Now that the government regulations are lifting and rugby is set to resume, we have dedicated our latest blog entry to rugby boots, your essential piece of kit.
Over the past few years, the rise in technology used in boot development has been staggering and here at Rugbystuff.com, we deal with the best and most up to date boots from the leading brands, helping you maximise your performance for the upcoming season.
One of the questions we get asked most often is about the difference between rugby and football boots.
In the past, the difference was noticeable from a distance away with ‘traditional’ rugby boots featuring a higher ankle cut design and hard toe to give more stability and support around your ankle and protection to the foot, while football boots - which many backs elect to wear - have much less support in this area. However of late, rugby manufacturers have changed their approach.
Due to the high demand for these football-style boots among forwards as well as backs, some boots nowadays feature a neoprene "bootie", offering this support but maintaining the lightweight aspect of modern boots.
To differentiate between positions, manufacturers have made backs boots lighter weight than those of the forwards, allowing the pack to have sturdy boots, ideal for scrummaging, while the sprinters and kickers in the backs can have light boots which promotes fast running.
Stud formation also has an impact.
As a general rule, forwards boots have 8 studs in a 6x2 formation for greater grip in rucks, mauls and scrums, whilst backs boots are 6 studded, with a 4x2 layout, further reducing the weight of the boot.
Another question we are frequently asked to do with studs is whether or not blades are legal. The simple answer to this is yes. As long as they are not interpreted as “sharp or abrasive” by the referee (LAW 4(4b), IRB Regulations) then they are fine to use.
The main piece of advice we can give to avoid this becoming an issue is to not wear your boots on hard grounds such as concrete as this will cause the studs to sharpen and wear at an unexpected rate. Ultimately its down to the referee’s discretion whether a stud is safe for use so please beware of worn studs.
All rugby boots are categorised into soft ground (SG) and firm ground (FG) boots. Soft ground boots are made for playing on soft, natural surfaces which you will find through most of the rugby season in the UK.
On the other hand, firm ground footwear is targeted for use on natural firm ground pitches which you will come across in sunnier and drier southern hemisphere conditions as well as artificial surfaces, such as 3G and 4G pitches.
It is vital to get the correct studs. By using the wrong studs on the incorrect surface, you risk causing damage to both yourself and the boot.
When trying on boots, it is important that they fit tightly and snugly without being uncomfortable. However, if your feet are still growing, as is the case with children and teenagers, it is a good idea to give a little space for growth.
You’ll know immediately once your foot is in a boot with a good width fitting for you – it will feel comfortable and right down the sides of your feet. Too narrow and you’ll know about it pretty quick – however boots will stretch out slightly in width over time.
In terms of length when we fit boots in store we usually recommend the maximum amount of room allowed for at the toe is a thumb width – any more will allow too much movement between the foot and boot, causing friction and leading to blisters – a debilitating injury in terms of rugby performance.
It is always a good idea to bring your own match rugby socks with you when trying on boots to assist in ensuring you choose the correct size as the two have to interact well.
Once you have the rugby boots that are the correct choice for you, it is important you know how to maintain and look after them properly.
After each time you wear a pair of boots, you should untie the laces properly to allow them to dry as this prevents shrinking, fraying and eventually snapping under the stress and strain.
Dirt should be removed by knocking the boots together and using a soft, dry brush on the sides and top of your boot.
Once the bulk of the dirt is removed you should then use a wet cloth to wipe the boots down in order to remove smaller particles of dirt. For mud which has been ingrained in smaller grooves. try using a toothbrush to get into the small spaces.
After use in wet conditions, stuff the boots with newspaper to help maintain their shape and also to absorb some of the moisture in the fabric. It is also important to let your boots dry naturally - do not apply any artificially made heat to them as this may deform and cause the leather to become over-dry and stiff. So no leaving them on the radiator overnight!
If you are training several times a weeks it is almost impossible to let your boots dry out naturally, so consider having an older pair of boots for training and keeping your newest ones for match day – this will extend the life of your boots and allow you to always be pulling on a nice dry pair.
Finally the best thing to take care of natural leather boots is bees wax – it feeds the leather and is not corrosive to the stitching within the boot.
Hopefully this blog has been a help in explaining which boots will be ideal for you, but if you have any questions, please get in touch using the comments below, or over on Twitter or Facebook.
Here at Rugbystuff.com, we have a massive range and can guarantee a suitable boot for you. Getting ready for the rugby season can be made easy! Remember, when you spend £50 or more on your new rugby boots at First XV Rugbystuff.com, you will automatically qualify for FREE UK delivery.
If you are looking to upgrade more of your gear, have a look at our latest collection of rugby boots below! Good luck out there.