Ones that fit. Done. Haha if only it were that easy I wouldn’t be here now writing this post. Football boots are perhaps the most essential piece of equipment that someone needs in order to play football properly and safely. If you simply played in a pair of runners or casual shoes you would more than likely slip, trip and fall over constantly. Apart form making a fool of yourself this could also lead to injuries.
Football boots are a very subjective topic. People like different things and when it comes to football boots this is no different. There are 3 main materials that uppers are made of, 5 different outsole types (stud types), and 1000s of different colorways to appeal to everyone’s needs. Then there are different widths to all of the boots, how much they stretch will depend on the material. There are also different models of the same boot with different price points.
So, in this series we are going to go through all of that plus my recommendation for what you should do buying for yourself and for your kids. Plus debunk some myths in relation to football boots. I myself am a massive boot nerd. I love talking about them, all of the technology that goes into them intrigues me massively and full disclosure I check all my favorite boot sites pretty much everyday for new boots and new deals… despite already having 5 pairs.
Football boot uppers (the part on top of the boot) are made of three main materials, leather, synthetic and knit. Some boots even use a combination of two different materials especially involving leather. I will be trying to compare them as objectively as possible as I have actually worn every material myself.
Let’s start with leather. Leather was the original material in a football boot and was what all football boots used to be made from. A leather football boot will provide a very comfortable fit, where the leather will eventually mold to the shape of your foot. I say eventually because leather does take some time to break in. in terms of touch on the ball, a leather boot will provide a slightly padded sensation and the more leather the boot has the more padded it will feel.
However, one of the downsides to leather is that compared to the other two it is comparatively heavy. The heaviest football boot on the market is around 310grams and the lightest is around 190g meaning a total weight difference of 240g across both feet. Now that doesn’t seem like a lot and it isn’t, but it also means that they are generally not marketed as light weight “speed” boots which is what a lot of people want.
Generally speaking, leather boots are also a good option for players with wide feet, This is because as mentioned above leather tends to mold to your feet over time. This also means that they will stretch and can even stretch up to half a size. This is good but it as well has downsides as sometimes the boots can over stretch leading to a total lack of responsiveness and even blisters because of how much your foot is slipping inside.
In terms of durability, leather also has downsides. While the overstretching can lend the boots to being unusable. The softness of the leather can be in some circumstances be prone to tearing or wearing away faster than other materials. Now, you can prolong the life span of a leather boot by properly caring for them with some leather balm, but this adds to the cost of owning a leather boot and most people including myself can’t really be bothered with it.
Synthetic was the next material to be used in a football boot. Synthetic when compared to leather offers a tighter more responsive feel. Synthetic similar to leather does require some break in time for your feet to get used to it. Synthetic will not mold to your foot like leather will. It will generally speaking hold its shape for an extended period of time, the only time it will start molding to your feet is when it begins to slowly break down.
In terms of touch on the ball, synthetic materials provide a far less padded sensation. This brings you closer to the ball but also means that if you are going from a leather to synthetic boot you will notice that there is more of slapping sensation on your foot as you strike the ball. The more synthetic the more plastic the touch can feel, and because of this, most synthetic boots are quite thin.
Synthetic also weighs far less than leather and in a sport where any perceived advantage is highly sort after this means that synthetic boots have an advantage over there leather counterparts. It is why in recent years we have seen the development of boots that are a combination of leather and synthetic. This creates an enhanced comfort with the added benefit of being light.
Overall a full synthetic boot is probably not the best fit for someone with wide feet. As I mentioned before synthetic will not stretch nearly as much as leather will and this means that if it doesn’t fit you when you try them on, it’s probably not going fit you ever. If you do try and force yourself to wear them then you will end up with pressure points that can lead to blisters, as well if you wear football boots that are to small they can contribute to foot injuries and cause bunions later in life. Ideally you don’t want your toes to be squashed against the side or front of the boot.
In terms of durability synthetic boots are generally very durable especially when compared to leather. The plastics often hold up better against abrasive playing surfaces. However due to synthetic boots being made incredibly thin, they have been reported to tear in tackles. Studs are sharp and can cause abrasions on boots and the thinner the material the more likely it is to tear.
