Before David Beckham picked up an injury in the Spring of 2002, no one had heard of a metatarsal. Now it is the country’s favourite injury – I think even I mentioned my metatarsal over the summer in regards to a constant pain in my foot, hey if it’s good enough for Beckham – and the blame always seems to be directed to the lightweight boots players wear.
Without doubt, football boots today are far lighter and flimsier than they were previously. All manufacturers, but in particular Adidas and Nike, constantly strive to make the lightest boot possible, thus ensuring maximum speed for their endorsees. It makes sense, the lighter a player’s foot is, the easier and quicker that player can move it. The other fact is that injuries to metatarsals are far more common than they used to be, so there must be a correlation, no?
Well there is and there isn’t. You can distinguish boots into ones that are made for pure speed, boots that are made for power, and boots that are an all-round affair, with no specialisation in either. Below is a list of some notable players who suffered metatarsal injuries, and the boots they were wearing when the injury happened:
Danny Murphy: Adidas Predator (Mania) – POWER
David Beckham: Adidas Predator (Mania) – POWER
Gary Neville: Adidas Predator (Mania) – POWER
Steven Gerrard: Adidas Predator (Pulse) – POWER
Scott Parker: Joma Imperial – ALL ROUND
Michael Owen: Umbro X-Boot – ALL ROUND
Wayne Rooney: Nike Total 90 Laser – POWER
Ashley Cole: Nike CTR360 Maestri – ALL ROUND
None of these players were wearing boots specifically designed to be as light as possible, and therefore offering the least amount of protection – Puma v1.08 and Adidas f50 adizero are good examples of such boots – and yet they still suffered metatarsal injuries.
It is however difficult to maintain that there is no truth in the belief that the boots contribute to the increase in similar breaks of those bones. While they may not be the lightest boots on the market, they are still a great deal lighter, and less protective, than boots worn ten years ago. The heaviest boots available today will probably be far lighter than the lightest boots from the mid-90s.
John O’Shea has signed up to wear Concave boots. A brand which specifically designes their footwear with the protection of their player’s in mind. At the Avid Soccer Equipment Review Awards (The Oscars concerning football kit and merchandise, if there can be such a thing) awarded the ‘best boot’ award to Concave, signalling a change in direction for the priorities of certain people involved in the game.
It all depends on how much value a player deems that they get from the lighter boot. i.e. Is being able to run and change direction slightly quicker worth the greater risk of getting injured. One could argue that if your foot is stamped on with enough force, the boot you are wearing makes very little difference anyway. None will protect a player completely, and so what difference does it truly make.
The general consensus among most people in the game is that the lighter boots do lead to more injuries, but the only people that can change the trend of boot design is the manufacturers themselves. Players simply wear the boots of whoever will pay them the most money to do so. If Adidas told David Beckham to wear their ‘brand new, scientifically engineered, safer boot’, he would do. In a flash. As would any player. Until that happens, this trend will continue, and players will take the risk.
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