In today’s market, it’s hard to tell what cleats are right for you. Every brand has their own fit, sizing, style, comfort level, touch, breathability, top of the line material, and game changing technology. That coupled with the choices of firm ground, soft ground, artificial ground, hard ground, and indoor make it hard for a player or parent who doesn’t have much soccer experience or know how to pick the right shoe for them. With that in mind, we decided to break down each type of cleat as well as some characteristics of major brands and what you need to look out for when purchasing cleats no matter what your age or skill level.
Fact and Fiction
One of the most hotly discussed topics in soccer is whether cleats make a player better or not. While there is some truth to “no it doesn’t”, there is also truth to the other side of the argument. While you won’t magically become Lionel Messi because you wear a pair of Nike’s over PUMA, the right cleats make a world of difference on how a player can perform depending on the circumstances. The cleats you would wear in heavy rain and sleet might be different than the ones you wear while playing indoors, just like a keeper and a striker historically wear completely different shoes. Depending on a players needs, a pair of cleats that fit right and are designed for a certain position or conditions will make all the difference. While your opponents are slipping on a wet turf, you’ll be much more prepared because you chose the right cleats.
Position, Position, Position
An important step in choosing your cleat is finding what shoe would best suit your playing style or position. A box to box midfielder will not be wearing the same cleats as a center back. This of course gets more difficult when your younger soccer stars have no position, but we will get to them soon. Below we have listed major positions and what you should be looking for in your cleats:
Goalkeepers: usually need something that has great traction and the ability for quick lateral movement along with a nice strike zone for goal kicks, punting, etc.
Defense: definitely need something with more protection and allows clean passing. Touch is everything for a defender so the more durable the shoe, the better.
Midfielders: a midfielder is only as good as his or her control on the ball. That being said, one must look for a cleat that offers control and the ability to run for extended periods of time. Comfort is king.
Wingers: should probably look for a cleat that offers good acceleration and traction for cutting and changing directions, while still being lightweight.
Forwards: benefit from a cleat with a clean strike zone and minimal weight for explosive changes in pace.
Conditions Maketh the Cleat
As stated above, what playing surface and conditions a player plays in has a significant impact on not only the player’s ability to perform, but the game itself. There are many different options one can look into depending on what the situation calls for. It is not uncommon for an elite, upper level player to have 2 or 3 pairs of cleats at his or her disposal at practice or a game. Below we have listed the most popular cleat styles and what they are used for:
FG- Firm Ground: by far the most popular type of cleats, firm ground offers the most versatility out of all the other styles. They are best suited for natural grass surfaces when there isn’t much rain, but can also be used on outdoor turf fields that are becoming increasingly more popular in American soccer. FG cleats have become the standard for youth and professional players alike.
SG- Soft Ground: SG cleats should only be worn in heavy rain or when the surface is soft enough for the studs to sink into the ground. This allows for more traction in these situations than any other type of cleat. Slogging through the mud on a wet field can be made a lot easier with the use of SG cleats.
AG- Artificial Ground: AG cleats are the newest style of cleat that more and more companies are trying to add to the market. AG is specifically designed for use on newer turf surfaces and their traction has gotten better and better in recent years. Recommended for use in indoor turf arenas as opposed to outdoor (see FG).
HG- Hard Ground: HG cleats are ideal for players playing on dry, hard surfaces where the grass has been worn away and the ground is more bare than field. The studs are designed for balance on uneven playing surfaces. HG can also be used on select FG surfaces.
IN- Indoor: Indoor shoes are designed for any kind of court soccer. This means anything from a basketball court to and indoor arena. An added bonus for indoor shoes is that they can also double as regular leisure shoes. Some of my favorite running/relaxing shoes ever were my indoor shoes.
