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Rugby | Soccer | World Cup boots
July 2015

Rugby and soccer boot trends

Schools and player positions dictate trends in the season’s rugby and soccer boots, YAMKELE MKEBE found

The brighter the colour of the boots, the more likely brands’ boots are to be spotted on players’ feet. Brands, therefore, often launch their boots in brighter colourways — especially around the time of important tournaments such as the IRB Rugby World Cup. ASICS, for example, has launched metallic blue versions of their new Lethal Tight Five and Lethal Speed boots specifically for the tournament.

Schools, however, tend to have a more traditional outlook when it comes to rugby and soccer boot colours: preferring neutral colours such as black. This conundrum leaves brands with a head scratch about how to cross the divide.

There is also often a cross-over with players wearing rugby boots for soccer games, and vice versa, despite brands often developing boots for specific player positions in the sport. Boots from Mizuno’s Morelia rugby boot range are often worn for soccer games, Paul Copson of local distributor Brand ID points out.

“While Umbro’s focus has always been solely on football, our latest football boots have made such a statement that they have been spotted on South African rugby players too,” adds Tristan Karakashian of Umbro SA. “Players from the Blue Bulls (Attie Louw) and Western Province (Tshotsho Mbovane) as well as some players in the Varsity Cup have been spotted in Umbro boots.”

Suppliers tell us more about what is available in their rugby and soccer boot ranges.

Adidas

With their new X15 and ACE15 soccer boots, adidas has announced they will no longer be launching new F50, Predator, 11pro and Nitrocharge boots, but will instead focus on boots designed for two types of soccer players: the chaotic and the controlling player.

The X15 and the ACE15 were both worn for the first time during the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona that took place on the 6th of June in Berlin, Germany. Star players Mesut Özil, James Rodriguez, Oscar, Manuel Neuer and Ivan Rakitić play in the ACE15, while Thomas Muller, Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Karim Benzima and Alvaro Morata wear the X15 boot.

While working with top coaches, adidas has identified that modern soccer teams actually only need two types of players. “It’s chaos or control,” says Pep Guardiola, FC Bayern München coach. “There are players who think more about what the team needs and what is the best solution for the team. This kind of player is an intelligent player who has a vision about what the team needs. He controls.”

ACE15 is designed for control and is for players who pull the strings and set the pace. This boot is for players who bring order to a chaotic game.

With its 3D engineered material, the revolutionary Control Web means better ball control and the 3-layer compound has been combined with grippy EVA to create an unbeatable touch. The new stud configuration ensures more studs on the ball during foot-over moves, which in turn means better ball control. The 3D dots on the unique NSG (Non-Stop Grip) skin enables the player to have perfect control in all conditions.

“Then there are the ones who cause chaos,” Guardiola continues. “The ones who play on instinct and on talent. They are a little outside of the field. They can create absolutely everything and you can’t control that. You cannot limit that.”

X15 is created for chaos, for chaotic players who are the spark that IGNITEs a game. The boot is for players who defy rules and structure, who are also specialists in getting the crowd off their seats.

X15 features the Techfit Collar around the ankle offers a compression fit for better support and fit. The lightweight X-Claw base gives complete traction and the X-Cage stability frame around the midfoot area is designed to help the most dynamic and agile players in the world. The boot has a fragmented and lightweight design giving it better support. The X-Skin, a complex three layered system, delivers comfort, protection and performance in any conditions.

ASICS

ASICS’ 8 stud Lethal Tight Five rugby boot has been developed specifically for forward players and their 6 stud Lethal Speed boot for backs and wings. Both models come with removable studs that are specific to them.

The Lethal Tight Five boot, built for the modern forward player in the scrum and at the breakdown, has longer metal studs to help with grip in rucks and scrums as well as a three-density midsole to help the boot bend in strategic places, so there are always a maximum of four studs in the ground, which gives maximum ground contact and grip. “Engage with maximum force as the longer metal studs dig deep into the turf, and the foot stays locked in place with a no-nonsense heel design,” says Dawid Visser of ASICS. “The player is covered in the ruck as well, with protection and grip that helps him keep his opponents back.”

