February 25, 2024

Nike and Adidas urged by MPs to promote female football boots

Major brands including Adidas, Nike and Puma have been quizzed by MPs about the lack of football boots specifically designed for women and girls.

There are concerns higher rates of knee injuries among female players are linked to boots designed for men.

ACL anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries impacted five of the world’s top 20 female footballers in 2022.

Key players for the Lionesses are missing from the 2023 Women’s World Cup because of the injury.

Sports scientists have said the use of boots created for male players could be putting women at a higher risk of injury. Research is still being carried out.

Research published last year found football boots fail to account for the fact women’s feet, heels and arches are shaped differently.

And wearing boots designed for men is causing blisters and stress fractures in elite female players.

Boot manufacturers told MPs they were investing in women-only and gender neutral products but retailers were sometimes reluctant to stock them and there was lower consumer demand, and awareness, of the products.

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who chairs the women and equalities committee, said it was disappointing that no retailers responded to the committee’s inquiry.

She called on sportswear brands to do more to influence their behaviour.

‘Welcome progress’

The committee singled out product descriptions of football boots on Sports Direct’s website and in-store. which do not appear to indicate whether they are designed specifically for women and in many cases are promoted as just “men’s” or “boys”.

The committee asked Sports Direct what it is doing to support women and girls wishing to play football but did not receive a response.

Ms Nokes added: “Football brands are making welcome progress on supporting the needs of female football players, but this needs to be better reflected on the High Street and online.

“It remains the case that major retailers give limited recognition to women and girls when it comes to football boots.

“It is no good investing in research and making boots for female football players if women are unaware of those products or unable to buy them.”

The committee asked major brands about their approach to the design, manufacture and marketing of football boots and how this could help prevent avoidable injuries.

Puma was asked why there are so few football boots on the market designed specifically for women and girls.

Higher cost

In its response, Puma said: “One hypothesis might be that women have grown up with the notion that the best way to challenge male domination in football (and all spheres of life) is to challenge it head on and refuse to be seen as any less capable than men, or different to men.

“One way this may have manifested itself is that female players wanted to play and be treated exactly as male players are, with the exact same footwear and in the same colourways.”

The committee also raised that several boots that are designed for women can cost over £200 more and asked what the barriers are to producing more affordable boots for women and girls.

Nike responded by saying they are offering two styles across the Phantom Luna boot, giving consumers options to choose from.

IDA Sports have a range of boots that are designed specifically for women’s feet and were featured in this inquiry.

They said that women are not small men and that unisex boots are not suitable because “women are built differently”.

However, they have yet to break into one of the major retailers in the UK.

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