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The Evolution Of The Soccer Shoe

Jun 27, 2008
Soccer players are gifted athletes with physical strength and agility that would put many other sportsmen and women to shame. The finely-tuned, committed professionals that we see playing in the World Cup Finals and in leagues across the globe have access to the most advanced designs of soccer shoe to enhance their performance. Since the first ever pair of soccer shoes were produced for King Henry VIII in 1526 for a cost of four shillings, this vital piece of a player's equipment has evolved into a multi-billion dollar business.

In the late 1800s, the heavier boot style gradually became replaced with a more lightweight shoe as the game changed from hobby to sport. In 1891, a revision to the Laws of the Game allowed projection on the soles of the shoe for the first time. This pioneering move introduced studs and saw the first incarnation of the modern-day soccer shoe. Weighing half a kilogram, this thick leather ankle boot would not offer the most flexibility but offered much-needed progression from the steel-toe-capped work-boots.

The twentieth century saw a little progress and various soccer shoe manufacturers starting mass-production including Gola, Valsport and Hummel. In Germany, the industrious Dassler brothers introduced the interchangeable studs to give wearers the opportunity to adapt to different playing surfaces and conditions. This developed further in the 1950s when soccer shoes were equipped with screw-in metal or plastic studs.

The Dassler brothers were to play an even larger part in the evolution of the soccer shoe then their previous work suggested. After a bitter dispute the two separated and went on to form Adidas and Puma, now two of the leading names in soccer shoe manufacturing. In 1948 when the brothers split their business, Adi Dassler formally registered Adidas while Rudolph Dassler's company would become Puma. These two companies were to become massive soccer shoe manufacturers producing classic designs like the adidas Copa Mondial (1979) and the Puma King (1968).

The 1960s and 1970s brought international superstars like Pele, George Best and Eusebio to the world's attention - so soccer shoes evolved to accommodate the increasing pace and skill with which the sport was being played. Players began wearing a particular brand of boot, Pele and Eusebio performed at the world cup wearing Puma soccer shoes - however, shoe sponsorships would reach a much larger scale in the 80s and 90s. Shoes become lighter and more supple, made primarily from kangaroo skin and are designed specifically to accommodate hard, firm and soft ground.

The Copa Mondial, released by adidas in 1979, went on to become the best-selling soccer shoe with its synonymous three-stripe design and fold-down tongue. The Puma King continued to sell well as other sportswear companies entered the market including Umbro, Lotto and Diadora. But more was yet to come.

In 1994, adidas released the much-anticipated, revolutionary adidas Predator. This soccer shoe broke the mould, almost literally, with its 'polymer extrusions' and bladed studs. Designed by ex-Liverpool FC soccer player Craig Johnston, the adidas Predator took the soccer shoe world by storm as it claimed to increase swerve and power with the rubber moulds on the top of the boot. With player endorsements from such global stars as Zinedine Zidane, Paul 'Gazza' Gascoigne and David Beckham, the brand continues to develop and evolve the design with such releases as the Predator Precision (2000) and the Predator PowerSwerve (2007).

Nike were one of the last global super-brands to begin marketing its own soccer shoes but the company's designs and player endorsements have forced Nike to the top of the soccer shoe ladder. Nike Total 90s and Mercurial are their biggest selling designs and have been advertised by players of the ilk of Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney as well as Brazil international Ronaldinho.

The turn of the millennium also saw the introduction of soccer shoes of various colours, with players often wearing designs that were colour coordinated with their team's uniform. Various new designs have also been launched including the Craig Johnston P.I.G (Patented Interactive Grip) and the Lotto Zero Gravity laceless shoe but none has yet to make the impact of the Predator. However, it will only be a matter of time before a new style takes the world by storm, and the soccer shoe that Henry VIII ordered in 1526 becomes an even-more distant memory.
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