|New studs which have been designed to absorb shock mean no more big toe problems, which shortened the career of Gary Lineker , while Darren Gough(picture top) had boots specially made to ease foot pain
Scientists have developed a new bouncier sportsboot which they hope will prevent the painful foot problems that shorten the playing careers of footballers and cricketers. Researchers in Cambridge have patented the boot design, called the Torque, which has spring-loaded studs to act as miniature shock-absorbers.
Each stud is bonded on to its own springy steel plate, which flexes as the foot comes into contact with the ground. As the plates yield, they help cushion the enormous pressures on the foot each time a player accelerates, changes direction or jumps.
Scientists now believe old-fashioned football boots with rigid studs increase the risk of foot damage. Every time the ball of a player’s foot hits the ground, the impact of his full weight is transferred directly up through the two front studs into the big toe joint and the little toe joint. The harder the ground, the greater the shock on the joint. Players can develop pressure sores and ultimately a condition called Hallux Rigidus, or stiff big toe, where the toe joint stops bending.
“Many professional footballers have foot pain in areas where studs are located, like under the big toe and under the ball of the foot,” said Dr Mark Lake, a biomechanics expert at Liverpool John Moores University who has been testing the new boot.
“Eventually the repeated impact damages the joint so much that it loses mobility, which can lead to players having to retire.”
The risk of damaging the joints is particularly high for midfield players, who can run up to nine miles in a 90 minute match.
Gary Lineker, the former England captain, is one of the many footballers whose careers have been shortened by big toe problems. He broke the toe several times and had to have painkilling injections before matches to allow him to keep playing.
England full back Gary Neville has been ruled out of internationals this spring because of repeated problems from a broken metatarsal, the bone which joins the toe to the foot.
England captain David Beckham may be more prone to toe joint problems after famously breaking a metatarsal in the run up to the World Cup last year.
Fast bowlers in cricket also notoriously suffer from sore feet, caused by the sprint to the crease and the impact in the delivery stride. Andy Caddick was ruled out of England’s Test series with Zimbabwe this week because of foot problems.
Darren Gough and Devon Malcolm have had boots specially-made to ease foot pain.
The new boot has smaller secondary studs on either side of each main stud, which come into contact with the ground when the plate flexes, helping to spread the impact and to improve the boot’s grip on hard or frosty ground.
The Torque boot was the brainchild of Iain Sabberton, a graduate of Northumbria University, who wrote a thesis on how sports boots can be modified to prevent injuries. He took the idea to Generics, a Cambridge business and technology consultancy which specialises in developing new inventions. Early prototypes were tested on a treadmill in the laboratory by Blackburn Rovers’ reserve team.
Matt White, a consultant with Generics, said that foot problems were being made worse because manufacturers were producing ever lighter boots by making the sole thinner, leaving hardly any cushioning between the studs and the feet.
“We received a patent on the boot in February and we are now speaking to Adidas, Umbro and Nike with a view to getting the boot into production,” said Mr White.