Ultimate Soccer Cleats Guide
My son was all enthusiastic about getting selected for the school’s soccer team.
As I had promised I’d buy him a new pair of the best soccer cleats, I had to start looking for one...
It was after spending so much time on research to find the perfect pair of soccer cleats that I had decided to write this soccer guide to help all the others out choose the right cleats.
This is not some lame guide - it's The Ultimate Guide!
Soccer Cleats Anatomy
Cleats are quite different from sneakers and have seven main parts influencing its comfort and playing capabilities.
They are the upper, vamp, outsole, insole, midsole, stud or cleat and the heal.
I have provided a brief description of each part below.
Different Parts of Soccer Cleat
As the name suggests, this is the upper part of the cleats affecting both touch and ball control. It’s usually made using different materials. So try a few to find out which suits you the best.
This is the upper, front, strike zone that comes in contact with the ball while playing. While most vamps are stitched, some have added enhanced technologies providing the shoes with improved ball control and shot power.
This is the cleats’ bottom part which depending on the type of surface they are meant for, are usually made of rubber or synthetic material.
The insole is an important part that provides the shoes’ inner cushioning that is either removable or attached. Most shoes come with a basic insole but you can also choose from specialized high-performance insoles for improved comfort and reduced stress on feet.
The midsole is the built-in cushioning in between the insole and outsole that absorbs shock. While most cleats have midsoles that work best with other shoe materials, try out different shoes before making a choice. There may be a particular midsole that fits your playing style the best.
6. Heel Counter
This is the shoe’s back part that supports the heel. Try out a few pairs to choose the most comfortable heel befitting your playing style.
Studs are the nobs located under the cleats that improve traction. They may be fixed or detachable and bladed, round or conical and hard grounded. Studs are usually made of rubber, plastic or metal. As some leagues ban the use of metal studs choose accordingly and based on which studs give the best traction while playing.
Variety of Soccer Shoes
Did you know that soccer cleats are divided into various types?
These are based on the stud types and the surface they are meant to be played on.
You have to decide where you plan to play first!
Different Soccer Shoe Types
If you are not sure, I suggest playing safe and buying FG boots which perform comparatively well on most surfaces. But if you do know, then you can choose from these five designs:
1. Firm ground (FG) shoes
This is the most common type of soccer shoes known for providing stability and traction. It is best used on natural grass and outdoor soccer fields and has non-removable bladed or conically shaped rubber studs.
Bladed studs produce less pressure over the match but create better traction and speed. Conical studs provide for quick release and improved stability with minimal risk of injuries with its increased points of contact with the field. As most fields are now made of artificial grass, shoe manufacturers are producing FG shoes that can be used on artificial grass too.
2. Artificial ground (AG) shoes
Artificial grass is growing in popularity for being more sustainable and less susceptible to weather while providing a consistent surface with minimal maintenance.
Artificial grass shoes come with a rubber outsole with evenly distributed smaller rubber studs for improved traction. They can also be used for training purposes or as a back-up while playing on hard surfaces but are not meant for firm ground.
3. Hybrid (AG/FG) shoes
While some players wear different cleats on natural and artificial grass, it can get expensive for novice players. This is where hybrid cleats come in which come in various cleat shapes and lengths and provide acceleration on both firm, natural surfaces and artificial grass.
4. Hard Ground (HG) shoes
Hard ground cleats are ideal for playing on very hard, firm, dry and bare surfaces. It has more of conical studs that provide balance and optimal traction with minimal injury risks. They can also be used for playing on FG surfaces.
5. Soft ground (SG) shoes
These soccer shoes are designed for playing only on soft grounds where it’s longer metal tipped studs easily penetrate through. They are ideal for playing in areas with frequent rains because they provide for added traction on wet and muddy fields.
Most shoes come with removable studs for customization while playing on different fields. However check with your league before buying them, to ensure metal studs are permitted.
6. Indoor shoes
Indoor soccer cleats are designed for playing on hard, glossy indoor soccer courts and futsal in gyms. As they usually come without cleats or studs, they look like light sneakers and can be used for leisure and street wear too.
7. Artificial turf shoes
Artificial turf boots are designed for playing on artificial turf and comes with various highly-concentrated conical studs for improved traction. They are ideal for soccer training and as a backup pair for hard surfaces.
8. Women’s soccer shoes
While most female players prefer wearing men’s soccer boots, there are soccer shoes meant for women with a narrower mold that fit a woman’s foot well. But women who prefer wearing men’s shoes, should size a size and half down. So an 8.5 men’s shoe is ideal for women wearing a size 10 women’s shoe.
Most soccer cleats come with permanently attached molded cleats but experienced players prefer buying boots with detachable cleats. It gives them more versatility and a backup pair while switching playing fields.
