Like any other sport, football changed immensely over the time. As a quite simple sport with regards to the necessary equipment, all you need to play was the ball and shoes (sometimes not even shoes). Well, that changed. Today, football is played in a much more organized manner, with all kinds of additional equipment that is meant to help you, whether by increasing your performance, or by making a safer environment for you to play. This was the case with shin guards, and why footballers wear long socks over them.
When Did Footballers Start to Wear Them?
The first sport that introduced shin guards as a part of the regular equipment was cricket. In the world of football, Sam Weller Widdowson was the first among footballers that wore long socks. A former cricket player himself was laughed at first for wearing them. Soon, it was clear that they are a necessity in order to protect the players. Shin guards as a part of football equipment became an obligatory piece of equipment after establishing the Laws of the Game in 1863. Their goal is to protect against direct and sometimes quite brutal forces and collisions.
At the beginning, football was characterized by fierce tackles which were tolerated by referees. Shin guards evolved as a crucial part of the equipment in these conditions, with the goal of protecting the shin from an injury during the game. Since then, a wide range of choices regarding quality, style and comfort developed.
Different Types of Shin Guards
One thing is certain, that from a beginner to a professional level, shin guards are an important factor in the safety of football players. The main advice to keep in mind is to make sure that your shin guard is appropriate for you and fits you perfectly. A shin guard must fit tightly around ankles and below the knee. There are different sizes, so be careful when picking the right one. Shin guards should cover the area from one inch above the ankle, to one inch below the knee. In addition, they must feel comfortable while wearing and have enough room to allow motion. In order to accomplish perfect grip, one way is to practice wearing them with your cleats on. After a few drills, you will notice if you need a bigger or a smaller size.
This is when socks, especially long socks, become important. Their main reason why footballers wear long socks is to support the shin guards. Keeping the shin guards in one place is one of the crucial parts of safety during a football game. The socks must keep them tight, so they do not shift and slip down, but not too tight because they would restrict the circulation of the blood.
Are Long Socks Important to Cover the Shin Guards?
The necessity for safety regulated through The Laws of the Game, being official rules of football, that both shins and socks must be adequate length and that socks must cover the shins. During the game, especially when involved in a duel game or during the dribbling, there is a great chance you will get a tackle from the side, putting a large amount of pressure on your fibula or ankle. If not fastened properly with the socks, this contact may cause the shin guard to move, which can lead to an injury. Severe injuries that can seriously reduce a player’s playing potential may occur.
More than Just Long Socks
Footballers wear long socks as socks cover the shin guards and keep them steady and firm, so they do not move under the hit. That way, shins will absorb all the force from a duel or a tackle, keeping the leg unharmed. In addition, it is important to mention that you need to find socks long and tight enough to cover and keep in the position of your shin guards. If your socks are too loose, the shins will have space to move around and they will not provide adequate protection. The socks must be long enough at least to cover the shin guards, but it is an even more stable option to have them cover the greater area of the leg.
This is also the reason why so many footballers wear long socks even above their knees nowadays. This is a more stable option. Football is a very dynamic and energetic sport. It involves a lot of duel games and running. These are the reasons why it may lead to serious falls or scratches in the knee area. Socks going over the knees can protect you from major scratches and also help you keep everything in place after the fall.
Do Long Socks Help Keep the Legs Warm?
Often footballers wear long socks as a way to keep their legs warm, especially if they have a game during cold winter nights. Football players do not have the option of wearing pants. They must be in their team uniform, consisting of a jersey, a shorts, and long socks. If your muscles are not active enough or exposed to a cold air, that makes them prone to cramps due to poor blood circulation and muscle contraction. Footballers wear long socks that cover a large area of the legs because it helps keep their leg muscles warm. This reduces the probability of having muscle cramps. In addition, due to better blood circulation in your legs, your comfort and movement is improved, which boosts your performance on the field.
Are Long Socks Just a Fashion Trend?
It is a custom that players wear socks matching their team colours. This is due to the fact that they are considered as a part of the uniform. Differently coloured socks are something you rarely see on the playing field. Sometimes, footballers wear long socks in a way to combine their team colours with the bright or neon colours of the socks, in order possibly to distract their opponents. The way you wear socks, and their length, has become part of the footballers’ style and appearance. Players design their own socks, adapting them to their needs and wishes. They tend to make them as comfortable as possible, while having an appealing look at the same time.
Why do Some Footballers Cut Holes in Their Long Socks?
The most famous individual known among footballers to wear long socks with large holes in them is the British Kyle Walker. He was often spotted with large, gaping holes in his socks, and clearly, he has done them himself. Why does he take the scissors and cut holes in the entire length of the socks, at the back part?
The reason that lies behind this is totally practical and reasonable. Modern football socks are tight and long in length. Due to the intense dynamic and contact game of football, this was necessary to keep the shin guards in place. In addition, the defenders’ job is to make sliding tackles and long socks can help prevent scratches. Not only that, players also have quite muscular calves, which makes the socks fabric even tighter and less comfortable. Some players, like Kyle Walker, do what they can to ease the tension in the lower half of the legs.
These holes release the pressure in the muscles more space is created in the back part of the socks and the stretching of the fabric. That lowers the possibility of having cramps during the game, and prevents pain during long matches.
Do Long Socks Today Fit the Footballers’ Requirements?
The Problem of Long Socks
This indicates that football socks manufacturers did not realize the importance of elasticity in the back part of the socks, especially when it comes to long socks, as they cover the entire lower half of the leg. If too tight, they create a large amount of pressure, which increases the possibility of the muscles burning out and the appearance of cramps. The latest trend of cutting holes in them shows how the needs of players have changed. From the basic need to cover and hold the shin guards, the role of long socks has changed.
Nowadays, players started wearing them even below the top line of the guards. That allows their calves to be free and releases the tension in the muscles. This increased pressure in the back part of long socks resulted in this new trend, with players trying to make their equipment more comfortable.
Manufacturers should adapt to these conditions and answer the needs of players. Their equipment must be comfortable as much as possible, while also keeping them safe. If long socks, together with shin guards, are created for the purpose of protecting the footballers, then they must also be pleasant to wear them during the game. There are many ways to increase comfort. Whether through increased elasticity fabric in the back part or with already created holes in them so the players do not have to do it by themselves.
All these little changes can help the players feel more comfortable and flexible in their gear. Modifying the equipment in this way will increase the footballers’ physical capabilities, considering the fact that this additional room in the back will lower the possibility of muscle burn and cramps. This will without doubt reflect in their gameplay and improve their performance on the field, at training sessions and competitive matches.