The type of soccer cleats you wear can make or break your performance. All things considered, this is the one piece of sport equipment that will affect your game the most. In fact, if you strip down to nothing but your cleats, you’ll become more aerodynamic and perform at your best! (Not recommended though). However, that’s beside the point. Cleats protect your feet, provide traction on grass, and gives you the support/stability you’ll need to dart across the field. Thus, it’s important to figure out what kind of cleat will suit you best. Factors such as traction, support, performance, comfort, and fit are just a few aspects you should consider. We will also give you some tips on how to choose soccer cleats, which will be short and sweet. With that said, here’s our guide on how to choose soccer cleats.
How to Choose Soccer Cleats
Type of Outsole
The type of ground you are going to play on will determine the type of outsole you’ll need. Specifically, four types of ground exist: soft ground, firm ground, and hard ground. The difference you’ll see between each is the material of the cleat and the shape.
- Firm Ground (FG) – Firm ground cleats are great for most firm natural surfaces where it doesn’t rain too often. They use molded studs that are either conical or blade shaped and evenly distributed throughout the bottom of the shoe. They provide sufficient traction for most pitches, making them very popular and versatile. Conical studs are rounded at the bottom and give players more flexibility of motion. Blade shaped studs are thinner like… blades and provide better traction, although not as much mobility as cone shaped studs. Since firm ground cleats are so versatile for most playing conditions, they are also the safest shoes to buy if you’re not sure what type of pitch you’ll be playing on.
- Soft Ground (SG) – Perfect for soft or wet natural surfaces (e.g. mud, where it rains often), soft ground cleats offer more traction than firm ground cleats. The studs found on soft ground cleats are very similar to firm ground ones, although there are usually fewer of them (~6) but more optimally placed. Studs can also be conical or blade shaped and there are often two in the bade on either side of the heel and four along the front of the shoe. Soft ground cleats should only be used on soft surfaces, or else pain and injury could occur.
- Hard Ground (HG) – Hard ground cleats shine on fields where most of the grass is worn down to leave much of the hard surface exposed. (E.g. artificial turf or solid ground). The bottom of hard ground cleats have numerous small, short studs that are evenly spread out across the entirety of the outsole. They aren’t made to dig into the ground but provide excellent grip on solid surfaces.
Molded or Detachable?
There are basically two types of cleats you can purchase: molded and detachable.
- Molded – The studs on these cleats are either rubber, plastic, or metal and are permanently attached to the outsole. That makes these types of shoes excellent for specific types of ground, low-maintenance, and less expensive. Most firm ground soccer cleats have molded studs.
- Detachable – Of course, these types of cleats have studs that are removable. There’s a couple of options that include metal tipped, rubber, and plastic. Meaning, you can use different types of studs for different types of fields. However, cleats with removable studs are less specialized, high-maintenance, and more costly. However, if studs wear down, it’s as simple as replacing them for a fully functioning soccer cleat. Most soft ground cleats have detachable studs.
Something most people don’t know when learning how to choose soccer cleats is that it matters what position you play. Different positions on the field require different play styles, which requires different types of cleats. If you’re not sure what your type of playing style is, consider what position you like playing the most.
- Forwards – The “strikers” of soccer focus on making goals. With that in mind, forwards prefer cleats with a clean strike zone (or vamp) to make more accurate shots. Less weight is also more ideal.
- Midfielders – Midfielders spend a lot of time sprinting up and down the field. Thus, cleats should offer both control and comfort in order to run for extended periods of time. Support is also highly beneficial so look for comfortable insoles and midsoles.
- Wingers – Wingers play on the sides of the field and can both play offense and defense. They are very fast and can dribble and cross the ball with great skill. Therefore, cleats that are lightweight with lots of lateral support are ideal for wingers.
- Defenders – Defensive players require cleats that offer more protection and a durable outsole to stand up to the abuse. Lateral support, excellent traction, and a large strike zone are also very beneficial as you’ll be changing directions and passing the ball often.
- Goalkeeper – Goalkeepers always have their eyes on the ball, which means they make lots of side to side movements. Superb traction and lateral support are a goalkeeper’s best friends. You’ll also want a nice strike zone in order to pass the ball to teammates.
Material is also a necessary aspect to talk about when learning how to choose soccer cleats. Different materials have different fits and performance and so, many soccer players have a preference when it comes to material. Upper materials usually boil down to two types: leather and synthetic.
Leather – Known for being flexible and soft, leathers are non-chafing and mold to your feet. Provides excellent touch although it also stretches after a few wears so fitting a shoe snug to very snug at first is your best bet at a perfect fit once it gets broken in. Most natural leathers also absorb water when playing on wet pitches.
Kangaroo leather – A premium leather that provides maximum comfort and ball feel. Molds to your feet and you won’t have to break them in. Very light and soft. Not as durable or waterproof as calfskin or cowhide leather. Stretches after a few wears and the most expensive.
Calfskin leather – Less expensive than k-leather while also providing a similar feel with regards to softness, flexibility, and durability. Also provides great touch and water-resistance. Though it retains its shape better, it is also a little heavier than k-leather.
