Which football boots are right for me and how do I know?

By Paul on 14/02/2016

Which football boots are the best is a great way to start a lively discussion! Almost everyone has their favourite brand, their favourite look, perhaps boots they've been wearing for so many years they wouldn't consider anything else! Then there are those who are always looking for new technology to give them the edge!

Modern football boots, with the exception of some boots available in the Asics range, are designed more like barefoot running shoes than traditional runners. This is certainly the case with this seasonís boots.

Of course, this is done deliberately, as the idea of a soccer boot is to provide your foot with protection but in such a limited way you still have a 'barefoot sense', that is, your forefoot can feel the ball's surface and be able to handle the ball by spinning or curbing it around an opponent.

The key thing to remember is that boots are made to a standard design and while they will adapt to your feet to some degree, especially if they have a leather upper, everyone's foot shape is different and often our own feet are a different size to each other. If you remove the marketing hype of the amazing technical qualities, the single most important feature of a boot is the fit and the touch of the ball they give you.

Key Boot Features

New football boots are getting lighter and lighter allowing you more speed and flexibility.

In fact, all the major manufacturers seem to have designed their boots into two categories:

  • a lighter, faster boot range, and
  • a comfortable supportive power range

Each style has slightly different qualities and benefits. Puma has possibly made it the most obvious by calling their new boots Evo speed and Evo power.

While the new seasonís boots are being driven by technology, the key features that make a good boot still remain:

Boot Upper Material (Top part of the boot)

Leather is always going to be the most foot friendly as it breathes and moulds to your foot. If you play on very wet grounds, however, it will become saturated and take a while to dry out. Leather boots also have to be maintained to stay in the best condition. Synthetic materials are much easier to live with, arenít affected by water so much but they will either fit or not fit!

Ball Grip Design

Each brand have designed various patterns and surfaces on the upper of the boots aimed at providing better ball control, especially in wet weather when the surfaces may become slippery. The choice here is very individual, as some players find this feature very, very important in helping them put a backspin on the ball, and others less so. How often do you play on a wet ground? If itís often, this may be a worthwhile feature to look at.

Control mechanism

As boots become lighter, the materials become more flexible. In some cases having a very flexible boot may be an advantage. In pure acceleration from a standing start, or with the quick cutting movements involved in keeping the ball off your opponent, you need a boot that is close-fitting and works like an extension to your foot. Most boots have either an internal cage of soft material or external thermoplastic support structures, most commonly around the heel and in the arch. Again, it comes down to how the boot feels. This is one reason why experiencing how the boot ďfeelsĒ as you quickly change direction is important. (see the instructions later on in The Fitting Challenge).

Sole design

There are three main sole designs available across the range of all major manufacturers. They are:

  • hard ground
  • soft ground
  • turf or indoor

Each sole unit will be slightly different. Boots for hard ground will have a greater number of smaller studs than a soft ground boot. The soles of boots worn on turf or indoors †are often made from similar materials to a pair of runners. Some boots have very thin soles to minimise their weight as much as possible. These are okay on soft grounds but if used too often on hard grounds can lead to injuries such as bruising and even stress fractures.

A summary of these features in the major brands and their proprietary terms:

BRANDS

Asics

Adidas

Nike

Puma

Umbro

Upper material (synthetic)

Synthetic kangaroo

3D Control Skin

Nikeskin

Microfibre

textured microfibre

Upper material (leather)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ball Grip design

Traditional

Non stop grip

Allover 3-D texture

GripTex print

3D printed touch control zone

Control Mechanism

External heel counter

SprintFrame

All Conditions control ACC

Speed frame

A-Frame cradle

Sole Design

special sole design

Total Control & X-Claw

Split - toe plate

Speed track

multi-directional flex points

Can my boot choice help prevent injury?

Performance is the key criteria for most modern boot designs, rather than your individual foot structure or history of injuries. With young players, a sudden growth spurt can place greater stress on muscles and joints. This is significant because football boots that are too minimalist may add to the risk of injury. This subject alone is a topic for a future blog, but here are some key points:

Wide feet

If you have wide feet the important areas to consider in the boots design are:

  • The upper material. Leather is always going to be better in stretching and adapting than synthetic materials. Some boots with synthetic uppers are, however, designed wider and deeper to start with and so may fit.
  • the design criteria of the boot - a boot designed for speed is usually narrower, and
  • the sole unit; the more cut away the sole plate is the less it will support a wide foot

Here are some suggestions you can try:

  • ASICs gel lethal ultimate 11
  • ASICs gel lethal club 8
  • Adidas Copa Mundial
  • Adidas leather ACE 15
  • Nike Hypervenom Phantom 2 wide lasted
  • Nike Tiempo,
  • Puma Eva power
  • Umbro Leather Medusa

Make sure you try on a number of these so you can compare comfort and ďfeelĒ of each boot.