Materials Used for Soccer Cleats
Soccer shoe materials have changed over the years.
But they all serve the same purpose of producing comfortable, lightweight and thin shoes that quickly forms to the ball on contact.
So, let's find out what are our cleats made of!
Soccer Boot Materials
Players similarly have their personal preferences while buying cleats.
Some like leather shoes giving a glove-like fit while others like the consistency of synthetic uppers.
This is why I’ve listed out the advantages and disadvantages of natural leather and synthetic leather, to help make your choice so much easier.
While there are different types of leathers used for making soccer boots, they can be broadly classified into two groups - kangaroo and all other types. This is because while all other types may look different, but still have similar properties when compared to kangaroo leather.
Kangaroo or K-leather
Unlike other leathers having fibers in right angles, kangaroo leather is uniquely highly uniform in direction. It is this uniformity which makes kangaroo leather thin, light and strong. It also easily molds to the feet without any break-in time.
So while kangaroo leather is better than other leathers and preferred by professional players, it comes with a hefty price. However kangaroo leather isn’t as durable or waterproof as other leathers like calfskin and cowhide leather.
While calfskin is soft, water-resistant and maintains a better shape, it is heavier than kangaroo leather.
Full-grain leather is water-resistant, thicker and tougher than kangaroo and calfskin, and conforms well to the foot. However, it is heavier than both calfskin and kangaroo.
- Soft to touch and easily conforms to foot
- Thick protective layer over the foot
- Excellent ball touch
- Optimal comfort level and durability
- Softens with time to mold to the feet
- Stretches enough to accommodate wide feet
- Tends to absorb water in wet conditions, especially around stitching
- Not waterproof
- Requires more cleaning maintenance
- Generally more expensive
- Available in limited colors
- Gets hard if worn in rain or mud and left to dry
I learn that synthetic uppers are lighter and more durable than natural leather but are not as comfortable as leather. They are thinner than leathers but don’t stretch much, especially if you feel the shoes are tight from the first wear. While they are usually built from plastics, some brands offer varied options.
- Easily cleaned
- Significantly light
- Affordably priced
- Fits tightly to foot but still bends easily with movement
- Quickly airs after playing in wet conditions
- Available in various colors and designs
- Longer break-in time because of inorganic material
- Minimal comfort and feel
- Low durability levels- last no more than one to two seasons
- Doesn’t stretch to accommodate wide feet with time
Shoe manufacturers like Nike and Adidas have come up with synthetic leather shoes designed to feel and look like leather, and are waterproof. They are breathable, don’t need too much cleaning and don’t require breaking-in. However, it doesn’t offer as much ball contact feel as K-leather or natural leather offers.
- Look and feel like leather
- Waterproof and breathable
- Doesn’t need much cleaning or breaking-in
- Doesn’t offer ball contact like natural leather offers
Knitted uppers are the newest available cleat material. It has a highly textured surface that provides increased control and traction while kicking the ball. They are also generally lightweight and waterproof in design.
- New cleat material
- Lightweight and waterproof with a highly-textured surface
- Better control and traction while kicking the ball
All this shows that you have to choose your soccer cleats material wisely, based on how long you want them to last, your budget and your playing style. You also have to choose based on the cleats’ waterproofing abilities. Remember, if you tend to play consistently in wet fields, then it’s better to avoid natural leather because it tends to absorb water.
What's the Right Size and Fit?
It’s not enough knowing which type of shoes suits your playing style best...
You also need to know how to pick the right sized cleats!
Which is one thing most people do wrong.
This is because there are two things to know about choosing the right pair of soccer boots...
...the first is sizing, and second, fit.
Soccer Cleats Sizing and Fit
Sizing involves determining the shoe length. Soccer cleats actually resemble your foot with a distinct mid-foot area and distinctively shaped forefoot and toe box areas. They collectively tightly wrap your foot without any extra space inside. This is why it’s important that your kid’s mid-foot sits well in the respective spaces to reap the benefits of the shoe’s technology.
While most people follow the rule of thumb to leave a thumb space in between the foot and shoe before buying the shoe, I learned that this was too generalised a rule. It’s mainly because different people’s thumbs have different shapes and width.
This is why I suggest buying shoes that are comfortable, and as snug as possible, with perhaps a little bit of extra space. Your child shouldn’t be able to slide their feet in and out the shoes. The sizing isn’t right if the shoes don’t feel tight, or if they feel that there’s too much extra space.
This is when you need to look for something smaller for them.
The fit consists more of the shoe’s general shape and how it wraps your foot. This means that the shoes should fit pretty snug on both sides, without any space inside to slide your foot from side to side. It’s only if the shoes give a snug fit that it provides the stability needed to play soccer and still feel comfortable.
