The Surprising and Unexpected Evolution of Football Cleats

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Year: 1967

Cleats: Puma Football Cleats, White

Made Famous By: Joe Namath

By the 1960s, advancements in shoe material and construction allowed for all-white and colored shoes. Black shoes remained the NFL standard, however, until Joe Namath wore white kicks to compliment his gaudy fur sideline coats. This opened the door for new shoe colors and designs in the NFL. In the 1970s, Steelers Defensive End L.C. Greenwood would wear gold shoes in tribute to Namath. Namath was famously photographed in a towel with Farrah Fawcett in a tribute to his heterosexuality.

  • cleats

    LIvestrong is wrong. Nike was making football shoes in the ’70s. I believe USC wore them. I know Michigan wore them in the early ’80s. Here’s a pic of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/jim-harbaugh-bo-and-michigan-family

  • cleats

    Interesting pictorial, but you left out a number of interesting shoes. I’ve already mentioned that Nike had more of a foothold (pardon the pun) than you suggest. But there are also the Pony shoes, worn by a lot of NFL players during the ’70s and Brooks cleats, worn by Roger Staubach and others. You failed to mention probably the most worn cleats on a football field, the Adidas cleat similar to these: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/366410119653896786/ . These were worn by non-pros for the better part of a decade. They’re all the cleats I wore until HS. They came in black with white stripes and all white. They were great cleats and I wish they were still made.

    • Ryan Brinck

      Ryan Brinck • 7 minutes ago

      On the first comment, regarding Adidas American football
      cleats and subsequent picture – those cleats are Adidas’ soccer’s World Cup
      model – not a American football shoe – a soccer boots designated by the missing
      front cleat – for kicking purposes. American football cleats have a front
      center (1) cleat, for pushing off, as the football stance would require. That
      front center (1) cleat may prohibit (as research and design standards of the
      day would support, and production and sales followed) or obstruct kicking motions.

      Additionally, soccer cleats typically were designed for
      speed and kicking (mainly due to mostly all positions on the soccer pitch are
      “running positions” and all positions are kicking positions), whereas
      many American football cleats [as late as the mid-1980s], were designed to
      accommodate all positions on the field from offensive lineman to defensive backs.
      While that Adidas World Cup may have been suitable for a “skilled
      position” in football, it is not a very practical American football shoe
      for line positions. Adidas made that soccer shoe in both the removable cleat
      version as well, as early a 1968 (the modeled style shown – 1969). The
      molded style became vastly popular with the Premier League and eventually
      dominated retail sales throughout the world (over the originally designed
      removable cleats shoes, featured in your article).

      NOTE: Pat Hayden (qb) of USC [American football] wore that shoe
      (removable cleat) against ND, during their remarkable 2nd half,
      comeback performance in 1974.

      Furthermore, to add to the 2nd comment – Livestrong is wrong.
      Look at 1974 cover(s) of Sports Illustrated and Nike was widely seen on
      football players feet – mostly [however] west-coast college teams, mainly due
      to University of Oregon’s alumni and Nike founder Phil Knight and his commitment
      to outfitting Oregon Ducks football. Their Pac-10 affiliation proliferated Nike’s
      spread into west coast collegiate gear and game cloth. I am certain, if one
      would venture into University of Oregon’s athletic department’s archives, one
      would discover the onset of Nike football.

      Oregon State football has pictures of their 1970 team in black Nike cleats with the white swoosh.

      Again, Anthony Davis was featured on the cover after their Nov-30th, 1974 comeback against ND, wearing a NIKE multi-colored shoe.

      Michigan, Notre Dame wore NIKE(s) in the late 1970s on turf, and natural grass, as did Baltimore Colt’s qb Bert Jones in the mid-1970s. Michigan and Notre Dame also wore Adidas, Spot-Bilt and a canvas, black rubber cleated shoe the name of which escapes me – on rainy days on he turf.

      Ohio State and Penn State also did the same; but OSU and
      Penn State were 2 of the major school-contracts NIKE signed in the early
      1980s. Again, look at any press-guide of the day from college football.

      NOTE: Riddell made the snug-tie (white ankle wrap around), that is shown in an early photo of the kicking shoe (run a patient search and you can find that).

      You missed Spot-Bilt and their mid-1970s push to offer different cleats for different American Football positions. In 1976-1977, OJ Simpson was their main endorser; his Spot-Bilt cleats (1976) were so light that they would last for [typically] one game; they were the lightest of the era and made from kangaroo skin leather. Additionally, if you look at Scholastic Coach magazine covers (and inside endorsements), you could verify the above and possibly find evidence of Spot-Bilt’s cleats with a Vibram sole, only worn on astro-turf.

      Spot-Bilt was clearly ahead of its time.

      Scholastic Coach advertised for Adidas, which as early as 1972 featured several models of astro-turf American football cleats. Whereas Andy Russell (Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker) wore one Adidas type, with different configuration bottoms in a
      low-cut, Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers running back) wore another Adidas turf
      football cleats, low-cut, while Roc Blier (Steeler’s running back) wore the
      same version as Harris, yet in a high top version, crafted for him (mainly due
      to tissue damage on his one foot, due to war wounds). And Hall of Famer, Jack Hamm (for a period of time) wore a high-top Adidas basketball shoe (leather) on the Pittsburgh notorious astro-turf on game days.

