Footwear is more important in soccer than most other sports. It’s the most essential piece of equipment apart from the ball. A quality pair of cleats made for the right terrain and weather conditions can affect the way a player performs.
Avid soccer players often require several pairs of cleats to suit the different styles of terrain on which they play. While some kinds of cleats can be used on multiple surfaces, some surfaces require very specific cleats.
This guide will help you buy the best pair(s) for your skill level, budget, and the type of terrain on which you play.
Table of Contents
Firm Ground Cleats
Firm ground cleats, also known as molded cleats, are the standard soccer shoe design. They feature hard plastic or non-removable rubber formations on the bottom for traction control. Firm ground cleats are best on traditional grass soccer fields.
Player skill level: Beginner and intermediate players
Field type: Most grass fields and all weather conditions
Soft Ground Cleats
Soft ground cleats, or replaceable cleats, feature removable studs that can be swapped to suit different types of terrain and weather conditions. The cleats come with studs in various lengths and materials, including plastic with metal tips or hard plastic.
Player skill level: Intermediate and advanced players
Field type: These cleats can be tailored to different grass field types and weather conditions; however, they are not for turf or indoor play.
Artificial Grass Cleats
Artificial grass fields are increasingly common, as the low-maintenance surface is more affordable for many schools, clubs, and other soccer organizations. The increase in popularity means more artificial grass cleats are available.
Artificial grass cleats feature shorter rubber studs to match the shorter length of new generation artificial grass. However, the studs are typically longer and fewer than on the bottom of turf soccer shoes.
Player skill level: All levels of players playing on artificial grass
Field type: A player can wear artificial grass cleats on artificial grass surfaces and the soft or hard ground. However, soft or hard ground cleats should not be worn on artificial grass, as they can tear up the surface.
Multi-ground cleats are also known as hard-ground cleats. They function well on hard surfaces, including hard natural ground (such as frozen fields) and artificial grass. They feature shorter studs, typically with a mixture of circular and bladed, throughout the bottom of the shoe rather than longer studs that can get stuck in the hard ground and cause injury. Multi-ground cleats are good to have as a backup pair of cleats.
Player skill level: Intermediate to advanced players
Field type: Hard surfaces, including artificial grass and frozen or hard natural fields (sun-baked ground, frozen ground)
Turf Soccer Shoes
Turf shoes may also be worn on harder soccer-playing surfaces, including hard outdoor fields and artificial turf fields. They’re typically used as training shoes but may serve as a substitute game pair on frozen or hard ground. The bottom of the shoe features a hard plastic or rubber raised pattern instead of defined studs.
Player skill level: All skill levels playing on turf
Field type: Artificial turf and hard natural ground
Indoor Soccer Shoes
Indoor soccer and futsal are not the same sport, but they may require the same indoor soccer shoes. Futsal players play on a hard surface like a gym floor or basketball court. Indoor soccer players may play on a hard surface court, or they may play on indoor artificial turf.
Indoor soccer shoes for hard surfaces look like traditional low-cut sneakers but have a rubbery, flat bottom designed for traction on courts and other indoor surfaces.
Player skill level: All skill levels playing on hard indoor surfaces
Field type: Indoor soccer shoes are for hard surfaces (like a basketball court). However, teams may play indoor soccer on indoor artificial turf. In this case, turf shoes or indoor soccer shoes work.
Note: Some new artificial turf fields feature new generation artificial grass. This artificial turf includes rubber pellets that can make the field slicker. In this case, experts recommend artificial grass cleats.
What is the difference between indoor soccer and futsal?
Futsal is a style of indoor soccer played on a court the size of a basketball court with a heavier ball designed for less bounce. Five players are always on the court for each team, and substitutions happen on the fly. The offside rule does not apply in futsal.
Indoor soccer features similar rules to traditional outdoor soccer, but teams play on an indoor court or artificial turf indoor field with six players on the field at all times. Many teams play indoor soccer to train during winter in cold climates.
Materials for Cleat Construction
Soccer cleats may include a variety of materials. The material of the upper side of the cleat is the most influential in how the cleat performs. The material of the upper may be synthetic, leather, or kangaroo leather.
Many of the cleats you see at the sporting goods store feature a synthetic upper. This is because the synthetic material is lightweight, provides some protection in rain or inclement weather, and doesn’t require a lot of wear to become comfortable.
Soccer shoes with a synthetic upper often offer texture on the surface to provide grip. Synthetic soccer shoes are the most affordable and are best for beginner to intermediate level players.
Leather soccer shoes are some of the best on the market. They’re common among all levels of players, including intermediate and advanced players, because they offer an excellent touch on the ball.
Leather cleats are durable and offer more padding than synthetic cleats. They break in easily but are typically a little more expensive.
Kangaroo leather soccer cleats are soft and super comfortable straight out of the box. They provide the best touch on the ball of any soccer shoe available. Kangaroo leather offers superior padding and protection but is not as durable as traditional calfskin leather. This material is much more expensive than synthetic and calfskin leather. Note that kangaroo leather products are banned in California.
Soccer Cleat Ankle Height
Some modern soccer cleats come with collars to add ankle support, stability, and compression. A mid-cut collar ends around the ankle bone, while a high-cut collar ends just above the ankle bone.
Players with prior ankle injuries may prefer the added stability of a soccer shoe with a collar. Some players prefer it for added comfort, while others prefer no-collar for superior freedom of movement. There is no right or wrong when choosing cleats with no collar, a mid-cut collar, or a high-cut collar.
Frequently Asked Questions
As you can tell, choosing the right cleat for your style of play may be more confusing than expected. That’s because soccer isn’t just played on outdoor grass fields anymore, and there are many variations of the sport.
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about soccer cleats.
What is the difference between futsal and indoor soccer shoes?
Indoor soccer shoes are the only shoes to wear for futsal because futsal is always on a hard surface or court. Indoor soccer shoes have a grippy, non-marking rubber sole similar to tennis or basketball shoes. The bottom of the shoe is flat without cleats or rubber stubs.
Sometimes, teams play indoor soccer (not futsal) on short turf, hard turf, or first-generation turf. Turf shoes with short studs or “nubs” on the bottom are best for first-generation turf.
What’s the difference between firm ground and multi-ground cleats?
Firm ground cleats are for natural grass with fewer, larger studs to penetrate hard dirt underneath the grass.
Multi-ground cleats are ideal for numerous surfaces, including firm ground and artificial grass. They may combine bladed and circular studs for multiple types of fields.
Can you use firm ground cleats on turf?
Firm ground cleats feature fewer studs than multi-ground or artificial turf cleats, but you can wear firm ground cleats on the current generation field turf.
Should you buy soccer cleats without laces?
Laceless cleats are a relatively current development in soccer cleat construction. However, the desire for laced or laceless cleats is a matter of preference.
Some players prefer laceless cleats for superior ball control, while others prefer laced cleats for a tighter fit and more lateral stability.
Understanding Soccer Cleats
A quick search for soccer cleats online will provide an onslaught of choices from indoor soccer shoes to soft ground cleats and everything in between.
Many avid soccer players have a variety of cleats in their arsenal, including cleats for playing indoors, on artificial grass, and on a traditional outdoor field.
However, not everyone has the budget to purchase several pairs of shoes every season. In that case, a quality multi-ground cleat is an ideal option for playing on firm ground and artificial grass.
Keep in mind that soft ground cleats are not suitable for artificial grass or turf, and futsal players need a pair of indoor soccer shoes to wear on the court.
Finding the right cleat often also relies on personal preference. Head to a specialty soccer store or sporting goods store where you can try on different styles of cleats to find what you like best.