DO FOOTBALL BOOTS ENCOURAGE INJURY?

There’s a definite theme running through many of the football boots that have been launched ahead of the World Cup – Speed.

The biggest football boot brands in the World have literally bent over backwards to develop boots that feel light on the feet of the players wearing them, Lightweight football boots such as the Nike Elite Series and adidas f50 adiZero have come under attack today in the press, as Professor David Barrett of the University of Southampton has showcased his opinion on the subject of modern football boots.

“Surgeons are seeing a lot more metatarsal injuries in patients, of the kind England stars David Beckham and Wayne Rooney have suffered in the past – and that is because of lightweight football boots.   Their introduction came about because professional footballers, particularly strikers, wanted boots as lightweight as possible for foot speed.”

Now, I’m sure you all scoffed as much as I did reading this statement – as the good professor should know that both Wayne Rooney and David Beckham wear boots designed for power, and aren’t part of the lightweight ranges!

However, Professor Barrett goes on to say that, “When they kick through, the lighter the foot is, the easier it is to move it. But the players have no protection. Put simply, lightweight boots equals metatarsal injuries.”

“Local league players should avoid the lightweight football boots because usually they are working men and having to deal with a broken foot is the last thing they need in life. We don’t all drive Ferraris, we drive cars we know will start in the morning, get us to work and be cheaper to run.”

Which is an interesting series of statements, as Prof. Barrett seems to endorse the ease of movement of the foot, which is understandable – if your foot were locked in place inside a football boot, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that trying to play a game which involves very complex and strenuous movements of the foot, would cause a completely different set of problems to a metatarsal injury – but condemns the lack of protection.

Obviously, if you’re wearing a football boot with a single layer above the bones in your feet, such as the Puma v1.08 or the adidas f50 adiZero – if someone goes studs-in on you’re less protected than if you were wearing the Concave PT+, but what about boots like the adidas Predator_X or the Nike CTR360 Maestri?

Whilst not paper thin speed boots, it something like the SG studs on the Mercurial Vapor VI come flying into you, you’re still going to feel it!


Backing this up further, we looked back at a few players who had scrapes with the dreaded metatarsal injury in World Cup years – and closer inspection makes for some pretty interesting reading:

Danny Murphy – adidas Predator (Mania)
David Beckham – adidas Predator (Mania)
Gary Neville – adidas Predator (Mania)
Steven Gerrard – adidas Predator (Pulse)
Scott Parker – Joma Imperial
Michael Owen – Umbro X-Boot
Wayne Rooney – Nike Total 90 Laser
Ashley Cole – Nike CTR360 Maestri

So looking down this list – we can see that from this small (yet related) group of top-flight players, none of them were wearing what we would class as speed boots – all of them are either great all around boots: such as the Joma, X-Boot or Nike CTR360, or are power football boots with little to no focus on weight: see the Predator and Total 90 Laser.

In fact, many medical journals recognise that there are 3 common causes for a metatarsal injury: direct trauma, overuse and excessive rotation – with direct trauma being the least common of these causes.

A 2007 study by Dr. Robin M. Queen et al at Duke University, performed a series of tests with stress and pressure monitoring equipment in the shoes of the Duke University basketball team.

They concluded that maximum amounts of pressure were exerted on the players foot-bones during tasks that involved fast changes of direction and landing from jumping, with tasks such as shuttle runs and cross-body movements also causing notable (but not maximum) increases in pressure on the metatarsal. Many of these movements will sound familiar, as we do all of this on the pitch all the time; either at training or in a match!

Whilst it would be foolish to try and argue that all football boots are the same when it comes to foot protection – what this goes to show is that no matter what football boots you are wearing, if you’re pushing yourself to your limits on the pitch you are at risk of a metatarsal stress fracture.

So, be sensible out there – whether you’re in Mercurial Vapor Superfly II‘s or Adidas Copa Mundial‘s, warm up properly, stay well hydrated, wear the right sole football boots for the job, try out anything new on the training pitch where you’re under less stress, and stay loose during half time: many physios note that most of the injuries they treat are sustained after half time, when players have accidentally let themselves cool off in the break!

Receive exclusive content and the latest football boot news. Just click onto Facebook or Twitter.com/Footy_Boots to join the leading community for footballers who care for what they wear!


Written By
More from Kyle Elliot

RYAL EUROPA – FOOTBALL BOOTS REVIEW

Does Ryal's classic-looking Europa teach lightweight whippersnappers a thing or two? Find...
Read More

25 Comments

  • I think it’s a bit obvious that the lighter the boot is, the least protection you have.
    I’m sure in the next couple of years we’ll see a synthetic top layer that’s stronger than the standard leather and around the same weight thats available today.

