Ida Sports, the company cofounded by Laura Youngson to provide the best women’s soccer boots on the market, knows its stuff. It’s a good thing, too, because not every renowned brand can readily offer comfortable, suitable footwear for females, whether they are professionals or girls making their first inroads into the game.
Approaching a Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand—another landmark occasion for women’s soccer—some stars will not have the ideal products. Equally significant is the lack of suitable cleats available to the mainstream audience, with labels still providing substandard, unisex options in a year when interest in playing could peak again.
On the topic of peaks, Youngson’s vision for better boots crystalized at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in 2017, while playing in the highest-altitude soccer match on land with Equal Playing Field. Six years later, Ida has backing from Elysian Park Ventures—enabled by Todd Boehly and the ownership behind Los Angeles Dodgers and Premier League club Chelsea—as well as Stadia Ventures and Billy Jean King Enterprises.
Its next aim is to spread the name even further, becoming a desired option in a selection pool that includes big hitters like Nike, Adidas, and Puma.
“It’s fun to challenge brands because you know you’re a startup,” Youngson says via a Zoom link. “But, at the same time, we know we’re probably the team that knows most about women’s soccer cleats on the planet. So, you can start to win on technology, even if they have loads 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’ll get a custom boot, like the Sam Kerrs of this world. But if you’re anywhere below, you’ll get off-the-shelf products, or you’ll have to buy products not really made for women.
“We know that bigger brands are looking at it, thinking about what to release for the World Cup, if they are going to release something. All attempts until now have been half-hearted, and they will perhaps not put in all the technology or research needed to produce and build out these products for women.”
On its standing, Puma said, “We will offer a unisex and women-specific fit on all our boot franchises (Future, Ultra, and King). By removing the volume from the upper and creating a lower instep, we created a boot for her to fit the anatomy of the female foot. The first Puma soccer boot in a women’s specific fit launched in 2021.”
A statement from Adidas read, “Our female athletes tell us that they want the same uncompromising levels of performance as the current men’s range of footwear, so our current focus is to produce soccer boots for the needs of all athletes and test extensively with athletes who identify across genders, at all levels.
“Our history of innovating in soccer footwear means we never stand still and will continue to test new concepts across our broad athletes base.”
Nike may have fresh designs in the pipeline but has yet to say where it sits and what solutions it can provide. Nevertheless, all these brands’ global pull means they remain well-placed to strike partnerships with players and reach more customers worldwide.
To make itself heard, Ida Sports started entering grassroots soccer. And while continuing to engage with all levels of the game, it’s also sought connections higher up the pyramid and has some players trying out its brand in the Women’s Super League in England.
Still, there are some obstacles. “For elite players, it’s the agents who perhaps are looking for the biggest but not the best thing for the players,” Youngson continues. “It’s not all agents. But some are trying to cash in on women’s sports without really understanding the sport.
“At the moment, I think we see that women’s sport is like the Wild West. So, there are all these sponsorship contracts, and things are changing rapidly. Obviously, as a startup, you can’t compete with that.
“But you can compete when you’ve got players who have had problems with shoes in the past, and they want to work with you because they know you care about athletes and are more authentically for women.”
Ida Sports, whose merchandise is available in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., has released a few designs, such as the Centra, Classica, Rise, and Spirit. Constantly listening to feedback, it’s still developing its models and is keen to break further into Europe, where interest and soccer pedigree in countries like Spain are high. With leagues in those nations either professionalized or becoming professional, inquiries about their work keep coming.
As for the game’s standard, which is already very high in certain European countries, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Brazil, Youngson thinks better conditions can boost players even more.
“I liken it to British Cycling, with the 1% gains in lots of places added up. I think shoes are like that. If you don’t have to think about your footwear and feel more comfortable, you’re less likely to fatigue 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 load and having to play a lot. And you see these injuries that keep people out for a longer time. You think, ‘could we look at that and imagine what would happen if you remove shoes as one of the barriers?’”
Yet, perhaps the key focus is offering a make that represents everyone, regardless of the standard.
“Part of our mission is to transform the industry, so when girls and women walk into sports stores, they can see themselves,” Youngson concludes.
With new heroes to be made this July and August, with an unprecedented 32 teams from the Philippines to Zambia taking part, this is the best time to achieve just that.