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Saturday, September 17, 2011

A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Four: Rugby Boots




Rugby is a contact sport and like the other football codes depends on sound and robust footwear to maintain the action of the players. There has been little published research on the rugby boot which has possibly more to with the highly competitive nature of the footwear industry than a lack of interest in rugby boots per se.



Both rugby and soccer boots evolved from engineer's boots. These were originally made by the local boot makers and the quality was superior to most workmen's boots of the 19th century. A distinguishing feature was often the high cut design to give extra support to the ankle. The biggest difference is however. most rugby boots are designed with a slightly higher (5-10 mm) heel. This helps players avoid injuries by reducing the pressure on the Achilles tendons, calf muscles, hamstrings, and back. This is most beneficial for the forwards. Modern players are bigger and heavier and more athletic which places extreme demands on footwear. Today’s game with emphasis on speed prefers a lower boot similar to the soccer shoe. Traction and leverage in the scrum are essential therefore, the forwards boots need to be robust, supportive with excellent traction. These players also tend to get their toes stood on and the need to protect the top of the foot is an essential design characteristic.



Unlike soccer, rugby necessitates players run carrying the ball and tackle. Stops, sprints, abrupt direction changes, landing, and impact punctuate these activities. The rugby player kicks from the hand, or a kicking tee, hence the need for a low tapered toe-box is less obvious. The modern rugby boot had a deeper toe box to accommodate the toes as well as provide protection to the top of the foot.



Heels are protected with reinforced cups to stabilize the rearfoot during quick-change maneuvers. It is critical the boot flexes exactly at the point where the foot bends across the metatarsal phalangeal joints to enable leverage otherwise bending the foot against an unremitting boot results in fatigue and skin damage. All this needs to come in a lightweight boot, which accommodates different width fittings.



The physical dimensions of rugby players are bigger than average soccer players and unlike the round ball aficionados, rugby players prefer good fitting boots to the tighter style used by soccer players. The shape of rugby boots accommodates a wider forefoot and appears rounder than the average soccer shoe. The lacing medium enables the players to adjust to specific anatomical volume requirements as well as maintain a comfortable fit.



Because rugby boots need to give support careful consideration is given to the materials the footwear is made from. Rugby boots are available with leather and synthetic uppers. Best quality boots have, like soccer boots, been made from kangaroo skin but the demand for non-animal synthetic uppers is growing. Leather will stretch and moulds itself to the shape of the feet but unless specially treated can stretch out of shape in wet conditions. Synthetic boots are often lighter and less expensive. The vast majority of rugby boots will be made from a combination of natural and synthetic materials. Popular designer logos have had varying successes with rugby players. Some players prefer not to sport them and others may find strategic setting of manufacturers’ logos strength their the footwear.



Read more
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part One: Introduction
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Two: History of the Games
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Three: Rules of the Games
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Four: Rugby Boots
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Five: Studs or Cleats
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Six: Flower of Scotland
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Seven: How to choose rugby boots
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Part Eight: The Haka
A potted history of the rugby world cup, the rules of the game and rugby boots Nine: Rugby Injuries

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