The Lethal Speed is built for speed, with a light, strong, supportive upper and four studs under the forefoot to help with traction and fast movements. “The boot is strong, too, with a tough outsole,” explains Visser. “The area under the big toe flexes, which gives the boot a more flexible forefoot and aids in faster toe-off and fast movement in various directions off the forefoot. This means the player can fly into tackles, never giving the opposition an inch when he’s on the defensive,” explains Visser. The boot offers comfort for 80 minutes with a lightweight and great-fitting upper.

ASICS’ 8 stud boots have six studs in the forefoot and two in the heel, while 6 stud boots have four in the forefoot and two in the heel.

Both these boots come with ASICS’ signature 10mm HG (Heel Gradient), which shifts the body mass forward to reduce strain on the legs and puts the wearer in the best position for running. “This helps protect the player’s achilles and puts the player in more forward options for fast reaction and sprinting,” says Visser.

The 8 stud Lethal Scrum offers stability and great cushioning for rugby players of all levels. It features a 10mm Heel Gradient and the Solyte midsole material, which reduces the shoe's weight while creating extra cushioning.

South African players such as Seabelo Senatla and Frankie Horne play with the Lethal Speed, Tendai Beast Mtawarira wears the Lethal Tight Five, and Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe wear the Lethal Scrum boot.

ASICS’ boots feature colours that should appeal to most consumers. “We have introduced some red and blues in our range for our hero models, but still have more conservative white and black models to cater for the stricter schools that want the more traditional colours,” says Visser.

Mitre

Mitre’s new soccer boot range features eye catching bright colours. “Schools, however, tend to be more conservative about the idea of going bright,” says Grant Stephen of local distributor Legacy Sport and Leisure. The largest part of their target market is the junior player and for this reason, Mitre continues to also offer the traditional black boots.

Materials in the new range are strong, yet more lightweight than before.

Their boots offer the player excellent support with 9 studs. Two of the studs in the forefoot are bigger than those on the counter sides, for increased traction, and there are four studs on the heels.

Mizuno

“Our new Mizuno rugby range is all about heritage, performance and lightness!” says Copson. The Morelia range is all about performance and lightness, explains Copson, who adds that Morelia can also be worn for soccer. Morelia has a lightweight upper, and great hold and comfort. “We continue with our 30 year anniversary of Morelia by launching this year’s model in the true black colours and Japanese red RUN Bird logo,” he continues. “We know that this is imperative to corner the market with our contracted schools and schoolboy players, who can only play in classic black performance rugby boots such as our Morelia series.” The series comes in three tiers: top, mid and entry level. “This allows all players to choose their preferred boot without breaking the bank, but still aspire to what their rugby heroes are playing in.”

The top end Morelia Neo PS Mix, for soccer and rugby, features the Pebax sole plate for enhanced flexibility and durability — and the boot weighs only 250g, because of Mizuno’s innovative Prime Skin upper, which delivers a high level of softness and durability with structured fit. It can handle a mixed soft and hard ground stud configuration for excellent foot holding and barefoot comfort. The anatomic moulded removable sock liner ensures superb comfort.

The new Basara 103 MD “offers any back line rugby player or soccer player superb fit and excellent traction and hold underfoot,” says Copson. “Explosive in design, comfort and fit this boot provides lightweight, soft supple technical synthetic upper comfort.” The moulded multi-stud cleated outsole provides excellent foot hold and power and the D-Flex Groove, an engineered diagonal groove in the midfoot area, allows the player to turn at maximum speed and power by efficiently transferring body movement and shift in direction. R-Fiber on the upper reduces excess stretching and holds the foot securely during acceleration and turn. Mizuno’s removable 8 stud Fortuna Rugby boot, “the ultimate lightweight forward’s rugby-specific boot”, offers great comfort with amazing underfoot traction.

