The Chemistry of Softball Cleats

Introduction

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Softball cleats are used to allow for better traction on the field to make better plays and to run faster. I chose softball cleats because I am very interested be how they are made and what kind of work goes into making them. My life is affected by softball cleats because I want a high quality shoe that allows for me to be agile, yet comfortable at the same time.


Composition of ...

  • Leather: C9H18O4Cl3P

  • Synthetic Leather

  • Metal (Steel): FeC2

  • Rubber: CaH+5CH=CH2

  • Cotton

    • Cellulose: C6H10O5

  • Jute: ONa+H2O

  • Hemp


Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The metal that is on the bottom of the metal cleats are made of steel, an alloy based off of iron that has a 1% carbon included. Steel can also contain other elements like manganese. Steel is used in cleats because it’s hard, tough, and can withstand other elements. FeC2. To be able to make steel, a miner has to dig it out of the ground. Then it is smelted using furnaces where other elements are removed while adding carbon. Steel was invented back in 18oo BC. in the Iberian Peninsula. Steel was created to be a stronger metal that will last longer and hold up better against the elements.


The middle part of the shoe is made from either metal or synthetic uppers. The leather shoes have advantages over synthetic; they are a lot more breathable and they are more flexible. Leather is also more durable.

Synthetic, however, is more popularly used throughout the cleats. Synthetic also allow for technology use when compared to leather. This enables reinforcement of the foot and better support for the ankle.


Leather is made of cows, pigs, sheeps, and  goats. It can also be made of exotic animals too.


Softball cleats are different when compared to other types of cleats. There is a metal bar that are in the shoe when compared to a football cleat, which has large, molded bars in the bottom of theirs. Also, the positioning of the spikes are different when compared to other cleats.

The shoelaces are made of various materials. It is made out of leather, jute, hemp, and cotton.


Chemistry's Role

The two main components to a softball cleat is the steel and the leather.


Leather can be both naturally made and be made in a factory. Natural leather is produced by taking the skin of an animal and drying it out to where it becomes flexible and durable. This processed is called tanning. In the tanning process, where the skin is stretched and pulled with chemicals added in. This allows for the proteins to be taken out of the skin. The chemicals used in this process are chromium (Cr) and vegetable tannins (C76H52O46). The other leather is synthetic leather. Synthetic leather is made out of a type of synthetic polymer, also known as plastic. Synthetic leather can also be made out of wood, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PU (polyurethane).

The steel (FeC2) is made up of many chemicals; phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), silicon (Si), and with some traces of oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), and copper (Cu), but they are considered undesirable. Steel is made by smelting the chemicals. The chemicals are heated to a high temperature in a blast furnace. The chemicals are then removed while adding the carbon (C). Then it stays heated to have the oxygen rise out of the alloy. Then the alloy melts to the bottom of the furnace to allow for the alloy to be made. It is then molded by being put in a mold. The steel is then cooled and softened to get all the excess molding off.


The final product is man made. Chemistry plays a role in this product by how the cleat is put together. They have to find chemicals that can work together without them exploding on your feet. The steel has to be carefully molded into the rubber just so there is enough to steel sticking enough out of the bottom of the shoe. Then, there has to be a strong enough thread to make sure that the shoes won’t fall apart at the slightest twist of the shoe.


Background Research

Cleats have been around since 1526. It is also known that cleats were used in war in the Roman and Greek times. Baseball cleats were based off the type of cleats that soccer players wear. The first player to actually play on the field with cleats was Paul Butler. The first known metal cleats were supposedly invented by Waldo M. Claflin in 1882. The first leather cleats were produced by Spalding in 1882 for only $6. Towards the end of the year they introduced an all kangaroo leather cleat which was $7. Kangaroo leather was used through the high leagues for much of the 20th century. Usually the cleats came in either black or brown. That was until the Kansas City A’s made an exception in 1967. They had white cleats. The A’s still keep with the tradition of white cleats to this day. Clubs started accepting different colors by the late 1960s. These cleats were baseball cleats. Softball cleats were most likely based off of the baseball cleats. Softball cleats had soles put into them in 1890s, just before the first softball games.


There are two different types of softball cleats. There is rubber or metal “spikes”, and this all depends of the sole of the cleat. The main difference on which to choose is the level of play at which the person plays. If the person is a child or plays little league on a field that is not maintained very well, then they should use rubber cleats. This allows for the athlete to stay higher on the dirt as to where metal cleats sink into the less maintained dirt. The reason they are also higher is that the rubber cleats are not as tall as metal.


Metal cleats are usually used in the higher league of play. Metal cleats are lighter than rubber cleats, this allows for quicker speed. They also allow for a better grip on the field, this enables for quicker turns and tighter pivots when compared to rubber cleats. Another factor is that metal cleats are known to be longer lasting than rubber cleats. In the lower leagues, however, they banned metal cleats because they are dangerous.


Resources

http://softballchatter.ringor.com/molded-vs-metal-fastpitch-softball-cleats/

Differences between metal and rubber cleats

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleat_(shoe)#History

History

http://softballchatter.ringor.com/ancestor-softball-cleat-older-might-think/

History

http://www.livestrong.com/article/271821-metal-vs-plastic-cleats/

Components of the metal

http://www.chemistryexplained.com/St-Te/Steel.html

Info on steel

http://www.eastbay.com/arc/default.cfm?article=knowledgebase_sb_how_fastpitch_cleats

Differences between synthetic and leather cleats

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/leather-industry/

Leather info

https://www.quora.com/What-is-synthetic-leather-How-is-it-made

Synthetic leather info

http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-football-cleats-and-baseball-cleats/

Differences between other sport’s cleats

http://www.livestrong.com/article/442049-difference-between-little-league-baseball-soccer-cleats/

Differences between other sport’s cleats

https://www.phoenixbats.com/blog/baseball-shoe-invention-cleats-changed-game/

History of the cleat

http://exhibits.baseballhalloffame.org/dressed_to_the_nines/shoes.htm

History of the cleat

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoelaces

Shoelaces

https://www.reference.com/hobbies-games/synthetic-leather-ef229fd76d08a3a3

Elements of synthetic leather

http://www.keenovens.com/articles/steel-furnance.htm

How steel is made

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steel#History_of_steelmaking

Info of steel

http://www.chemistryislife.com/the-chemistry-of-birkenstocks

Composition leather and jute

http://www.chemistryislife.com/the-chemistry-of-fresh-kicks

Composition of rubber

http://www.chemistryislife.com/the-chemistry-of-denim

Composition of cotton

https://www3.epa.gov/ttnchie1/ap42/ch09/final/c9s15.pdf

Leather making


About the Author

Courtnie Brown is a student that attends Billings Senior High. She made varsity softball when she was a freshman. She hopes to go college in pursuit of being a zoologist. She loves being outside with them and doing outdoor activities.









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