So always make sure the shoes are a perfect fit. Cleats that don’t fit your kid’s foot length and width are not meant for them. Don’t let others’ decision change their selection because only they will be able to determine if the shoes fit them well and if they are comfortable in them.
The Process of Break in to Soccer Cleats
Your child will obviously be excited about the new cleats and can’t wait to start playing with them.
However, cleats need time to break in.
So that the shoe mold to your feet.
While leather shoes are quicker and easier to break in, synthetic cleats take a bit longer.
Make sure you wear the equipment you’ll wear to a game like socks and shin guards. This gives you an idea of how your shoes look when they mold to your feet.
Then go jogging, walking or dribbling with the shoes for a few sessions to break in the leather by loosening stitches and letting the soleplate fit naturally with your feet.
Taking a warm shower with your cleats on help as the heat loosens the material. Leave the shoes on as they dry as this is when the leather takes your feet’s shape. Now fill its inside with balled up newspaper to absorb excess water while retaining the shoe shape.
Rubbing petroleum jelly or leather food on the uppers keeps the leather soft and prevents blisters. Make sure you remove the cleats if you feel a blister and apply more leather food to the parts giving trouble to prevent them.
So you see, breaking in is very important to ensure you can play soccer with the cleats. It’s not advised to wear soccer shoes without breaking in it because you only end up hurting your feet, which in turn leads to poor performance.
They are usually ready to play after jogging or walking a few rounds in them. However, if you still feel pain and discomfort after some time, then the boots may not be right for you.
If all this seems to be a tedious breaking in process, there is a new short-cut method you can also use. You can steam the cleats to soften them. This is the best way of breaking in the shoes for people with wide feet.
There are steamers meant especially for shoes where you have to throw them in it and leave your shoes there for about 20 minutes. Then place your feet in them while they are hot to let it mold to your feet. However, this isn’t something everyone can or should buy.
You can instead run a steamy hot bath, and place a bucket upside down in its middle to keep your shoes under water. Leave it there for about 20 minutes and then check and top up the water if necessary.
Leave it there for about half to one hour and then remove them while the water is hot. Place your feet in them to let the cleats mold to your feet as it cools down and gives you a customized fit. The shoes need another 15 minutes on your feet to cool down and mold to your feet.
So you see, breaking in new soccer cleats is so much easier and quicker this way. It’s done in a matter of an hour with minimal discomfort and chances of forming blisters!
Take Care of Your Cleats
All those new technologies aren't adding to durability.
The lighter the cleats are the shorter their life span is!
However, regular maintenance can extend your soccer shoe life.
How to Increase Durability of Soccer Shoes?
Soccer cleats growing lighter by the day comprises on its durability.
Companies use fewer materials to make shoes lightweight, which in turn reduces the shoe’s durability.
This means that the most expensive lightweight shoes that promise to performance are not as durable as the more affordable models.
So while a good pair of shoes would easily have lasted for two seasons before...
...today it’s a huge achievement if one pair of shoes last through a season’s gameplay stress.
The right and regular maintenance can, however, extend the soccer boot’s life.
This means removing the dirt and debris lodged in between studs and wiping the upper after each game, and drying it out can prolong its life.
Soccer shoes tend to break down more quickly if the shoes are wet or if they are left in a damp duffle bag.
If you are looking more for durability in soccer shoes, like for kids
then it’s better to buy cleats weighing more than 9 ounces and which have leather instead of synthetic upper.
Ready to Buy a Pair of Cleats?
All this info above is what I usually come through...
...before I buy a pair of cleats for myself or my kid.
Below, I have compiled a brief-up of the most important parts.
So, dig in and buy that pair of cleats!
Soccer Cleats Buying Guide
It’s based on what I learned and underwent while looking for the right cleats for my child that this buying guide was compiled. It’s basically a brief-up of whatever was mentioned earlier, with some other important points.
Decide on the playing style
Different players have different roles in a game of soccer, with individual playing styles and approaches.
So choose based on the position most played on the field.
This is important because goalkeepers need shoes with the best traction, that helps them move quickly laterally.
Defensive players need shoes that give more protection, go give a clean pass
while midfielders need cleats with better control so that they easily run around the pitch for 90 minutes.
Wingers need something lightweight so that they can accelerate and quickly change direction
while forwards is more comfortable with lightweight boots offering a clean strike zone with occasional explosive movements.
There is an increase in the number of lightweight cleats in the market.
Thanks to improving materials and technologies used in its manufacture.
While the average weight of cleats was 10 ounces a few years back, and there are also cleats weighing as light as 5 ounces now,
it’s better to invest in 8-9 ounce shoes which are quite well balanced.
Soccer cleats are divided into these categories:
- Heritage - these cleats are comfortably and durably designed with minimal technology and more leather.
- Power - these boots come with added technology in the strike zone for added oomph while hitting shots.
