It is fantastic when innovation and women’s sport come together to provide a product that enhanced how Women play sport.
Article adapted from Australian Physiotherapy Association
Regularly attending Sports Medicine Australia conferences and professional events for different reasons, physiotherapist and AFLW player Brooke Patterson and ASICS general manager of product Mark Doherty would often strike up conversations.
Their talk gradually started to centre around just one topic—a football boot designed specifically for women. It was a topic close to both their hearts for disparate reasons: Brooke wanted to be able to perform better on the field as a player with the Melbourne Football Club, and Mark wanted to fulfill an ambition he’d long held.
Over cups of coffee and many meetings, Brooke and Mark melded their knowledge and experience and teamed up to test a prototype of the ASICS Lethal Tigreor IT FF—a football boot designed from the ground up specifically for the female foot. The eye-catching kangaroo skin boots made their debut on the feet of the Melbourne Football Club players when the Women’s AFL season kicked off last season. But the origins of the boots go back more than four years, to when Mark began tossing around the idea at the same time women’s AFL took off in Australia.
‘I knew women’s football was getting bigger. I’m a big fan of women’s sport, and especially here in Australia. The challenge I had, too, is that … only two countries are doing football boots: Japan and Australia,’ Mark says. ‘So, we [ASICS] went away and we got into a discussion for about a year or more about it.’
Creating a completely new boot for women was an idea that was breaking new ground—most women’s sports footwear use moulds, known in the industry as a ‘last’, that are made for men’s shoes. The lasts are then reduced in size to cater for smaller female feet. What Mark wanted was a last to suit the more narrow feet of female athletes.
‘We decided to use the men’s tooling as the base but then we’d build the upper completely different to the men’s shoe,’ Mark says. ‘There are a few brands out there saying they’re a women’s football brand. The challenge, to me, was for us to build a last that no one has built before. So, this last is totally unique, even compared to running shoes, because we actually developed it for women’s football boots.’
It took a year to get the shape right, Mark says, working in consultation with podiatrists and with Brooke, APAM, who enlisted the help of her teammates to test the initial prototype on the field as well as provide feedback about the boot’s dynamics, fit and performance. Brooke’s experience as a football player, physiotherapist and researcher (she is currently researching her PhD at La Trobe University on the impact of ACL reconstruction on young adults) offered invaluable insights into the on-field workings of the boot, as did the contributions of her teammates.
‘They [teammates] immediately noticed the difference. One of them said, “It feels like it was made for me.” It has a snug fit, because the female foot, in certain parts, is a lot smaller. Usually the boots we wear are a bit loose around some parts and tighter around others but with these they could really notice they were more specifically made for female foot shapes,’ Brooke says.
Mark says there were two key elements he wanted to address in creating the women’s boot—a tighter toe box (known as a ‘vamp’) to allow players to get a better feel of the ball on their foot, and a reduction in heel slippage by tightening the measurements across the heel.
‘There are a lot of women who really wanted a closer fit and that’s how this boot was designed; it really caters towards a true woman’s shape. We totally looked at the woman’s shape and built the shoe, whereas nearly every other shoe you see in the marketplace now says they’re a women’s shoe but they are really just a resized men’s last,’ Mark says. ‘I thought, “No one’s actually built a true football last for women, I wanted ASICS to be the first to do it”.’
The boot’s outer is crafted in kangaroo leather to improve feel on the foot, while the outsole is made from a solyte polymer instead of the traditional nylon, again to offer a bit of give in the boot on the field.
The Lethal women’s football boot is commercially available through asics.com and in-store at Rebel Sport and online at rebelsport.com.au. The boot comes in women’s sizes 6.5 to 12 and in two eye-catching colours.
Note: ASICS is an APA Endorsed Product Partner; however, the new Lethal women’s football boot is not APA endorsed.