Research has shown the average shoe size for a male in the UK is nine, which just so happens to be the size worn by Erling Haaland.
There’s absolutely nothing average about Haaland’s goalscoring prowess – his debut season for Manchester City in the Premier League will take some beating, but it’s interesting that the Norwegian does not possess a unique physical advantage as far as his feet are concerned; he is bang average in that regard.
The BBC published a piece a few years ago that claimed the average shoe size for a man in the UK was ten (contradicting the general consensus), which they reveal is an increase in two sizes from 40 years ago. At this rate, the standard male will have flippers by the year 3000.
It’s interesting that Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time, has smaller than average feet of UK size 8.5, while other players of his nature – diminutive, fleet-footed dribblers – have similarly small feet.
Meanwhile, there are anomalies at the other end of the scale – Romelu Lukaku and Peter Crouch have mammoth size 13 feet. Unsurprisingly, they are big blokes in height too; typically deployed as target men style strikers.
So what is the ideal shoe size to make it as a professional footballer, and does the size of your feet ultimately determine the position and role you will play on the pitch?
Small But Mighty
If we think about the biology of having smaller-than-average feet, you wonder if the decreased surface area would somehow impact upon a player’s ball-striking power.
One thing it does do, according to the stars of the beautiful game with less length and girth, is promote a tremendous amount of ball control and technical ability.
Through our extensive research into footballers’ feet (we really must remember to delete our internet history), we have found that the following players have smaller-than-average feet – that is, smaller than the UK size nine:
It’s interesting that if you were to compile a list of the best modern day footballers, a fair handful of the names listed above would feature – a conclusion that having smaller-than-average feet is a benefit in football could be inferred.
From jinking dribblers like Messi, Salah and Neymar to metronomic passers like De Bruyne and Verratti, perhaps there is something to be said that having small feet creates closer control, a better touch and more ‘feel’. Even Cristiano Ronaldo, who stands 6ft 1in tall, could be described as having small feet….and it’s certainly not stopped him from breaking all sorts of records.
There isn’t any scientific study that supports the notion that having smaller feet can be an advantage in football, and the reality is that smaller-than-average height generally leads to smaller feet – that can be linked to a lower centre of gravity, which is an attribute typically shared by the best dribblers in the beautiful game.
But there are those within the game that believe their physical dimensions do make a difference. Dominik Szoboszlai, who joined Liverpool from RB Leipzig for £60 million in 2023, revealed of his own tiny trotters:
“I have very small feet, only 41 (UK size 7), but I am also tall – 186 cm (6ft 1in) – and this gives the ball a special trajectory.”
Meanwhile, at the Pancho Arena in Szoboszlai’s homeland of Hungary, there’s giant photographs of the country’s greatest ever player, Ferenc Puskas. When one Guardian journalist noted how small Puskas’ feet were, his guide on the trip – the prime minister, Viktor Orban – commented:
“Yes, it’s better to have small feet, you can get under the ball.”
We await the science that confirms as much….
Bigger is Better?
Usain Bolt, the fastest man that has ever lived, has prodigious size 13 feet.
David Beckham, with size 10.5 feet, once scored a goal for Manchester United against Chelsea that was measured at some 98mph.
So there are physical advantages of having larger-than-average feet, although it’s evident that the bigger they are, the more they define the role of the player with them at the end of their legs.
Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba both wear UK size 10.5, and they can be described as technically gifted players with excellent physicality.
But once you get to size 12 and beyond, the list includes the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Peter Crouch, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku. Fine footballers they all are, but their edge comes from their height – Maguire is a dominant centre back (when in form), while Zlatan and Lukaku use their size to bully opposition defenders. Their large feet is a consequence of their above-average physicality from head to toe.
And then you enter a realm of what can only be described, with no disrespect intended, as freakish. Nwankwo Kanu, the former Arsenal forward, stood nearly 6ft 5in and had size 15 feet – he still netted more than 50 Premier League goals, won the title twice and even lifted the Champions League trophy with Ajax.
So whether you have hoof-like feet or almighty flippers, there’s no reason you can’t be a good footballer. It’s just that they might define which position and role you play in order to maximise your foot game….