Your soccer cleats are the ultimate tool. You need a pair that delivers unrelenting traction, support and feel of the ball.
Picking the right cleat for your particular style of play and for the type of ground you’re playing on is essential.
Over the years, soccer shoe materials have changed a lot, and the technology continues to evolve. But, the goal remains the same: to create shoes that are hyper-lightweight, but also durable, thin, and excellent at forming to the ball during contact. To top it off, they have to be comfortable and easy to move in, too.
Traditional shoes are often made of kangaroo leather, which is a soft, supple material with a high comfort factor. Unlike most leather equipment, “K-leather” cleats don’t need to be broken in.
Short of that, other shoes are made of different natural leathers, such as cowhide or full-grain, which are less pliable but more durable. Pros tend to prefer these models because of their natural feel on the ball and their high degree of comfort. But they aren’t waterproof, so playing consistently on a wet field can have an adverse impact.
With this in mind, you can also opt for a model made of synthetic leathers, designed to simulate the properties of leather, but often feature added benefits like waterproofing. They are breathable, easy to clean and do not require a break-in period. However, they don’t provide the same level of feel for ball contact as K-leather or natural leather.
If you’re looking for something more durable, lighter, and more water resistant, synthetic fabrics may be the way to go. Most of these are built from plastics, although different brands offer a whole smorgasbord of varying options.
The newest cleat material comes in the form of “knitted” uppers — a highly textured surface for kicking the ball. This design is made to increase control and traction in the kick, potentially making a huge difference in your game. They are also frequently lightweight and waterproof.
Some features to consider when thinking about your next cleat materials are waterproofing, targeted stitching along the top of the foot, and a thick padded insole for added comfort.
When it comes to ankle height you have two options: low and mid. Mid-profile shoes offer bonus protection to your ankle, which helps reduce the chances of a sprain, but they can limit your range of motion to a certain extent. This extra protection can benefit defensive players who take a lot of heat. But if you’re a forward or a winger, you’ll want the boost in range of motion offered by a low-profile ankle.
The type of cleat you’ll use depends largely on the surface you’ll be playing on. Remember to check with your league about its surface type and any restrictions on cleats. There are five common types of cleat designs to choose from:
- Firm Ground: Traditionally used in outdoor games on grass fields, these models are now often designed to also handle artificial grass. They’ll give you extra traction on firm, dry surfaces.
- Hard Ground: This low-profile shoe with conical studs works best on rock-hard surfaces or a patchy field with spots of hard dirt. Rather than digging into the ground, these cleats sit on top of the field.
- Indoor: These shoes are designed for use on hard, glossy indoor soccer courts. Usually designed without cleats, they look like light sneakers.
- Soft Ground: Made for traction on muddy fields, these tend to have longer studs. Make sure to check with your league before choosing these styles, since they frequently have metal studs.
- Turf (AG): These are designed for effective use on artificial ground or turf, and usually have a number of highly-concentrated conical studs. Good for training, and as a backup shoe for hard surface play, but not much better than a sneaker on natural fields.
Standard soccer shoes come with molded cleats, which are permanently attached, but you can also buy shoes with detachable cleats. Experienced players tend to prefer detachable cleats because it allows for a little more versatility like owning a second set of cleats for soft ground that you can switch out when it rains.
Choosing the right cleat for your playing surface ensures maximum traction and acceleration on the field, making your soccer shoes the most vital part of your arsenal.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, remember that your cleats should fit rather snug, especially if you’re getting a pair of K-leather, which will stretch significantly. This tighter fit allows for a more natural sense of the ball in game. You want a pinkie-finger’s worth of space between your toe and the end of the shoe, and enough space that your toes do not press against the upper.
Having the right pair of soccer cleats can help take your game to the next level. Now that you know what to look for, you’re ready for the soccer season to begin.