Your feet are the most important part of your body when it comes to how you move on the playing field. To ensure you have given yourself and your feet the best opportunity at optimal performance, you need to wear the right boots for you.
I say ‘the right boots for you’ because the best boot on the market may not be the best boot for your position or the surface you’re playing on. It also may not fit your feet the way it does someone else’s and that’s where we will start this process.
When you’re shopping for football boots, always try to simulate your game day boot/sock/shin guard situation. If it doesn’t fit in the shop, it won’t fit on the field… So take your playing socks and shin guards with you and try them on with each boot.
In addition to reconstructing your playing sock/shin guard combo to try on with boots, there are a couple of quick pointers to ensure your boot fits perfectly:
When It comes to your toes, look no further than your thumbs… Your longest toe (not necessarily your big toe) should be no closer than half your thumb width from the end of the boot. Meaning, when you have the boot on, use your thumb to push down and find the longest part of your toes (this will be either your big toe or your second toe), running your thumb across ways on the boot, you should be able to fit approximately half the width of your thumbnail between the toe and the end of the boot.
Heel cup depth
The heel cup is the firmer part of the boot that surrounds the back of your heel. When you try the boot on with your socks and shin guards, make sure it’s deep enough to avoid heel slippage that can cause blisters on the paddock.
There are a great deal of small nerves and blood vessels that run through your midfoot and over the instep of your foot. If they are compressed for a period of time, you will experience pins and needles, numbness and pain. The mid-foot of your boot should be firm without feeling restrictive. This is one of the main reasons you should try your boots on with the thicker game day socks as opposed to your everyday sports sock. Remember the mid-foot being a little firm is ok as the boot will give out slightly, however, if you feel that it’s restrictive and uncomfortable in the shop, try on some other options.
One of the most important processes to go through when shopping for the right boot is to try on multiple options. Especially our younger football players will often have their heart set on a specific boot, however, it’s important to see the comfort and fitting differences between at least three different boots. You may fall in love with the feel of a boot rather than the look of one, here’s hoping.
Playing surface and grip
Selecting the correct boot type for the playing surface can dramatically improve the efficiency in which you move and can even reduce the risk of injury.
At a high level of football in Australia, the pitches can be softer turf much like that in Europe. On these surfaces, it may be an option to use a screw-in stud/cleat pattern that allows more grip and less risk of slipping. This may also give you a more effective turning grip when stepping. This type of stud is less common in Australia and especially in Sydney where most of the grass pitches are harder and clay-based. There is also an issue with screw-in studs damaging the pitch, so high-level players may need to check with their club and officials that it’s allowed.
On a hard grass surface, it is recommended you use a moulded stud that has a lower profile than a screw in and generally has significantly more studs giving a superior surface area distribution in contact with the ground. This also increases player comfort.
The moulded boot is generally made of PU/TPU/rubber studs that are either conical in shape or bladed. There has been a great deal of evidence to show that bladed stud patterns can reduce the amount of torsion through the leg and knee when turning on natural grass surfaces. This has resulted in fewer knee injuries primarily.
There are more bladed boots on the market now than ever before, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding the right one for you.
As we move into a new era of football in Australia, artificial turf pitches are becoming more common. The conical (rounded) stud type creates less friction on these surfaces and therefore less likely to cause tripping and falling episodes. The conical stud will also wear down less aggressively on artificial turf than the bladed stud. For these reasons, players who find themselves playing on both natural turf and artificial turf surfaces regularly, will often have both types of boots in their bag so they both perform at an optimal level and get good wear out of their boots.
Indoor soccer and Futsal will see players spend short game times at an explosive level on small artificial courts. Some players use their standard outdoor conical studded boots, however, it is highly recommended you use a specific indoor soccer boot for this form of the game. Indoor soccer boots have a flat harder rubber compound outsole that gives both superior grip and durability under these conditions.
Having spoken in depth about outsole stud structure, it is equally important to touch on the upper of the boot.
The upper needs to be durable enough to withstand the forces generated by rapid turning while running and the pressure of kicking the ball. Combinations of leather and synthetic seem to be the strongest and most supportive, especially when the toe box has significant stitching that reinforces that area that is under the most pressure. Kangaroo skin boots, or K-leather are quite popular as the material is lighter than traditional leather and gives a smooth strong finish to the boot.
Be cautious when selecting 100% synthetic boots. Make sure they are not heavy and can also breathe. Synthetic leathers are also prone to cracking when they become wet and dry rapidly.
- Never leave your boots to dry out in direct sunlight
- Never leave your boots in the car when it’s hot
- Always remove your insoles to dry out after a game or training (try to buy boots with removable insoles for this reason)
- Always wear clean socks
- When breaking in new boots, use tape (unless you have tape allergies) over the back of your heels to reduce ‘wear-in’ blisters
- If you can’t find a boot that fits well, or if you have a boot that seems to still slip in the heels or is tight through the mid-foot, come and see your Podiatrist for advice on lacing techniques and insole adjustments
- If you have heel pain or arch pain pre season or during the season, please come and see your podiatrist for help. This is often associated with a rapid return to activity and is a common condition we can treat well, especially in conjunction with your physiotherapist.
Let us know if you feel we can help your football journey. Often there are also underlying biomechanical issues we can correct, so also consider an assessment to see if we can improve your game and take you to the next level, or even prevent injuries.
I hope this article assists you in selecting your perfect football boot.