Baseball cleats are known today as an essential piece of equipment or gear that every baseball player should have. However, during the early years of baseball, a lot of players didn’t actually wear cleats. By the 1860s, cleats were introduced in the sport of baseball, and because of the traction and support they provide, cleats became incredibly popular over the years for the said sport. So, who wore the first baseball cleats? And how did it evolve into the modern cleats we know today? We will find the answers to these questions as we take a look at the history of baseball cleats.
The Origins of Cleats
Before cleats were used in sports, they were used by Roman legionaries or soldiers during the time of the Ancient Roman Empire. However, the cleats they wore back then were not actually covered shoes but sandals that had studs on the outsole to improve their traction on different kinds of soil or floor. These sandals were called caligae, and they are military sand boots that are hobnailed, which means that there are studs made of metal that are embedded on the outsole of the boots.
It is speculated that athletes have already worn cleats since the 1500s. Unfortunately, there were no surviving samples of cleats during that period, but historians have read several written records that mentioned a specific kind of footwear with outsole studs used by athletes in England. One of these records is a written document penned in 1526 that mentioned “football boots” that served as part of the Great Wardrobe of King Henry VIII. Historians believed that King Henry VIII would often order his royal cordwainer or shoemaker, Cornelius Johnson, to make a pair of boots that he could use to play football. The football boots that the king wore are said to be made of the strongest leather and cost about four shillings, which is equivalent to $200 today.
Cleats in Football
After the 1500s, football boots or cleats became a popular type of footwear to wear in the said sport. However, during that time, football cleats weren’t really required to wear, so a lot of players still used different types of shoes to play on the field. But when the Football Association was formed in 1863, the leaders sought rules that would regulate how the sport could be played fairly and safely by all players in England.
The Football Association then created regulations that would dictate what pieces of equipment are needed for all football players to wear in various English football leagues. From football cleats made entirely of leather and several pieces of metal, shoe manufacturers have found different ways to mass produce football cleats and make them more affordable. One of the well-known methods for creating football cleats is vulcanization, which is the process of hardening rubber to make it more durable and long-lasting.
Cleats in Baseball
The cleats that were originally only used for football began to be utilized for baseball too during the 1860s in the United States. During that period, baseball players would wear shoes with metal spikes in order to have proper traction on the field, which primarily has grass and relatively soft soil. According to the third edition of the famous Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the baseball shoe is supposed to be a special type of footwear that is worn by baseball players and features spikes for traction and a set of laces for proper support.
It is widely believed that a man named Paul Butler was the first ever player to wear football cleats for baseball in 1862. In written records or reports, the shoes worn by Butler had a detachable outsole so that the shoes could still be used even outside the baseball field. Interestingly, the detachable design of Butler’s shoe would be adapted in the modern type of baseball cleats called interchangeable cleats, which has a set of different outsoles that can be attached to and detached from the midsole of the cleats.
In 1882, a businessman named Waldo M. Claflin created and sold the first official baseball cleats in the United States. It was also in the same period when American football became quite popular, so baseball cleats were also used in the said sport. Then, in the 1920s, Butler’s detachable design for cleats was reintroduced in order to help players in wearing a pair of cleats that are suitable for various types of floor or soil.
When artificial turf (made of synthetic fibers that look like natural grass) was introduced in baseball and football, a new type of cleat was created that is more suitable for it. These artificial turf cleats mainly have a rubber outsole with durable rubber spikes that are flexible enough to allow players to have better movement on the field.
Modern technology for baseball and football cleats quickly evolved over the years, and the cleats that were once made primarily of leather have turned into a type of footwear made of different materials that offer better durability and flexibility. Adidas was the first company to make modern cleats for football in 1954, and their product features a non-leather sole and an upper that is made of kangaroo skin.
In the 1990s, Adidas would further improve their innovations for cleats, as they introduced rubber blades and spikes that are made of aluminum. Today, there are already different brands and models of cleats that baseball players can buy in sporting goods stores. There are metal cleats, rubber cleats, interchangeable cleats, and other types of modern cleats that have different advantages and benefits for players in amateur and professional leagues. Most of the modern cleats available today are made of synthetic materials that are animal-friendly and are actually packed with more features compared to regular leather.
Baseball cleats have been around for a long time, although they have evolved drastically after the 1950s. The evolution of baseball cleats is necessary in order to improve upon the features and functions that will make the playing experience better for players. It wouldn’t be surprising if we will see more added features and innovations in baseball cleats in the near future.