Football Overshoes (Soccer Cleats) A brief history

King Henry VIII’s football boots were listed within the Great Wardrobe of 1526, a shopping set of the day. These were made by his personal shoemaker Cornelius Johnson in 1525, at a high price of 4 shillings, the equivalent of £100 in today’s money. Little is known about them, as there’s no surviving example, however the royal football boots are known to have been made from strong leather, ankle high and heavier compared to normal shoe of the day.

Football Boots – The 1800’s

Moving forward 300 years saw football developing and gaining popularity throughout Britain, but nonetheless remaining as an unstructured and informal pastime, with teams representing local factories and villages in a burgeoning industrial nation. Players would wear their hard, leather work boots, which were long laced and steel toe-capped as the very first football boots. These football boots would also have metal studs or tacks hammered into them to increase ground grip and stability.

As laws become built-into the overall game in the late 1800’s, so saw the very first shift in football boots to a slipper (or soccus) style shoe, with players of exactly the same team starting to wear exactly the same boots for the very first time. Laws also allowed for studs, which needed to be rounded. These leather studs, also called cleats, were hammered into early football boots, which for the very first time moved from the earlier favoured work boots. These football boots weighed 500g and were made from thick, hard leather rising the ankle for increased protection. The football boots would double in weight when wet and had six studs in the sole. The football boot had arrived…

Football Boots – The 1900’s to 1940’s

Football boot styles remained relatively constant throughout the 1900’s as much as the end of the next world war. The absolute most significant events in the football boot world in the very first part of the twentieth century were the forming of several football boot producers who are still making football boots today, including Gola (1905), Valsport (1920) and Danish football boot maker Hummel (1923).

Over in Germany, Dassler brothers Adolf and Rudolf formed the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) in Herzogenaurach in 1924 and began producing football boots in 1925 which had 6 or 7 replaceable, nailed studs, which may be changed based on the weather conditions of play.

Football Boots – The 1940’s to 1960’s

Football boot styles shifted significantly after the end of the next world war, as air travel became cheaper and more international fixtures were played. This saw the lighter, more flexible football boot being worn by the South Americans being thrust onto the world stage, and their ball skills and technical ability amazed all those that watched them. Football boot production shifted to making a lighter football boot with the focus on kicking and controlling the ball rather than producing a piece of protective footwear.

1948 saw the forming of the Adidas company by Adolf (Adi) Dassler following a falling out in clumps together with his brother that has been to make the cornerstone of football boot maker rivalry for the preceding years as much as today. Brother Rudolf founded the beginnings of the Puma company in 1948, quickly producing the Puma Atom football boot. This led to interchangeable screw in studs made from plastic or rubber for the very first time, reputedly by Puma in early 1950’s however the honour can be claimed by Adidas (Read the Story on Footy-Boots). Football boots of the time were still on the ankle, but were now being made from an assortment of synthetic materials and leather, producing and even lighter shoe for the players of your day to show their skills with.

Football Boots – The 1960’s

The technological developments of the sixties bought a momentous step-change in design which saw the lower cut design introduced for the very first time in football history. This change allowed players to maneuver faster and saw the kind of Pele wearing Puma football boots in the 1962 World Cup Finals. Adidas, though, quickly emerged as industry leader, a position it claims until today’s day. In the World Cup Finals of 1966, an astonishing 75% of players wore the Adidas football boot.

The seventies began with the iconic 1970 World Cup Finals which saw a sublime Brazilian team lift the trophy with Pele again at the helm, this time around wearing the Puma King football boot. The decade itself is going to be remembered for the manner in which football boot sponsorship shot to popularity, where players were being paid to wear only 1 brand. When it comes to design and style, technological advancements produced lighter boots, and a variety of colours, including for the very first time, the all-white football boot.

In 1979, Adidas produced the world’s best selling football boot the Copa Mundial, built of kangaroo leather and built for speed and versatility. Although Adidas remained dominant, many football boot makers joined the fray including Italian football boot maker Diadora (1977).

Football Boots – The 1980’s

The maximum development of recent times in the design and technology of football boots was developed in the eighties by former player Craig Johnston, who created the Predator football boot, which was eventually released by Adidas in the 1990’s. Johnston designed the Predator to provide greater traction between football boot and the ball, and football boot and the ground. T he style allowed for greater surface areas in the future into connection with the ball when being hit by the football boot, with a series of power and swerve zones within the striking area allowing the gamer to generate greater power and swerve when hitting the “sweet spots” ;.The eighties also saw football boots for the very first time being made by English company Umbro (1985), Italy’s Lotto and Spain’s Kelme (1982).

Football Boots – 1990’s

1994 saw Adidas release the Craig Johnston designed Predator with its revolutionary design, styling and technology rendering it an immediate and lasting success. The Predator by now featured polymer extrusion technologies and materials allowing for a far more flexible sole as well as the traditional studs being replaced with a bladed design covering the only, giving a far more stable base for the player. In 1995 Adidas released their bladed outsole traxion technology which are tapered shaped blades. Puma hit in 1996 with a foam-free midsole football boot, called Puma Cell Technology, to which Adidas responded again, this time around with wedge shaped studs in exactly the same year. The nineties saw new football boot producers Mizuno release their Mizuno Wave in 1997. Other new football boots came from Reebok (1992) and Uhlsport (1993) with others also joining the rising, lucrative and competitive market place. Most significantly the nineties saw the entry of Nike, the world’s biggest sportswear producer, immediately making a direct effect with its Nike Mercurial soccer boot (1998), weighing in at only 200g.

Football Boots – 2000+

As technology advanced still further, the application of the new research and developments were observed in the years into the new millennium right as much as today’s day and it has led to a reinforcement of industry positions of the big three football boot makers and sellers, Puma, Nike and Adidas (incorporating Reebok since 2006). Fortunately, there still remains room on the market place for small producer that will not have the big money endorsement contracts at its disposal, such as Mizuno, Diadora, Lotto, Hummel and Nomis.

Recent developments since 2000 have observed the Nomis Wet control technology making a sticky boot (2002), the Craig Johnston Pig Boot (2003), shark technology by Kelme (2006) and the exceptional design of the Lotto Zhero Gravity laceless football boots (2006) which underpin the successes why these smaller makers can achieve by producing specialised and technologically advanced football boots that offer a definite differentiation from the mass produced products of the big three. Laser technology in addition has helped to produce the world’s first fully customised football by Prior 2 Lever, that will be probably the most exciting and innovative of the recent developments.

While the debate rages with regards having less protection distributed by modern football boots, and the repercussion when it comes to player injuries, there seems little to claim that the major manufacturers are getting to quit their search for the lightest football boot for a far more protective one. The proliferation of big money sponsorship deals, namely Nike Ronaldinho, Adidas with David Beckham and Reebok with Thierry Henry, has turned into a huge factor that drives the success and sales of a football boot maker, but is viewed as at a high price of injury and stagnation in football boot research and development. All we are able to predict for future years is integration with sensor technology, lighter and more powerful football boots and more outlandish designs and styles.

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