- Control - these cleats are designed with elements around the pass and control zone so that players have quick control and solid passes.
- Speed - these shoes are obviously lightweight, usually having a synthetic upper and minimally designed.
- Hybrid - these soccer boots are a hybrid of various styles. It may have speed and control or lightweight with pass zone technology.
One very important thing I’ve learned while shopping for cleats is to set a budget before going hunting.
There are so many brands and types of cleats in so many price ranges, you can end up spending much more than you can afford on them!
Besides, setting a budget also helps you find two pairs of the best shoes at discounts,
if you are patient enough, and know where to look!
I found out that soccer boots basically come in four price ranges:
These are elite shoes, designed for professional players.
These are mid-tier boots, and most of the best quality boots fall in this price range.
Most players buy these boots which outperform the elite level shoes in performance and are also more durable than them.
These are mostly the lower tier cleats.
These may resemble the more expensive versions but lack in performance.
They lack added technology but make an ideal choice for new players and for those playing for fun or at non-competitive levels.
I really don’t feel these shoes are worth buying...
...because you will most probably end up buying cleats with a logo.
The only time I’d suggest buying cleats in this range is if there’s a great sale and some of the more expensive shoes are available for below $40.
Talking about sales, I realized that as long as you know where to look, you may get a great deal somewhere. In most cases, it’s when a new version is released that the older style model of the boot goes on sale.
Don’t miss out on these sales.
If you are lucky, you may end up buying older model shoes that perform as well as, or better than the new ones! Stores sometimes focus on getting rid of their old stock to make room for the new models through these sales.
Have you ever wondered that different cleats fit in different ways?
It was interesting to learn that manufacturers intentionally size each boot they manufacture in a different manner to suit different player types - for example wide footed players. You will realize this only if you go to stores to try out shoes.
But if you opt, or have to buy online, then I suggest reading review sites to find out details about the different sizing and fit for different cleats.
It’s also worth asking friends or your kid’s friends to let them try their shoes to find out how they fit.
Lastly, even the soccer coach can help because they see so many kids wearing so many different types of boots;
they will definitely have some suggestions.
Sizing for Kids
As mentioned earlier, you have to choose cleats that size and fit well.
...However, parents face a problem while looking for shoes for their kids like I did.
You find it difficult determining if there’s enough room in the boots and how much space is permissible so that your kid plays best, without quickly growing out of the boots.
If you ask me, I feel that in case of kids under 12,
it’s better to follow the same method as adults but comparing using the kid’s baby finger.
Generally, a baby finger’s space is too much, so look for cleats with about a half a finger’s space.
It gives your child enough room to grow into the boot, and mold to their shape without affecting their performance much.
It’s also better to buy leather cleats.
Leather stretches over time, to prolong the boot’s lifespan.
Place the right online orders
Besides checking reviews, asking the coach and trying out other kids’ cleats,
I also suggest checking out boots a store before buying online.
You get an idea about the boots’ fit and comfort to help you make a better choice.
And do choose the site wisely by avoiding unknown sources.
Just stick to famous US sites, and don’t get brainwashed by mazing deals’ from China sites.
You may end up with a fake pair of boots, or even no boots at all.
I cannot stress how important this is.
You have to do as much research as you can about the different types of soccer cleats.
You can’t take chances with impulsive shopping here.
Determine the playing venue and position so that you get an idea if you want comfort or durability.
You also need to decide if weight is a factor, or if you can afford a little more padding.
Just remember, ask questions if you aren’t sure about anything.
You need to be perfectly sure of what you want, and what you are looking for.
Practice and Game pairs of Cleats
I suggest buying two pairs of cleats.
So that you have one as a back-up in case the other rips during a game.
You can, in fact, use the second pair of practice sessions, which will be the backup pair if and when necessary.
Variety is a must
One more thing I’ve learned about soccer cleats.
You don’t have to be committed to only one brand. You usually find 3-4 options across numerous brands to choose from as per your playing style and venue.
There’s no rule to remain loyal to only one brand or player. You choose what’s best for you and your game, which sometimes may be cleats from one of the smaller brands.
Use only trusted retailers
I once again stress to always buy from trusted retailers, and not from unknown sellers.
No matter how interesting the deal may be, or how much you think you may save buying from them, always buy your cleats from a known brand.
If you find another site selling a $300 cleats for $70, which seems to be too good to be true, it’s usually too good to be true.
These sites usually sell fake boots that look like the top brands, but don’t’ perform as well. This is why I always suggest sticking to buying your soccer boots only from trusted sites with positive reputations and reviews on the net.
It's Your Turn Now
This is how I prepare before buying a pair of soccer cleats.
Now let me know which steps you are going to take first?
Search for the best size and fit?
Or look for best deals online and compare those cleats?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.