Becky Sauerbrunn has accomplished a lot in soccer. The 31-year-old U.S. Women's National Team co-captain has won a World Cup, a gold medal and two National Women's Soccer League championships. She has 119 international caps and has played for seven pro clubs.
But she's never worn a female-specific cleat. Until now.
Adidas released the ACE and X soccer shoes December 1, and Sauerbrunn helped in the design process.
"They've always asked for feedback about the cleats I've worn," Sauerbrunn says. "I've always told them the same things over and over again. This is not built for me. It's built for a man, so I have to wear two pairs of socks or my feet hurt."
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) December 1, 2016
Adidas is advertising these as the first women's soccer cleats ever, but there is a gray area. In recent years, soccer brands have relied on the "shrink it and pink it" strategy of adjusting the size and color of men's models to market toward women. Before the 2015 World Cup, Nike released what it dubbed the brand's "first women's specific cleat collection," which featured adjustments to its Tiempo, Magista, Mercurial and Hypervenom men's models.
Adidas can say the ACE and X are the first models designed specifically for women with no men's counterpart. The ACE and X cleats even have their own logos.
— adidas Women (@adidasWomen) November 30, 2016
"A man's foot is wider, so when I would wear men's cleats, my foot would be sliding inside of it, so it's nice to be secure because then your body's not compensating and you're not getting injuries," Sauerbrunn says. "If you look at the studs, they're shorter. There's also different configurations. Women's feet are built differently. And there's different pressure points. This actually spreads the pressure throughout. Soccer is an uncomfortable sport. You're running, you're getting tackled. To have something that is comfortable, it makes a difference.
"I think it's a game changer."
While attending the launch of the Adidas' New York City Midtown flagship store, Sauerbrunn pointed to the collar of an ACE boot to show the cleat is build not just narrower than a men's boot, but lower, to ease pressure on women's ankles. The shape, design, studs and plate also accounted for features unique to female feet.
"I've been training in it," Sauerbrunn says of her wear-testing. "I've been playing pickup and stuff. They just launched, so I can now officially start wearing them with my teams. Usually, I can wear a shoe and I have to break it in for a few weeks before I feel comfortable playing in it, but the first time I played in this, it felt awesome."
Sauerbrunn and Morgan Brian plan on wearing the ACE boot, while Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett and Danielle Colaprico are among those who will wear the X version.
"It's kind of mind-boggling that it took this long," Sauerbrunn says. "But now that Adidas has done it, I think the other ones are going to have to follow suit because I think their players are going to be like, 'Well, why did you not make a cleat for me, as well? Adidas is doing it.'"
And with that, the doors have opened. The women's cleat race is on.