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The Evolution of Football Boots


Although boots are an essential piece of equipment for any footballer, their design and composition has changed over the many years that the game has been played. In part, this is due to outside factors. Innovations in design and manufacturing have enabled them to be made of lighter, composite materials. And, as balls have become lighter, and changes made to the rules on tough tackling, there is no longer the same need for protection of the foot and ankle region as there once was, meaning that comfort is now the main pre-requisite for many players.

There is also the concept of branding. Football boots are often regarded as a fashion accessory, and leading manufacturers will pay a top player considerable sums of money to wear their boots.

To borrow from another sport, former basketball player Michael Jordan has become a billionaire from the footwear to which he has lent his name.

Early history

The earliest recorded football boots belonged to the English king, Henry VIII, and date from the 1520s. When football, having been banned for several centuries, became popular in England again during the 1800s, people (mainly men at that time) would often play in work boots.

Later in the century, as the sport became organised, special footwear began to be adopted, but, until 1891, boots were not allowed to have anything protruding from them, and it was only after that date that studs were allowed.

Boots at this time tended to be made of leather, and were heavy, especially after absorbing rain when it got wet.

In Southern Europe, though, where weather conditions were better, and pitches not so heavy, already there was some experimentation with lighter boots.


It would take until the 1960s before thinking began to evolve away from boots solely as a means of protection. They began to be lighter, more flexible, and the fact that they enabled users to shoot and pass more accurately gave added impetus to an increasing trend.

Players are now fitter and faster than ever, and they need boots which will help them cover the ground quickly, and change movement suddenly, not slow them down.

At the same time, boots, which had hitherto, been almost exclusively black, began to appear in different colours.

Nowadays, customisation and personalisation of boots is common, even with players in the rungs of semi-professional football. It is rare to find any modern professional player that does not have their own deal with one of the leading manufacturers like Adidas, Puma, or Nike football boots.

Nor is the boot industry resting on its laurels. It continues to experiment with ever lighter and more durable materials, whilst, in terms of shape, the current trend is for them to become narrower.

The Future

Whilst the future is difficult to predict, already there are rumours that some manufacturers have been testing models that light up when a player scores a goal or receives a red and yellow card. Elsewhere, boots that allow for the studs to be changed to allow for different conditions, pitches, and lengths of grass may also be in the works.

And, given the increasing commercialisation of the game, boots with side panels equipped with LED lights which periodically flash an advert for a major sponsor cannot be ruled out.

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