How important is footwear to a pro footballer?
They’re your tools. It’s important that you get the right footwear. If you feel right in the boot you’re going to perform nine times out of 10. Obviously you’re going to have bad games, and some players might blame the boots, but you’ve got to be big enough to take criticism on the chin. Adidas have always provided me with comfortable boots that I’ve been happy with so I’ve got no excuses if I play badly!
What do you look for in a boot?
Grip is important to me. I always wear moulds because the blades are so good on modern boots that you can wear them on soft and hard ground. I like boots to be tight – I’m normally a nine and a half so I’d get a nine. They stretch in time, but I like the feel of a new boot. I don’t like them feeling loose. Players are all different though. Some players get one size too big – it’s just comes down to what you feel comfortable in. For me, a tight boot, helps with grip and changing direction. Alex Song literally wears his boots undone. I don’t know how he plays with them that loose. I always ask him, ‘How can you play like that?’, but it works for him.
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How many pairs do you have on a matchday?
The kitman will bring us three pairs each – a mould, a stud and a spare pair just in case they split. He might also bring a mixed stud boot – a mixture of studs and moulds. Some players take six pairs, but two or three is enough for me. I keep a couple of pairs for training and a couple I use in the game so I can get used to the boot. Some players change them every game and training session.
Do you have any specific requests or make any modifications to your boots?
I like to have a softer innersole to help stop blisters, but apart from that they just send them in as they are and I’m happy with them. I cut the laces down so I can just about tie them. I don’t like long laces that hang out.
Is there a lot of excitement in the dressing room when someone breaks out a new pair of boots?
When boxes of the new boots come in it’s like Christmas. Everybody tries them on and checks out the new colours and designs.
Do you keep boots from memorable moments in your career?
I kept my boots from the 2006 World Cup (adidas +f50 TUNiT). I loved those boots. I thought the Velcro lace cover was class. Other than that I just donate my boots to charity. A lot of the African players have their own foundations so we all give them our spare boots to give to the disadvantaged children.
Stewart Downing is speaking as part of the new adidas #ThereWillBeHaters campaign, wearing the all-new adidas adizero f50. To join the conversation, follow @adidasUK #ThereWillBeHaters. For more visit www.adidas.co.uk/football