As footballers, we all know that a number on the back of the jersey or a pair of expensive cleats will not make us play better or worse. However, feeling confident on the pitch can make or break a player.
One of the most important factors to help a player to feel comfortable is their soccer cleats. There are many aspects that go into why a player chooses the type of cleat they will wear throughout the course of the season or even an entire career. A player’s preference of brand, style, and even fabric type, all play a part in their choice. Making this a decision will vary depending on the player.
Defense Wins Games
Let’s take a look at defenders. The defense is a pivotal position for the success of any team. Without a strong backline, a team can not hope to win many games. How does the saying go?
“The best offense is a good defense.”
You can also take it a step further with,
“but a bad defense is offensive.”Gene Wolfe
So let’s see what cleats the most renowned defenders in the top leagues use and discuss what the best soccer cleats for defenders are.
Lahm and Ramos and Davies, Oh My!
When I’m asked to think of a top-level defender, the first that comes to my mind is Sergio Ramos. This is because he is an all-around defender, with skills, athleticism, he is brave in the tackles and excellent at heading the ball. Ramos chooses a cleat that helps him feel the touch of the ball and gives him support for his ankles.
On the other hand, there is Vincent Kompany, a completely different style of a defender. The Belgian defender is characterized by his physicality and his aerial capability to win 9/10 headers. His cleats are very different than Ramos as his style of play is completely different.
There is also the legendary Philipp Lahm. He’s so famous in Germany that People have even named their children after him. Lahm is smaller in stature, but his tenacity and endurance as a defender make him seem much bigger.
When he played right-back for FC Bayern and the German National team he would make long runs down the wing and in the next moment a crucial defensive tackle at the edge of his own penalty area. He definitely helped define the modern attacking outside back.
Another remarkable defender and a recent break out in the German Bundesliga is Alfonso Davies. He combines pure speed and quickness with silky smooth footwork. In the 2019-2020 season, he was named the rookie of the year. What he doesn’t have in terms of experience he makes up with his athleticism and speed. His teammates even call him “The Road Runner.”
There are so many great defenders out there!
It’s a shame we can’t talk about them all, but let’s take a look at some of the shoes they are wearing.
Best Soccer Cleats for Defenders
Nike Tiempo Legend
First, let’s focus on one of the best defenders the game of football has ever seen, captain of Real Madrid and World Cup winner, Sergio Ramos.
Throughout his professional career, he has worn cleats from the brand Nike – Nike Tiempo Legend. He is characterized as a player who craves the ball at his feet and has the ability to drive up the lines as well as his long diagonal balls when needed.
A player like him needs a cleat that is made to feel more of the touch of the ball and also provides quality control. This type of cleat will most likely be made out of leather, as it gives you a better feel than synthetic fabric. This cleat has evolved throughout time. It has gotten lighter weighing 8.6oz, ensuring the player a quick release from the surface when most needed.
As a defender, a sudden change of direction is crucial as well, and this cleat gives you the opportunity to do so. In the toe area, they provide a natural bend. Which gives the player(s) the opportunity to chop and turn quickly as needed. This is thanks to the leather Nike uses for this cleat (soft Kangaroo leather).
Let’s focus on a cleat made by the same brand as the one above, Nike. This time we will look at the Nike Hypervenom Phinish. Although Nike advertises these cleats for strikers and attacking players, these cleats have two specs that may be suitable for defenders.
One of these specs is the Anti-Clog Traction technology, which prevents mud for building up in the sole of the cleat when the field is wet. When there is too much mud built up in the sole this may inhibit the players to lose traction on a wet surface, causing him to slip. Defenders have very little margin of error, as this may affect the result of the game. With this technology, the player is still able to have good traction and to continue to change directions with no fear of losing distraction and making a mistake.
The other spec is the FlyWire, this technology gives the foot better support and keeps the ankle locked. Defenders are the players alongside the strikers who usually battle for an aerial ball. Which makes their ankles vulnerable when landing. With this technology, defenders may be calm at all times that their ankles
Adidas Ace 17
As a defender, I always looked up to one of the greatest right-backs I have ever watched on the pitch, Philipp Lahm.
He was a short defender, nevertheless a very quick player and very ruthless. Philipp Lahm was wearing a cleat made for comfort and durability. This soccer cleat has also great support which defenders need for tough tackles and landing after mid-air battles.
