Boot camp: The inside track on cricket footwear

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csnicc 2nds vs Muckamore 181You probably under-appreciate your feet.

During a hard game you can be on them for 2-3 hours at a time, working with your ankles and legs to keep you upright, balanced and performing to your best. Every step you run generates a force that is 2.5x your body weight through your foot. If you are a fast bowler the impact at the point of delivery jumps up to 9x.

They take a lot. Yet many players give only short consideration to the boots they wear.

It's time that changed.

What do you look for in a good cricket boot?

That is harder to answer than you might think. The reason for this is that there is a difference between what sport science thinks is best and what shoe manufacturers make.

The science of feet

There is little doubt that the best way for our feet to function is barefoot. That may seem a surprise to those who have been brought up on the common knowledge of more cushioning and more support.

But people have been around a lot longer than trainers have. We are designed by nature to be able to walk, run, hunt and gather without shoes. Our feet have an incredibly thick skin and amazing feedback system that works with the support muscles in our legs and hips to allow for heavy impacts and excellent balance.

Various studies have backed this up:
 
  • Runners with old shoes are less likely to be injured than runners with newer shoes.
  • The more cushioning in your shoe, the more likely the injury.
  • The thicker and harder the sole of your shoe, the worse your balance becomes.

You can read about all these studies in a long article by Dr. Froncioni, an orthopedic surgeon (worth reading though).

On top of this, injury rates in fast bowlers continue to increase despite increases in cushioning and support in their shoes. I have also seen anecdotal evidence with basketball players that the more support the shoe gives your ankle, the weaker and less flexible the ankle becomes.

Despite this evidence, walking into any shop that sells trainers or cricket boots shows you the opposite: More support and more cushioning.

Where does that leave our poor feet in all this?

It's a personal thing. Most of us can't play barefoot after years of conditioning our feet to be in shoes. We have to find a compromise. The more we can do to minimise the risk of injury with our footwear the better.

Cut

Cut is how high the boot goes up your ankle. With cricket shoes the two options are high cut bowling boots and shoe cut boots for batting and fielding.

Fast bowlers are the main users of bowling boots as they are designed to support the ankle. As we are not bowling in bare feet, the chance of slipping in medium cut boots and socks is higher, so this is sensible.

But we already know that this can reduce the range of motion of your ankle, another injury risk.

To overcome this, make sure you are warming up before and cooling down after play/training with 5 minutes of ankle mobility. Here is a great video that explains how.

Also a bit of gentle bowling and fielding in bare feet will work wonders. Just make sure the ground is safe from stones/glass/other stuff that hurts.

Spikes

Unless you are a fast bowler, the spike in your boots is a matter of preference. There are 4 main options:

  • Full spike
  • Half spike (where the spikes are just at the front)
  • Rubbers (with no spikes, just rubber moulded grips)
  • Adjustable (can add or remove spikes and replace with rubber)

Fast bowlers need a full spike for the extra stability. Always wear them unless you are prevented from doing so by playing on artificial surfaces.

Other players can go with whatever option is most comfortable. The more spikes you have the more grip you have in the surface which is a double edged sword. On one hand you are less likely to slip and fall on the other hand you may get your foot caught in the ground and turn your ankle or knee.

Generally the softer the surface the more useful spikes become, the harder the surface the less you need them.

Cushioning

As we know, most cushioning is probably doing more harm than good. For this reason it's best to avoid manufacturer named cushioning technology like Gel and Air. A simple shoe with as thin a sole as possible is statistically superior: You are less likely to get injured.

If you do buy something with lots of cushioning try and 'break it in' before using it for a full game.

Protection

It's out of fashion at the moment, but the final consideration is how much protection your boot gives you from impact. If you face 90mph yorkers a toe protector is a sensible consideration. However, they do increase the weight of the boot making sprinting a little harder.

Other tips
 
  • Wear older boots, and break in new ones slowly.
  • Go barefoot as often as you can in normal life.
  • Consider wearing barefoot style training shoes like 'Nike Free' in the gym or nets.
  • Remember to mobilise your ankles in your warm ups.
  • There is no one perfect shoe. Experiment until you find something comfortable for you.

In the future manufacturers may come up with something better for cricket. Shoes are already appearing that more accurately mimic the feet but there is nothing for cricket yet, specifically fast bowlers who have the highest risk.

Until then, experimentation and compromise are the only solution.

Image credit: alister667

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Comments

Hi David,

I was wonderimg if you could tell me if the Asics Gel-Advance 2 is a good cricket shoe. I was planning to get it when my pay comes in as my current shoes are really uncomfortable and I always hurt my ankle in them.

Thanks

Although I have never worn that shoe, I would say the answer is in the article James. Based on the citeria above, would you say it is a good shoe or not?

