When you’re looking at the best soccer cleats for defenders, it’s important to think about what you do most often in a game. Depending on where you play on the back line, this will vary slightly. Center backs and outside backs have different needs based on the demands of the game. As such, we will break down our cleat recommendations into two groups based on positional needs.
Be sure to check out our guide to saving money on soccer cleats when you’re done to see how to get the best deal once you’ve identified the perfect pair.
Generally, center backs have more sprints and less quick agility movements during a game. They are involved in more physical duels and also need to be good in the air. On the ball, it’s more common for center backs to pick a pass rather than doing a high amount of dribbling. So ideally, you will want a cleat that has a great touch/control for hitting a variety of passes. A slightly thicker upper will be needed for protection in challenges along with a strong heel counter for support when jumping and landing (to understand the terminology used for the parts of the cleat, check out our guide to soccer cleats). With that being said, there are some cleats that meet these demands perfectly.
- adidas Predator – With a tag line like “Master Control”, you know these cleats are made for picking out any pass needed. They’re great for straight line speed, stand up to a challenge, and have a strong heel counter for winning headers. Read more about why the Predator is so good in our guide to adidas soccer cleats.
- Nike Tiempo – This cleat is ideally suited for center backs and perfectly meets all the needs we identified. It’s no wonder famous center backs like Ramos, Pique, Koscielny, and Varane all make this their go to cleat. Read more about the Tiempo in our guide to Nike soccer cleats.
- Puma ONE – This cleat will hold up to all the demands of the game and is ideal for center backs. The evoKNIT sock gives a comfortable fit, and the strong heel counter gives all the support needed for aerial duels and challenges. If they’re good enough for Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid, they’re good enough for anyone. Read more about the ONE in our guide to Puma soccer cleats.
- Nike Phantom Venom – designed specifically for strikers, it should not come as a surprise that the Phantom Venoms have become popular amongst those that are typically assigned to man-mark said strikers. With a strong heel counter ideal for aerial duels and a stretchy yet protective upper, these cleats have become the go-to for many professional central defenders since their release.
Outside backs are being asked to do more and cover more ground in the modern game. They have to defend agile wingers, cover the entire length of the field out wide, and be able to dribble and cross effectively. As such, they need a cleat that allows for speed and agility, gives excellent touch on the ball, and has a textured upper to whip in crosses. Looking at the list of needs, there are a few cleats that stand out.
- adidas X – Tagged as the pure speed cleat in the adidas line, the X boasts a textured upper ideal for whipping in tasty crosses. Worn by top backs like Marcelo, Luke Shaw, and Cesar Azpilicueta, the X is ideally suited to the demands of outside backs.
- Nike Superfly – Making use of Flyknit technology to give a second-skin form fit, the Superfly provides a great touch on the ball, a revolutionary split soleplate for agility and speed, and a textured grip for bending balls into the box. Worn by top backs in all the top leagues, you’ll have no problem getting up and down the wing in these.
While there will no doubt be other cleats that fit the bill, the cleats we recommended are ideally suited and have plenty of professionals wearing them every game as evidence.