Standing as tall as 5’7 (1.70M) Philipp Lahm was never one to shy away from an aerial battle, nor a slide tackle. His timing for tackles was perfect. However, some soccer cleats may compromise the touch if its a durable and comfortable cleat. But not Adidas Ace 17, as the Kangaroo leather they use is very thin, giving the defender a better feel of the ball.
Lahm as a wing-back had to be up and down the line with long sprints. These cleats gave him the opportunity to do just that weighing 7.1oz.
Another spec we should look at is the lightweight sprint frame, which gives the defender the opportunity to keep the foot closer to the ground. With supporting foot lower to the ground, it gives the cleat overall stability. And may enable quicker movements without exerting a vast amount of effort or power.
European Champion with Portugal, 4 Uefa Champions League Titles, 4 Ballon d’ Or, 2 Fifa ‘The Best Player’ award, and 616 goals scored by this player. Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is the player who made the Mercurial Superfly a famous soccer cleat. When most people think of this shoe, they can only connect it with one player Cristiano Ronaldo.
This Cleat Is Also a Good Fit for Defenders
Defenders that are drawn to this boot may have the reputation of being fast and very agile in their movement. Guess who wore the latest version in his breakout season? Alphonso Davies! Nike Superfly 7Elite
There are certain aspects of this cleat that may benefit a defender. One is the position of the studs. Studs provide traction for the defender when needed to make quick cuts and to stop and go in a split second.
We also have to take into consideration the comfort level of the cleat, and the Mercurial Superfly does not let you down. They weigh in at 194 grams or 6.8 oz and are one of the lightest Superfly cleats to date.
As a complement to all the great specs, we cannot overlook the FlyKnit. It eliminates the need for different materials to make the uppers. This helps to drop useless weight.
Nike Magista Obra
Next on the list is the Nike Magista Obra II. Players like Leonardo Bonucci, a key player in the backline of Italy’s national team and AC Milan, decides to wear. This cleat is mainly built for comfort in the way it fits and holds to your feet. Like the Mercurial Superfly, the Magista offers ACC (All Condition Control). ACC allows the player to have the same friction between the ball and the cleat, touch, and control in either wet or dry conditions. This is very important in this cleat as defenders need to have a good first touch of the ball to keep it close to them. Also, it has a dynamic fit collar, which provides a great connection between the lower part of the leg and the foot. This adds extra support for the defender when hitting or clearing the ball. Inside the cleat, on the back part, the heel gives protection around the achilles. Achilles’ tendons are a very fragile part of the body, and the Magista gives extra support.
Nemeziz 17 +360
You never thought that talking about defenders, I would bring up the one and only Lionel Messi. One of the greatest (if not the greatest) the game has ever seen (we are lucky living in the same era as him and Ronaldo) made this cleat explode around the world – Nemeziz 17+ 360 Agility. This cleat will suit a defender who is agile with and without the ball, just like the little bionic player (Messi). The cleat was made with the idea to mimic the way boxers tape their hands. This offers great protection and support. Another aspect this cleat has that is beneficial to a defender is the TORSIONRIBS. The idea of the TORSIONRIBS which goes on the spine of the outsole is to improve the flexibility of the foot within the cleat. Gives support to the foot when twisting and changing direction. We can’t oversee the lightweight aspect of this cleat. Weighing 7.2oz, it is comparable to most cleats that are “made for speedy players”. The “elastic band”, which these cleats are made of, they give the player a sensation that this cleat has been made to perfectly fit his foot.
Let’s jump to a brand that has been recognized mostly in other sports, but yet it has been emblematic of some player’s careers. Such as Diego Godin’s career. Godin is known to be a very physical center back and one of the best players in the air wears Puma cleats – Puma EvoSpeed Fresh. This was the first boot to integrate a mesh on the upper part of the cleat, with the intention to deliver a very lightweight feel. With this integration with the upper mesh, it makes one of the lightest cleats in the market weighing 4.1oz. As a defender, Godin needs to read the game quickly and cover the spaces. Even though this cleat doesn’t give much of ankle support, it does have good traction in the sole of the feet. This helps to make quick turns when needed without losing his footing. Godin may feel vulnerable with this cleat if he gets stepped on. Yet, if he can endure the pain he will certainly appreciate the lightweight of the cleat itself.
