The football boot… a commodity that has seen dramatic changes over the years and is in constant state of development in the modern game. From metatarsal protection to studs versus blades and the myriad of other “technical innovations” incorporated by manufacturers over the years, the variation in the football boot market is astounding.
I have worn numerous pairs of football boots in my time, but at the start of this season I had trouble finding a pair that I really liked. When I walked into the first shop, which happened to be the latest incarnation of JJB Sports one Saturday morning in August 2012, I took one look at the shelf of football boots before me and let out a big sigh. The shelf I was confronted with was a complete rainbow of colours, materials and styles, which may drop the jaws of all the young kids who are just starting their football careers, but not me.
In my eyes, there is nothing less appealing than a pair of bright pink/purple Nike Mercurial Vapors. Emblazoned with an instantly recognizable, but at the same time truly disgusting, fluorescent green Nike tick down the side, and at the lofty price of £144.99 for the top of the range option, I found myself asking the question “Who would pay that sort of money to look so utterly horrendous?!”
Then I immediately realised what the answer to that question was. Essentially it will be the Mums and Dads of those kids who are just beginning their careers in the game, those kids who want to look like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. The marketing implications are plainly obvious if not a complete attempt by the manufacturers to brainwash the consumer, “These boots will make you play like your hero.” However, the marketing and corporate side of football merchandise is a separate debate best saved for another day.
My main pet peeve with the modern day football boot is simple, the aesthetics. Call me old school or outdated, but I prefer a simple, black boot with laces down the middle and studs on the bottom. None of this over-elaborate colouring, side lacing, control, technique and/or shot improving additions passed off as “technical innovations” appeal to me in any way.
One of the only times I have ever worn a pair of; for want of a better term, flamboyant boots was back in the 2004/2005 season. I pestered my Dad into buying me a pair of the £100 plus, blue Adidas Predators which were worn and promoted by Frank Lampard at the time. The only reason I asked for these was for the simple fact I wanted to be able to play like the Chelsea and England man. Looking back now, I feel horrendously guilty to the point where I almost want to reimburse my Dad the money he shelled out on those boots. They lasted about 7 months before they began to deteriorate and the first thing to go was the attachment of the boot itself to the sole. As grass and mud got stuck in the cavity it became progressively worse until the sole was no longer attached at all. And thus, a pair of boots that cost over £100 were tossed away after just one season and I have never bought a pair of Predators since.
The other pair of exuberant boots I can remember wearing in my teenage years were the Nike Air Zoom Total 90 II’s from around the 2003/2004 season. I had the Grey versions so they weren’t overly extravagant but on reflection these boots were relatively flashy at the time. However, they were comfortable to wear, I enjoyed playing in them and they lasted me a whole season until, rather than fall to pieces, I grew out of them. But as the times changed and the Total 90 evolved, I began to dislike the new look of the boot completely and once again, I never bought another pair.
After the demise of my Predators in 2006 I decided that I would stay away from overly expensive boots and my list of purchases since has been about as simple and reliable as it gets. The Adidas World Cup and Puma King have been my footwear of choice with a pair of Nike Tiempo’s thrown in for good measure. However, the Tiempo’s also went to an early grave as well after a fateful pre-season game on a sundried pitch.
To return to my dilemma, it took me several visits to various sports shops before I finally decided on a pair of boots which I liked and felt comfortable in. In the end I settled for a pair of Adidas AdiNova’s in Black with white stripes and a little bit of green in the mix. I have previously bought the firm ground AdiNova’s (“Mouldies” to all the footballers reading this) for 5-a-side games on 3rd Generation Astroturf and they have never let me down, so I was not completely new to these particular boots. At the time of purchase they cost me a meagre £34.99 and for that price I have been very happy so far. After 8 months of use they have yet to fall apart or show any signs of major wear and tear for that matter. Essentially, these boots are just the poor man’s version of Adidas’ AdiPure line but at half the price. Despite the price inferiority they look very similar and no doubt perform just the same.
The AdiNova’s have now been added to my list of simple, trust worthy football boots which includes:
- The Adidas World Cup.
- The Puma King.
- The Adidas Copa Mundial.
- The Adidas AdiNova.
There are a few other options that I would like to try such as the blacked out Adidas AdiPure, Mizuno Sonic Club or the Cruyff Hattrick, all of which appeal to my taste for classics and simplicity. I would also not discount another pair of Predators even if they are overpriced, but only the original colours of black, red and white.
Having said all that, the range of obscure football boots on sale still makes me wince and simply browsing the Pro Direct Soccer website is enough to make me feel a little nauseous. All combinations of colours and styles seem to be accommodated for, ranging from Nike Vapours to Adidas F50’s and everything in-between. I may just be very cynical when it comes to football boots and admittedly I have not worn the majority of those which grace my imaginary hate list to make a truly sound judgement on their overall quality and performance. I suppose it’s a sort of boot prejudice for me, born out of lifetime of football as a defender. The entire debate around boots comes down to individual opinion but personally; I would like to see more options for what I would term, the “normal” football boot for the classic player.
By Jamie Allen