• Mike Patterson

What Boots to Get?

Rugby boots are the most personal bit of kit you will get for yourself. It’s important to get it right….and legal.

Rugby is an open and free-flowing game but that requires different skill sets and different styles of rugby cleats for the various players. One size, or style, definitely does not fit all in the game of rugby. Different positions on the field demand different features in a boot. The larger forwards need more strength and power while the backs need to utilize speed, agility, and quickness and these traits need to be accounted for in the players rugby cleats.

The forwards live their life in the pack. The pack is about attacking and protecting possession but frequently is played out 1 or 2 meters at a time. It is gruelling work. The pack requires power and the stable footing to provide it.

Forwards should look for:

  1. Reliable Grip – great traction is a must. The forwards cleats usually have longer metal studs to help provide a good footing on the ground on soft turf. On firmer ground a cleat with conical studs is better as they provide a better grip with the ground. And on hard fields consider a turf shoe with more smaller and shorter studs on the entire sole. The Markham Irish field is very well maintained and usually tends to the soft side. In fact, rarely do we find ourselves playing on hard surfaces in club rugby, however that may not be the case as the kids get into high school rugby and play on artificial turf every so often.

  2. Secure Fitting Heel – A stable foot is a sure foot and important when pushing forward.

  3. Durability – The power of the scrum and the work in attack takes its toll on the body and cleat. Make sure you have a cleat that can stand up to these test.

  4. Lightweight and Flexible – OK, this sounds counter-intuitive but the top brands are providing lighter and more flexible cleats in all of their silos, including those designed for the forwards. Players are always surprised at how a lighter cleat pays dividends over the game when running from tryline to tryline.

The backs and centers live the good life. After the forwards to the hard work, the backs and centers graciously step in to do the glamour work. The backs need to make quick runs and change direction quickly in addition to needing more touch on the ball for the kicking game.

Backs and Centers should look for:

  1. Lightweight and Flexible – The last item for the forwards is the first for the backs. The less weight a player is carrying the faster they will move.

  2. Good Traction and Turning Ability – The backs need speed but they need great turning ability in tight spaces. The backs cleats have fewer and shorter studs.

  3. Snug Fit – A good fit starts with comfort but shows results. A better fit allows cuts to be made quicker and sharper. The difference in finding open space to run and being slowed down. And a snug fit makes you one with the ball while kicking. The better the feel for the ball, the more accurate your kicking will be.

  4. Kicking Zone – The player that is called on to kick conversions and penalties needs to give some additional focus to the kicking zone. This is largely down to personal preference but different cleats feature various aids from the design of the laces to additional textured surfaces in the kicking zone.

Soccer cleats vs rugby cleats? What’s the difference between soccer and rugby cleats and should I care? This is a common question especially with more and more rugby players, mainly in the 7s game, wearing soccer cleats.

The biggest difference is that most rugby cleats are designed with a slight higher (5-10 mm) heel. This helps players avoid injuries by reducing the pressure on the Achilles tendons, calf muscles, hamstrings, and back. It is also common in cleats designed for American football. This is most beneficial for the forwards.

Rugby cleats will usually cost a little more and in some cases be more difficult to find but fortunately more brands are stepping up with better price, selection, and availability. Soccer cleats, however, are providing a great option especially for the backs but with more forwards finding the right fit in a traditional soccer cleat.

The cleats need to be different but the end goal for all the players is in doing their part to help the team achieve their goals. Both types of players need to be able to handle the ball, put in a reliable tackle regardless of the size of the opponent, and cover the entire field.

At the start of the article I mentioned the word ‘legal’. This is because there are soccer and American football cleats that are illegal to use in rugby. You cannot have thin blades on your shoe. Thicker blades are acceptable but many soccer shoes are coming with thin blades on the toe. Also, there needs to be more than 1 cleat at the toe of the boot. Rugby boots will often have a pair of cleats at the toe where many American football shoes come with a single cleat on the toe.

This boot is illegal because of the single cleat at the toe and the very thin blades down the middle.

This boot is legal – notice the pair of cleats at the toe and no thin blades

This boot is illegal because of the non-conical shaped studs (sharp triangles) and the single small stud at the toe

This boot is legal even though it has blades as the blades are thick and wide and there are a pair at the toe