Making sense of the selection of soccer cleats can be a daunting task for even the most knowledgeable soccer players. There are multiple models, colors, and quality differences to choose from and that’s AFTER you pick a brand. Before you can dive in to the finer details, it’s important to understand the basic components and terminology. Once you understand that, the differences in quality and design will help you make an informed decision for the best cleat based on your position and style of play.
Components of Soccer Cleats
First things first, we need to break down the components of soccer cleats so you can better understand what’s what. This will also help you make more sense of product descriptions and reviews.
Collar – this is the opening you put your foot in and the enclosure that goes around your ankle once they’re on. Cleats have collars that are low, mid, and high cut. Mid and high cut collars will cover part or all of your ankle depending on which option you select.
Upper – this is the material that is attached to the sole plate and commonly comes in one of two varieties – leather or synthetic. You can find out more about the pros and cons of each here.
Insole – the inserts that provide cushioning and grip for your foot to rest on inside the shoe.
Midsole – the layered cushion between the insole and soleplate
Heel counter – the back portion of the shoe that provides support for your heel.
Sole plate/Outsole – this is essentially the bottom of the cleat that the upper is attached to and has studs on the bottom.
Studs – coming in a variety of shapes and configuration, these will ultimately determine your traction on whatever surface you play on.
Key Attributes of Soccer Cleats
Now that we have the basics down, it’s time to look at the four key areas every brand focuses on in cleat development. How well they deliver on these areas will ultimately determine what’s the best cleat for you. They are:
Fit – How well does the cleat mold and hug your foot? The ideal pair will fit like a sock so there are no gaps between your foot and the cleat.
Touch – This is also commonly referred to as control. You will want something that allows the player to have a good feel for the ball while providing additional grip in all conditions for putting spin on the ball. Generally thinner is thought of as better but it is always down to individual preference.
Traction – no one wants to be slipping while they play. There are a lot of options for optimal traction depending on what surface you’re playing on. Make sure you select the right type of studs for your playing needs.
Choosing the wrong traction is funny unless you’re the one slipping
Lock down – If you twist your feet around in your shoes right now, you’ll most likely be able to slide your feet side to side a little bit in your shoes. This is not what soccer players want when making quick changes of direction which is why lockdown is important. It keeps their feet from sliding in their cleats so cuts are quicker and sprints are more explosive.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, you’re ready to start looking at different brands and models to make an informed choice. The most popular brands are Nike, adidas, and Puma and they each have various models which we’ve broken down for you. You’ll also want to consider your style of play as certain models are more suited for forwards, midfielders, defenders, and goalkeepers.
One thing you can guarantee is the big brands will continue to push boundaries and develop technology to make soccer cleats better. We sincerely hope this guide helps you to make the best choice.