  • The Superfly II have a small pad on the bottom of the tongue which seems to possibly be there for extra protection and/or comfort.

  • all of the players mentioned are from EPL.. i think its kinda inaccurate to say that all of the broken metatarsal injuries are not from speed boot either.. for all we know, there are more cases of injured foot from players using speed boots from all over the world and leagues..

    its a question of how Prof David Barrett conducted his methodology. i tried looking for his research paper but couldnt find it and thus we will never really know.. if he really did a very large survey and find a trend regarding speed boots being the culprit, then yeah, its hard to argue that using just players from EPL.

    but i do admit: companies are trying to give users wearing speed boot that “bare feet” playing feel and well playing barefoot vs guys with boots is something you cant compete concerning “protection”. but the point of why the metatarsal breaks in the first place is valid too. 🙂

  • Great article, speed boots really are a hot topic. Thing is they might have their research about basketball but most breaks of any kind in football have got to be related to direct trauma. Sometimes in football you get injuries from nothing like pulling your hamstring in the warm up, or twisting your ankle while turning with the ball but you rarely get a break from anything other than direct trauma e.g. you dont often hear someone say he broke his metatarsal after jumping for the ball. Further to that I would also say in football you are more likely to get a break from the impact of studs rather than anything else. So what I am saying is I dont think it matters what boot you are wearing, if someone catches you in a bad way with their studs on your foot or anywhere else for that matter its going to cause damage.

  • Awesome comment fido – really well thought out, and it’s great to see you went looking for the research paper – that’s going the extra mile my friend!

    Yes, you’re absolutely right – it’s definitely incorrect to say that speed boots are completely innocent, for example, our group of players is just English players who were injured in World Cup Years, there’s probably a huge number of players that have experienced the dreaded metatarsal in a pair of Vapors.

    It was more a case of, if the good Prof was going to use Rooney and Beckham as his example, it was only fair to use similar players for ours.

    But once again – great comment!

  • overuse; this one i have to agree. of course our heart wanted to play football forever, but our legs won’t be able to keep up. it’s like trying to race on an overheating car: u’ll get blown engine.

    excessive rotation; again, i agree. pretty much like the second argument above. it’s like trying to do a fighter jet maneuver with a chesna: it won’t be able to keep up.

    but direct trauma?? c’mon, that is crap…
    i once wearing a super-though mountain boots while one of my teammate goofing around, stepping on my feet with his adidas predator. guess what? it still hurts!
    what protection could we actually expect when a guy as big as John Terry or Rio Ferdinand flying at ya, full speed, studs first, dedicated to stop ya??

    let’s just face it: football boots are not meant to protect us from direct trauma as mentioned.
    they’re light, so we could run away from the defenders challenges.
    they’re accurate, so we could pass the ball before the defenses ambush.
    they’re deadly, so we could finish from afar.

    football will always be ruthless, it’s a men sport.
    big companies will always come up with new invention.

    hate the game, not the players i guess…

  • All the players they named were players who wear power and control boots, not speed boots. which kind of contridicts the argument.

  • @Dan3HitU… there is already such a material..its called KANGALITE and its used on the CTR360 Maestri and the Tiempo Legend Elite WC

  • surely it has something to do with the type of studs making contact with the foot.
    for example sg studs will have more pressure and weight going into the metatarsal than fg studs which spreads the pressure and weight over the area

  • i fully agree with this article, me speaking from experience i could not wear my f50.8’s n i dont think il be able to wear any f50 again, becuase, of me i damaged both ligaments in both ankles, badly tearing one and seperating one, one from football one from diffirent situations

    thank goodness my boot of choice now is the adidas predator, it provides more protection but i still damage my ankles, me, iv been told to take up physio therapy for ma ankles, becuase after every match they swell up, manufacturers should make boots to mend or help these sorts of problems, some makes there are, under armour football boots, but these are expensive n these boots might not suit some players

    adidas, nike, puma, start making under armour or more layered football boots!!

  • thanks kyle! i appreciate the compliment =) i have my fair share of research work as part of my academic so yeah =p

    yeah channo has a point. unless we’re talking about safety steel toed boots.. hahaha. i personally had my big toenails from both legs dropping off twice within a period of 1.5 years due to studs trauma and i realize its my style of play of going for the ball straight on.. so yeah now a day, im more careful =)

    or if people start adopting to playing on artificial turf and wears turf studs shoes! there isnt a need to wear those FG studs or worst still, those metal SG studs.