Knitted boots are the newest trend in football boots. Now, the name sounds funny and when I first heard of knitted boots I immediately thought of an old lady sitting in a ricking chair trying to knit a pair of Nike mercurials. This is not the case. Knitted boots are made from a synthetic fabric very tightly woven together to make the upper of a football boot. Its almost a combination of a running shoe upper and synthetic material. Because of this knitted boots require almost no break-in time and could almost be worn straight into a match … although I would advise against it.
The idea behind knitted boots is that they provide a sock like sensation, where you put them on and it feels like a second skin. The pair I have definitely achieve this even though I bought the wrong size… twice. Knitted boots in my opinion are an attempt to combine the benefits of both synthetic and leather in the one material.
Knitted boots tend to weigh about the same as synthetic boots if not a little bit more. But more or less the same, they are therefore associated with being lightweight. They have also been used to drop the weight on other boots that are marketed as “control” or “power” boots. Knitted boots tend to be quite slick so what brands have done is add a layer of silicone texturing to the outside of the boot in order to help add some extra grip on the ball. This although extremely minimal also adds a little extra weight.
Knitted boots do have some give in them although not nearly as much leather. If leather had 10/10 stretch and synthetic was 1/10 then knitted boots would be around a 3 or a 4. As such they, like synthetic boots may not be the best option for people with wide feet. However special mention to Puma who have created a boot that is almost fully customizable in terms of fit with their netfit technology. I am not going to get into to it and I have not tried the boots on because I am waiting for a white pair to emerge. But if you want to know what I am talking about just google Puma Future. So while they are not the worst fit for wide footed players they are not as good as leather either.
In terms of durability again knitted boots sit somewhere in between the other two materials. The yarns are not like clothing yarns where you will have loose threads everywhere, they are more durable than that. However most knitted boots are made relatively thin and this offers both minimal protection and in very minor circumstances may have a tendency to tear when tackled.
Ok, lets talk soleplates. There are 5 current types of soleplates on offer for all forms of football. They are soft ground, firm ground, artificial grass, turf and indoor. Soft ground boots are most commonly seen in Northern Europe and I would imagine Canada. These boots are designed for fields that are often waterlogged, muddy and wet most of the time. Think England when you think of soft ground boots.
Firm Ground boots are the most common pair of football boots and are used everywhere. These are designed for natural grass fields that are dry with good grass covered. There used to be a class of boots called hard ground boots although this type has since died out seemingly because of firm ground boots.
Artificial grass boots are made for synthetic grass fields. These boots tend to have shallower studs, have thicker soleplates and other adaptations to make them more durable on the abrasive surface. Not to be confused with turf boots.
Turf boots are suitable to be used on turf, and to a lesser extent the street. The soleplate on a turf boot is a hard compound rubber or plastic making it more durable. You can wear turf boots on artificial grass although there may be some traction issues, personally I have not worn turf boots ever so I do not know how well they work on an artificial grass surface. You cannot however wear artificial grass boots on turf. I would also imagine turf boots being good for hard ground surfaces such has fields that have lost all their grass and only have hard compacted soil on them.
Indoor court boots are strictly for indoor wooden surfaces or specially designed outdoors surfaces. The soles of these shoes are a soft non-marking rubber that would disintegrate when used on any abrasive surface. As well because they have no studs you would be slipping and sliding all over the place if you were to wear these anywhere other than the surface it was designed for.
Why are there so many different types? Because football is played everywhere, and in order to make the game safe and accessible for people to play everywhere you need boots for each of the different surfaces. The boots are also all different and specifically designed for their surface to ensure safety, durability and better performance so that players are able to play the best they can.
Now we know what football boots are, lets talk about what ones you should buy. I shall start with kids. Kids are constantly growing. So my recommendation for any parent is to buy a cheap leather football boot. Leather as discussed before stretches. Cheap leather boots tend to over stretch, this is perfect for growing kids because the boot will stretch with a child’s foot to a certain point. This means that a child is more likely to be able to use a leather boot for longer than a synthetic or knitted one. Furthermore leather will mold to the shoe of your child’s foot, not the other way round. Meaning that they’re feet will be able to grow as intended hopefully leading to less problems down the track. Cheap leather boots might not last as long as premium leather boots but just remember, they are only kids and premium leather boots tend to have less stretch in them as the leather is often supported by structure to prevent over stretching.
