Soccer Cleats: Everything you need to know

We have previously outlined the various pieces of gear that a player will need in order to practice and compete efficiently and safely.  For every soccer player, soccer cleats are the most essential piece of equipment you will every purchase.  You will want a pair that delivers excellent traction, support and feel of the ball.  This article will dive deeper into soccer cleats and outline a few things to consider when evaluating which cleats to purchase as well as share some insight into which cleats the top professional soccer players wear on game day.


Elements of your Soccer Cleats 

To start it is important to understand the various pieces of the cleat.  Cleat designs offer players varying performance under various conditions.  Understanding each element of the cleat will help you select the best pair for the playing conditions you most often face.  You would not want to show up to a soft, mud filled field with cleats made for artificial turf or indoor play.  The right shoes will provide traction which will help to prevent ankle and leg injuries while also improving ball control.


Soccer cleat diagramThere 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).


1) Upper


Everything above the insole/midsole.  It impacts touch and ball control.  Different manufactured typically make the upper sections of cleats with a variety of different materials.  Try a few kinds and see what feels and performs best for you.


2) Outsole


Bottom of the shoe (everything below the insole/midsole).  This is the part of the cleat that is usually made of a rubber or synthetic material based on the type of surface the shoe was designed for.


3) Soccer cleat insolesInsole


While not labeled in the picture above, it is an important part of the cleat.  Most manufactures will provide a basic insole, but if you experience foot pain you can purchase specialized insoles to reduce stress on your feet to improve comfort.   Additionally, some players choose to purchase high performance insoles.  Click the corresponding insole image for our premium performance insole recommendation.


4) Midsole


The layer of material between the inner and outer soles of a shoe designed to absorb shock.  Most cleats will have a midsole designed to perform best with the rest of the materials in the shoe.  However, as you try different shoes you may find you prefer a certain type of midsole for your playing style.


5) Heel


The back portion of the shoe, 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.


6) Stud


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.


Selecting Your Soccer Cleats: Surface Considerations


Firm Ground


Soccer cleats for different surfaces
Left to Right – Firm ground, Soft ground, Hybrid, Artificial turf, Indoor cleat.

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


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


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.   Many schools are installing artificial turf as a result.  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 has responded with the hybrid outsole to help. Click here for high quality hybrid cleats.  Artificial grass cleats 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.


How do your Soccer Cleats Fit?


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 soccer cleats are too tight then the player will experience difficulty running and pain from cramped toes. On top of that, it will cut off blood circulation causing another level of discomfort.  On the other hand, if the cleats are too big or loose a player is likely to get blisters or worse.  Loose shoes will not provide the necessary support to a player’s feet and ankles potentially leading to injury.  Finally, big or loose shoes will make running as well as juggling or controlling the ball far more challenging.


Positional Considerations


Also 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 cleats 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.


Superstars and Their Soccer Cleats


Most professional soccer players own dozens of soccer cleats and the superstars even have their own custom designed cleats.  Some help to design their own custom soccer cleats while others leave it to the sporting companies.  Nike and Adidas sponsor professional soccer players so the superstars can promote their brands out on the field.


Cristiano Ronaldo


Cristiano Ronaldo's CleatsCristiano Ronaldo is one player that is noticed wearing a unique set of cleats designed by his sponsor, Nike. His cleats play a big part in his successful career. He is very serious when it comes to playing well during games and the cleats he wears are equally as important. He even has at least three pairs of soccer cleats on hand in case he needs to change them during the game.  His cleats are specially customized for games like the El-Clasico and the Champions League finals. Nike created something special for the superstar called the Mercurial CR7 Melhor. These are difficult to come by.  The Melhor signifies “The Best” and launched just days before he won the fifth Ballon d’Or.  Another CR7 cleat is the Mercurial Superfly CR7. These can be found and purchased here.


Lionel Messi


Lionel Messi's CleatsFor the Barcelona and Argentina fans out there, superstar Lionel Messi is known to have worn unique, specially made soccer cleats for his country’s opening match in the 2010 world cup against Nigeria. Messi wore several other unique cleats in big games. Optimizing your footwear optimizes your play. One pair of his renowned cleats are the Nemeziz 17+ 360’s. They reportedly provide special agility while playing.  They also have a snug fit for Messi’s toe box area. The presence of monotongue is meant to prevent any form of slip while dribbling and provides phenomenal grip on the ball.  You can purchase a pair by clicking here or check our the more economical adidas Performance Men’s Nemeziz 17.3 FG by clicking here.


Eden Hazard


Eden Hazard's CleatsChelsea superstar, Eden Hazard has also had his own share of custom-made cleats. The Belgain has enjoyed some great seasons in the past.  Part of his success story is his cleats.  Hazard developed a reputation of showcasing his cleats while playing and changing them during the heat of matches.  His ability to control the ball and stun the audience will always partially be attributed to his cleats.  For the 2017-2018 season he’s been wearing Mercurial Vapor Flyknit Ultra Cleats by Nike.  The cleats are difficult to come by, though.  He also featured the Mercurial Vapor XI’s during the 2017-2018 season. Those are easier to get and you can snag a pair of them here.


Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior


Neymar's CleatsNeymar also falls into the category of players who are known to enjoy the spotlight and “show off” their skills. To do that though, Neymar also needs a collection of great cleats.  Well, he has an abundance of them.   He has the same sponsor as Ronaldo and they ensure that their players have only the best on their feet. Neymar’s Mercurial Vapor XI NJR FG soccer cleats are depicted here.  Click here to get your own pair.



Final Thoughts:


Keep in mind, the key to quality soccer cleats is that they must be quality for you. There are many great cleat options out there for a variety of different prices. Make sure you use the guide above to figure what works for you in terms of the structure of cleats, they way they fit, and your performance out on the field. Then decide on what cleats you want to pursue based on price point.  If you go into your local soccer shop, you can often try on cleats and kick the ball around. Take advantage of that opportunity.


Good luck out there and feel free to ask any cleat questions in the comments below!


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