By Kimber Rozier CSCS, Pn1 – Finding the right pair of rugby cleats can be difficult. There are so many variables but just as each player has his or her strengths, different cleats are tailored to different needs. We point out the most important features each rugby specific cleat provides the player to help make selecting the best cleat as easy as possible.
Related: Rugby Boot Buyer’s Guide
As the core and power of the scrum, you, the tight five athlete, need boots that will support your set piece dominance.
Your low body profile, leg strength and perfected technique mean little if you can’t drive that force into the opposition. Yes, it’s still important to be able to get around the field and breakaway for your prop try (or even kick, if you’re a hooker like Jamie George).
But when looking for boots, you can afford to sacrifice a bit of mobility for stud length, number and durability. Make sure your studs are in compliance with World Rugby Laws, however, or you won’t be allowed to wear them for matches.
Make sure your boots have:
- Long enough studs for scrummaging
- Durability to avoid the upper coming apart from the sole
- A good fit – not too wide, not too narrow
- No illegal spikes
- Ability for you to move at high speeds when necessary
From launching yourself into the tackle contest to clearing out threats at the ruck, you need boots that will allow you to be everywhere, all of the time. While you don’t want to jeopardize the scrum by slipping off of the locks, your footwear shouldn’t be an anchor either. Either search for lighter-weight, soft ground studs or a hybrid pair.
As a defensive machine, your boot durability should match your tackle count. Your shoes are an extension of your playing ability. If you skimp on cleats, you’re going to skimp on performance. You’re the toughest ones on the pitch – make sure your boots can keep up.
Look for boots that offer:
- Enough studs for a strong grip into ground
- Lightweight but durable upper
- Medium-length studs that allow for lateral movement
- Metal/soft ground cleats if possible, but not to sacrifice running speed
Scrum Halves and Midfield
Midfield players are obviously the most important ones (no bias at all here), so we should have the best boots. All joking aside, though, as kickers, the type of boot you wear can directly affect the quality of your kick.
Personally, I like to have as little material between my foot and the ball, but I also don’t want a feather that leaves no protection from being stepped on. You still have to consider the necessary durability for going into contact.
And let’s face it, you’re going throw a dummy and step someone. As a stepper, look for round end cleats that can twist easily in the grass. Especially for women, who are more susceptible to knee injury, having your body go one way with your foot still anchored is a recipe for disaster.
For kicking choose a boot that:
- Has laces that don’t interfere with your instep, either to the side or tucked away
- Has an upper made for kicking
- Fits snug and has a good feel when you strike (test this before you buy, if you can)
Other general considerations
- Firm ground, hard ground or soft ground. Choose a boot that fits the type of pitch you typically play on
- Stud number, shape, and arrangement should facilitate sharp turns
- Comfortable insole for high impact sprinting
The back three cover the most distance at the greatest speeds. Meaning they sprint more than anyone on the pitch. And it’s electric when they breakaway for a try.
But there’s nothing worse than telling your body to cut and falling on your face because your foot slipped. You’re most likely going to be changing direction at full tilt, so consider the weather. You may want to get two separate pairs of boots – one for dry weather and one for the mud.
For dry conditions, shoot for a boot that offers as much speed as possible – lightweight and snug on the foot. The studs on the front of the boot provide pushing power for speed. The better grip you can have there (think track spikes), the faster you can move.
Look for boots with:
- A lightweight but still durable upper
- More studs arranged towards the front
- A round stud for injury prevention
- A comfortable insole for arch support
Sevens players run, a lot. During the season, you need a durable boot or should be prepared to purchase a new pair every few months. Definitely have two pairs of boots, if not for this reason, for all-weather purposes. From the jungle and rains of China to English winters to dry Las Vegas dirt – I’ve played sevens on it all. Weather can change from the first morning game to the final at night. Prepare yourself by having boots for every field condition.
In general, however, sevens players need to be fast, powerful, agile and tough. Much like the wand chooses the wizard, a good boot should match the style of player you are. Hot stepper? Choose a forefoot lateral stud arrangement like this. Speed demon? Go for the fastest ones out there. Power forward? Check out a good hybrid to help you drive through contact.
Related: Women’s Guide to Buying Rugby Boots
Look, I’m not going to pretend at least half of my cleat purchases haven’t been heavily weighted towards style. I’ve had boots custom made for color and refuse to wear black cleats out of superstition. So yeah, style matters. All I have to say is – express yourself. If you like neon cleats, look for neon. If you’re partial to a certain brand, that’s fine. And if you’re one of those classic players who just wants a good old trusty black Copa, then more power to you. It’s important that YOU feel like you’re going to torch someone in your boots. A lot of rugby is psychological. The more dominant and powerful you think you look, the better you’re going to carry yourself into battle.
Kimber Rozier is a NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist and Precision Nutrition nutritionist who holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Exercise and Sport Science and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She spends her time traveling the world as an international rugby player for the USA and her career in 7s and 15s has taken her to places such as Hong Kong, Paris, London, and Dubai. She earned a bronze medal in the 7s World Cup in Moscow and played fly half for the squad throughout 15s 2014 Rugby World Cup in Paris. Kimber has recently played overseas in Ireland, furthering her career with Railway Union and as an athlete with Scion Rugby Academy out of Washington, D.C. She is currently training with Harlequins in England.