Leg, heel and arch issues

If you have any pain in your knees, Achilles tendon, hamstring and calf muscles, your arch or have had an injury to any of these areas last season it may well help to wear boots that incorporate a heel lift because it will hold your foot in a position where the forces are not damaging. These boots are also recommended for young players if there is a likelihood of a rapid growth spurt in the coming season, because they will reduce the forces generated that may cause injury. Only ASICs boots have an integrated 10 mm heel lift which research has shown to off load knees and legs. Of course heel lifts can be added to any boots so long as that is taken into account when fitting. If youíre concerned about this, I recommend an assessment with me at Total Care Podiatry, so the correct height of heel lift can be provided. You can then fit these into the boots as part of the fitting process.

Ankle issues

If you regularly roll your ankle or have had this type of injury before, some boots may assist you, in addition to the protective taping techniques available and exercise programs of balance and strengthening.

The boots with an ankle sock designed into them can be of assistance. Adidas has the ACE Primeknit and Nike has a number of different models such as the Mercurial Superfly and the Magista Obra. The ankle sock works by improving the sense called proprioception. The ankle sock, being firm around the ankle, assists the body knowing when the foot is rolling over too much so muscles can be fired to protect the ankle before an injury occurs. Itís a similar concept to simple ankle taping.

Asics have a boot called the Lethal Legacy SK. This boot has been designed with an asymmetrical upper which allows for more flexibility on the inside part of the boot while maintaining support on the outer part. This provides some protection if youíre at risk of rolling an ankle when making a sudden directional change.

The Fitting Challenge

The aim of marketing is to get you to buy boots based on how good they look, their features and the sports stars who wear them as part of their sponsorship. The boots available are designed to look really cool and hey, who doesnít want to look cool? Then of course there is peer pressure of the friendship group and you donít want to standout in the wrong boots!

BUYING SOCCER BOOTS (2).JPG

So, as you walk up to the wall of boots do you decide with your head or with your heart? Okay, we all have favourites and some of the boots do look pretty good so the best way is to try not be biased. Donít try your favourite boots on first and make sure you trial at least three boots so you can compare them.

And by the way, if you have really wide feet, regularly roll your ankles, have Achilles tendon pain or any other physical issues, make sure you consider the risk minimisation strategies Iíve mentioned before you go to the store.

Here are some key ideas to think about when going to purchase boots:

  • Take your own soccer socks and braces etc to ensure the correct fit.
  • It's a great idea to take your own soccer ball into the store as your ďfeelĒ of the ball through the boots will be one of the key points when deciding if they're right for you. A good store, wanting to help you get the right boots, will be happy for you to do this.
  • A good fit is firm across the toe box but still allowing the toes some wriggle room. If your toes are right at the end theyíre too tight. If your heel slips theyíre too loose.
    • A too tight fitting may cause rubbing, blisters and pain which distracts your concentration and focus on the game.
    • Loose boots will make acceleration and ball skills difficult, especially cutting.
    • While leather will stretch and 'mould' around the foot, donít think that this will increase the length.
    • A rough guide is to start with a half size shorter than your runners and try from there.

Once you have the boots on it's time to try them out. Take your time with this, don't feel embarrassed or rushed. Iíve seen many players regret purchasing boots based on colour or the style their friend had. The wrong boots can really affect your performance during the game.

  • Start off by just walking around. Are they comfortable? Too tight or too loose at this stage means you need to try on a different boot.
  • Next, start a slow jog, changing direction slowly at first, then increasing to a change with every 2nd or 3rd step.
  • Now is the time to get out your soccer ball. Find a clear space in the store and work the ball just on you boot. How does it feel with the touch? Can you control the ball? Is it comfortable or does it slip?

If you go through this process, then youíre able to weigh up whether or not the boots you initially thought were wonderful are the most comfortable, feel best with a soccer ball and allow you to move the way you need to on the ground.

What if Iím still not sure?

Sometimes, when you start researching whatís going to be best it raises more questions than answers. If the question is a technical one about the design or features of particular boots, a good sport shoe store with a large range and experience, ( such as Rebel Sport and De Grande Cycle & Sport in Geelong) should be able to provide you with the answers you need. If they donít know the answer, there are technical reps from each company they can use as a resource.

If itís an issue more related to your biomechanics, foot and leg function or recurring injury or pain itís best to have a full assessment with me in the clinic when your foot function, weight transfer in motion and your gait can be thoroughly analysed.

Call 5223 1531 to make an Initial appointment.

WARNING: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional podiatric advice. Treatment will vary between individuals depending upon your diagnosis and presenting complaint. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a Podiatrist.