Choosing a Pair of Rugby Boots
As the game of rugby evolves, so do the boots being worn in matches. Consider the following when purchasing a new pair of rugby boots as they might spell the difference when it comes to both player and footwear performance.
Fit and Sizing
First and foremost, it's a must that you know the width and length of your foot. No matter how much technologies are incorporated and how much good sensation the materials feel, a boot is only as good as the fit it has on your foot. Not to mention the arch on the top of your foot as well as the arch on the medial's underfoot which might prompt personal boot sizing customizations that are not readily available in the market. Getting a boot that matches your foot length is easy as the length is the standard basis of boot size. It's the foot width that needs extra attention especially if you are a wide-feet player. In terms of rugby boots, boots designed for forwards are generally wide lasted given that forwards are bulkier from head to toe to meet the physical demands of scrums. Overall, the main goal of any rugby boot is to be of a snug fit to support performance, stabilize foot placement, and reduce injury risks. In principle then, choose a boot that stays true to your size, having minimal to no extra space at all without being too suffocating and impeding. However, if your personal preference is to have a little room for breathability, just take note that this is alright as long as the boot does not fall on the flimsy side.
Rugby has different player roles that also produces specific boot demands. Forwards rely on lower body strength for power in scrums and therefore need extra support around the ankles for additional lockdown, prompting for a need for high-cut collars, though it must be said these are harder to find as the latest boots are more for style and technological developments like those seen in football boots which are generally low-cut. During scrums, forwards push off the ground and chances are they stay flexed around the forefoot for a prolonged time. The upper then of a forward boot must be made of materials durable enough to withstand this forceful stretching and the soleplate must have a good amount of flex around that part of the foot. So if you are a forward looking for a boot that complements your role, a boot that has a high collar, a soleplate with a good forefoot flex, and an upper that can withstand the scrum stretch is what you need.
Kickers prefer a tight-fitting boot because it gives them a better feel for the ball. A better feel on the ball results to better control of its trajectory, whether be it in passing or goal attempts. Kickers also look for boots that have some texture for ball grip to avoid mishits due to the ball sliding through the skin of the boots. So as a kicker, a boot that has a second-skin feel and a forefoot (or at least instep) texture is good for you.
Backs like a football-style low cut boot for mobility. A boot that has a lightweight, thin, and soft upper construction and a tight fit suits them well as they need footwear that flows with them as they burst out in speed. Be more concerned then as a back player with finding boots that fit you and has a lightweight finish than those which look the flashiest, as you will stand out because of your ability rather than the boots you are wearing.
Material-wise, leather and synthetic boots are both available and there are advantages to each. Leather moulds itself to the shape of your feet but can stretch out of shape in wet conditions. Synthetic boots are often lighter and less expensive. A mix of leather and synthetics may be the ideal just ensure you are getting the best of both worlds. Nowadays, elite leather boots utilize the premium K-leather to strike a balance between the padded feel of leather and the modern demand for thin and supple lightweight upper. And speaking of lightweight and pliable uppers, the demand for such upper finish has paved the way for knitted boots to proliferate in the market. Knitted boots also adjust to the contours of your foot with their sock-like attributes. It should be said though that knitted boots have synthetic reinforcements, either in parts or coated layering, to at least put an element of boot structure to the knitted material.
There are no more restrictions about the type of studs and that resulted in the entry of blades in modern rugby boots. However, given that rugby is a very physical contact sport, the only restrictions set are still about safety. Studs are expected to be fresh and not worn out, otherwise, the studs need to be replaced or the entire boot cannot be used if the studs are not screw-in types. Another restriction is that the blades may not be allowed if deemed by the referee to have sharp edges or is abrasive to others.
FG/AG/SG and Nike's AntiClog
Lastly, the type of pitch should not be forgotten when selecting a boot as there are different soleplates to choose from. Wet and muddy pitches require a Soft Ground plate which usually has metal studs numbering 6 to 8 depending on the traction and load required by the player's role. SG studs are also long to enable to boot to stay afloat. AG soleplates feature a greater number of short moulded studs to distribute stud pressure. Usually, the studs are also conical in shape to make it easier to land on the hard artificial ground. FG soleplates somehow represent the middle. Soft grounds that have become firmer, presumably due to the drying up of moist during warmer weathers, require soleplates that are bladed or chevron-shaped just to get enough bite on the firmer ground.