Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt

Football and Technology


Football Footwear

This chapter will outline the development of football footwear from the early ankle-high boots to the latest state-of-the art designs for added power.

1. The early days: the football boots

Shoes or boots designed for playing football must have some extra features, not required for everyday footwear:

They must have increased stability and should protect the player's foot and ankle against rough physical contacts. They must provide firm grip on slippery or even icy surfaces.
On the other hand, they should provide maximum comfort, be lightweight to avoid fatigue, and enhance the player's ball handling and kicking techniques.

These requirements result from the nature of the football game and have not changed since the beginnings.

In the early days of professional football, development of the then very robust boots focused on the specific requirements regarding stability, foot protection and ground traction, or improved kicking technique. Innovations for added comfort and weight reduction of football shoes were only tackled in the 20th century, due to the development of new materials, above all, high-quality synthetics and plastics.

Just like the football itself, the earliest shoes used for playing football were not documented in patent literature. At the beginning, players often simply put on their rugged working boots to play football. Until the end of the 19th century, team members rarely wore the same type of footwear. There were no rules governing footwear other than that they must not have components that might endanger opponents ("Rule 13: No player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on the soles or heels of his boots.").

In the first half of the 19th century, football was played at nearly any larger public school in England. Contrary to amateur teams, pupils had specially made robust ankle-high boots which were tightly laced. As a rule, soles incorporated six studs (or cleats) for enhanced grip on slippery ground. The initially popular metal tacks had to be replaced by leather studs for compliance with the "Rule 13" requirements. Leather studs were known from hockey boots.

A problem with early studded shoes was that the studs were driven up the insoles after a while, causing discomfort to the players and damaging the shoes beyond repair within a short time. To avoid this inconvenience, soles were provided with reinforcing components, eg. rigid wooden strips, mounted between insole and outsole. Figure 1 shows the side view of such a football boot.

Football boot with studs from the early 20th century (DE-PS 220 831)LupeFigure 1: Football boot with studs from the early 20th century (DE-PS 220 831)

In the early days of the football game, players kicked, passed and stopped the ball with the foot tip. For this reason, it was customary to cover the shoe tip by a cap made of hard leather (cf. section 4) to protect the toes and enhance the kicking force. A patent application proposed to use india-rubber or resilient rubber materials having properties similar to leather. British patent literature from that time includes suggestions for the protection of the upper side of the foot and the ankle by means of reinforcing ribs provided on the upper of the boot. This type of boot design was not widely used. The structuring of the shoe surface, however, became important later for improved kicking and ball handling.

The first true football shoes with characteristic features appeared on the market at the beginning of the 20th century.


Relevant patent documents
Publication numberYearTitleBrief description
DE-PS 220 381   1909   Fußballstiefel, Hockeystiefel und ähnliches, mit Pflöcken oder Vorsprüngen auf der Laufsohle versehenes Schuhwerk   Several wooden strips are provided between insole and outsole to prevent studs from coming through the insole  
GB 1888-12,572 A   1888   Improvements in or relating to Boots for Cricket, Foot Ball, and other Athletic Purposes   Strips, ribs and studs provided on the upper shoe for foot protection  
GB 1887-15,836 A   1887   Improvements in Boots for Football and other Athletic Purposes   The shoe surface is provided with rubber strips to protect the foot 
GB 1887-3314 A   1887   Improvements in the Construction of Football Boots and Shoes   India-rubber cap replacing former leather or steel caps to reduce the risk of injuries