The most important gear you can have while playing football (or gridiron for all the non-Americans and non-Canadians) are the right cleats. In fact, most of the other gear a football player wears is more for protection than performance (except for gloves probably). Football cleats provide traction, protection, and support while you’re trying to make plays to get into the end zone. Thus, it’s crucial that you find the right football cleats for you, which is no easy task. With this in mind, you’ll have to take a lot of different factors into account when choosing football cleats. Field type, stud type, position, cleat type, material, cushioning, comfort, fit, and durability are just a few. But, there are a lot more that we’ll touch on in our guide, including tips. So today, we’ll be showing you how to choose football cleats that will suit you best. Onward fellow comrade!
How to Choose Football Cleats
It matters what type of field you are playing on. Depending on the type of pitch and weather conditions, you will want the right studs to match. The types of fields include hard fields, soft fields (wet as well), and turf. Here’s what you need to know about each:
Hard or soft fields (natural grass) – Most football cleats have molded studs, meaning, they are permanently attached to the outsole. They are cheaper but don’t allow as much versatility. Whatever type of grass you’ll be playing on, molded cleats will just have to adapt to it. Detachable stud cleats allow you to switch out studs depending on conditions but are more expensive. Most detachable stud cleats come with extra studs, which come in a variety of lengths. Studs comes in 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″, and 1″ sizes. Playing on hard fields? Short studs will be best. Playing on wet or muddy ground? Go with longer ones. So, having a set of studs on hands will allow you to play on different fields in different conditions. If you’re planning to play on wet grass or muddy fields, opt for waterproof uppers.
Turf – Instead of prominent studs, turf shoes will have a bunch of small rubber nubs to provide adequate traction on turf. This makes them essential when playing on synthetic surfaces.
Molded vs Detachable Studs
When learning how to choose football cleats, it’s important to learn about studs. There are two types of stud configurations: molded and detachable.
Molded cleats have studs that are permanently attached to the bottom of the outsole. They are less expensive, need less maintenance, and often specializes on one type of ground. The majority of football cleats have molded studs. Studs come in a variety of materials, usually either rubber, hard plastic, or metal. The downsides are that if the studs wear down, you’ll have to replace the shoes. Also, they aren’t as versatile.
Detachable stud cleats have studs that are removable and replaceable, making them a lot more versatile but more expensive as well. Usually, these types of cleats have longer studs for better traction on the field. You can change studs depending on weather and field conditions. You can also configure the studs to your desire, opting for either short, medium, or longer studs. Because of this, replacing studs that have worn out is a breeze making them very low-maintenance.
Now, depending on what position you play, you’ll want a cleat with the best features.
Offensive line – Includes center, offensive guard, and offensive tackle. Since your focus is blocking, you’ll want a cleat with lots of lateral support as well as protection/padding. High-tops would be best.
Backs and receivers – Includes the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Since you’ll be running, evading your opponents, and passing and catching the ball, you should opt for a lightweight cleat. Preferably opt for low-cuts for mobility, with good lateral support and stability for side-to-side movements, and good protection/padding in case of tackles.
Defensive line – Includes defensive tackle and defensive end. The goal of these positions is to prevent any offensive gain. Thus, you’ll want a lightweight cleat with lateral support, lots of protection, cushioning, and padding. Go with mid-tops or high-tops.
Linebackers – Includes middle and outside linebackers. Since their duties can vary, it’s best to choose a cleat that allows mobility (low-cut or mid-top) with lots of lateral support, stability, and protection. You’ll also want a lightweight cleat since linebackers can do a fair amount of running.
Defensive backs – Includes cornerback, safety, and dimebacks. These secondary players focus on defending against pass plays. Thus, you’ll want a lightweight cleat to be able to catch up with running backs and receivers. Low-cut and mid-tops are best suited for defensive backs.
Kicker, punter, etc. – If you’ll be making kicking plays, look for a cleat with a large, clean strike zone.
Low-cut vs Mid-top vs High-top
There are three varieties of soccer cleats: low-cuts, mid-tops, and high-tops. You can probably already tell each one apart but do you know the unique advantages and disadvantages of each?
Low-cuts – Stops before the ankle, which results in less protection and support. But, the advantages are less weight and more maneuverability, cutting, and speed. Best for quick and agile players who run a lot, i.e. nimble skill players.
Mid-tops – Mid-tops sit above the ankle and offer more support and protection than low-cuts. They also don’t restrict mobility and movement as much as high-tops. Best for running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers, and defensive backs. Probably the most popular style of football cleat.
High-tops – Often referred to as 5/8 cut or higher, high-tops provide the most stability and protection. Lateral support on high-tops are the absolute best for players who make a lot of side-to-side movements. But, this comes at the cost of freedom of movement. Best for linemen.