Up, Up, and Away
One thing you will almost surely encounter in every cleat you look at online or in stores is what the upper material is made out of. While some think this is not that important to the makeup and feel of the cleat, others won’t even consider a cleat unless it is made of certain material. To be on the safe side, we have listed below the most popular upper materials and leave you to decide for yourself their importance:
Natural Leather: this leather is most commonly made of calf or goat skin and is used by a fair amount of cleats. For the most part, companies have been sticking with natural leather, although recently there has been a push for more synthetic leather cleats. A leather cleat offers a unique feel and ball control.
Synthetic: top brands are beginning to shift their focus to synthetic leather and more in more cleats are available in this style. Synthetic also has the added bonus of better waterproofing than its competitors. Professionals seem to be choosing this kind over its competitors. Synthetic offers the possibility in the future for the nearly perfect performance cleat and that dream is not far away.
Kangaroo Leather: for years, K-leather was the premium, the best money could by. Recently, however, the technology has fallen by the wayside as more and more cleats are being produced in other types of leather. Although K-leather provides a very natural feel, the cleats are also known for retaining water and taking too long to dry out. K-leather is also known for molding to the size and shape of your foot for unparalleled comfort.
Guess Your Weight and Win a Prize
Another one of the hot button areas of discussion in the soccer world is whether or not a cleat’s weight makes a significant different. Just like any topic, there are those that say it does make a difference and some that say it doesn’t. The average cleat weighs around 8.6 oz. In recent years, that number has dropped and it continues to do so today. Companies are making cleats lighter and lighter with Adidas recently releasing their limited edition adizero 99g, which weighs an astonishing 99 grams.
Most cleats, however, vary from around 5 ounces up to 10 or 12 ounces. The 5-7 ounce mark is considered super lightweight with anything under 9 ounces being considered lightweight. The weight of your cleat is really up to the personal preference of the player. Most people can’t even tell the difference between a 10 oz cleat and a 7 oz cleat when playing, but others say they can. In all fairness, it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference, but lighter cleats are usually worn by the faster players. Just something to think about.
It’s All About the Money
Setting a budget is key for the savvy consumer. You don’t want to overspend on cleats that don’t fit your needs, just like you don’t want to underspend and purchase cleats that don’t meet your needs. It is usually a rule of thumb that the older and more elite a player becomes, the more he or she spends on cleats. As a college player myself, I average $180-$250 on cleats. The higher up the soccer pyramid one goes, the more needs there is for top quality material, feel, comfort, touch, and durability. Unfortunately, that means shelling out a bit more money than other cleats. Below we have listed a table for a budget range one should consult before spending too big or too small on cleats:
$180+: these are top of the line. These types of cleats are for those who want to wear the same cleats as their idols or at the elite level that calls for the best available. Unfortunately, cleats in this category are not known for their durability, but their execution, touch, and comfort are unparalleled. With hard, constant play, expect to go through around a pair a season.
$130-$180: these are just a small step down from those listed above. With most cleats there is a tier system. This tier has cleats that are solid, but not made of the same materials as ones above. This, however, doesn’t mean they aren’t quality cleats. Usually these are worn by older players at a club or high school level, where the type of cleats you wear doesn’t make that big of a difference. This is by far the most popular tier of price ranges. The performance might suffer to a degree, but the durability goes up as well.
$80-$130: this tier is where you start to see the biggest differences from tier to tier. The drop from those above with material, feel, and touch is somewhat significant. This doesn’t mean, however, that cleats in this price range have no place in a player’s locker. While most of these cleats might have the general appearance of the types listed above, performance is often lacking. This is a solid option if a player wants a backup pair of cleats for different conditions, newer players, or even players at a non-competitive level.
$40-$80: these are the types of cleats that your mom or dad picks up for you during halftime when you broke your other ones making a goal line save. Nearly all of the technology that was on the first three tiers is now gone, performance is down, and durability probably will suffer as well. In the cleat business, you get what you pay for.
Below $40: Let’s keep this simple, never buy cleats in this price range unless it is an absolute emergency and there is no other option. Any cleats in this range will be useable at best with even comfort suffering to the point where all players should stay away. At this point, you’re paying for some leather and a logo, nothing more.
