The Telegraph:
How female-specific spikes
could be a game-changer in cricket

Four-time Ashes winner Lydia Greenway has helped design the first shoes for women cricketers in the UK

BY FIONA THOMAS, 25 JULY 2023 • 10:00AM

During her 13-year international career, it never occurred to Lydia Greenway that the spikes she was wearing may have contributed to her injuries on the field.

“I ruptured ligaments in both my ankles,” says Greenway, a four-time Ashes winner who played more than 200 times for England. “I’m not saying that’s entirely because I had ill-fitted shoes, but it has always made me think, ‘If I had a cricket spike that was made for a female foot, would it have made a difference?’”

Despite the huge growth in the sport, there is no sportswear manufacturer that supplies cricket shoes for women in the UK.

“I’m quite lucky because I have massive feet,” England bowler Issy Wong says. “They are size nine, so I’ve never really struggled getting into a man’s bowling boot. Others have struggled a bit.”

For Wong’s male counterparts, the disparity could not be starker. Eagle-eyed fans spotted England men bowler Ollie Robinson wearing two different types of shoe during the first Test in the men’s Ashes at Edgbaston last month. The mismatched pairing was deliberate: Robinson was nursing an ankle injury on his left foot, so swapped his usual Adidas spike for a New Balance one for extra support. 

England’s women’s cricketers might not have such a luxury but their days of wearing male shoes could soon become a thing of the past. For the past 18 months, Greenway has been working on a performance shoe for women with Me+U, a sportswear brand founded in 2019 by cricket enthusiast Matt Carter.

Following a major ankle dislocation sustained while bowling, which he attributed to his poorly fitted shoes, Carter researched cricket spikes and was shocked to discover not a single female shoe existed in the UK. So he set about designing the first female spike, with the help of Greenway.

Given that women pace bowlers do not hit the same speeds as men, the female spike caters for the all-rounder.

“The need for a bowling shoe made for a female isn’t there as much – there’s not enough impact,” Greenway says. “Someone like [former England cricketer] Katherine Sciver-Brunt never really used the proper bowling shoes, so that one all-rounder shoe for the moment is enough to cater for what people expect to buy.”

Having undergone mechanical testing, the Me+U female prototype has been piloted by groups of age-grade female cricketers. Before their Ashes Test, the England women’s team even checked out the new spike during a training session, ahead of its anticipated launch in January.

The gender footwear gap is not confined to cricket. Women’s rugby boots are practically non-existent. In football, they are yet to hit the mainstream market, although Nike and Under Armour launched versions ahead of this month’s Women’s World Cup.

“You can’t just shrink a boot and say it will work for women, because it’s holding the average man, gripping the average man to the ground, whereas the woman who is usually shorter and has less muscle mass will produce less power and less speed,” says Dr Emma Ross, a health and fitness expert from The Well HQ.

“You don’t want her being gripped too much to the ground because that’s when knee injuries occur when your foot gets stuck. So, why haven’t the brands, and why hasn’t the game as it’s grown, created this urgency for kit that’s really working for women?”

The nonexistent footwear range for women and girls was highlighted by last month’s report into inequality in cricket, which pointed to a wider sartorial sexism after finding “significant levels of inequity in the availability of kit for women and girls”.

It is a story that Jen Muckle, who founded a women’s and girls’ section at Heslington CC in Yorkshire this year, knows all too well. Despite the growing trend for female recreational cricketers to wear coloured kit because of period concerns, sourcing some for her team was problematic.

“If you go into Sports Direct, you can only buy whites made for men’s bodies,” Muckle says. “There’s definitely a gap between the concept of inclusivity and coloured women’s cricket clothes. I have hips, a bum and boobs. I’ve always had to ‘size down’ in men’s sizes. I’ve basically had to buy cricket clothes for 15-year-old boys – but I don’t have the body for a 15-year-old boy. I’m 5ft 3in and I’ve always had to hem my trousers.”

 

Female player ordered by coach to wear a box

Muckle counts herself among the lucky ones, having benefited from Lacuna Sports, a women’s cricket clothing company set up by Leigh Burns, who identified the need through the experience of her daughter, Caroline.

Caroline had been subjected to a particularly uncomfortable experience aged 12 during a nets session at her local club. As she entered the nets, a male coach told her she had to wear a cricket box, the protective piece of kit designed to protect a man’s pelvic area.

“It was like a crusty sock with something slotted in there,” Caroline says. “Some of the boys were laughing at me. I didn’t know what to do with it. I remember walking out of the net and thinking, ‘That was horrible. I’m never doing that again’.”
Burns launched Lacuna Sports after conducting research around cricket clubs in England, surveying more than 100 women and girls about their experiences.

Prioritising boys’ matches, a lack of changing facilities, along with body image and period concerns, ranked among the main issues, while ill-fitted and see-through kits seriously impacted enjoyment.

“The first time I saw myself on the Jumbotron at the Oval in cricket whites, I went home and cried,” says one county first-team player. “I looked awful!”

“We only ever got what was left over from the men’s team,” says another.

“I am sick of see-through cricket clothes!” says another.

“My daughter is self-conscious about her body, but wants to play cricket,” reports one mother. “They make her wear her netball skirt and top and she’s very uncomfortable.”

By offering cricket wear custom-designed for the female body, Lacuna Sports is on a mission to change the game. Burns’s company, which offers V-neck cut tops, leak-proof pants and hemmed, non-see-through trousers among its growing collection, has supplied more than 200 girls with their apparel since launching last year.

“Female athletes deserve clothing made for their bodies and their sport,” Burns says. “We want girls and women to feel at their best when they play.”