By Kimber Rozier CSCS, Pn1 – Buying the right pair of women’s rugby boots comes with its own set of challenges. Cleats designed specifically for women are still rare and buying a ‘men’s’ or ‘youth’ cleat is no sure fire process.
I’ll admit that I have never had an issue with buying ‘men’s’ cleats. This common style has worked for me over my 23 years of playing sports but I became intrigued as more young women players asked me about selecting cleats and it got me to asking questions.
No two feet are exactly the same, and women, apparently, do actually have different foot shapes.
According to this study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise “Men have longer and broader feet than women for a given stature. After normalization of the measurements by foot length, men and women were found to differ significantly in two calf, five ankle, and four foot shape variables.” Outside of the lower leg, women’s hips are generally wider and therefore the angle to the knee differs, creating a different foot strike down the chain. Often, this tends towards more support required in the midsole.
So if a woman’s foot shape tends to be more slender with varying arch shape, then it would make sense to have a women’s specific shoe. I then realized that I knew a lot about MY feet but not the feet of others. So I reached out to my teammates for their advice. And it turns out people have a lot to say about boots.
Getting ‘Big Girls’
“Big Girls” is not a reference to female players but rather what my teammates have affectionately dubbed metal cleats. Every player in the tight five should own a pair, and so should everyone who cares about performing in the rain. Here’s what vocal members of the soft ground family have to say –
- adidas metals – the adidas World Cup is a great boot that ‘has metal and same chassis as the Copa Mundial.
- Asics make full metal studs and/or plastic ones with metal tips. Tipped plastics are a bit lighter than full-on metal. They also come interchangeable for the fickle types.
- Nike soft ground studs – super light weight for the quick back types or sevens players
- Puma tend to be a bit wider
More studs for firmer ground
When it comes to cleat arrangement, firm and hard ground cleats tend to have more studs than soft ground. This makes sense when you consider the effect of cleat arrangement and foot pressure. Less studs (as usually found in metals) means more foot pressure and better traction, which is paramount when the ground seems to slip underneath you. More studs allows for dispersion of foot pressure across the shoe and may make for lighter contact time on the floor.
Women have shown shape differences in big toe, lateral foot and ball of the foot, so that should have some implications when you’re thinking about cleats. adidas recently unveiled a women’s silo for their popular X and Ace soccer silos and Nike has upped their game when it comes to women’s specific cleats.
Buying Men’s Size Rugby Cleats
If you’re going to buy any boot, find a type that works for you. If you want a ‘men’s’ shoe, more power to you. Do your research from different third party reviewers and see what people are saying about the specific shoe. Soccer Cleats 101 and this article by The Independent are a good place to start.
Pick a men’s sized shoe that’s about 1.5 sizes smaller than you wear in women’s. Note: These are American sizes.
Buying Youth/Boy’s Size Rugby Cleats
If you’re lucky to have small feet (not me), then you might get the best deal of all. Buying a larger pair of boys’ youth cleats will usually cost you half the price. And sometimes you can get some really great cleats for a sweet deal. I can think of one USA teammate of mine who consistently wears boys’ cleats, and she’ll easily side-step you any day.
Convert your size to big kids by subtracting two. For example, my 8.5 would be about a 6.5 in boys. Just make sure they’re the BIG kids sizes and not the toddler version.
So what about women’s specific cleats?
The bottom line is – know your own foot. The best way to know if the shoe fits would be to get your feet measured. If you have a more slender foot and a higher arch, maybe go for a women’s shoe. But you could also just tend towards a brand that runs smaller. Some men have slender feet with high arches, and some women have wider, flat feet.
From all of my interviewing, I found that players were actually complaining about shoes being too narrow. Even though science says our feet are different, it sounds like preference really does depend on the wearer.
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.