With the football season having expanded to fill almost the entire year, along with the huge growth in artificial playing surfaces, choosing the right boots to match the playing conditions has never been more important to success on the field.
The first decision that needs to be made is whether to opt for leather of synthetic boots. The latter tend to be cheaper and lighter but leather can be more sturdy and provides a better fit as the boots will eventually mould themselves to the shape of your feet.
If you play in defence, a pair of sturdy leather boots may be a better option as they will help protect your feet during tackles. If you are playing up front and require more speed and agility, a synthetic pair may do the trick. Boots should always be comfortably tight but remember that if your feet are still growing, it will be far wiser to leave a little room for expansion. Unless you do this you may start the season with footwear that is comfortably tight but you will undoubtedly end it with boots that leave you hobbling around in agony.
Another key factor when it comes to choosing a pair of boots is what sort of surface you plan to be playing on. Football boots have different types of soles depending on whether they are best suited to firm or soft ground or artificial turf. Failing to match your boots with your playing surface and conditions will significantly reduce the amount of traction and grip that you experience while playing.
Soft ground boots have longer studs that are usually replaceable while boots for firmer ground have shorter studs that are moulded to the base of the sole. There are also boots that are specially designed for playing on Astroturf and other artificial surfaces. Many players opt to purchase at least two pairs of boots - one hard, one soft - to enable them to always play at their best regardless of the conditions.
Whichever boots you buy, looking after them properly will ensure they always perform at their best. At the end of each game, remove excess mud and clean the boots with warm water. Letting them dry naturally is essential if you want the boots to remain comfortable to wear. Stuffing them with newspaper to ensure they retain their shape will keep them a good fit. Although you may be tempted to place them on a radiator or in an airing cupboard to speed up the process, this will dry them out far too quickly which could produce cracks in the leather as well as making it stiff and unyielding. Applying a coat of neutral polish once the boots are fully dry will help keep the leather supple.
Even if the closest you have ever been to the national stadium was staying the night in a Wembley hotel, the right pair of football boots will make you feel as though you are part of the England first team each and every time you play.