One Size Does Not Fit All
The size of your cleats is very important to making sure you don’t get injured or are in constant pain. The general rule of thumb is, you want your cleats tight, but not so tight that you can’t wear them for extended periods of time. I was a size 13 running shoe, but in cleats I wear a 12. When a cleat is tighter, it is easier to get a feel on the ball and you have a lot more control of where your foot goes.
Don’t be the player that decides to try a pair out “just in case they fit.” Wearing cleats that aren’t your size can lead to extreme discomfort and even injury. Find a pair that is right for you and make sure they are comfortable. Don’t be confused, however. Not all cleats will feel fantastic the first time you wear them. Just like every other shoe, from dress shoes to jogging shoes, it takes some time to break them in. Most companies are now using top of the line technology in their upper tier cleats that fit to the form of your foot to increase comfort and promote a natural fee. This, sadly, takes time. It is not uncommon to get a few blisters or feel discomfort for the first couple of wears of most cleats. If the problems persist for longer than seems reasonable, however, it might be time to try another pair.
Something to keep in mind: different brands fit differently. Every brand has its own specialty and own fit. While Nike and Adidas are for players with more narrow feet, brands like Umbro are known for having wider fitting cleats. Even within Adidas and Nike, a 12 in an Adidas cleat might be a 12.5 in Nike. Just something to think about when shopping online.
There are 3 basic types of studs (also known as cleats). Each one has a specific purpose and has different pros and cons. All are designed for improved traction, but others are made for specific conditions and playing surfaces. Below we have listed the major types of studs and their general characteristics:
Bladed: the majority of FG cleats are made with a combination of bladed and round/conical studs. Bladed studs are known for their great traction and speed. There is less contact with the actual ground due to their smaller shape so there is less stability for your ankles and feet.
Round/Conical: these studs are mainly for balance and quick releases. There is much more stud in contact with the ground, so while they may not be as sharp as bladed studs with better traction, they provide much better stability and are less likely to cause injuries.
Hard Ground: these studs should only be used when you are playing on a hard, firm surface. They help increase traction on these types of surfaces while absorbing some of the shock that can be caused by running and quick movement. They also help reduce injury on hard surfaces.
Disclaimer: some cleats have removable or screw in studs. While some players like them because they are known to be sharper, they have also been known to fall out during use, which can cause injury. It is a general rule of thumb to stick to cleats that have the studs permanently attached to the shoe.
The best cleats are usually those that have a combination of different studs for balance and traction.
Here is the basic recap of everything that has been discussed in the article:
-cleats don’t make the player, but a good pair will definitely make a difference
– While it is not absolutely necessary, try to pick a cleat that would suit your position. For the younger players that don’t have positions yet, anything will do
– FG cleats are the most popular, but there is nothing wrong with having an extra pair of soft grounds for those muggy games. Also, indoor shoes make great leisure shoes
– The upper material your cleats are made of does make a difference, whether that is capability to dry quickly or general comfort, so don’t overlook the specs before you buy
– While some believe weight makes a difference, the over-under is usually 2 or 3 ounces difference. If you want to be on the safe side, shoot for cleats around 8 ounces
– Don’t overspend on cleats unless you really want to follow in the footsteps of your favorite professional player. Unless you are a high level player, the most popular range is the second tier, but remember you have to pay for quality
– Comfort is king and wearing a pair of cleats that are too tight or too lose can lead to chronic pain and even injury. Be aware that most cleats need time to break in, but don’t be the sucker that waits for months because “they should be feeling better soon”
– Studs make a difference in the traction and stability of your cleat, so usually the best option is having a cleat with multiple kinds of studs for a balance in stability and speed
We hope you have enjoyed our article on how to pick cleats. Please visit our Bootroom at World Soccer Shop for a wide selection of different styles of cleats from all of the biggest brands.