Whether you’re well into pre-season training, or you’ve just started skills with the balls, choosing the right playing boots for the upcoming football season could be the difference between staying injury free or recovering on the sidelines.
The demands placed on footballers today have increased significantly, fast-forwarding the progress of technology and increasing the choice of footwear. With these advancements comes a shift in the design of football boots to become more supportive and with cushioning characteristics similar to those of runners. This is also a reflection of the increases in intensity and distances that athletes have to endure during games.
Whether you’re playing AFL, rugby or soccer at a beginner or professional level, the emphasis placed on correct footwear should be the same.
The design of football boots primarily differs to runners based on the need to perform more sideways movements rather than straight line running. Boots should be comfortable, allow for sufficient traction and ideally enhance feel and performance. Research has shown that up to 71% of football-related injuries occur in the lower extremities of AFL footballers. Such injuries could be attributed to the interaction between the sports field and the footwear or more so, which studs are used and where they are on the boots. Research has shown that the placement of studs in boots has a significant effect on cutting maneuvers and side stepping, exhibiting greater gripping characteristics when compared to runners.
It is generally the choice of players to wear moulded studs on dry grass fields. This gives more grip than runners but is still comfortable on hard ground. For wet or muddy pitches there is the need for longer removable studs to gain better grip and stability. Also, different positions on the field may require specific characteristics in footwear. For rugby union, the screw-in studs may be required for positions that contest the scrum. More recently boots have been designed with a specially moulded sole known as blades, which face multiple directions in an effort to maximize grip.
When looking for new boots take the socks that you will wear while playing sport. Be aware that during sport your feet may swell slightly with the increase in blood flow. Shoes that are too tight can lead to functional and biomechanical changes to the feet, restricting movement during play and possibly causing injuries. Boots that are too loose could result in frictional issues such as blisters along with loss of ball control and tripping issues. The correct sizing of boots is paramount as the studs need to be in front and behind the ball of the big toe joint allowing it to bend appropriately. An ill fitting boot may result in injury or damage to this joint.
It is obvious that there is not a perfect boot for all weather and field conditions and unless you’re a professional, having multiple boots throughout the year may seem impractical. I’d suggest starting the season off in your runners, as the ground is usually still hard from the dryness of summer. Also runners offer the most support and will protect your feet and lower limbs as your body gets back into the stresses of running.
As a podiatrist, I’d encourage you to get your boots professionally fitted. Poorly designed boots, incorrect fitting and second hand boots can lead to painful foot, lower limb problems and possible long term injuries.
Top five recommendations when choosing new football boots:
- Get them properly fitted – try on a few different brands and sizes
- Ensure they have the right studs and configurations for your chosen sport
- Make sure you have the right support and cushioning for your feet. Orthotics from a podiatrist will assist in correcting any biomechanical abnormalities and reducing the risk of injury
- Comfort and fit are more important than colour and aesthetics
- Always have your feet and boots checked by a podiatrist should you develop an injury or blistering
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