We’ve all had the debate internally about expensive vs cheap soccer cleats. Will the extra one hundred plus dollars you’re going to spend really make a huge difference? We took a look at all 4 versions of the same soccer cleat to get the answers so you can make an educated decision when choosing between expensive vs cheap soccer cleats.

First off, it’s important to understand a little industry lingo regarding cleats. Every manufacturer has their top end version of each silo (model) and then will have a few versions of that same cleat that go down incrementally in price. These lower versions are referred to as “takedowns”. For our look today, we are using the adidas X18. The top end version is known as the X18+ and is followed by the 18.1, 18.2, 18.3, and 18.4. We will only be looking at the X18+ through X18.3 in our examination. Each version has differences in materials used as well as the price. The top model in this example (X18+) retails for $279.99 and the lowest version (X18.3) for $79.99.

The price difference in these versions is obviously down to the materials used and their quality for performance on the soccer field. That is ultimately the main question any buyer needs to ask themselves when looking at expensive vs cheap soccer cleats. How important is performance in comparison to price? While the most expensive pair of cleats will not instantly make you a better player, it definitely will help. Likewise, a less expensive pair of cleats will not destroy your game, but you will also miss out on some of the benefits of a higher end version.

The main differences in expensive vs cheap soccer cleats are as follows:

  1. Weight
  2. Fit
  3. Comfort
  4. Touch/feel for the ball
  5. Look

We will now look at each part of the cleat and break down the differences from high to low so you can understand how it all adds up to impacting your game on the field.

UPPER

adidas X18

From lower right going counter clockwise – the uppers of the X18+, 18.1, 18.2, and 18.3

The X18+ uses a technology called skeletalweave for the upper. It is an ultra-thin lightweight grid of woven yarns that is extremely thin, light, and pliable. This means you have fantastic feel on the ball, the right amount of stretch for a comfortable fit, and as little weight as possible to hold you back while you’re sprinting around. The X18.1 uses speedmesh which is still lightweight and high quality, but is noticeably thicker upon closer inspection and not quite as pliable.

Where you begin to see a vastly noticeable difference is the X18.2. The mesh upper has far less tooling used in manufacturing and is therefore thicker, heavier, and less pliable. Whereas the 18.1 has portions of the mesh upper cut away to the point you can see the green/yellow inner liner, the 18.2 only has portions reduced in thickness ever so slightly. When you get to the 18.3, the dual mesh upper is merely dimpled and there is a visible difference in the pliability of the material. It is not going to hug your foot the same way as the X18+ will and will definitely not give you the same feel for the ball.

LACING & TONGUE

adidas X18

From left to right, the lacing and tongues of the X18+, 18.1, 18.2, and 18.3

The X18+ is a laceless cleat that benefits from Purecut technology. The tongue is basically a strong and stretchy synthetic material that locks your foot in nicely without the need for laces. The X18.1 has traditional lacing as some players prefer and an ultra light stretch mesh tongue that has plenty of breathability.

Once again the X18.2 sees a noticeable difference in the material used primarily in the tongue. While the lacing is identical to the X18.1, the actual material in the tongue looks and feels like a neoprene. It is thicker and heavier than the mesh, but still provides stretch and comfort. The X18.3 has thicker laces and a slightly different material in the tongue that is less stretchy and not as form fitting.

It is also worth noting that the X18.3 has traditional sewn stitching in the upper whereas the 3 versions above it all have heat sealed glues used to bind the parts together. The advantage of heat sealed bonding is it gives little to no bulk and is incredibly light weight. This also has benefits for your touch on the ball as they lay flat on your foot.

HEEL

adidas X18

The molded heel counter of the 18.1 on the right provides better support and fit than its counterpart on the 18.3 on the left

The X18+ and X18.1 both have a molded heel counter with plush padding that gives supreme comfort and fit. There is no shifting around or lack of support when you are changing direction quickly on the field. More importantly, there are no blisters forming after running around for 30 minutes. The heel on the 18.2 and 18.3 is not molded, but it does have padding similar to the higher end versions. It should be noted that the padding is not as thick or soft on these models and even the shape of the padding slightly varies. They are still comfortable, but they definitely don’t fit as well due to the lack of a molded heel counter. The molded heel counter on the higher versions gives a noticeable difference to the shape of the heel of the cleat so it closely mimics that of the heel of the foot. The end result of the molded heel counter is a cleat that fits way better and feels like part of your foot.

INSOLE/MIDSOLE

The insole and midsole play a big part in how comfortable a cleat will feel over 90 minutes and play the biggest part in blisters or the lack thereof on the soles of your feet. Unsurprisingly, the X18+ and X18.1 have a more padded insole that also has perforations in it for breathability. What’s more is that the actual midsole has padding in the heel and mid-foot as well which is noticeable when you’re wearing them. All insoles can be removed and changed at the wearer’s preference, so you do have options but the midsole is not interchangeable.

SOLEPLATE

adidas X18

The soleplates of the X18.3, 18.2, 18.1, and 18+ from left to right

The top end version here is expectedly the lightest of the 4 versions. There is not a lot of weight difference overall between the X18+ and X18.1 as they both have a Drillium soleplate. However, you begin to see a noticeable difference once you get to the 18.2 and beyond. Noticeable being 2oz difference in weight from the 18+ to the 18.2! That may not sound like a lot, but it feels like a lot when you are running around for 90 minutes. While the materials in the upper will no doubt play a part in this, a large portion of this is down to the TPU soleplate used in the 18.2 and lower models.

EXPENSIVE vs CHEAP SOCCER CLEATS SUMMARY

Overall, cleats are generally a case of getting what you pay for when you are basing your cleat choice on performance. While we’ve used the adidas X18 for our example, the differences in material will hold true regardless of manufacturer. If price is your main determinant, then you will probably find a happy medium with the lower versions. However, if you want a cleat that gives you every advantage you will have to pay for it. We should point out that you don’t always have to pay full price. Be sure to check out our guide to getting cheap soccer cleats for tips on picking up a top pair for a reduced price.

We also have guides for the best cleats by position for forwards, midfielders, defenders, and goalkeepers.

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