How to Fit Football Cleats
Comfort is one of if not the most important factor you should consider when learning how to choose football cleats. If you’re not comfortable out on the field, you’re not performing your best out on the field. Thus, here are some tips for choosing cleats that fit you and are comfortable to wear:
- Your cleats should fit snug, NOT tight
- They should not cause any blisters when walking around
- There should be no discomfort or rubbing against the Achilles tendon
- You should not have any unwanted stud pressure
- They should be flexible enough for you to run, turn, jump, and spin
- Choose cleats that cover the ankles for better lateral support
- Your heel should feel locked in place without moving around
- They should fit appropriately width-wise
- Leave a small gap where your toes should touch the end (1/8″-1/4″)
- Take into account the type of material. Leather stretchs, synthetics don’t
Now, since we’re learning how to choose football cleats, let’s talk about weight. Weight is an important aspect if you’re looking for agility and quick acceleration. Although less weight means you can move faster, it also means less protection and support. On the other hand, more weight often means more protection and support. Most of a cleat’s weight comes from the upper material. Leathers are often heavier than synthetics, as synthetics can can be ultra-thin while remaining durable. Other parts of a cleat that contribute to weight is the outsole plate, cushioning, studs (if they’re detachable), and the cut of a cleat. The weight of cleats can range anywhere from 6 to 12+ ounces.
How well do a pair of cleats support you as you run, jump, turn, and move from side to side? There are a few factors to consider, such as:
- Sidewalls – Sidewalls are, you guessed it, the sides of a shoe. They should be rigid enough to provide optimal lateral support and stability so that your feet don’t move around.
- Midsole – Provides cushioning and support, lies right above the outsole. But, you can’t remove it so make sure it absorbs impact well.
- Insole – Adds extra cushioning and support, lies on top of the midsole. If the cushioning an insole provides is not enough, make sure it’s removable so you can add your own.
- Heel lockdown – The heel of a cleat should cup your heel snugly so that it doesn’t move around or cause any discomfort.
- Studs – Providing stability, studs should be the appropriate length for the type of field you are playing on.
- Breathability – Crucial if your feet get hot quickly. Look for mesh in certain areas of a cleat for breathability. Different upper materials can also have varying levels of breathability.
- Closure system – How do you tighten your cleats? Based largely on preference, you can choose from velcro, laces, zippers, or straps.
- Material – The upper part of a football cleat is often leather or synthetic. Leathers are usually waterproof, comfortable, flexible, and durable, although they can stretch with wear. Synthetics are often breathable, can be as durable as leather, and don’t stretch much if at all. Synthetics are often used to provide reinforcement or support for a cleat. You can often find materials such as Pebax, TPU, PU, EVA, and PORON in football cleats.
- Durability – Durability is often directly connected with the upper material and outsole. Leathers are generally more durable although synthetics are slowly catching up. Also, many football cleat manufacturers use synthetics to reinforce cleats in high wear areas. To maximize durability of cleats, always clean them after wear and treat them with oils and conditioners.
- Budget – Spend according to your level of play. Molded cleats are best for youths and recreational players as they are often cheaper. Although detachable stud cleats are more versatile, they are more expensive which is usually why more serious players buy them.
*** Tips on How to Choose Football Cleats ***
- Low-cut cleats offer more mobility and speed at the cost of ankle support and overall protection. They weigh less as well
- Mid-tops offer more protection and ankle support than low-cuts but also more freedom of movement than high-tops
- High-tops offer the best in protection , lateral support, stability, and ankle support. However, mobility is restricted
- Get the right type of studs for the right type of field. If you’re playing on turf, opt for rubber outsoles.
- Molded cleats are cheaper; detachable stud cleats are more expensive
- Leather stretches after a few wears; synthetics don’t stretch much if at all
- There should be no unwanted discomfort, stud pressure, or rubbing when walking in cleats
- Buy extra laces that are durable in case your current laces rip
- Ensure a proper and secure heel lockdown and that you have adequate support
- If you wear leather, treat the cleats with special oil/conditioners for a softer and more comfortable fit
- Oils and conditioners can also protects the leather from rain, snow, sun, and water
- Look for more breathable materials if your feet get hot quickly
- Have a variety of replacement studs on hand so you can change studs out depending on weather and conditions
- Studs comes in 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″, and 1″ sizes. Have all sizes on hand so you can play on any type of field
- Less weight means more agility and quick acceleration at the cost of protection and support
- More weight means more protection, support, and stability at the cost of mobility
- Cleats should fit snug width-wise with a small gap (1/4″to 1/2″) length-wise
- Consider different aspects of a cleat depending on what position you play