Football boots. We all wear them; we all have an opinion on them. But do you ever stop and think about the business of boots?
Here in Elverys we sell thousands of boots every year from the biggest brands in the world. Each year those brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma, launch new technology, new styles, new designs. We get a first-hand look at the advances in football boot technology at every step and we have been there over the last twenty years as football boots have changed almost beyond all recognition.
The heavy brown leather boots of the first half of the century slowly gave way to the now “traditional” black leather studded boot in later half of the 20th century. Black was the only colour in town with just the manufacturers’ logo – Diadora, Mizuno, Hi-Tec, Lotto, Adidas, Puma etc– embellishing the boot. Sturdiness was key, comfort was somewhat important and little thought otherwise was give to football boots.
NIKE ENTERS THE GAME
One of the most dramatic interventions in the football market occurred in 1994 when, on the back of the World Cup in the USA, Nike entered the market. The aim was to become the biggest sporting brand in the world and they knew that to achieve that they must become a force in the world’s favourite game. It was to be a game changer for football.
As Nike began to become a big player in the world of football, in the mid 1990’s one of the greatest innovations in the history of the boot was introduced by Adidas and former Liverpool midfielder Craig Johnston – the Predator boot.
Now one of the most iconic and beloved pieces of equipment in the world of sport, at the time it was dismissed by some as a gimmick. Adidas took a chance on the revolutionary style with its added grip for extra control of the football – a milestone moment in boot technology.
The evolution of the boot came from top to bottom too and the old six stud and old school mouldies were joined by blades in the late 1990’s. While the blades received some bad press for injuries shortly after their introduction now it seems as if a mixture of the styles has become the norm.
Another important step in the evolution of the football boot has been the influence of star players on the market. More than ever, superstars of the game are courted by the biggest brands and these players in turn become drivers of the brand. The effect of a “hero” player – Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Aguero etc – wearing a certain pair of boots has a massive impact on sales. This practise really took off around the late 90’s with David Beckham signing with Adidas Predator Accelerator and the Brazilian Ronaldo wearing the iconic Mercurial R9.
At that stage boots were introduced in a two year cycle, around major tournaments. Now however releases come on a quarterly basis, new designs or colourways hitting the stores every three to four months as the technological innovations speed up.
What you may not know is that when a player is signed to a brand he generally has little say in what boots they must wear on the pitch. The colour worn by the player is in the main chosen by the brand – so remember that the next time you bemoan the lack of black boots in the modern game!
The question remains – where next for the formerly humble football boot? Custom fits could be the next big move for boots while the Nike Magista Sock and Adidas Primeknit offer stunning comfort like never before. Other brands are following suit and are diversifying to create innovative designs and styles for different areas of the pitch, from goalkeeper to striker. The sole plate – the bottom of the boot – is likely to evolve to become lighter too, almost becoming similar in many ways to a runners spikes, offering increased flexibility without compromising the integrity of the boot.
Certainly we’ve come a long way from the boots of yesteryear and we look forward to being a part of the future of boots wherever they head next.