More than 80% of female players at top European clubs have experienced regular discomfort due to their football boots, according to new research.
The European Clubs Association, which represents clubs in Europe, surveyed 350 players from 16 top teams.
It found that 82% felt discomfort that could affect their performance, while a fifth said they customized their boots in an attempt to improve comfort.
The football boots currently on the market are mostly designed for white men.
The new data showed that 34% of female players, surveyed anonymously, reported discomfort in their heel.
Most use special insoles provided by podiatrists and some players have to cut holes in their boots to avoid constant chafing and blisters.
The ECA found that heel discomfort was higher among black players (48%), compared to 32% of white footballers.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Claire Bloomfield, ECA’s head of women’s football. “We knew we were going to find something but those numbers really surprised us all.
“It highlights the importance of this work and why it needs to be done now. The end goal is about inspiring industry change. It highlights a really key area of neglected research.”
Sports scientists have previously highlighted the lack of football kit designed for women, saying that using boots and balls created for male players could put them at higher risk of injury. .
ECA research suggested issues related to Achilles tendons and metatarsal stress fractures were linked to improper footwear.
Two out of five players reported to the ECA that they did not feel the current football boot market offered good injury prevention.
The research also explored the differences between female and male feet, including width, arch height, metatarsal length, metatarsal joint angle and ankle circumference in relation to foot length.
“It was all around the foot, really highlighting that the shape of a football boot is not suitable for women and it’s not just an easy fix,” said Dr Katrine Kryger, a sports rehabilitation lecturer from St Mary’s University, who supported the ECA in its research.
“The area that usually has the highest issue is the heel of the foot which causes discomfort and pain. When we look at it from an ethnic perspective, 48% of black players have heel discomfort.
“That highlights the fact that one size does not fit all and ethnicity also plays a part in that.”
Funded by ECA, the research is part of its commitment to gain further knowledge of football equipment and clothing that improves safety, performance and comfort for female footballers.
Gathered over 18 months, the information so far also includes details on the placement of football boot studs and how they affect the movement of female players’ feet.
“Our goal is quite simple and that is to get the right shoe to fit every women and girl who plays football around the world,” said Charlie Marshall, ECA’s chief executive officer.
“That’s the starting point. How the market advances the research is the next step.”
Concern has resurfaced over the number of high-profile women’s players suffering anterior cruciate knee ligament injuries, which studies show are more prevalent in women than in men.
Asked if there was a direct correlation between the wrong footwear and injuries, Kryger said: “We don’t have that data yet. We don’t have anything to compare it to.
“We have researched the men’s market and we know there are issues associated with it. The wrong fit of football boots can cause problems.
“One of the things we said is that we shouldn’t simply copy what men do. Just because men don’t consider a certain part of science, doesn’t mean we can’t do for women’s football.”
The first phase of the research is still to be analyzed and published but the aim is to make it freely available to all football boot brands to help change female-specific designs.
#Football #boot #issues #reported #female #players #BBC #Sport