Shoes for thought: Willamette athletes on cleat maintenance and exploding shoelaces
Nearly all sports played at Willamette require some type of specialized footwear. The student-athletes who wear these shoes put them through so much strain that they often rip apart at the seams and explode at the shoelaces.
Before anything else, the student-athletes need to obtain their shoes. Different sports have different methods, which is usually determined by the coach’s discretion. In some sports, like football, the student-athletes choose their own footwear. For others, that’s not the case: senior softball player Jocelyn Glasgo said, “We are able to choose a size and then the coaches order them… We don’t really get a say.”
Unlike jerseys, however, student-athletes have to fund their own footwear. Senior football player Shaan Amin said, “Shoes are expensive. It’s usually on the student-athlete to provide shoes.” Those costs can run up as their shoes are put through the ringer. Amin said, “I have had my shoelaces explode and the stitching come apart on the shoe.”
Glasgo said that for softball, “We get new cleats and turf shoes every season. A lot of times new shoes aren't needed for some positions, but for pitchers, their shoes get worn down a lot and they have to buy new ones each year. My pitching shoes rip open towards the end of the year and after every pitch they get filled with dirt.”
Some student-athletes often utilize two pairs of shoes throughout the season. A lot of student athletes are like Amin, who have both practice cleats and game day cleats. Others have two pairs of cleats, each for different playing surfaces.
Glasgo said in softball, “We have turf shoes that we wear for indoor practices as well as practices when we are on the soccer field if it has been raining and the field is wet. And we have cleats for games or the practices when we are on our field.”
Different sports require different equipment, and shoes are no exception. Sports like softball and football require spikes to move different directions. Amin, a football defensive back, described his needs for footwear: “I need cleats in sport in order to grip the turf while changing directions.” Amin also commented on the spectrum of football cleats, saying, “Some specialized cleats emphasize support while others emphasize speed and agility.”
Softball also uses cleats, though since the sport uses a playing surface than football does, Glasgo said their cleats differ a bit: “The spikes are usually metal but you can wear molded ones. [Right-handed] pitchers get the toe of their right cleat dipped in a rubber mold. This covering helps protect the cleat from the constant friction on the material when pitching.”
With the standardizations of uniforms and the limitations of the NCAA, shoes are one of the only outlets for self-expression on the field. Some opt for a Sharpie personalization, as Glasgo described: “Some [players] write on the back of their cleats, but for the most part we have to stay uniform.”
Some student-athletes clean their shoes, but others don’t. Amin said, “Dirt and scuffs add character.”