  • Honestly, I don’t think the lightness of an upper has much to do with the problem. Personally, I have to wear so-called ‘speed boots’, because the heavier, more padded boots tend to constrict the natural movement of my foot, putting extra pressure on the metatarsals specifically. In general, shoes are terrible for feet in any condition, but the ‘power boots’ are typically more constrictive, and don’t move anything like naturally with the foot.

  • light is important to enjoy your play. but light also means that the shoe does not gain weight during the game while raining. A lot of shoes out there are light before but not after the match. That is criticial. Furthermore the mentioned insole board is not stable enough to support the foot in any movement especially not when you get hit by another stud. In the last years I have seen too many metartarsal breaks and now is the time to bring out a shoe that is stable, not too heavy. Is there any boot yet that I have missed?

  • The only boots I can think of that specifically provide foot protection (from outside forces) are the v-Konstrukt series and the UA Dominate which has a “Metatarsal Protection Zone” which is also designed to increase shot power however

  • `One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned until KK started along that line here, is that how important is it for a boot that flexes with your foot?

    I injured my metatarsal from landing sideways on a defender’s foot (excessive rotation) and was wearing a so-called “protection” boot. I wonder if I was wearing a boot without extra structure in the sole if I would have sprained my ankle instead of catching my studs sideways.

    I would like to see some research about the resistance to a natural movement of the foot. I am starting to lean towards the camp that too much stiffness in the sole is the bigger factor in metatarsal injuries. All the boots mentioned in the short list of EPL players with the dreaded breaks were wearing shoes with extra lasting boards/spinal support structures in the sole of boot.

    When is the last time you remember a pro player breaking a metatarsal in a pair of Copa Mundials? Not often. The Vapors provide a limited case study in this thought, as their outsole allows for a great deal of natural flex of the foot, but the amount of injuries to players wear that boot has not been statistically significant.

    I think only a very small amount of stress breaks are from direct contact in soccer. Looking to basketball players can help prove this point, its the twisting and turning that is likely the greatest cause of the injury.

  • it seems to me everyone wearing the speed boots (vapors, v1s etc) were quick enough to avoid metatarsal injuries while the poor guys wearing the heavy power boots with all that heavy plastic (laser) or rubberized whatever (predators) were injured. wouldnt the plastic or rubber have made the boot more protective?

    it seems to me that the evil looking soft ground studs that are so popular (particularly in england) might be to blame (read eaun’s post he said it as good as anyone can).

    so maybe we should go back and figure out what boots were being worn by the guy who caused the injury?

  • ……have we all forgotten that soccer/football is a rough sport? we can’t be scared to go into a tackle! we can’t be afraid to get hurt, it’s a part of the game! remember: Blood, Sweat and tears, what a footballer is made off! (nike) Of course it is boring if you get tackled and can’t play in the rest off the season, but.. it’s a part off the game, and we know it! 😉

  • i think it’s already been said, but i’ll say it again anyway…

    i think that a direct blow that would break the metatarsel would not be stopped by a pair of copas over say a pair of adi zeros.

    while superfically thinner boots will probably be worse when stepped on i think the power that would cause that trauma wouldnt be changed by what is essentially a mm or so.

    the only popular boots i can think of that may offer protection in this situation would be the laser 2s

    has anyone als just thought maybe metatarsels and other injuries have increased over time is due to the increasingly more athletic and physical nature of the game?

    anyway, im not giving up my vapors over this new research. they fit great and feel great. i dont feel unprotected in them at all.

  • well i am not sure, just recently i saw guillermo franco of mexico injure his foot with mexico vs. england in wembley stadium. (he was wearing the f50 adizero’s)

  • There is a new product on the market called Metasox (www.metasox.com). They have a specially designed impact pad integrated into a sock around the dorsal area. It provides protection all the way from the first to the fifth metatarsal and they have proven to prevent the now well know metatarsal injury. It seems like a great idea!

    Doesn’t matter what boot you wear the sock will work in synergy with your chosen boot to give you that added protection. You can then allow the boot to focus on its primary function whether that be, speed, accuracy or power…..Rather than buy a boot that tries to provide the solutions for everything and does none of them well…..

  • i think that a boot with a stiff frame is more likely to contribute to injury than a boot with a more flexible frame.
    it seems quit obvious in fact.

    the trauma of impact or torsion or what have you is transferred to the more flexible internal part, or the foot, if your boot is extremely stiff.

    alternatively, a more flexible boot would seem to absorb the shock of whatever it encounters, lessening the impact on the foot.

    i compare it to an automobile; for instance, when impacted, the frame of and old stiff steel bodied car sent the impact to the driver. now cars are made to bend more, so to speak.

    this would seem to mirror the football boot situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *