Some kickers favored barefoot kicks for two reasons: kickers thought they could better control their kicks with their feet than with kicking cleats at the time. Other kickers struggled to find the "sweet spot" of the football while wearing their provided uniform cleats. Still others felt that cleats interfered with the way they planted and controlled their foot in order to plant it more accurately.
The first recorded instance of a barefoot kick in an NFL game was by Al Berger in 1954. He kicked three field goals (40, 41, and 42 yards) in a game played between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. The next year, Otto Graham became the first player to wear shoes with spikes on them when he debuted a pair of Adidas Adirolos with metal plates attached to his feet. Barefoot kicking continued among some players in the NFL until 1958, when the NFL banned its players from going barefoot during games.
What is so important about where you place your foot while kicking? Much like how golfers think about where they put their hands when hitting a ball, kickers must consider where they are placing their weight while kicking. Placing your weight toward the front of the ball will make it fly higher; if you push off too hard and throw yourself forward, you'll cause the ball to sail out of bounds. Kicking without proper form can also hurt you, whether you're wearing shoes or not.
Barefoot kickers are no longer seen in the National Football League, but there was a time when kicking with their shoes off was so prevalent that it went unnoticed. Tony Franklin, the New England Patriots' kicker, even hit a 59-yard field goal while wearing no shoes.
It started in the 1950s, when the American football rules were changed to allow players to wear helmets. The new rule required that all players be removed from the game if they remained on the field of play after a concussion had been diagnosed. This led to an increase in serious head injuries and created a need for more protective equipment for players.
Kickers were among the first athletes to wear helmets. They were protected by the fact that most of their plays did not result in points after touchdown or extra points. However, there was one type of kick that could hurt them if done incorrectly: the placekicker. Since they weren't used on special teams situations where misdirection is important, fewer defenses focused on this type of kick. That left placekickers vulnerable to bad technique.
In addition to protecting them from injury, helmets also gave coaches ideas for new offensive strategies. Coaches began to realize that certain players were more effective when they kicked with their legs rather than with their heads.
When a kicker kicks the ball, his cleats and the football's laces might produce traction, disrupting the ball's flight pattern. Face the laces out so he may kick the smooth section and control the flight pattern with his foot. Do not face the laces toward him or the ball will be thrown high into the air.
Facing the laces out means that when a player kicks the ball, it should be kicked with the outside of the shoe against the ground (face down if possible). This keeps the ball from going high into the air because there is no side to side movement of the ball when it is kicked.
There are two parts to every kick: the setup and the swing. During the setup phase, the player positions himself based on where he wants the ball to go. He then swings his leg forward and pushes off from both feet at the same time. This produces the power necessary to send the ball flying through the air.
The setup depends on what type of kick he plans to make. If it's a placekick, then he needs to get into position before the snap. On some plays, the holder will let the kicker know when he is ready to kick, while on others, they will signal by raising their arm. Once the holder signals, the player takes a free kick and gets as close to the ball as possible without touching it first.
The Eagles, Broncos, Rams, and Steelers were all known to kick off their shoes before the game began (except for the Rams-their kicker always wore shoes on kickoffs). Stephen Gostkowski has been equally as good since taking over for Franklin (including hitting one from 57 yards out this past season). Joe Blanton is the only current shoe-free kicker in the NFL.
Blanton was with the Saints when they lost at home to the Panthers in 2014 when he made two field goals (one from 41 yards out and another from 54). He didn't wear any shoes that day! Blanton's career long ball is 69 yards so it's safe to say he's capable of hitting from far away if need be.
In fact, Blanton has been so reliable that he hasn't missed a single field goal attempt during his three seasons with the Patriots. He's also never missed an extra point during that time.
Now, let's take a look at some of the other famous barefoot kickers in NFL history.
Eddie Murray was one of the most accurate placekickers in NFL history. In 1991, he went 31-for-32 in field goal attempts, including one from 55 yards out!
Why Do Kickers Wear Two Pairs of Shoes? Some kickers and punters favor a more stable football shoe with superior ankle support for their planted foot. The plant foot is the foot on which you land right before kicking the ball. The other foot is used for balancing and moving in relation to the ball while it's being kicked.
The plant foot needs to be able to withstand pressure without discomfort so that you can concentrate on your kicking motion without worrying about how you'll fare after landing from a jump or slide. This requires a certain level of stability, which is provided by a stiffer shoe with a higher heel. You also need enough toe room to move comfortably, which means less size if you're like most kickers who play in sizes 6-1/2-11.
Because they don't want to tire out their plant foot too soon, many kickers will wear two pairs of shoes at once. They'll wear one pair of shoes for the practice field and another pair for games. This allows them to have a spare pair of shoes ready if they suffer an injury during the game. Spare shoes are always located inside the locker room door where players can find them if they need them while waiting for the game to start.
Kickers might be seen sprinting onto the field with two distinct cleats in the 1990s. Morton Anderson's speciality kicking shoe was described as a hybrid between a cleat and a ballerina shoe. He spent $5,000 on it. When the major American shoe firms recognized a potential market for kickers' shoes, they created their own models. This led to some rather odd looking pairs of sneakers being sold under the Kickers name.
In 1994, Nike introduced the Ligament-Technolgy (LT) shoe. It was designed specifically for players who needed support where there were no ligaments such as on the knee. In 1995, Nike also released the Puma M90 which was designed for players who wanted something other than a classic soccer shoe. It had a molded plastic shell with metal eyelets and a rubber outsole.
By the late 1990s, kickers were moving away from cartilage and toward titanium and steel devices called "cleats" which are attached to your foot and act like spikes to give you an advantage on grass or dirt fields. The device is now all but essential if you want to play football at a high level. A lot of research goes into which feet should use which cleat based on the surface they're playing on, but generally speaking, the front foot should use a cleat that has more traction than stability, while the back foot needs the opposite.
The LT and M90 were only available in white colorway.