Rugby Boots through time

Published: 10th March 2009
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For a great many years many players of ball games like rugby and football did not wear specific footwear. The earliest recorded mention of specific boots for football was a request from Henry VIII to his shoemaker in the Tudor era. Although royalty and the aristocracy may have been able to afford specific boots as early as this, the majority of other enthusiasts couldn't.

After Henry VIII's request there is little recorded mention of football and rugby boots for a long period of time. It is reasonable to assume that in between this time and the late nineteenth century, the majority of people would have used shoes tailored for another purpose to play. In the late 1800s, work, walking or hobnail boots were frequently used, with studs often nailed into the soles for extra grip. The foot wear was usually quite high cut around the ankle to provide support and protection, and commonly had reinforced toes. It was around this time that rugby boots began to differ from football boots, footballers decided that a lower cut around the ankles would allow for more manoeuvrability. Rugby players opted to keep the higher ankle for protection. To inflict additional pain on opponents' legs during play, many would fit metal to these boots. This practice was banned in 1889, when the use of iron plates or protruding nails in boots was forbidden. Since this time, several rules have been implemented to make rugby boots safer.

In the early 1900s interchangeable studs became available, the studs were varied dependant on the ground and weather conditions. Although studs of varying kinds had been used for a very long time, it wasn't until 1948 that rubber studs were used; aluminium followed five years later in 1953. Today, different boots are available for different terrain - they can be purchased specifically for hard, firm or soft ground, or for astro-turf. Which are chosen can often depend on the season and, of course, the weather.

Rugby boots continued to evolve and improve, and today they are often very similar to football boots, allowing for greater ankle manoeuvrability (however this depends on a player's position). Today, a lot of boots are also being produced out of synthetic materials as well as the more traditional leather. Leather is still considered the best material, but it can require a lot of care. Synthetic laces are also of great use, as cotton laces tended to rot easily and needed replacing regularly.

Rugby boots have changed a great deal since Henry VIII ordered his pair back in the 1500s, but they still operate on the same principles they always have done. The boots need to be strong and protective but quite flexible so they can mould to an individuals feet. They need to maximise grip and help to keep feet clean and dry. Choosing the right boots has certainly become an option in recent years! Rather than improvising and using shoes for other purposes, there is a huge variety out there from which to make a selection.

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