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Football boots are without doubt the most important part of a footballer's kit. They need to be suitable for the player's needs so that they can perform at their best on the pitch. But that's not all: over the years, style, design and colour have become important factors when deciding which boots to buy.
FOOTBALL BOOTS ARE WITHOUT DOUBT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A FOOTBALLER'S KIT. THEY NEED TO BE SUITABLE FOR THE PLAYER'S NEEDS SO THAT THEY CAN PERFORM AT THEIR BEST ON THE PITCH. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL: OVER THE YEARS, STYLE, DESIGN AND COLOUR HAVE BECOME IMPORTANT FACTORS WHEN DECIDING WHICH BOOTS TO BUY.
Football boots are a complex product to design as they experience numerous types of wear on and off the pitch. All of these elements are taken into account during the design stage. First thing's first: a boot is composed of an upper and a sole. At Decathlon, it takes around 18 months to design a football boot. That's the time from the project launch and the project manager's brief, which will be just a few lines long, to the day the boot hits the shelves.
Product development starts with the specifications, which are sent to the product engineer and designer by the product manager. The product manager will have spent several weeks or even months beforehand thinking about their product range and identifying their needs (in particular, by observing players on the pitch) in order to come up with a coherent project that's in line with the brand's vision.
Once they've received the brief, the design phase begins. The project team's aim is to think about how the product can meet the requirements of the specifications, while taking into account any constraints. A price is specified, which limits the design costs. The boot also needs to complement the other products that are already available in stores and online.
Based on this, the designer will start brainstorming and will come up with several design options, while the product engineer will explore which materials would work with these designs. Their mission is to make sure the boot meets the cost and quality requirements, as well as the deadline. Nothing is left to chance, be it comfort, grip, ball feel or weight. Everything is carefully studied so that the final product will fully meet expectations.
A few months after the start of the project, it's time to present the first prototypes. The designer will show us their initial designs, along with a prototype. At this point, we decide on the direction in which we want to go and make sure the product is still feasible with regard to the original requirements.
The next step is to present an almost-finished prototype, in several colours, to the entire project group. This is also when we get the results of our first tests - be they among customers (to test the fit) or in the lab - which enables us to approve the materials and prove that the product will be of good quality.
At this point, the product is 90% finished. There are still just a few things to adjust, and some longer-term tests for our certification department to carry out. These tests take place with our partner clubs and our academy to make sure the product is well made and meets the needs that we identified at the start of the project.
If the model meets all of the technical and design requirements, the product is approved. The industrialisation phase can then begin.
During industrialisation, the final tests are performed (yes, more tests!) to make sure the different sizes are correct. Next, an initial production run takes place to check the final stages of production, make sure the process runs smoothly, check the settings used for the various operations, etc. The sample models are then signed off by the product engineer, the development centre and the production site as references. They'll be used for checks during manufacture. Once everything has been approved and agreed with the supplier, production can start.
But a product going on sale doesn't mean that the project is over. One final study is conducted after a few weeks to analyse the initial feedback and ensure the product has had the desired effect among customers.
As you've seen, football boots are a flagship technical product requiring a lot of time and testing. It's a real team effort involving the whole project group and our suppliers over the course of around 18 months. The development of a football boot is deemed to be a success if we get good user feedback and if customers are proud to play in our boots each week.