Sports Podiatry and Football Injuries-an end in sight?

What would podiatrists who treat foot injuries say about a football boot that will encourage players to consider injury protection as much as performance when choosing footwear? I found the following information in the July 2007 issue of the Brighton Graduate, the magazine of the University of Brighton Graduates Association.

The prototype boot, called the RF5, has spawned a new buzzword – ‘safe performance’. Designer Jonathan Farr at the University of Brighton says the aim of creating such a boot was "to provide protection of the foot and lower limbs alongside the feeling, efficiency and range of motion required to achieve maximum performance." According to Jonathan, "footwear in sports serves three major functions.

  1. provide adequate and effective adhesion between the feet and the playing surface
  2. protect the feet
  3. permit normal movement."

He believes that these functions have yet to be perfected in sports footwear as the interaction of the legs, feet, footwear and ground is still to be fully understood.

The design of the RF5was influenced by research into the causes of injury (etiology), measurements of body size and proportions (anthropometrics), and structure and function (biomechanics). In addition user-centred aspects, emotional elements and boot design were included.

The RF5 boasts some impressive features. An outsole that dissipates pressure and reduces unwanted foot movement; a stud pattern that spreads pressure and reduces foot fixation; a heel cup that helps prevent ankle and knee injury and contoured insoles to give arch support, help postural position and joint alignment.

The only illustrations are clearly computer aided design, so it remains to be seen whether the prototype and concept can be developed cost-effectively into production and then scientifically researched to prove that these design features really do prevent injury. Certainly it appears that some of the features have a therapeutic potential.

Unfortunately, RF5 may ultimately only be suitable for players on World Cup 2010 on your XBox! I hope not.


Andrew has taught at the University as well as providing podiatry services in South Africa since 1977. Twice chair of the Podiatry Association of South Africa and a commentator on care of your feet on both radio and television he now works in private practice in Cape Town and Hout Bay.