Ida Sports, the company co-founded by Laura Youngson to provide the best women’s football boots on the market, know their stuff. That’s a good thing, too, because not every reputable brand can easily offer comfortable, well-fitting shoes for women, whether they’re pros or girls making their first forays into the game.
With the Women’s World Cup approaching in Australia and New Zealand – another momentous occasion for women’s football – some stars will not have the ideal products. Equally significant is the lack of relevant cleats available to mainstream audiences, with labels still offering non-standard, unisex options in a year when interest in a game could be peaking.
On the subject of peaks, Youngson’s vision for better boots crystallized atop Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in 2017 while playing in the highest altitude soccer match on land with Equal Playing Field. Six years later, Ida has the backing of Elysian Park Ventures – enabled by Todd Boily and the ownership behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League club Chelsea – as well as Stadia Ventures and Billy Jean King Enterprises.
His next goal is to spread the name even further, becoming a desirable option in a selection group that includes big players like Nike, Adidas and Puma.
“It’s fun to challenge brands because you know you’re a startup,” Youngson says via Zoom link. “But at the same time, we know that we’re probably the team that knows the most about women’s football boots on the planet. So you can start profiting from the technologies even if they have heaps of marketing dollars.
Speaking about the current situation, she says: “I think we’re seeing that if you’re at the top of the top, you’re going to get a custom shoe, like the Sam Kerr of this world. But if you’re anywhere below, you’re going to get ready-made products or have to buy products that aren’t really made for women.
“We know the bigger brands are looking at it, considering what to release for the World Cup, if they’re going to release anything. All attempts so far have been half-hearted and may not put all the technology or research necessary to manufacture and build these products for women.
Commenting on its stance, Puma said: “We will offer unisex and women’s specific fits across all our boot franchises (Future, Ultra and King). By removing bulk from the upper and creating a lower sole, we created a boot for her that fits the anatomy of the female foot. Puma’s first football boot with a specific women’s cut, launching in 2021.”
An Adidas statement read: “Our female athletes tell us they want the same uncompromising levels of performance as the current men’s boot range, so our current focus is to produce football boots for the needs of all athletes and to test extensively with gender-identifying athletes , at all levels.
“Our history of innovation in football boots means we never stand still and will continue to test new concepts across our broad base of athletes.”
Nike may have new designs in the pipeline, but has yet to say where it is and what solutions it might provide. Nevertheless, the global appeal of all these brands means they remain well-positioned to establish partnerships with players and reach more customers around the world.
To be heard, Ida Sports has started to enter mainstream football. And while he continues to be involved at all levels of the game, he is also looking for links higher up the pyramid and has some players trialling his brand in the Women’s Super League in England.
However, there are some obstacles. “For elite players, agents are the ones who are maybe looking for the biggest but not the best thing for the players,” Youngson continues. “It’s not all agents. But some try to cash in on women’s sports without really understanding the sport.
“Right now, I think we’re seeing women’s sports as the Wild West. So there are all these sponsorship deals and things are changing fast. Obviously, as a startup, you can’t compete with that.
“But you can compete when you have players who have had shoe issues in the past, and they want to work with you because they know you care about athletes and are more authentic to women.”
Ida Sports, whose merchandise is available in Australia, the UK and the US, have released several designs such as the Centra, Classica, Rise and Spirit. Constantly listening to feedback, he is still developing his models and is keen to push further into Europe, where interest and football pedigree in countries such as Spain is high. With the leagues in these nations either professional or going professional, the inquiries about their work keep coming.
As for the standard of play, which is already very high in some European countries, the US, Canada, Australia and Brazil, Youngson believes that better conditions could stimulate players even more.
“I liken it to British cycling, with the 1% gains in many places adding up. I think shoes are like that. If you don’t have to think about your shoes and feel more comfortable, you’re less likely to get tired and reduce your risk of injury by wearing something that fits you well.
“We see such amazing games, but players are already complaining about the workload and having to play a lot. And you see these injuries that keep people out for longer. You think, “can we look at this and imagine what would happen if you removed the shoes as one of the barriers?”
Yet perhaps the main focus is offering a brand that represents everyone, regardless of standard.
“Part of our mission is to transform the industry so that when girls and women walk into sports stores, they can see themselves,” concludes Youngson.
With new characters to be created in July and August, with an unprecedented 32 teams from the Philippines to Zambia taking part, this is the best time to achieve just that.