Well, on the site there are various amounts of scientific rhetoric, so I'm not too sure what to filter and what not to. I guess that maybe because the Aussie cricket team use them then they can't be that bad, can they. Well I need new cricket boots anyway, so I guess as you said "experimentation and compromise are the only solution". Thanks for your help

Are Puma cricket shoes good ?
I have recently perchased a pair but i am finding them uncomfortable.
I wear them when fielding and just asic half spikes when batting..
If i wear big woolen "cricket socks" will it make a difference ?

The science seems clear to me James. As I said in the article: "it's best to avoid manufacturer named cushioning technology like Gel and Air. A simple shoe with as thin a sole as possible is statistically superior: You are less likely to get injured."

Puma are a well established brand Dri. I don't own a pair myself so I can't comment for sure, but by my criteria are they thin soled with no cushioning?

More importantly, if they are uncomfortable they are not good for YOU. Which is what really counts here.

I meant the scientific rhetoric on the shoes site, things like "PU outsole" and "Solyte 55", not the stuff on this one.

I'm pretty sure the sole is thin, at least compared to my current shoe, and it seems comfortable enough. I think I'll give it a go

Thanks

I'm with you James. Yes there is is a lot of conflicting information! I tent to avoid the manufacturers claims and go straight to the independent studies. Let me know how you go on with those shoes.

Will do David, I'm hopeing the $170 doesn't go to waste!

One tip would be to break them in as much as you can. Wear them around the house (with spikes out of course). Train in them a few times before playing a match in them. That kind of thing.

That makes sense, thanks. Just a question about spikes. Are they worth to wear just on the field, as I play on artificial pitches. Would they provide an advantage or would they just be another nuisance?

It's personal preference again James. I like spikes for the extra grip but the again I tend to play on poorer outfields in less than perfect conditions.

James i can assure you any asics cricket boots are by far the best on the market i have worn them forever !! Also look into spiking trainers its what they do in AUS and SA tennis style shoes or basketball boots which have been soled are great you can get a cricket sole put on for 20 - 30 quid ! Alan Mullaly was the king of wearing these styled bowling boots !!

I am looking for options to send trainers to be soled and spiked . Any contacts please.

I think cricket will benefit greatly from kickspike.

can anyone recommend a batting boot with good toe protection?

I train with the blokes and I got hit by a yorker last night that broke my toe, i have been using the asics / trainer style shoes as i bowl as well, but i think i need a pair of batting boots when i face the men to give me some protection

kickspikes are traction footwear with retractable metal spikes. No need for slip ons etc...just click a button with your foot and the spikes come out.

You say to avoid manufacturers using the word Gel etc. Our county (minor county) has just gone through working with a professional podiatrist who pushed the Gel boots (heal gel) especially for the bowlers.

Is there proof that these gel based shoes cause injury as we've just bought a pair at great expense

John Jones

Good question John. I'm no foot expert but I based my opinions on those of Dr Froncioni, an orthopedic surgeon and the "running shoe" series on the science of sport (click here). I admit this is research done on distance running rather than cricket but I can see no reason why you could not extrapolate the results.

Perhaps a trained orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist reading this could comment if you are out there?

Asics are the only boots i will wear due to fit comfort tried the new nike but couldnt get a pair to fit

how would you go about getting trainners soled and spiked any ideas peoples

I'm a fast bowler and find that due to hitting the crease so hard the back spikes push upwards and bruise my heal. I destroyed a pair of puma spikes in about 80 overs. I definitely feel the need for a lot of cushioning for this reason.

I'm a right arm fast bolower, my left heel takes lots of pressure when i deliver the ball. In-fact, if I am wearing normal running shoes it would normally leave my foot aching for days even after a few deliveries. Hence, I find cushioning extremely important.
Whilst indoor, i wear shock master shoes (originally for squash), and outdoor cricket I have recently bought Asics 335 Gell shoes. These shoes have given me a good deal of comfort.

Can you please recommend me a Cricket batting shoe with high toe Protection!!!
Because I’m living in Germany and there is no Cricket shop Sad I have to order everything over Internet and most of my friends playing lather Cricket with normal running shoes Laughing out loud Thank you in advance

As I look at my purpling big toe caused by a wonderfully pitched yorker. I too would like to know what Cricket boot to get with toe protection or a great drill to work on my blocking of a yorker.

Me too! Any advice would be much appreciated as I really don't feel too happy about risking pain like that again...

Hi mats,

So I finally found a way to protect the toe its little bit tricky but it helps!!!
Hope this link will help u guys:

http://custombats.co.uk/cbforum/index.php?topic=634.0
http://www.tufftoesports.com/ (There is a Video how u should do it)
cheers

Thanks for the link Dushantha, the Tuff Toe would be very handy for bowlers.

Just thinking, would bowlers be able to wear the baseball shoes the pitchers wear? Something like this (http://www.asadviser.com/files/Reebok-Vero-Baseball-Cleat-Mens.jpg) looks pretty light and would make movement much easier.

