Before you buy Soccer Shoes

"Before You Buy Soccer Boots"
By Dan Fryk, USSF Licensed Coach                                                                                      

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The question of which boots to buy is an excellent one because there are so many choices. The simple answer is "the one that fits the best." Don’t make the mistake many players make by going out looking for a specific brand. The brand you’re looking for may not fit your foot as well as something else. So here is what to do to get the proper boot in order to play well.

1. Select a cleat style that matches the type of surface on which you will play.

  • For most firm, dry surfaces, you will need a molded cleat.
  • For soft, wet surfaces a replaceable stud works best.
  • For very dry, hard surfaces a "turf" shoe is best.

Most players that play year-round will have 2 of the 3 depending on conditions. If you can only afford one, a molded is probably you best choice since a replaceable stud sole can be painful on firm, dry surfaces. Most shoe manufacturers now make certain model with blade-type soles rather than the traditional cleats. This is true especially in the more expensive models. While they do spread out the pressure on your foot, they also tend to restrict the proper flex of the shoe in the area of the base of your big toe, a mixed blessing.

2. When you go to the store make sure they measure your foot if they have a Brannock Device foot measuring scale.

You should take off your sock and sit down. Have the salesman measure your arch length (the distance from the back of your foot to the base of your big toe) as well as your toe length and your width, first while seated. Now stand up and repeat the measurement. Most people find their feet will get bigger when they stand. Some people will find their feet to be 1 1/2 sizes, or more, larger when the stand. This is due to something called over-pronation. I’ll come back to that later. Your ideal shoe size will be your seated arch length. If the store does not have a Brannock Device to measure your foot, you will have to rely on the trial and error method to get the proper size.

3. Now it is time to select a specific model.

Start by test flexing shoes off the display wall. Wrap one hand around the heel and firmly push on the toe with your other hand. If the shoe is the proper flex, it should have a definite flex point upward just at the base of where your big toe would be if it were in the shoe. If the shoe flexes back in the middle of the shoe first, an all-too-common problem with soccer shoes, look at a different model. The reason you don’t want a shoe that flexes in the middle is that your foot doesn’t flex there. If the shoe flexes there, it will not support your foot well and you will tire more quickly.

When you have selected 2-3 pairs with the proper flex, ask the salesman to bring you those in the size that will work for your foot size. Shoe sizes vary but the salesman will know how to match what your foot measured. For example if your width was C or narrower, you have a narrow foot and certain brands would work better for you. If your foot was D or wider, there are other brands that tend to fit wider feet better.

4. When you try the shoe on, the first thing you should look for is that there is room for your 5th toe and then lace them up and walk around a bit.

It should be able to lay flat on the sole of the shoe. Don’t let the salesman convince you that "the shoe will stretch" and make room for your toe. Though good leather shoes do stretch, they will never stretch enough to allow adequate room for your little toe and it will be forced into your 4th toe. This condition will cause you lots of problems later in life. It’s not worth it to have shoes that don’t fit well.

Next lace them up and walk around a bit. Your feet will tell you everything else you need to know. Listen to them and buy the one they like the best. Now I said I would come back to something called over-pronation. This is a condition where your foot rolls over to the inside too far. Some people call it "flat feet" although that is not a very good term. This condition is common, in varying degrees, to over 75% of people. It robs performance and leads to lot of problems later in life.

You can tell if you have a significant amount of over-pronation by looking at your arch measurements on the Brannock Device. If you arch length increased 1 size or more from your seated measurement to your standing measurement, you are definitely losing performance and may be experiencing pains like shin splints or heel pain. The best thing to do is to see a special doctor called a podiatrist to have him make a pair of orthotics for your shoes. They will support your feet and help you be a quicker, faster player. There are also several good over-the-counter devices that also work well to support your feet. The best of these is Superfeet. They cost about $30 and can be moved from shoe to shoe. Though these are not as good as what the doctor would build, they are definitely worth the investment. Allow 5-7 days for your feet to get used to this new position and you will be delighted with the response.

Well, there it is. I know this seems like a long answer to a simple question. However, shoes are the most important investment you will ever make for your body. They not only help you to play well but protect your feet for later life. Enjoy your season and your new shoes.


Reprinted with permission from Fundamental Soccer