“Be prepared! It is going to be our turn to shine with this exciting South African-specific rugby range of boots,” exclaims Copson.

PUMA

PUMA has launched their lightest soccer boot “and one of the lightest boots ever to be launched into the market”, says James Mullen. It is a successor to the V106 range, which was launched in 2006.

The boot features ultra-thin upper materials, Speed Frame lightweight support in the upper, a mixed stud configuration of traction studs for better acceleration and stability, and round studs for quick turns. The Raised Speed Track system on the sole provides better stability. PUMA is also keeping their focus on the evoPower and evoSpeed ranges. “The technology remains the same as what we launched in February 2015 — the only updates would be the colourways,” explains Mullen.

For rugby players, PUMA has updated their evoPower H8 range of boots with a seasonal colour update. The technical key points are a combo of lightweight, comfort and longevity through the use of a soft, yet durable, synthetic upper.

Umbro

With two new soccer boot silo releases in 2015, Umbro has managed to re-establish themselves in both the speed and heritage silo, says Karakashian. “Moreover, we have proven our understanding of a professional athlete’s needs, and shown our commitment to develop products to cater for the modern game.

The Velocita Pro, released at the beginning of the year, is designed for the player who is all about multidirectional speed, agility and enjoys making a statement on the field with his boots. “Not only is it our lightest boot, but at 165g it is also the lightest boot currently on the market,” says Karakashian. This lightness is due to a thin, super lightweight microfibre upper that is heat-welded to provide a smoother feel and reduces stitching. “The lightweight one-piece soleplate has probably played the largest role in enabling Umbro to reach our goal of being lightweight, with the focus on multi-directional speed — a necessity in the modern game,” explains Karakashian. The soleplate includes both round and diamond studs for optimum traction in all directions, as well as small flex grooves that mimic the natural movement of a player’s foot, thus making it easier to spring and twist.

The Velocita is available in three colourways. The launch colourway was nimbus cloud/dark shadow/high rise/pink glow, which “made a world-wide statement early on in the year when it made its way onto the field,” says Karakashian. The other two are blue atoll/black/white and black/pink glow/blue atoll.

The Umbro Velocita has become a favourite among many of South Africa’s top footballers and is currently being worn by Cuthbert Malajila (Mamelodi Sundowns), Sifiso Myeni (Orlando Pirates), Tendai Ndoro (MPUMAlanga Black Aces), Tebogo Moerane (Bidvest Wits), Vuyo Mere (Platinum Stars), etc.

Umbro Speciali Eternal, Umbro’s most recent launch, follows on from the iconic Speciali, “which has become our most loved silo over the past 20 years”, says Karakashian. It is worn by the more classy and experienced player who enjoys a good solid boot. The boot stands out on the field, because of its traditional styling and colour: the Speciali Eternal will become Umbro’s heritage silo, and thus has a more traditional style. While the Speciali Eternal may look more traditional, with black leather and a fold over tongue, it boasts some of the latest innovation in boot technology.

Over the years, comfort has always been a major focus of the Umbro Speciali and the Speciali Eternal is no different: made of a soft premium leather upper with leather vamps, it offers comfort as well as strength in the tackles. The A-frame over lay overs exceptional support and stability under pressure as it cradles the foot, while the pre-moulded sock liner aids in fatigue reduction. As with the Velocita, Umbro has also added a more modern soleplate to the Speciali Eternal. The Wishbone outsole has transformed the soleplate, bringing controlled support throughout the foot: solid around the middle and more flexible upfront.

Speciali Eternal is available in the classic black/white/clematis blue colourway.

With Real Madrid’s Pepe being the main face behind the launch of this boot, the Speciali Eternal has also made its way to the PSL fields in South Africa. Worn by Umbro’s “no-nonsense players”, you can find the Speciali on the feet of Clayton Daniels (Supersport United), Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Ayanda Gcaba (Orlando Pirates), Tebogo Monyai (AmaTuks), Alfred Ndengane (Bloemfontein Celtic) and a few more, Karakashian points out.




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