      The Dan Marino lead University of Pittsburgh teams of the late 1970s, early 1980 mostly all wore Adidas basketball shoes on artificial surfaces, including Marino (again look at Sports Illustrated and Scholastic Coach). Those teams’ (UPitt’s) successes, influenced many college teams in east, and several pro offensive lineman followed suit, until manufactures caught up with the players’ need(s).

      Finally, you missed Paul Brown’s decision to go with Converse basketball shoes on the “frozen tundra” of old Municipal Stadium’s championship acquiring Browns, during the 1950s. Look it up Lou Groza career stats in the NFL’s alumni website or in Life magazine’s story (both have pictures of him crossing the goal line in black hi-top Chuck Taylors).

  • Ryan Brinck

    On the first comment, regarding Adidas American football
    cleats and subsequent picture – those cleats are Adidas’ soccer’s World Cup
    model – not a American football shoe – a soccer boots designated by the missing
    front cleat – for kicking purposes. American football cleats have a front
    center (1) cleat, for pushing off, as the football stance would require. That
    front center (1) cleat may prohibit (as research and design standards of the
    day would support, and production and sales followed) or obstruct kicking motions.

    Additionally, soccer cleats typically were designed for
    speed and kicking (mainly due to mostly all positions on the soccer pitch are
    “running positions” and all positions are kicking positions), whereas
    many American football cleats [as late as the mid-1980s], were designed to
    accommodate all positions on the field from offensive lineman to defensive backs.
    While that Adidas World Cup may have been suitable for a “skilled
    position” in football, it is not a very practical American football shoe
    for line positions. Adidas made that soccer shoe in both the removable cleat
    version as well, as early a 1968 (the modeled style shown – 1969). The
    molded style became vastly popular with the Premier League and eventually
    dominated retail sales throughout the world (over the originally designed
    removable cleats shoes, featured in your article).

    NOTE: Pat Hayden (qb) of USC [American football] wore that shoe
    (removable cleat) against ND, during their remarkable 2nd half,
    comeback performance in 1974.

    Furthermore, to add to the 2nd comment – Livestrong is wrong.
    Look at 1974 cover(s) of Sports Illustrated and Nike was widely seen on
    football players feet – mostly [however] west-coast college teams, mainly due
    to University of Oregon’s alumni and Nike founder Phil Knight and his commitment
    to outfitting Oregon Ducks football. Their Pac-10 affiliation proliferated Nike’s
    spread into west coast collegiate gear and game cloth. I am certain, if one
    would venture into University of Oregon’s athletic department’s archives, one
    would discover the onset of Nike football.

    Oregon State football has pictures of their 1970 team in black Nike cleats with the white swoosh.

    Again, Anthony Davis was featured on the cover after their Nov-30th, 1974 comeback against ND, wearing a NIKE multi-colored shoe.

    Michigan, Notre Dame wore NIKE(s) in the late 1970s on turf, and natural grass, as did Baltimore Colt’s qb Bert Jones in the mid-1970s. Michigan and Notre Dame also wore Adidas, Spot-Bilt and a canvas, black rubber cleated shoe the name of which escapes me – on rainy days on he turf.

    Ohio State and Penn State also did the same; but OSU and
    Penn State were 2 of the major school-contracts NIKE signed in the early
    1980s. Again, look at any press-guide of the day from college football.

    NOTE: Riddell made the snug-tie (white ankle wrap around), that is shown in an early photo of the kicking shoe (run a patient search and you can find that).

    You missed Spot-Bilt and their mid-1970s push to offer different cleats for different American Football positions. In 1976-1977, OJ Simpson was their main endorser; his Spot-Bilt cleats (1976) were so light that they would last for [typically] one game; they were the lightest of the era and made from kangaroo skin leather. Additionally, if you look at Scholastic Coach magazine covers (and inside endorsements), you could verify the above and possibly find evidence of Spot-Bilt’s cleats with a Vibram sole, only worn on astro-turf.

    Spot-Bilt was clearly ahead of its time.

    Scholastic Coach advertised for Adidas, which as early as 1972 featured several models of astro-turf American football cleats. Whereas Andy Russell (Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker) wore one Adidas type, with different configuration bottoms in a
    low-cut, Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers running back) wore another Adidas turf
    football cleats, low-cut, while Roc Blier (Steeler’s running back) wore the
    same version as Harris, yet in a high top version, crafted for him (mainly due
    to tissue damage on his one foot, due to war wounds). And Hall of Famer, Jack Hamm (for a period of time) wore a high-top Adidas basketball shoe (leather) on the Pittsburgh notorious astro-turf on game days.

    The Dan Marino lead University of Pittsburgh teams of the late 1970s, early 1980 mostly all wore Adidas basketball shoes on artificial surfaces, including Marino (again look at Sports Illustrated and Scholastic Coach). Those teams’ (UPitt’s) successes, influenced many college teams in east, and several pro offensive lineman followed suit, until manufactures caught up with the players’ need(s).

    Finally, you missed Paul Brown’s decision to go with Converse basketball shoes on the “frozen tundra” of old Municipal Stadium’s championship acquiring Browns, during the 1950s. Look it up Lou Groza career stats in the NFL’s alumni website or in Life magazine’s story (both have pictures of him crossing the goal line in black hi-top Chuck Taylors).