Some years ago, on a visit to the CWS Footwear factory in Heckmondwyke, West Yorkshire I was shown a pair of football boots the company had made for Sir Stanley Matthews some years previously.
I was privileged enough to actually hold them and two things struck me, firstly the size. They were a tiny size seven and secondly, how cumbersome they looked compared to the slipper-like creations worn by today’s players.
Now a fascinating study into the evolution of the design of football boots has just been published in the International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training
The study looks at how modern boots continue to evolve to cater for the very different demands made on today’s players who must run further and faster, turn and control the ball quicker and display higher technical skill levels than their counterparts of fifty years ago.
Although footballers want a boot that supports an aggressive style of play, there could be a downside in that a high degree of traction and rapid changes in movement direction may contribute to stress on joints, muscles and tendons.
The soccer shoe is therefore also expected to deliver as much protection and stability as possible and this is derived from a combination of differing materials that are used for the construction of the outer sole, midsole and upper components.
Consequently, today’s boots are much lighter, more waterproof, provide greater ball control and surface traction across a variety of playing surfaces and conditions.
Much research has been undertaken into the shape and positioning of studs or cleats in order to optimise stability of the foot and ankle joints and provide grip on the playing surface when making twists, turns and quick changes of direction.
Subsequent biomechanical testing has seen the traditional six or eight studs replaced by a greater number of long, thin elliptical shaped cleats which provide greater slip resistance on the lateral borders of the sole but also produce an uneven distribution of pressure.
Combining traditional round-shaped studs with thinner cleats has been done in an effort to combine the benefits of both types, which may be advantageous for acceleration.
However, there is considerable scientific debate and research on the subject of the effects that such
designs might have on the risk of anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The authors – Marc P. Hilgers of the Sports Medicine Department at Florida Orthopaedic Institute and Markus Walther of the Department of Foot and Ankle Surgery at Schoen Klinik Munich Harlaching in Munich – point out that the evolution of football boots is an ongoing process and many more new developments are anticipated in the immediate future.
As a footnote a pair of boots worn by Sir Stan in the 1953 FA Cup Final and identical to those I held at the factory, sold at auction for £38,400 in 2010, considerably more than the £1 price tag they originally carried.