Generally speaking kids out grow a pair of boots every season, that’s at least how my feet grew. Most of my boots were tossed out or given away as the boots themselves were still in good condition but were unwearable because I had outgrown them.
Cost is another thing to consider, the gap between full price top end boots and bottom end boots is around the 200$ mark, this is taken even further if the boots the low-end boots are on sale this can then take the gap to $240. 240$! Why, that’s the same cost as Northern Beaches football coaching over a full winter season. And I can guarantee that a full season of northern beaches football coaching is 100% more likely to improve you game than a pair of expensive football boots.
So, my recommendation for kids is to buy cheap leather boots, as I believe they will last longer due to the extra stretch that they can provide.
For adults, it really depends on how much you play. Regardless of this though you still 100% need to find boots that will feet your feet properly. You want to be able to flex your toes outwards, otherwise your foot will stay scrunched up inside of the boot for 2 hours. Imagine sitting uncomfortably for 2 hours… eventually you are going to get cramps. Similarly, if the blood flow is restricted … this will also lead to cramps. So, buy a boot that is wide enough for your foot.
If you play constantly and throughout the year then you should look at getting a top end boot. The build quality should be substantially better and will therefore last longer. Even if it doesn’t, football boots surprisingly have a warranty of about 2 years if the boot breaks for whatever reason. So if it breaks within 2 years provided you haven’t voided the warranty by oh I don’t know say playing on a surface that the boot was not intended for i.e. using firm ground boots on artificial grass surfaces. Then whoever you bought the boots off should replace them or at the very least give you a credit towards a replacement pair.
If you only play for half the year in a team that only trains once a week well then you could probably go for the low-end models. Realistically you will only be using them around 48 times with a maximum of 50 if your team makes finals. I use my boots everyday of every week so for me, comfort and quality is of the utmost importance otherwise I would be replacing them every 2 months.
Let’s talk online shopping. You must resist the temptation in solely buying boots online. It should be simple but even I have got caught out by this … numerous times. Your looking online at some football boots and you see some on sale. Lets just assume for argument sake that it’s a reputable website. You think to your self “oh wow there 40% off, high end model must be good and they are in my normal size!!!” sold. But there is one problem, you haven’t tried them on and have no idea if they are wide enough or if the US size correlates to your correct foot size. Little tip always go off the Japanese sizes, they measure the boots in CM not some random archaic size system. US, UK and Euro sizes can fluctuate by up to a CM which doesn’t sound like a lot but tell that to your heel after you get blisters.
Now let’s assume you know all that, the guy on YouTube said it would fit most people and it has fantastic reviews. Yes, always check the site your buying from and the product reviews. But you still do not know how it feels on your feet. Boots feel different, some are designed to lock your foot in like a fighter pilot and wrap your foot extremely tightly. This creates the most responsive sensation under foot. Others have a more comfortable fit and are flexible and move with your foot very naturally. Its all down to what you like, and yes maybe you will get used to them but there is the possibility that you won’t and guess what once you wear them our of your house you cannot return them. Some brands do offer money back guarantees and you can try your luck with by coloring over any scratches that might of happened but good luck.
Here is what I do, whenever I now need new boots I go into the store. I openly tell the sales person look I am not here to buy I am just trying them on then I am going to buy them online because they are cheaper. If anyone else comes in go and serve them. I then try on literally ever top end pair in my size and then make a decision based on that. I then go online and make sure its 100% the same boot and then I buy them at a fraction of the cost. I live in Australia so shipping adds to the cost so I first surf the Australian football boot websites, at the moment hardly any of the Australian football boot websites have artificial grass boots. So, I look overseas. Beware of two things when doing this, 1 the exchange rate and 2 international shipping. They both suck and that is why it is always go to check the Australian sites first.