The days when all rugby players wore the same type of boot are long gone. Advances in materials and manufacturing technology and the understanding that a “one type fits all” philosophy no longer holds true, have led to new innovations in rugby boots. They now come in a wide variety of types, materials and colours and are specifically designed for backs or forwards; and there are even boots for specialist kickers .A quick look at the range of rugby boots by Canterbury, for example, illustrates the different types and styles available.
Broadly speaking, rugby boots can be categorised into those for hard ground and soft ground, and those for backs and forwards.
Boots for use on hard grounds often have molded soles and the studs are low profile. Some may have a replaceable metal tip on the molded cleat that improves durability. The low profile affords the player greater comfort on hard ground than a higher profile would allow, without sacrificing traction. On softer ground, it is harder to gain traction. Players therefore prefer boots with longer sprigs. Typically, these are made of a light metal, like aluminum, and are screwed in so that they can be changed as ground conditions require.
Forwards usually prefer a boot with eight sprigs, as opposed to six sprigs that backs prefer. Those of the forwards are also longer to give them more traction at scrum time and other close quarters work.
The upper part of the boot can also vary widely. Players can choose from high, medium and low-cut uppers and a hard or soft toe. Forwards, especially front rowers, favour higher cut boots with hard toes as they offer greater support and protection. Backs, on the other hand, prefer lower cut uppers and soft toes that are more flexible and allow greater mobility, and extra feel when kicking the ball.
The uppers are generally made from either leather or a synthetic material. Leather has the advantage of being very durable and easily molded to the shape of the foot. There are several different types of leather; some manufacturers use kangaroo leather, which is very light and flexible but is more expensive than other leathers. One drawback to leather is that, despite being waterproof, it can stretch when wet.
Synthetic uppers are becoming a more common sight on the rugby pitch. Quality, however, varies widely and is reflected in the price of the boot. Top quality synthetic material is light, durable and waterproof. At the other end of the scale, cheaper synthetics are prone to tearing and failure under strain.
With the majority of sporting goods manufacturers producing their own lines of rugby boots, the range of rugby footwear on the market is extensive. Prices vary widely depending on quality.
For the newcomer to the game, the variety of boots can be a little confusing. There are many good rugby boots that are versatile enough to be used for most players in most conditions and are well suited to the beginner. It is not until the player progresses and is settled into a particular position that the type of boot becomes more important. Given their reasonable prices, quality and wide range of types and styles, rugby boots by Canterbury of New Zealand are perfect for those new to the game and the more experienced player.
My name is Eddard Blake and I am a PR consulant for Canterbury of New Zealand.
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