There’s a reason why the game isn’t played in bare feet, there’s a reason why every professional club has a ‘Boot Room’ somewhere in their home training ground, and there’s a reason why boot makers try and make the most sophisticated pair of boots they can create. That is – cleats are more important to the game than you might think. Legendary player Zinedine Zidane said himself that football boots are highly sophisticated, and must meet a variety of requirements. As humble as they may be, cleats are a crucial instrument for players to develop the necessary skills, and to play at the highest level of performance. The football boot has gone through hundreds, if not thousands of changes in its long history. So, in this feature, we’ll take you through the important parts of its history, development, and discuss how to pick the right boot for you and your players.
HISTORY OF THE FOOTBALL BOOT
England is well known to have been the birthplace of football. In fact, the first recorded pair of football boots came from King Henry in 1526, despite a ban that forebode the game from being played in public spaces.
As football’s popularity grew, the shoes evolved to include nails at the bottom to create traction, which led the English Football Association to disallow footwear with bottom attachments in 1863. In late 1880, they allowed studs made of leather that projected from the sole no more than half an inch. This version soon developed into the football boot familiar to us today.
PARTS OF A FOOTBALL BOOT
Football boots come in high-cut, mid-cut, and low-cut variations. The collar pertains to the opening of the shoe and the enclosure that surrounds your ankle. The upper usually comes in synthetic or leather. The insole or the sock liner serves to provide support and cushioning, while the midsole is the support center that keeps the shape of the boot.
Meanwhile, the heel counter refers to the external rigid back portion of the shoe. Finally, the outsole or sole plate represents the bottom of the boot. These often have fixed or detachable studs that allow for better control in outdoor or indoor fields. The best boot making companies are working to provide more and more sophistication in all of these different areas, trying to make their product lightweight and durable. With that, more and more developments in boot technology have been popping up in recent years.
DEVELOPMENTS IN BOOT TECHNOLOGY
Two of today’s most famous sporting brands, Adidas and Puma, found success in the 20th century by producing leather-clad, spiked shoes. Other notable names include Valsport, Gola, Nike, and Reebok. What used to be the classic, all-black color transitioned into coloured reds in the ‘60s, and then neon shades in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Build-wise, the Adidas Predator series changed the game in the ‘90s by incorporating their iconic stripes on the upper, which significantly improved players’ control of the ball, from passing to bending the football.
Then in the early 2000s, technology boosted the development and improvement of football boots. Soon came the rise of bladed studs and flexible soles, which allowed for free movement and turning of the foot. Boots also became lighter than ever, with the 2010 Adizeros weighing only 165 grams. Nike’s Skin technology also helped the brand create their own innovative shoe in 2019, which is said to emphasize flexibility, speed, and durability. Footballers around the world are also anticipating future releases like the Predator Edge, Adidas’ latest addition to the series, and the Puma Future Z 1.2. This may mean nothing to you as a football fan, but players are always scouting out the next big boot, ensuring they can get on the end of a sponsorship deal, which is another complex part of this process at the professional level.
PICKING THE RIGHT BOOT
With so many options to choose from, selecting the right boot for the individual is never a seamless process. It’s one more reason why ‘Kit Men’ and ‘Boot Rooms’ exist in our realm, as players need to ultimately be comfortable on the football pitch (and in some cases – stylish too). In our ‘Home Training Sessions’, it’s evident that skills like receiving, turning, and finishing are tied to the part of the foot you use, which in turn means the boot needs to be sturdy and resilient to quick movements.
When picking the right pair of football boots, Master Soccer Mind reminds players to research, assess the playing surface, determine the type of feel that works for your feet, and set an appropriate budget. Assessing the playing surface is perhaps one of the more crucial steps, as many playing areas are made up of hard ground, while most professional fields are on softer turf surfaces. Turf and indoor surfaces also have specific sole plates, which need to be considered in the selection process.
The very best brands design their boots according to different key features like comfort, control, speed, and finishing. Comfort boots prioritize material and protection, while control cleats feature lots of grippy elements to keep the ball close to you. So ensure before heading out to the store that you do your research, looking at reviews, sizing discrepancies, and other important details you might miss when focusing solely on how it feels on your foot.
With so many technological advancements, the football boot will only continue to grow as an important facet of the modern game. But with it being such an understudied part of the game, we hope you enjoyed this greater insight into the anatomy of the football boot. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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