We are in the middle of summer and for most that means weekend tournaments and plenty of game time in beautiful weather conditions. It also means high temperatures and the potential of playing on blazing hot artificial turf pitches. I’ve been living in California for several years, and I’ve become quite familiar with playing on black rubber crumb surfaces – it has become the norm. According to figures from the Synthetic Turf Council, there are more than 11,000 synthetic turf sports fields in use across the U.S today. That is just a staggering number.
As much as I miss natural grass pitches, having a reliable year round surface is a definite positive. But, when I’m out playing as temperatures start to soar, I strongly feel like completely retracting that statement! There is nothing worse than playing on a scorching hot field, where those black rubber crumb seem to hold incredible heat and burn any body part they can come into contact with.
According to a study cited by the Las Vegas Sun in 2009, artificial turf above 122 degrees is considered unsafe for sustained athletic use and that, depending on the air temperature, turf can get as hot as 180 degrees. That number is not a misprint – 180 degrees in the most extreme conditions. If you’ve played on AG surfaces and encountered the searing pain caused by excessive heat, you will know it is something that can dramatically impact performance.
For that reason, I wanted to offer up some tips and advice that I’m hoping will prove beneficial as you take to AG surfaces for your tournaments over the summer months and beyond!
#1 – Look For Comfort Insoles
In general, comfort insoles are a little thicker and extra padded. That extra cushion between you and the surface can prove extremely beneficial when playing on hot surfaces. So many boots these days come with extremely thin, lightweight insoles and that is a real problem. They leave your foot pinned right against the footbed and exposed to increased heat. By adding a thicker insole, you not only add a more comfortable bounce but you also reduce exposure to heat.
#2 – Avoid Soaking Your Feet in Water!
In order to reduce the grueling pain of heat on the soles, I regularly see players douse their boots with water. Bad idea! Yes, it provides immediate pain relief, but over a longer period of time it can have a negative effects. Your feet can actually blister as your damp socks incrementally rise in temperature. A wet sock is actually far more risky than a dry sock. If you can, simply remove your boots for a minute or two to release any heat off the surface. All you need is 10 seconds of relief to really improve the feel as you continue to play. If you are going to wet your feet, try taking off your sock first for full effect.
#3 – Mid Cut Collars and Hot Turf Don’t Blend Well
As the surface heats up, it becomes a challenge keeping your boots and feet at a cool level. Well, add a constricted mid-cut collar and where is there for the hot air to go? From personal experience, there is no place for the hot air to go; no ventilation like you would find with a regular ankle cut boot. As a result, there is the potential to encounter even more excruciating pain due to overheating. This is primarily geared toward Nike’s range of collared boots. Instead, choose the lower tier versions that don’t feature a mid-cut collar. They are more economical and the regular ankle cut will allow more hot air to escape the boot as you play.
#4 – Lightweight Means Less Material
It should be a given – you need to avoid anything that is marketed as being lightweight. In order to create incredibly light shoes, I’m talking anything under 7oz here, brands reduce the amount of material being used in all the important spots. They look for ways to decrease the thickness of the soleplate and continue to thin out the insoles. That leaves your foot closer to the surface, exactly what you don’t want on hot turf. Instead, focus on boots that are geared toward “comfort”, where they are built to be a little thicker.
#5 – Carbon Fiber Soleplates Are a No-No
If you see a boot that advertises having a Carbon Fiber soleplate, avoid them! Under general circumstances, carbon fiber can really offer solid performance and flexibility through the soleplate of a boot. But it has the potential to heat up very quickly and cause excessive heat across the soles of your feet. Thankfully, there are not many boots currently on the market that feature the heat retaining material, but it is one to watch out for.
Recommended Boot Options
Finding the correct boot for you comes down to trial and error. Below is a rundown of the boots I’d recommend as solid options on hot turf surfaces. Each boot I’ve had the opportunity to wear and test. They do not reflect my opinions on what the top overall performing AG boots available to players are. Simple use them as a guide, and try match them with your style of play and what your expectations are for a boot.
If you have anything additional you would like to add or any tips that you proven successful for you, let us know in the comment section below.