For every footballer, cleats are the most essential piece of equipment you will ever purchase. You want boots that deliver excellent traction, support and feel of the ball. There are many factors to consider when buying boots that should be carefully evaluated before you spend hundreds of dollars at your favorite football store.
Elements of your Soccer Cleats
To begin it is important to understand the various pieces of the cleat itself. Each boot design offers players different performance attributes for various weather and field conditions. Understanding each element of the cleat will help you select the best pair for the playing surface you most often use. The right boots will provide the traction you need to improve your ball control while preventing ankle and leg injuries.There are six main components of a cleat. The upper, outsole, insole, midsole, stud or cleat, and the heel (see diagram for labels of each component except the insole).
The upper is everything above the insole/midsole. It largely impacts your touch and ball control.
The outsole is the bottom of the cleat (everything below the insole/midsole). This is the part of the boot that is usually made of a rubber or synthetic material based on the type of surface the shoe was designed for.
While not labeled in the picture above, the insole is a crucial part of the cleat. Most manufactures will provide a basic insole, however, if you experience foot pain you can purchase specialized insoles to reduce stress on your feet and to improve comfort.
The midsole is the layer of material between the inner and outer soles of a shoe designed to absorb shock.
The heel is the back portion of the cleat which offers heel support. Try a few pairs on and see which type of heel is the most comfortable or fits your playing style best. There is no right answer to selecting the proper heel.
The studs are the nobs on the bottom of your cleats. The three main studs are: bladed, hard grounded and round. Knowing which type is best for you is important because it will give the best traction on the field’s surface.
A firm ground cleat is the most common type with studs designed to provide traction and stability. Its primary use is on natural grass and outdoor soccer fields. Firm ground cleats generally have a series of non-removable rubber studs that are either bladed or conical in shape.
Soft ground cleats have longer studs for traction on wet or muddy ground. They typically have metal-tipped and sometimes detachable studs which allow for customization for varying conditions.
Artificial grass has rapidly spread around the world as it is more sustainable and not as susceptible to weather. It offers a consistent surface and it requires much less maintenance. Some players choose to wear a different pair of cleats on natural and artificial grass, but that can prove expensive especially for novice players. Adidas and Nike have responded with the hybrid outsole to help.
Artificial boots or turf shoes usually have a rubber outsole. They also have smaller rubber studs on the outsole to improve traction. Turf shoes can also be used for training or as a back-up pair of shoes for play on hard surfaces.
Consider what position you play and your priorities out on the field before selecting your cleats. Certain cleats offer lighter weight for better quickness and speed. Other boots offer more cushion for protection. Some cleats are optimized for traction or touch. If you play midfield, you probably care more about quickness and touch than if you play defense. Similarly, defensive players should be less concerned with shooting features on a cleat.
Lastly, the fit of your soccer cleats is critical. Just like any other shoe, imagine the discomfort and problems if cleats do not fit perfectly. If the boots are too tight then the player will experience difficulty running and performing well. On the other hand, if the cleats are too big or loose a player will most likely experience blisters.