Guest Post by Chicken Run Boy
Boots have continued to get lighter and lighter and by 2006, lace-less too. Players have always struggled to cope with the effect laces have on their contact with the ball. Lotto solved the problem by completely removing laces from the equation with the world’s first lace-less football boot. Their Zhero Gravity boots also came with a 360 degree rotating stud designed to give players an edge in acceleration – finally getting right what the UK’s Tufspin boot attempted to pull off way back in 1971 but only succeeded in ripping up lots of ankle ligaments before being withdrawn.
Picture: Italian company Lotto produced the first lace-less boot in 2006
Amongst all the innovations, one that came closest to blowing my mind (not in a good way) was another Adidas offering (incidentally, they also claimed the world’s first lace-less boots about 10 years after Lotto). In 2011 their adiZero F50 miCoach featured a built-in sensor chip that could measure average speed, maximum speed, number of sprints, and distance covered.
I know Messi has worn these boots but on the basis that pro clubs already have those stats to hand, I’m left wondering whom are these boots intended for? What self respecting Sunday morning player with a hangover is going want their lack of speed and stamina available as data? My son told me recently that Adidas have taken this to another level. Your performance data being collected from a real game can now be linked to your digital FIFA gaming. While that’s one development I don’t even want to understand, I’m delighted that the boot ideas keep flowing and kids can keep dreaming.
So, what does the future hold? Certainly new materials, computer data and 3-D technology will play a huge part as manufacturers continue to strive for the next big thing. Of course, with the long search for a boot lighter than air, one of the trade offs for players has been less protection for their highly pampered and valuable feet.
I’m convinced no one outside the medical profession in the UK had heard of a metatarsal until England fans held collective breath awaiting news on Beckham’s injury ahead of the 2002 World Cup. Rooney and Gerrard suffered similarly but Beck’s was the front-page headline grabber that alerted us to the fragility of small toe bones when playing in slippers. After sleeping in oxygen tents and wearing surgical boots, Beckham made it to the World Cup but metatarsal injury had been added a long list of anxieties to trouble England’s supporters. Since then, football footwear has progressively got even more Cinderella like but answers are being sought.
I read a nice article (Inside the secret adidas lab where designers are making football boots of the future) on the impressive research effort at Adidas. 1,700 people in a seven-story building dedicated to advances in football boot design. There’s robotic ‘footballers’ that can kick the ball a whole lot harder than a Dicks penalty, a climate chamber and Hawkeye tracking technology. They measure everything including how feet move inside boots and by extrapolating from the data, designers get an understanding of the forces and influences that affect joints and the musculoskeletal system.
Knowing exactly where the boot needs stability and flexibility led the Adidas boffins to produce a fusible yarn called Primeknit – that’s digitally printed into a boot that fits an individual’s foot while remaining rigid at specific points – like a hardened piece of leather. So, it seems the football stars of the future will be wearing individually designed and fully customisable outsoles that mirror the foot’s contours and along with revolutionary snap off studs, protecting their metatarsals from misery.
On the back of the arms race like pursuit of breakthroughs in boot design, it’s easy to imagine a very different buying experience for today’s young players. They already have the opportunity to customise aspects of the boot like colour and text. My online effort below shows exactly why design should be left to designers, although it’s easy to see how much fun there is to be had.
Picture: My classy, customised WHTID Nike Phantom Academy boot.
Beyond picking from a few colour options, today’s boot buyers could even become a more involved co-designer with bespoke, personalised fitting including 3D laser scanning of feet and legs and biometric data from running tests to provide the perfect outsole shape before being fully customised with colours and design touches of choice. Players will be running out onto the pitch looking and feeling like a pampered superstar, just with one less excuse for that misplaced pass or their shocking ball control.
Although I sometimes laugh or cry at the hyperbole that goes into the marketing, I love the continuing advances in boot design and await with interest the latest innovation. But perhaps the most cheering aspect of the article was this quote from Holger Kraetschmer, Adidas’s Head of Football Future:
“It’s not always about making a shoe five per cent better here and there. Rather it comes down to the question: how do we trigger emotional reactions?”
It may be nothing more than PR spin, but it leaves me with a little hope that passion can continue to play a part alongside the science in delivering beauty in size ten form.
So, if you’re one of the relative lucky ones that can stay home in some form of lockdown, I have a couple of suggestions for you to help pass some time. First, just look at boot pictures, enjoy their magnificence, maybe some memories and think about your favourites. What’s your top 5 list? Here’s mine.
My top 5 boot list
- Adidas Copa Mundial – Simply the best ever. The Kaiser and World Cup were decent alternatives but if you knew, you knew.
- Puma Kings – I always found Puma boots a bit narrow for my trotters but Pele, Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona all did their best work in a pair of these majestic looking boots – hard to argue with that line up.
- Adidas Predator – The revolutionary boot that came to define a whole era of the game.
- Hummel Alan Ball – Jaw droppingly different, the first and only must have item of my pre teen years.
- Nike Tiempo Ronaldinho – Apparently the great Brazilian played a part in the design which features textured studs to help control the ball. I just think it’s a stunning mix of modern boot tech and classic design.
Second, consider searching the garage, loft or store cupboard and digging out your dirty old boots. Once found, cleaned and dried (never by a radiator of course!) you’re ready for the important next stage that takes us back to where this story begun in Tudor England.
As we have seen, for centuries, the football boot has been changing in line with changes to the style of the game, new ideas and technology breakthroughs. In all that time, from the day King Henry pulled on his new boots in 1525 to the present day, the only constant (other than boot envy) has been the use of Dubbin to waterproof, condition and soften the boots ready for playing.
So, make yourself comfortable grab that tin and get rubbing the Dubbin. You know you want to. What you may not know is Dubbin is made with beeswax, fish oil and lard, and on that note – time for me to go shopping.
May you, your friends and loved ones stay well. Be lucky.