Adidas Ace 17+ PureControl
Adidas has never disappointed any player with how comfortable their cleats are. Though they’ve been behind Nike in “style” and “extravagance” this precise cleat says the opposite, Adidas Ace 17+ PureControl. This cleat is great for any defender who can’t take risks with the time it takes to break in cleats and make your feet adapt to new material and new soles thanks to the PrimeKnit Upper. This method is used to knit the entire upper part of the shoe in just one piece. Compared to multiple pieces in other cleats. With the yarn being fused allows the defender to have the precise flexibility for the foot to make any movements in a split second. Having this material allows a defender to have a better feel of the ball, regardless if he is dribbling or hitting the ball. Having a better sensation of the ball doesn’t make you a better player. However, the player is aware of the amount that has to be excepted in a single movement with the ball on your feet. As a defender, you cannot have a heavy touch, and with a more natural feel of the cleat, the defender has an advantage in their touch.
New Balance Furon
Switching brands from the leaders of the football industry, now we focus on a brand that just integrated themselves into football 3 years ago. This brand is New Balance. Yes, New Balance has a pair of cleats that are good for defenders. Or any player who is looking to maintain their speed and acceleration throughout the game. The New Balance Furon is for a defender who is generalized as a “speedster”. The Furon is made out of mesh with nylon, to maintain the lightweight of the cleat and give defenders the mobility and freedom to move their feet quickly. The studs in these cleats have been engineered into positions that will help the defender be explosive off the ground. Although it may not be a cleat that is attractive to most players. New Balance has attracted the names of Vincent Kompany, Mourane Fellaini due to the comfortability of this shoe and the opportunity to be able to be explosive and change direction instantly. I have no doubt that with their technology New Balance will be competing at the top of the soccer brands.
Nike Magista Opus
A player that has made himself a spot in the starting eleven of FC Barcelona, Samuel Umtiti relies on his Nike Magista Opus. The Opus gives the perfect amount of the feel of the ball and also generates a quality comfort of the cleat.
The comfortableness comes from a mesh-like layer covered by a layer of KangaLite. KangaLite is a kangaroo leather that doesn’t compromise the weight of the cleat, a surprisingly 7 oz. The KangaLite also loosens up after some times wearing it and molds to the player’s foot, making it a “perfect fit” cleat.
The mesh-like layer gives the feel of the ball that every player wants. NikeSkin is also added to this cleat, which is essentially a “cap” to improve weatherproofing. As we know that football isn’t always played in perfect conditions, Nike has added the ACC (All Condition Control) which enables the defender to have the same friction and touch of the ball regardless of water, snow, or heat.
Best Soccer Cleats for Defenders: The Conclusion
As we read through this article you may have noticed that in the description of every pair of cleats, I mentioned the words “comfort” and “chooses.” This is because each player makes their individual choice when choosing their cleat based if they feel comfortable in the boots or not. This will differ from player to player.
I believe that the soccer shoe does not make a player perform better, although it may trigger a psychological aspect of the game that makes them better.
The Psychology of a Favorite Pair of Soccer Shoes
Every athlete knows that success in sports has a lot of psychology involved. There’s a great phrase by Deion Sanders (former NFL player) “feel good, look good, play good”. That phrase may show how important it is to have the right cleats that fit well on your feet.
Something else you might have noticed is that there are two main brands represented in this article, Adidas and Nike. Do you know why? Adidas and Nike have been making soccer gear much longer than New Balance, Puma, and other brands.
This doesn’t mean that other brands are not as good. Actually, they are just as good as the top brands. However, Adidas and Nike have an advantage due to their marketing, which captivates the attention of many players. Although Nike and Adidas may be seen as “better cleats”, often times the other brands are just as good if not better cleats.
The choice of the best soccer cleat often comes down to the individual player. Does the individual prefer a boot with a lightweight feel and less protection, or a more supportive shoe with arch support or ankle support? Maybe a pair that offers a better feel on the ball, or a lightweight cleat that protects but does not have the same touch on the ball?
The combinations are endless! But these questions will be going through the minds of players while choosing their next best soccer cleats for defenders.
What’s your favorite?