Yes - I found that link too - and also this alternative which has an "Injury Protection" option:
http://www.hurlerathletic.com/index.php

I also tried Googling 'white safety trainers' and came up with some possibilities like:
http://www.protrade.co.uk/category.asp?id=239541
and the White Metal Free Leather Safety Trainers here:
http://www.uksafetyfootwear.com/acatalog/Himalayan_Safety_Trainers.html
I think Converse do some too, but haven't located anything that looks likely yet..

Composite toe caps seem to be the way to go being lighter and apparently less uncomfortable.

Not a clue what they'd be like to run in, but anything has to be better than a fast ball bouncing off your big toe..

Where can I buy cricket boots with toe protector

I have been wearing the high-cut Asics bowling boots for some years now and have found them to be excellent. However, now that I want to buy another pair, it seems that Asics have discontinued them and only produce a shoe-cut bowling boot. Does anyone kow whether there is a reason for this?

David, I have recently read Christopher MacDougall's Born to Run, and have completely remodelled my running style and changed my footwear accordingly. But I'm not sure the same principles can be applied to fast-bowling as to running. Running, as you said, is something natural that we have been doing for many thousands of years. But there is absolutely nothing natural about the process of bowling! I think that the force with which some bowlers plant their front foot - a bit of cushioning can never be a bad thing.

Obviously I have no scientific evidence to support this. I just can't imagine coming in at full pace and planting my front foot without any cushioning.

That said, the suggestion to warm up bare-foot sounds pretty good and I'll definitely give that a try this weekend.

Hello David,

Interesting article. I am a fast bowler and ive been getting shin splints. ive tried resting and ice but doesn't seem to work. My landing leg (left) hurts more than the right. Could you please suggest a shoe for fast bowling ?

Thanks,
Riaz

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Hello I am a batsman/fielder who is suffering from sore feet. I have puma iridium shoes set up half spike but they still hurt. I am considering Asics gel advance 4 shoes or Nike openers. Any advice?

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I have recently got two pairs of cricket boots for some unknown reason . I have a bowling pair and a batting pair but i am not sure what i should do with them because i don't need two pairs!!

I have recently got two pairs of cricket boots for some unknown reason . I have a bowling pair and a batting pair but i am not sure what i should do with them because i don't need two pairs!!

Play on artificial pitches, could golf shoes work? I have bought cricket shoes off the web but they run small and I was thinking that a pair of golf shoes should. Any thoughts?

Hey Paul,
According to what I know about artificial turfs, you may not be allowed to wear golf 'spikes' on them. If they are rubber, that would work great. Although, if the surface is hard as rock, then you may not need rubber spikes, simple gym shoes or runners would be best as there already is enough traction.

As this article suggests, spikes are mainly used for friction between your feet and the surface.

Hope that helps.

hi, I am also planning to buy puma iridium high ankel shoes. I am a fast bowler and First time I am going for spikes.. just wanna know how good or bad they are? I am also concerned about the weight of shoes. is 550 gms of spike shoe is normal or they are heavy?

Hi Abhinav
This is my second season in Puma Iridiums, and I have found them to be very good. The high cut has supported my ankle well and the boot is very comfortable. I haven't noticed that they are particularly heavy - certainly no more so than the Asics boots I was wearing in the past.

In all, I am very happy with my Puma's and can highly recommend them.

I have been using Puma Iridium Mid Cut Bowling Spikes and I find that they are very comfortable and very good bowling spikes...

I got shint splints in my left leg and I was pain free after 1 week of getting fitted for orthotics by a podiatrist.

I am a teenager, I would like to buy some cricket shoes, that are good for bowling and have good support because I am a fast bowler. I also need to be able to bat in the same pair of shoes because I bat high up the order, I was looking at adidas twenty2 yard shoes, but what do you recommend?

Hi James,

Could you recommend a cricket shoe or the type of shoe that can be used on clay cricket grounds, since in India practice sessions are being held on clay grounds?

Thanks,
Chirag

I have the new 2014 Adidas 22yard mid VI and there so nice and I'm basically the same player as you, I'm 17 open the bowling at around 80mph(that's what I was clocked on anyway) and bat at 5 and I wear them for that too and there really comfy and I don't get any aches or pains. They cost me £85 but I would say you get what you pay for

Very much agree with the fact that people with old trainers with less padding are less prone to injury. We encourage everyone at Team Bootcamp to wear older shoes for the activities and training and save the new shoes for waling about the streets in.

Anyway, great article, thanks guys.

Interesting article. I have had problems with rolling my ankle for a couple of years, the last time was when I was fielding and I stopped and turned to throw the ball which put my weight on one leg causing me to roll my ankle and strain ligaments. I wear asics bowling boots for bowling and fielding as I am a fast bowler but unsure about this because of the injury. Would you recommend this is best for fielding and bowling with the high ankle support or something similar to a normal shoe? What insoles would you recommend?

Thanks

James

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