ASICS has unveiled the first ever cricket shoe made specifically for females, designed in conjunction with Cricket Australia
If the shoe fits: how a game-changer was created
For the first time in 13 years of top-level cricket, Alyssa Healy is finally wearing a cricket shoe that fits.
That's not because the five-time World Cup-winning wicketkeeper has particularly odd-sized feet, or a disinclination to try on footwear before purchasing.
It's simply because until now, there has never been a cricket shoe designed specifically for women.
Thanks to ASICS Australia, that has now changed.
This summer, female players at every level of the game will be able to proudly wear the 350 NOT OUT FF, developed in conjunction with the Australian women's team’s physiotherapists and players.Image Id: 45045BD7E6F2498F92A6A96C7237FD02 Image Caption: Gardner shows off her new footwear // Supplied
It's a major step for equality in the game, but the benefits will go far beyond the symbolic.
Until now, female players were forced to buy shoes designed for male feet, which are typically larger and broader.
It meant in the past, fast bowlers were forced to wear up to three pairs of socks at once, just to attain some level of stability as they hit the crease.
It was never perfect, and it contributed to knee, ankle and foot problems.
Introducing the Women’s 350 NOT OUT FF - the first cricket shoe made for females. -> https://t.co/WmXK5LXa6c Developed in partnership with @AusWomenCricket Team Physiotherapists and Athletes #MadeForMe#ASICSCricket pic.twitter.com/6IEJFHMFTP— ASICS Australia (@ASICSaustralia) August 4, 2020
For batters like Healy, who wears a petite women's size 7.5, shoes for men simply don't come small enough for her.
Instead, she would take a normal women's running shoe, remove the bottom and send it away to get spiked up.
"It's really cool," Healy said of the 350 NOT OUT FF when speaking to cricket.com.au.
"Some of us had never been able to have a pair of spikes because they never came in small enough sizes.
"ASICS took that on board and started to make their batting shoes in smaller sizes for us tiny-footed people (in recent years), and now they've gone one step further and made a female-specific shoe.
"It's exciting for us to have been a part of it, and I'm excited for all the young girls out there who can walk into a store and order a female cricket shoe."
It was a suspicion that ill-fitting shoes were contributing to knee, ankle and foot injuries that first prompted former Australia team physio Kate Mahony to reach out to ASICS to work on a solution.
An insole was designed as the first step to addressing the problem, while the 350 NOT OUT FF has been several years in the making as ASICS and Cricket Australia perfected the new shoe.
"It's something that we know is going to look after our feet because we're in them for long hours of the day and the feedback has already been great," Healy said.
"I've been wearing mine at training and they fit seamlessly and they're so light and comfortable.
"I've given a few pairs to some players in the NSW Breakers squad and they're loving them too.
"Hopefully we'll see less of those injuries and more time on the park for (the fast bowlers) in particular.
"They're a great colour, a really neutral colour, they're not a bright pink or anything. They're a nice light blue which fits in really well with our NSW uniform but I'm sure everyone else will enjoy them as well."Image Id: 02ED59BDA6FA493591BB5B2EFA8C9505 Image Caption: The ASICS 350 NOT OUT FF // Supplied
When Mahony departed CA to join the New South Wales Institute of Sport in early 2019, her replacement Kate Beerworth picked up where she left off.
The shoe had to go through extensive testing across the many facets of the game, including various fielding positions and movements, and on a wide variety of surfaces, before it was given the tick of approval.
"It's another significant step in the professionalism of the women’s game," Beerworth told cricket.com.au.
"Players always find a way and unless they're exposed to something different, they make do.
"But the feedback from players like Healy and Tayla Vlaeminck and others from Cricket NSW, is that once they put a shoe on that's a different fit and a narrower fit, they go 'okay, right, this is better'.
"Historically, female athletes were often seen as small men, but now there's the demand for female-specific support services in the game. That is driving change in improving equipment that's actually specific for female anatomy.
"Often the female foot is narrower in certain parts and when players are wearing a shoe that is designed for the male foot, they can slide around in the shoe, and that can lead to things like blisters, nail irritation and it can contribute to foot and ankle pain."Image Id: 4738E93B121F4968AD46506F27F8D070 Image Caption: Pace ace Tayla Vlaeminck in full flight // Getty
Beerworth believes the shoe will go beyond contributing to player safety and comfort – it could also improve performance.
"From a performance aspect, if your foot is sliding around, you're not 100 per cent confident in the stability of your foot as it hits the ground," she said.
"This will only improve their confidence when they hit the crease."
In other words, if Australian speedster Tayla Vlaeminck steaming in at 120-plus km/h was not already a scary enough prospect for the game's batters, imagine how threatening she'll be wearing a shoe that fits.