We’ve all experienced it at one time or another – the day your boots finally give in. Most typical location for many of us is located at the toe where the last has come away from the sole plate. Manufacturers work to provide a reliable product for their athletes – that is all of us who have ever laced up a pair, at the same time seeking mays to make them lighter than previous generations. Once upon a time, boots could last seasons – that is very rarely the case these days. In order to achieve the maximum performance a small percentage of longevity is inevitably sacrificed. From grassroots to the highest level; we’re training more frequently, running harder, faster, longer and kicking more, all of which is combined with the fact that training on synthetic fields has grown more and more common. All of what is listed here does take its toll on our footwear, though it is not the biggest killer of our boots durability.
“These are too tight – I don’t find them comfortable.” These are typical statements I hear when accompanying friends to try on boots whether it’s at Rebel or Sportsmart etc. People seem to forget that they are buying football boots – not moccasins. They’re not made to be comfortable, they’re designed to lock your foot down securely so you can turn quick, jump high, run fast for 90 minutes – not to wearing, standing around on your feet all day. They cannot possibly perform all the duties listed unless they are super-fitted.
It was once reported that Rafael Nadal would wear shoes 2 sizes too small for him in order to “feel quick and locked down” on the court. This was a hoax and is not the case by any means (and yes, Rafa is a tennis player not a footballer but the biomechanics in his movements are fundamentally similar). But it is worth noting that he does in fact wear smaller athletic tennis shoes compared to his casual footwear. For the record Nadal has been quoted in interviews stating that he would wear a 10.5US day-to-day but on court, he would wear a tailored pair that is the equivalent length of a 10US.
For the better part of the last decade, I’ve been a size 10US for every pair football boots I’ve worn since Under 16s, give or take. Others are always quick to point out that sizing can be different from brand to brand. While this is true, but only in the sense that it depends on where that specific unit was manufactured and what sizing scale is used in that part of the world before its conversions are presented on a table located on the side of the box. For example; you can look at a 10US on a PUMA box, it will state that its equivalent is a EURO 43, whereas on a NIKE box, 10US is a EURO 44. All that has never really concerned me – my foot is a size 10US and its only conversion to me that is relevant is that it is equivalent to 28cm. Sizing is a relevant term but length is definitive.
“I go up a half size in this style” is another false belief. No one’s foot dynamically changes in length – you can’t be 28cm one day and 28.5cm the next. What is happening here is that someone is trying to fit into a boot they’re not suited to – typically because it may run narrow. I’d say my foot is on the broader side, if I were to buy a pair of NIKE Mercurial Vapors, I would still buy a 10US and tolerate the lack of width until I’ve worn them in because that is how they are supposed to fit. If after a few weeks of wearing and they are still causing me issues, it would suggest that I’m not suited to that style and should pick something that fits me better by not letting marketing decide for me.
For the record I own a pair of Vapors, amongst other styles – all of which are size 10. In the event I had of gone with a 10.5US in the Vapor; what would have been the end result. My foot is fitted to boots that are 28cm long (confirmed by every other pair I own), but I’d be wearing a pair that is 28.5cm in length – half a centimeter too long. The difference would seem negligible in store and perhaps feel “more comfortable” out of the box, but what happens when you strike the ball is the issue. Your foot acts more or less like a pendulum – your foot reaches its lowest height and the midpoint of your swing with your toe ever so slightly making contact with the turf before reaching the ball – this is with correctly fitting boots. If the boots were longer than your foot, your body will still swing your leg in an identical manner though more of the boot will catch on the ground. Evidence of this can be seen where the upper meets the sole where soil is caught and wedged in a little cavity that grows over time before – split**.
In short, reality is your boots need to be bought fitted. If they’re a little tight at first, the expression goes, “have a shot of concrete” – grind it out 90 minutes at a time to wear them in, don’t buy them too big if you want them to last.