The Great Wardrobe of 1526 was a list of King Henry VIII’s football boots. It was a shopping list at the time. Cornelius Johnson, his shoemaker, made them in 1525 for 4 shillings. This is equivalent to PS100 today. They are not known much as there is no example. However, it is known that the royal football boots were made of thick leather and were heavier than normal shoes of the time.
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Football boots in 18th century
Forty-three years later, football was gaining popularity in Britain. However, it remained an informal and unstructured pastime. Teams represented local villages and factories in a growing industrial nation. The first football boots were made of leather and had a long lace and a steel toe cap. To increase stability and ground grip, these football boots would have metal studs or taps.
In the late 1800’s, laws were integrated into football. This led to the first change in football boots to a slipper shoe (or soccus), and players from the same team began to wear the same shoes for the first times. The law also permitted studs to be rounded. These leather studs were also called cleats and were hammered into early football boots. This marked a departure from earlier favourites work boots. The 500g weight of these football boots was due to thick, hard leather that extended up to the ankle for protection. The football boots would double their weight when they were wet, and six studs were placed in the sole.
Football During both World Wars
The styles of football boots remained fairly constant from the 1900’s to the end. In the first half of the 20th century, the most important events in the world of football boots were the founding of many football boot manufacturers. These include Gola (1905), Valsport ( 1920), and Hummel (1923).
In Germany, the Dassler brothers Adolf und Rudolf founded the Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik in Herzogenaurach, Germany in 1924. They began making football boots in 1925 with 6 to 7 replaceable, nailed-studs that could be modified according to the weather.
The 1940’s to the 1960’s
As air travel became more affordable and more international fixtures were played, the styles of football boots changed significantly. The South Americans were able to wear a lighter and more flexible football boot, which was a huge step forward in the game. Their ball skills and technical abilities amazed everyone who saw them. The focus of football boot production was on producing lighter boots that could be used to kick and control the ball, rather than just producing protective footwear.
Adolf (Adi Dassler) Dassler founded the Adidas company in 1948 after a dispute with his brother. This was to be the foundation of rivalry between football boot makers for the years that followed. The Puma Atom football boots were quickly produced by Brother Rudolf, who founded the company in 1948. The first interchangeable screw-in studs made from rubber or plastic were created. This was credited to Puma in the 1950’s, but Adidas claims the honor. (Read the Story about Footy-Boots). The original football boots were worn over the ankle. However, they were being replaced by a combination of synthetic materials and leather to make lighter shoes for players.
Football boots – The 1960’s
A significant step-change was made in design with the introduction of the lowest cut football boots in football history by technological advances in the sixties. The lower cut design allowed players to move more quickly and Pele wore Puma boots during the 1962 World Cup Finals. Adidas quickly rose to the top of the market, and it continues to hold that position until today. The Adidas football boot was worn by 75% of the players at the 1966 World Cup Finals.
In 1960, several other boot manufacturers joined the market with their own styles and brands. These included Joma (1965), Mitre (1960), and Asics (1964).
Football boots – The 1970’s
The 1970 World Cup Finals was the beginning of the seventies. A brilliant Brazilian team lifted the trophy, with Pele back at the helm. This time Puma King’s football boot was on display. It will be remembered for how football boot sponsorship exploded. Players were only allowed to wear one brand. Technological advancements led to lighter boots and more colors, including the all-white football boot for the first time.
Adidas created the Copa Mundial, a football boot made of kangaroo and designed for speed and versatility. Adidas was the dominant brand, but other boot manufacturers joined the fray, including Diadora (1977), an Italian football boot manufacturer.
Football in 1980
Craig Johnston, a former football player, created the Predator football boots in the eighties. Adidas released them in the 1990’s. Johnston created the Predator to increase traction between the football boot and ball and the ground. The Predator’s design allowed for more surface area to contact the ball when it was hit by the football boots. There were also a series power and swerve zones in the striking area that allow the player to generate greater power and swerve when hitting “sweet spots.” In the eighties, football boots were also made for the first times by Umbro (1985), Lotto (1982) and Kelme (1982).
The adidas Predator, designed by Craig Johnston, was released in 1994. Its revolutionary design, styling and tech made it a lasting success. The Predator now features polymer extrusion technology and materials. This allows for a more flexible sole. Additionally, the traditional studs are being replaced with a bladed design that covers the sole. This provides a stable platform for the player. Adidas’ bladed outsole technology was released in 1995. These blades are tapered-shaped. Puma responded in 1996 with their foam-free midsole football boots, the Puma Cell Technology. Adidas then responded with wedge-shaped studs. New football boot manufacturer Mizuno released their Mizuno Wave in 1997. Reebok (1992), Uhlsport (1993), and other companies joined the growing, competitive and lucrative market. The most significant event of the nineties was the arrival of Nike, the largest sportswear manufacturer in the world. Its Nike Mercurial soccer boots (1998) weighed just 200g and made a huge impact.
Football boots after 2000
Technology has advanced further and the applications of new research and development were evident in the years to the new millennium. This has resulted in a strengthening of the market positions for the big three football boot sellers and makers, Puma and Nike (which now includes Reebok since 2006). There is still room for smaller producers that don’t have big endorsement deals, like Mizuno and Diadora, Lotto or Hummel.
The Nomis Wet Control technology has produced a sticky boot (2002), the Craig Johnston Pig Boot (2003), and shark technology by Kelme (2006). These developments are all part of the success of smaller manufacturers by creating specialised, technologically advanced football boots that stand out from the mass-produced products of the big three. Prior 2 Lever’s world-first fully customized football was also made possible by laser technology. This is one of the most innovative and exciting developments in recent times.
Adidas’ F50, Tunit, and Predator are current favourites; Nike’s Mercurial Valor III, Air Zoom Total 90s, Tiempo Ronaldinho and Reebok Pro Rage are also favorites.
The Future of game
The debate continues about the lack of protection provided by modern football boots and its impact on player injuries. There is little to suggest that major manufacturers will stop trying to make lighter football boots in order to be more protected. Although the growth of major sponsorship deals with football boot makers, such as Adidas with David Beckham, Nike Ronaldinho and Reebok, is a significant factor in their success, it can also be a hindrance to research and development.