: (1) for shoe sizes 6 to 8½; (2) for sizes 9 to 10½; (3) for sizes 11 to 12½; and (4) for sizes 13 to 14. It is understood that other numbers of different metatarsal guards can be provided for a line of footwear.

[0011] The objects, advantages and other features of the present invention will be more apparent upon reading the following non-restrictive description, given by way of example only with reference to the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a boot, showing, in phantom, placement of a metatarsal guard;

[0013] FIG. 2 is a top and side perspective view of a metatarsal guard of a preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0014] FIG. 3 is a rear perspective view of the metatarsal guard of FIG. 2;

[0015] FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of the metatarsal guard of FIGS. 2 and 3;

[0016] FIG. 5 is a perspective view from the front side of the metatarsal guard of FIGS. 2-5; and

[0017] FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a boot, showing various layers of the boot including the metatarsal guard.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] In FIG. 1, footwear, specifically a boot, 10 is shown. Boot 10 is a commonly referred to as a “safety boot”, having features therein as required to meet minimum safety standards, such as provided by regulatory agencies such as OSHA. Boot 10 includes various features such as a sole 11, an upper 12, a tongue 13, and laces 14. Boot 10 also includes a metatarsal guard 20, shown in phantom. Metatarsal guard 20 is incorporated within the structure of boot 10, between various layers, as will be described in detail in reference to FIG. 6. Referring again to boot 10 in FIG. 1, metatarsal guard 20 is positioned so as to protect the instep or metatarsal region of a wearer's foot.

[0019] In FIGS. 2 through 5, a metatarsal guard in accordance with the present invention is generally identified by the reference numeral 20. It is noted that although FIGS. 2 through 5 illustrate a metatarsal guard 20 intended for use in a left footed boot, it should be understood that the right metatarsal guard would be identical, but the mirror image, of the left guard 20.

[0020] Metatarsal guard 20 has a generally arched shape that follows the natural shape of the top of the foot's instep. This arched shape extends both laterally across the foot, from an inside edge of the sole to an outside edge of the sole, and longitudinally along the foot, from the toes to the ankle. The specific arch of guard 20 is defined by the last used to produce boot 10, which is also used to size and shape guard 20, as will be described below. Guard 20 extends longitudinally or rearwardly from a front edge 22 at the toes to a back edge 24 to cover the wearer's instep. Guard 20 has an outer edge 23, seen best in FIG. 2, and an inner edge 25, seen best in FIG. 3; outer edge 23 is positioned at the outside edge of the foot's sole, and inner edge 25 is positioned at the inner edge of the sole. Edges 23, 25 extend from front edge 22 to back edge 24, and together, these edges 22, 23, 24, 25 define the perimeter of guard 20.

[0021] Front edge 22 is a continuous edge extending continuously and uninterrupted from outer edge 23 to inner edge 25 across the wearer's instep. Front edge 22 is preferably sized and shaped to follow the contours of a toe protector that would be incorporated into boot 10. Front edge 22 should not overlap the toe protector, nor should a large gap be left between the toe protector and front edge 22 when guard 20 is incorporated into boot 10. Front edge 22 transitions, with a curvature, into outer edge 23 and inner edge 25. In some embodiments, it may be desired to include recesses or other such structures into front edge 22 to modify the flexibility or comfort of guard 20.

[0022] As stated above, outer and inner edges 23, 25 extend from front edge 22 to back edge 24. Outer edge 23 defines an outer lateral edge surface 33 and inner edge 25 defines an inner lateral edge surface 35, both lateral edge surfaces 33, 35 resting on either the top surface of sole 11 or some other layer parallel, or essentially parallel, to sole 11 of safety boot 10. Lateral edge surfaces 33, 35 extend at least a portion of the length of edges 23, 25, and not necessarily the entire length thereof. Metatarsal guard 20 therefore is an arched structure extending from sole 11 (or another layer closely positioned to and generally parallel to sole 11) on the inner side of the foot to the sole 11 on the outer side of the foot. In such a way, metatarsal guard 20 is supported by sole 11 or another associated layer to prevent falling objects from striking and injuring the wearer's foot, specifically the instep. This arched area, from outer edge 23 to inner edge 25, is generally referred to as an impact-absorbing portion 28. Accordingly, when an object falls on the metatarsal guard 20, specifically on impact-absorbing portion 28, the force is applied to the sole 11 and not on the wearer's foot.

[0023] As can be seen in the various Figures, metatarsal guard 20, particularly impact-absorbing portion 28, is a unitary structure. That is, guard 20 is preferably not composed of multiple segments, or multiple pieces. Guard 20 has a generally smooth, uninterrupted structure. This smooth, uninterrupted structure is evident at impact-absorbing portion 28, and at front edge 22, and outer and inner edges 23, 25. It is understood that attached to guard 20 may be a pad or other cushioning to increase comfort when incorporated into footwear, however guard 20 itself, in particular impact-absorbing portion 28, is a unitary structure.

[0024] Outer edge 23 includes a transition edge 43 that extends from outer lateral edge surface 33 to back edge 24. Similarly, inner edge 25 includes a transition edge 45 that extends from inner lateral edge surface 35 to back edge 24. In most guard designs, there is no definite point where transition edges 43, 45 begin or end; rather, transition edges 43, 45 are smooth transitional regions that can be viewed as a part of either edges 23, 25, or of back edge 24. In most embodiments, transition edges 43, 45 define a portion of a tongue 34.

[0025] Back edge 24 of metatarsal guard 20 defines at least one tongue 34, and typically a plurality of tongues 34, such as inner tongue 34a, center tongue 34b, and outer tongue 34c, which protrude longitudinally away from impact-absorbing portion 28 and front edge 22. Although tongues 34 are not considered as part of impact-absorbing portion 28 in this discussion, it is understood that tongues 34 nevertheless provide protection to the metatarsal area of the foot by absorbing impact and protecting the metatarsal area from forces. Metatarsal guard 20 may have either an odd number of tongues 34, i.e., one, three, five, etc., so that a central tongue is positioned at the peak or center of the wearer's instep, or guard 20 may have an even number of tongues 34, i.e., two, four, etc., so that the inner and outer sides have the same number of tongues 34. The preferred embodiment, shown in FIGS. 2 through 5, has three tongues 34, specifically 34a, 34b, 34c. Tongues 34 are generally rectangular or trapezoidal in shape, but it is not necessary that tongues 34a, 34b, 34c have the same shape. Tongue 34 is generally about one to two inches (about 2.5 to 5 cm) long, and the width will depend on the number of tongues 34 present. For a guard 20 with three tongues 34, the width is generally about one to two inches (about 2.5 to 5 cm).

[0026] Tongue 34 is flexible in relation to impact-absorbing portion 28; that is, tongue 34 can be flexed, although tongue 34 is a unitary piece with impact-absorbing portion 28.

[0027] If there is a plurality of tongues 34, adjacent tongues 34 are separated by a slit, recess or groove 44. Referring to FIG. 4, tongues 34a and 34b have groove 44a therebetween, and tongues 34b and 34c have groove 44b therebetween. Grooves 44 extend between multiple tongues 34 and terminate at a concave or radiused region. Grooves 44 can terminate at a square or angled end, although a curved end is preferred. The width of grooves 44 is generally about 0.5 to 2 cm. It is noted that inner tongue 34a is defined or bounded by groove 44a and transition edge 45, and that outer tongue 34c is defined or bounded by groove 44b and transition edge 43.

[0028] Tongues 34 increase the flexibility of metatarsal guard 20 and increase the wearer's comfort by improving the conformity of metatarsal guard 20 to the wearer's foot. Adjacent tongues 34 will typically spread apart from each other to follow the movement of the foot when the wearer is walking, thereby preventing metatarsal guard 20 from pinching, squeezing, or otherwise impeding or hindering walking or other movement. Crouching is one particular movement in which the foot flexes significantly and the probability of pinching, squeezing or the like, is high. Tongues 34 provide significantly enhanced comfort, compared to a guard without tongues, when the wearer is crouching.

[0029] To increase flexibility of the metatarsal guard 20 and improve flexing capabilities when the wearer is walking, moving, or in a crouching posture, side slits or other areas of weakness, which extend from either or both of outer edge 23 and inner edge 25 to the center of guard 20, may be present. However, any such slit should extend no more than about half of the distance to a centerline between outer edge 23 and inner edge 25, preferably no more than about 35% of the distance.

[0030] As seen throughout FIGS. 2 through 5, metatarsal guard 20 is not symmetric from one side to the other side. For example, outer edge 23 is shaped different than inner edge 25; transition edge 43 is shaped different than transition edge 45; and tongue 34a is different than tongue 34c. As best seen in FIG. 5, the overall arch or shape of metatarsal guard 20, in both the lateral and longitudinal directions, is unsymmetrical. Such an unsymmetrical design is modeled after the last used to build a shoe, which is modeled after the structure of a typical foot, particularly the instep or metatarsal region.

[0031] Metatarsal guard 20 is made from a stiff, yet slightly flexible plastic material that is capable of providing impact resistance yet flexibility. Preferred plastic materials for guard 20 include ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) resins, polycarbonate, high density polyethylene, and high density polypropylene. “Kydex,” an acrylic polyvinyl chloride alloy plastic available from Rohm & Haas, is also a preferred plastic material.

[0032] Metatarsal guard 20 is formed by molding, thermoforming, or by other such techniques that can provide the desired, three-dimensional, shape to the plastic material. Guard 20 is a unitary, non-segmented piece, that has an overall smooth and continuous form. In accordance with the present invention, metatarsal guard 20 is sized and shaped approximately to the specific size of boot in which guard 20 will be incorporated. In one embodiment, four different metatarsal guards 20 are provided: (1) for shoe sizes 6 to 8½; (2) for sizes 9 to 10½; (3) for sizes 11 to 12½; and (4) for sizes 13 to 14, these sizes being U.S. standard sizes. In another embodiment, an individual metatarsal guard can be shaped and sized for a more narrow range of sizes. For example, (1) for shoe sizes 6 and 6½; (2) for sizes 7 and 7½; (3) for sizes 8 and 8½; and so on.

[0033] The number of metatarsal guards designed for a line of footwear is dependent on the overall range of sizes in the line, and the number of sizes for each guard. So although metatarsal guard 20 may not be exactly sized for the boot or other footwear (e.g., a size 10 guard for a size 9 boot), it is approximately sized. Further, although the sizes listed here are given in U.S. standard sizes, it is understood that the metatarsal guard of the invention can be used with any footwear sizing system (e.g., European sizing), and can be used for any width of footwear. In some embodiments, it is desired to form two different metatarsal guards 20 for each range of shoe sizes. For example: (1) for AAA to B widths for sizes 6 to 8½; (2) for C to EEE widths for sizes 6 to 8½; (3) for AAA to B widths for sizes 9 to 10½; and so on. In other embodiments, a single metatarsal guard is used for the entire spectrum of widths, or, any number of guards can be used for the range of widths.

[0034] In a first embodiment, a flat sheet, or a generally flat sheet, of plastic material is formed to the desired shape of the metatarsal guard 20. It is not necessary that the sheet has the same thickness throughout; in some embodiments the sheet has varying thickness. The flat plastic sheet is preferably in the final perimeter shape, with the various edges 22, 23, 24, 25 and tongues 34 present in the sheet prior to forming or molding the sheet to the three dimensional form. The sheet may be stamped, die cut, laser cut, water cut, or otherwise formed to the desired flat shape. The flat sheet could also be molded, such as by injection molding or other form molding. The flat sheet is then formed, typically with the application of heat, to the shaped, three-dimensional metatarsal guard 20. After forming to the desired three-dimensional form, guard 20 is cooled.

[0035] In a second embodiment, the shaped metatarsal guard 20 is molded, such as by injection molding, from a mass of polymeric material, often available as pellets.

[0036] In either method, whether forming the three-dimensional guard 20 from a flat sheet or from an unshaped mass of material, the overall three-dimensional shape and size of metatarsal guard 20 is provided by the last used to shape and size boot 10. In some instances, the same last will be used to shape and size metatarsal guard 20 and boot 10, but in most instances, the shape of the last used to make boot 10 is used to shape metatarsal guard 20. In the case where metatarsal guard 20 is injection molded from a mass of material, the mold used to form guard 20 was formed by the last. By using the last for forming metatarsal guard 20, guard 20 better fits into the construction of boot 10, thereby providing a more comfortable fit for the boot wearer and also improving the appearance of the exterior surface of boot 10.

[0037] The size of metatarsal guard 20 is such that metatarsal guard 20 comfortably extends across the wearer's foot with each of outer lateral edge surface 33 and inner lateral edge surface 35 contact either sole 11 or a layer parallel to sole 11 of boot 10. As the length of boot 10 increases, such as from a size 8 to a size 9 to a size 10, and so on, the overall size or volume of boot 10 also increases. In order for the size or volume of boot 10 to increase, the upper 12 (FIG. 1), in which metatarsal guard 20 is incorporated, also increases. Thus in order for metatarsal guard 20 to properly function and to be comfortable, metatarsal guard 20 should also increase in volume. The present invention is directed to providing an appropriately sized metatarsal guard 20 for each size of footwear.

[0038] For example, a metatarsal guard for a size 10 men's workboot has a front edge 22 having a length of about 3½ inches (about 8.75 cm), an outer edge 23 having a length of about 3 inches (about 7.5 cm) (with the transition edge 43 being about 1½ inches (about 3.75 cm)), and an inner edge 25 having a length of about 2½ inches (about 6.25 cm) (with the transition edge 45 being about 2 inches (about 5 cm)). The length between front edge 22 and the farthest point of tongue 34, specifically tongue 34b, is about 3½ inches (about 8.75 cm). The thickness of guard 20, specifically of impact-absorbing portion 28 at each front edge 22, outer edge 23, inner edge 25 and at tongue 34a is about 0.070 inch (about 1.75 mm).

[0039] In contrast, a metatarsal guard for a size 8 men's work boot has a front edge 22 having a length of about 3¼ inches(about 8.125 cm), an outer edge 23 having a length of about 2½ inches (about 6.25 cm) (with the transition edge 43 being about 1¼ inches (about 3.125 cm)), and an inner edge 25 having a length of about 2¼ inches (about 5,625 cm) (with the transition edge 45 being about 1⅞ inches (about 4.69 cm)). The length between front edge 22 and the farthest point of tongue 34, specifically tongue 34b, is about 3¼ inches (about 8.125 cm). The thickness of guard 20, specifically of impact-absorbing portion 28 at each front edge 22, outer edge 23, inner edge 25 and at tongue 34a is about 0.070 inch (about 1.75 mm).

[0040] Further in contrast, a metatarsal guard for a size 14 men's work boot has a front edge 22 having a length of about 4⅛ inches (about 10.3 cm), an outer edge 23 having a length of about 3¼ inches (about 8.125 cm) (with the transition edge 43 being about 2 inches (about 5 cm)), and an inner edge 25 having a length of about 2¾ inches (about 6.875 cm) (with the transition edge 45 being about 2⅛ inches (about 5.3 cm)). The length between front edge 22 and the farthest point of tongue 34, specifically tongue 34b, is about 3⅞ inches (about 9.69 cm). The thickness of guard 20, specifically of impact-absorbing portion 28 at each front edge 22, outer edge 23, inner edge 25 and at tongue 34a is about 0.070 inch (about 1.75 mm).

[0041] For these three embodiments, when made from an acrylic polyvinyl chloride alloy plastic, it is preferred that metatarsal guard 20 has a thickness of 0.070+/−0.005 inch. This thickness provides the protection required by OSHA standards yet provides the needed flexibility to guard 20. In some embodiments, the thickness may vary; for example, the thickness at front edge 22 may be greater than about tongue 34.

[0042] As can be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the footwear art, metatarsal guard 20 is inserted into and incorporated into upper 12 of safety boot 10. In FIG. 6, a cross-section of boot 10 is shown having metatarsal guard 20 between an outer layer 50, such as leather or other suitable material such as leather-like man-made materials, and an inner liner 54. Typically, various other layers 52 are present in the boot construction; examples of typical layers 52 include polytetrafluoroethylene (known commonly under the tradename “Goretex”) as a water barrier, insulation, and padding material. In most embodiments, additional layers, such as foam or other cushioning or padding materials, are present between metatarsal guard 20 and inner liner 54.

[0043] As well known to those of ordinary skill in the art, boot 10 includes a toe protector or toe box 16, which is generally made of steel in order to protect the wearer's toes against falling objects. Toe box 16 and metatarsal guard 20 are positioned within the construction so that front edge 22 of metatarsal guard 20 is in close proximity to the end of toe box 16, with no greater than about 1 cm, typically no greater than about 0.5 cm of distance between the two. Typically toe box 16 and metatarsal guard 20 occupy the same layer within the boot construction.

[0044] Metatarsal guard 20 is shown in phantom, as extending down and resting on various layers 51 which are positioned on, and generally or essentially parallel to, sole 11. In the particular boot 10 shown, various layers 51 include a cork,cork-like or other filler layer 60, foam layer 62, and a foam insole 64. Inner and outer lateral edge surfaces 33, 35 are positioned against one of the various layers 51 so as to provide support for metatarsal guard 20. A removable insole liner 56 is also shown in FIG. 6.

[0045] The above specification and examples provide a complete description of the manufacture and use of the invention. Since many embodiments of the invention can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, the invention resides in the claims hereinafter appended.