Full-grain leather – Thicker and more durable than both kangaroo and calfskin leather, full-grain leather offers water-resistance and a comfy fit/ball feel comparable to calfskin and k-leathers. However, it’s heavier than both.
Synthetic – Often lighter, thinner, and more durable, synthetics won’t stretch as much in damp conditions making them ideal for wet grass. The downside is that they aren’t as comfortable though.
Synthetic leather – Comparable to real leathers although it doesn’t stretch as much and sacrifices a little on feel. Many soccer cleat companies are improving on that however by applying features such as waterproofing or added friction in coatings and treatments.
Mesh – Remarkably thin and highly breathable, this lightweight material is also used on running shoes. However, the downsides include the fact that moisture can get in the shoe.
Knit – Companies such as Adidas and Nike have introduced Knit materials that offer a snugger fit and new feel for the ball.
Durability is often tied with the type of material used and how you maintain it. What’s funny however is that more expensive cleats don’t necessarily mean more durability. In fact, oftentimes more expensive cleats offer more performance and less weight at the cost of durability. That’s because higher end cleats use less materials that are inherently thinner by nature for greater touch. This is a slight approximation of the durability of different materials so heed it with caution.
- Synthetic leather
- Full-grain leather
- Calfskin leather
- Kangaroo leather
It seems the trend nowadays in soccer culture is lighter weight and thinner materials. This could be due to new materials and technologies used by shoe companies. Although this can compromise on durability, lighter cleats offer exceptional performance. Whereas the average weight of cleats about 5 years ago stood around 9.4 oz, it’s closer to 8 oz these days. In general, more weight means more durability but less performance, and vice versa for lighter cleats. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that 8 oz is a balanced weight, offering both good durability and performance. As we’ve explained, lighter cleats are ideal for players who favor explosive movements and lightning quick agility. Specifically, forwards and wingers benefit the most from lightweight shoes.
Soccer is a very intense physical sport, so it’s crucial that you choose cleats that you can wear for more than an hour at a time. You should also take into consideration foot size and shape as you’ll want a snug fit with no chafing. Even a slight irritation can manifest into a large problem (such as a blister or bunion) further into the game.
With this in mind, let’s find out how to correctly fit your soccer cleats. You’ll want your cleats to fit snug without any discomfort or pressure points. Most cleats only come in one width, so make sure your feet don’t move around and that it has good support. (For example, Adidas run a little wider while Nikes fit more narrow feet better). Your toes should fill up the upper toe area, but don’t let it touch the end. That’s because running around and kicking the ball with your toes touching the end of the cleat can be somewhat painful. Leaving a little room at the end will offer both comfort and performance. Thus, look for a quarter to half an inch gap.
Also consider the material of the shoe. Real leathers often stretch with a little wear so size snug for these. On the other hand, synthetics don’t stretch as much so you can fit your shoes true to size for this type of material.
Be reasonable in how much you can spend on a pair of cleats. If you don’t play often, don’t purchase a very expensive pair. Now, if you’re always on the field, consider which is more important to you: durability or performance? If your goal is to find cleats that will last, look toward low to mid tier shoes. If performance is what you want, a mid to high tier pair will suit you best.
- Top-tier – $150 and up – Best of the best, cleats in this range offer the best performance but less than stellar durability. Recommended for competitive play.
- Mid-tier – $80 – $150 – Most popular option for most soccer players, as it provides good performance and great durability. Recommended for recreational and competitive play.
- Low-tier – $40 – $80 – May be lacking in performance but offers great value for players just starting out. Recommended for recreational play.
- Anything under $40 – Don’t even bother. With the quality of these types of shoes, you’d be looking at burning through several pairs before you can meet the durability and performance of even low-tier cleats.
*** Tips on How to Choose Soccer Cleats ***
- Make sure cleats do not gnaw at any part of your foot, this could cause huge problems in-game
- Cleats shouldn’t be too tight/roomy; leave a 1/4 – 1/2″ gap in the front for comfort/performance
- Breathability is crucial if your feet overheat easily, look for mesh or breathable materials
- Maintain your cleats routinely to maximize the lifespan of your shoes
- Consider what position(s) you like to play when purchasing cleats
- Choose cleats that will work on the pitch you play on. Don’t use specific cleats on different types of ground
- High-tier shoes offer the most performance but compromises on durability
- Mid-tier cleats have a good amount of performance and last longer than high or low-tier cleats
- Low-tier cleats lack performance and some durability but are perfect for new players and recreational play
- Avoid the very cheap cleats, they are often not worth it in terms of performance and durability
- Less weight means less durability but better performance; vice versa for more weight
- Try cleats in-store if possible for the best fit
- Find water-resistant cleats if you’ll be playing in wet conditions often
- A snug fit width-wise and lateral support are crucial for lots of side-to-side movements
- Find cleats with a large strike zone if you’ll be shooting or passing the ball often
- Firm ground cleats offer the most versatility when it comes to most field conditions
- Detachable studs offer more convenience and overall value; molded studs are less costly