Ida Sports, the company founded by Laura Youngson to provide the best women’s soccer shoes on the market, knows its stuff. That’s a good thing, too, because not every reputable brand can offer comfortable, appropriate footwear for women, whether they’re professionals or girls making their first foray into the sport.
Approaching a Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand – another landmark moment in women’s football – some stars lack the right products. Equally important is the lack of cleats suitable for a mainstream audience, which could rekindle interest in the sport in a year when labels still offer substandard, unisex options.
On the subject of mountain peaks, Youngson’s vision for a better shoe crystallized in 2017 while playing in a high-altitude soccer match on land with a similar playing field, atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Six years later, Ida is backed by Elysian Park Ventures, enabled by Todd Boehly and the ownership behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Premier League club Chelsea, as well as Stadia Ventures and Billy Jean King Enterprises.
Its next goal is to expand the name further by becoming the preferred option in a select 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 that we are the team that knows the most about women’s football in Crete. So, even if they have a lot of marketing dollars, you can start to win with technology.
Talking about the current situation, she said, “I think we’re seeing, if you’re at the top, you get a custom boot like the Sam Curse of this world. But if you’re somewhere below, you’ll either get off-the-shelf products, or you’ll have to buy products that are actually made for women.
“We know the big brands are looking at it, thinking about what they’re going to release at the World Cup, if they’re going to release anything. So far all efforts have been stymied, and they probably don’t have all the technology or research needed to manufacture and build these products for women.
On its stand, Puma said, “We offer a unisex and women’s specific fit for all our boot franchises (Future, Ultra, and King). By removing the volume from the upper and creating a lower step, we created a boot for her to fit the structure of the female foot. The first Puma football boot in women’s specific fit launched in 2021.
A statement from Adidas read: “Our athletes tell us they want the same uncompromising level of performance as the current men’s footwear range, so our current focus is on producing football boots for all athletes’ needs and testing extensively with athletes. Identify across genders at all levels.
“Our history of innovation in football footwear means we never stand still and will continue to test new concepts across our broad base of athletes.”
Nike may have fresh designs but has yet to say where it sits and what solutions it might offer. Nevertheless, the global appeal of all these brands means they are well positioned to forge partnerships with players and reach more customers worldwide.
To make themselves heard, Ida Sports started foraying into grassroots football. While continuing to engage with all levels of the game, it is also seeking connections at the top of the pyramid, with some players trying their brand in England’s Women’s Super League.
Still, there are some obstacles. “For elite players, agents are not looking for the biggest but best thing for the players,” Youngson adds. “It’s not all agents. But some people try to earn money from women’s sports without proper understanding of the game.
“At the moment I think we’re seeing women’s sport as the Wild West. So, there are all these sponsorship deals, and things are changing rapidly. Obviously, as a startup, you can’t compete with that.
“But you can compete when you have athletes who have had problems with shoes in the past, they want to work with you because they know you care about athletes and are more reliable for women.”
Several designs have been released, such as Ida Sports, Centra, Classica, Rise, and Spirit, with merchandise available in Australia, the UK, and the US. Constantly listening to feedback, it is still developing its models and is keen to make further forays into Europe, where interest and football pedigree are high in countries like Spain. As leagues in those countries become professional or professional, inquiries about their work continue to come.
With the standard of the game already very high in some European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil, Youngson thinks better conditions could increase the number of players.
“I liken it to British cycling, adding 1% wins in most places. I think shoes are like that. If you don’t have to think about your shoes and feel more comfortable, wearing something that fits you well is less likely to tire you out and reduces the risk of injury.
“We see such amazing games, but players are already complaining about the load and having to play so many games. And these injuries don’t keep people out for long. You think, ‘Can we look at that and imagine what would happen if we removed the shoes as a barrier?’
But, perhaps the main focus is to offer a product that represents everyone, regardless of standard.
“Part of our mission is to transform the industry, so when girls and women walk into sports stores, they can see themselves,” concludes Youngson.
New heroes are set to be made this July and August, with an unprecedented 32 teams from the Philippines to Zambia taking part, and now is the perfect time to make it happen.