How are football boots tested at Kipsta?

Kipsta
(Image credit: Kipsta)

Being the football boot enthusiast that it is, FourFourTwo was excited, recently, to receive an invite to the headquarters of Kipsta – the footballing branch of French sportswear giant Decathlon – to see how they develop, test and manufacture their football boots. 

It was like a trip to Willy Wonka's, with lab-coated eggheads scurrying around behind glass windows performing experiments on items of sportswear. FFT is committed to providing the very best football boots reviews and the visit provided us with an opportunity to find out as much as possible about how boots are tested before reaching shops. 

We wanted to find out how prototype boots are chopped and changed along the road to perfection. Are they put through their paces by the designers themselves? Which playing surfaces are they tested on? For how long? Do professional players get involved along the way?

We were told to take a deep breath and ask only one question at a time. But we got what we needed in the end. Here's what we found out...

How are football boots tested at Kipsta?

Kipsta

(Image credit: Kipsta)

Firstly, it's worth setting the scene. Kipsta HQ (the delightfully named Kipstadium), located in Lille, is a paradise for anyone who's ever dreamt of working for a sportswear brand. A hub of design offices and labs are completely surrounded by football pitches of every type and terrain. A giant hardcourt for fustal can be seen through the glass windows of the central foyer. Swivel 180 and you're facing two indoor, 3G five-aside pitches. Outside, there is a massive 4G 11-aside pitch, with a grass one next to that, and every type and size of goal available in order to turn them each into small-sided pitches. 

What's more is that they're all being used. We don't know what qualifications you need to get a job at Kipsta, but the ability to play football for at least two hours every day appears to be crucial. It seemed as if everyone was playing. All day. The designers and developers that gave FFT their tour announced we'd be playing all afternoon ourselves. Again the next day. A love for the beautiful game was everywhere you looked. 

This passion is key to how boots are designed and tested by Kipsta. The people that work there are all keen footballers and know what they're looking for in a football boot. When a new prototype is developed – first a completely new boot, then perhaps a version with laces down the side, then a version with no laces, then a version with no laces and a different type of skin, and so on – it is taken out onto one of the pitches and put through its paces. 

The staff at Kipsta share their experiences with one another and a new prototype is developed. FFT saw at least 50 prototype versions of the latest boot set to be released by Kipsta in December 2022. Some barely looked like a football boot; others looked like FFT tried to make them in the dark; some looked perfect, but they, too, had been discarded for one reason or another.

It's a long and arduous journey to get to a rough version that Kipsta are happy with. Once there, they require testing by a professional. Kipsta – who produce the official Ligue 1 matchball this season – seek out elite pros to test the boots for them in training and games. Auxerre defender Quentin Bernard wore their latest design for months. Once a week, he would call the Kipsta designers and offer suggestions – the skin is perfect, the traction could be improved, the heel rubs, the colourways are good to look at, and a host of other tips. The designers would quickly implement these ideas and find ways to make the amendments. Bernard's expert analysis was invaluable to the testing process until the final product was finalised. 

Throughout the testing process, a talented team of designers, engineers and product developers are repeatedly tasked with finding solutions to the issues raised. If a soleplate is deemed to be too hard, a more flexible material must be sourced. If the boots feel too loose, laces might have to be-re-added or a tighter skin introduced. The boots need to be durable, and this could cause a complete rethink of the materials used two months in. Sustainability is also key, with new ideas implemented to make better use of the materials at hand. 

At the end of it all, the Kipsta team are able to celebrate a final product that they, their army of testers and, crucially, customers will be happy with. FFT's fitness was a serious issue in the testing game... but we can't really couldn't  blame the boots for that after everything we'd witnessed across out two days in Lille. 

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Ed McCambridge
Staff Writer

Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Favourite FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.