The humble rugby boot has come a long way since the early days of the sport; undergoing both material and design modifications to achieve a comfortable, practical shoe for every position. We take a look at the history of the rugby boot in order to gain a better understanding of the design that’s best for you.

History of the Rugby Boot

In the early stages of the sport, players would wear anything from high-cut walking boots to heavy duty workmen’s boots. To gain some grip on the field, players would modify their boots with makeshift “studs”. These studs were usually metal plates and nails; a dangerous combination for other players who may accidently get caught under another player’s foot.

The hazardous nature of these “DIY studs” were recognised and banned in 1845. Players were then given strict rules on what materials their boots could and could not include. Some of the permissible materials included leather, rubber and plastic. Nonetheless, players would have the front of their boots “sharpened” to give their boots extra “edge” as kicking of the shins and legs (hacking) was allowed at the time.

In the 19th century, entrepreneurs saw the need for a standardised rugby boot that complied with safety rules. The emergence of sports equipment specialists began and soon publications were filled with brands such as Bryan’s, Gamages, Watson’s and Lillywhites. The major improvement that these brands brought to rugby boots were leather studs for mud traction.

In the following 50 years, very little change to the boot was made; however, during the 1950’s and 60’s, steel studs, screw in aluminium studs and synthetic materials began to enter the market; allowing the rugby boot to be lighter and cheaper to produce on a mass scale.

Rugby Boots Today

When browsing through the rugby boots available in shops, the designs and colours are so diverse. Rugby boots are now made of one or a combination of leather and synthetic materials. Leather is able to mould to the shape of the foot but absorb moisture (making them heavy in wet conditions) and synthetic boots are lightweight and water resistant.

When choosing a boot that is right for you, it is vital that you let your position decide the style and fit of the boot. Here are a few guidelines in choosing a boot for your position:

  1. Forwards
  • Need power in the lower body and in the scrum, as well as support in the ankles.
  • Go for: Traditional boot that is higher on the ankle.
  1. Backs
  • Need speed and agility on the field.
  • Go for: New shape boot, similar to soccer boots, which are fitted and streamlined.
  1. Kickers
  • Need for more “feel” of the ball in order to kick correctly.
  • Go for: A lightweight, tightly fitted boot.

Next time you are shopping for a new pair of boots, take some time to appreciate the advancements that time has made and be thankful that you get to play in a modern boot of your choice.