Over time, soccer has developed specific rules on what a player can and can’t wear. Metal cleats, for example, are part of this rulebook. It was once considered dangerous to wear metal cleats in soccer, as it could easily harm another player.
For this reason, people wonder whether metal soccer cleats are allowed in soccer.
Metal soccer cleats are allowed across all levels of soccer. The NCAA rules state, “Shoes with soles containing aluminum, leather, rubber, nylon or plastic cleats, studs or bars, whether molded as part of the sole or detachable, are allowed as long as the referee does not consider them dangerous.”
However, this does not necessarily mean that metal cleats are the best option, as there are many alternatives.
This is precisely what we’ll be taking a look at today –
- metal cleats in soccer,
- are they allowed, and in which cases aren’t they allowed,
- their pros and cons,
- and the alternatives to metal cleats.
Let’s get started!
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Are Metal Soccer Cleats Legal or Illegal?
Metal cleats actually saw a ban for a short while because they were considered dangerous.
If you somehow nick another player at full speed with a metal cleat, you can easily cut them or cause heavy bruising.
However, opinions about the safety of metal cleats have changed, and now they’re allowed on all levels of the game.
Metal soccer cleats are legal at youth, high school, college, and professional levels of soccer. The only time metal cleats are not permitted to be worn during a game is when the referee decides they are too dangerous.
The referee has absolute authority over the game and over you as a player – he or she can decide that your equipment is dangerous to other players, and they can easily deny you playing time.
However, this will rarely happen and is usually a byproduct of the referee being afraid that you might injure another player.
If your playing style is hard and you’re going to be tackling a lot, and the referee knows that, they might ask you to change boots.
However, the reality is that metal cleats aren’t that popular nowadays, and most players wear plastic cleats anyway.
Here’s the official rule from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA):
It’s always best to conform to rules and listen to the referee.
If they decide against wearing metal cleats, then you have to change boots, or you won’t be able to play.
Referees don’t allow players to wear jewelry for the same reason – they’re afraid of injury.
It’d be easy to rip out someone’s earing or choke them with their necklace, be it by accident or on purpose, and the referee’s primary responsibility is to dictate a fair and safe game.
For more info about what you can wear for soccer, check out my article – What You Can (and Can’t) Wear for Soccer.
Pros and Cons of Metal Cleats in Soccer
Soccer is the most popular sport on the planet, without a doubt. Almost two billion people watch the FIFA World Cup every four years, and there are even more than that playing soccer every day.
A large percentage of these people play soccer in cleats and go through the process of deciding what cleats to wear.
There are solid reasons for wearing metal cleats, while there are also reasons why you shouldn’t wear them.
Playing soccer in the 21st century means that you have the option to play on different types of fields, or “pitches” as they are known.
These pitches can range from cheap fields, which are basically just green carpet laid over concrete, to highly-developed artificial grass that’s sometimes even better than the real thing.
This is why metal studs may not be the best option.
These studs have a stiff, hard outsole, and they’re made to be worn on natural grass, often wet and muddy terrain. That’s why they’re a great option if you’re playing on a real pitch when it’s raining.
However, if you’re playing on an artificial pitch, there’s no need for metal studs, and you’ll perform much better if you’re playing with plastic studs.
Metal studs are called soft ground studs, as they’re the best for soft terrain.
Metal Studs are mostly used in mud. To help you know how to clean them after a game, check out my article – How to Clean (And Dry) Your Cleats: Without Damaging Them.
Your foot needs to be firmly stuck in the ground, enough for you to achieve maximum strength, but not so much that you actually dig yourself in.
That’s why metal cleats are best for soft terrain. These cleats will dig into the underlying dirt for traction, but they won’t dig in so much that you’ll be stuck.
Because of their hard insoles, if you’re playing on hard ground, the soles of your feet are definitely going to hurt.
Given that you’ll be running about seven miles through those boots, it’s not smart to use them like that. This can lead to injury.
Ankle and knee injuries are the most common injuries in soccer, and the most likely cause of these injuries is bad footwear.
Twisting your leg or your foot often causes significant pain, and wearing metal cleats on hard ground will not provide enough traction for your foot. This way, you’re more likely to twist your foot or slip.
These metal studs could seize on the surface, and they won’t provide your foot with enough flex to pivot.
If you stop suddenly or change directions suddenly, you could easily sprain your ankle(s).
Also, since you’re stepping hard when you’re sprinting, and you’re using metal cleats, this momentum reaches your hips, as well – this can injure other parts of your body, as well.
Lastly, you need to think about the turf you’re playing on.
Every real athlete wants to keep the pitch they’re playing on safe, and if you’re playing on an artificial pitch with metal studs, you’re going to damage it very quickly.
These studs are hard and unyielding, while the pitch is soft, and they can easily dig in and rip out small parts of the pitch.
As players, we all need to take care of the pitch we play on.
To help you choose the best soccer cleats for you, I’ve created a step-by-step guide to simplify the process. Check it out here – How to Choose the Perfect Soccer Cleats (In 4 Simple Steps)
Alternatives to Metal Soccer Cleats
Plastic screw-in cleats are definitely the most popular type of soccer boot studs around.
Firstly, the screw-in option is excellent because you can simply replace your studs when they wear out (which they will). They’re flexible and robust, unlike metal cleats, which are firm and can’t really flex.
This strength assures that you can dig into the ground but still be able to turn swiftly.
Plastic cleats are superior to metal cleats in every way.
Despite their strength, metal cleats are only the right choice if there’s been heavy rainfall or snowfall, and you need to stick your foot into unsafe ground.
If you’re playing on a soft terrain that hasn’t been drenched, though, then plastic studs are the better option.
Their outsoles and insoles are also more flexible than metal cleat insole and outsole, meaning that you have more flexibility when you’re turning.
When you’re running, especially when you’re running at high speeds, your studs need to be flexible if you want to turn with flexibility – that assures that you won’t twist your ankle when you’re turning on a tight angle.
Their soft insoles also ensure that you won’t wear your foot down as you’re running.
There are also rubber studs.
These studs are actually smaller than plastic and metal studs, as they’re usually used for indoor soccer and soccer on artificial pitches.
These cleats are very small, but they’re greater in numbers than plastic or metal studs. The cleats are covered with many smaller and shorter studs; that way, they’re achieving maximum traction on inside pitches and artificial pitches.
There is also a combination of metal and plastic cleats that’s worth mentioning.
These are basically plastic cleats with metal tips – this stops the plastic from wearing down quickly, as the metal tips are much more durable than plastic tips.
However, because the outsole is connected to the cleat’s plastic part, these boots are flexible and allow you to perform on the pitch as you would with plastic cleats.
When you’re choosing your soccer boots, you need to think about what you’ll need them for.
Metal cleats are old school, and they’re only suitable for playing soccer in the rain or on a saturated field.
Plastic and rubber cleats are much better for the way modern football’s played, and most professional players opt for these when they’re choosing their boots.
Also, having the option of screw-in cleats allows you to change between metal and plastic cleats.
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As you can see, metal soccer cleats are allowed in all levels of soccer, but they are not necessarily the best option.
If your looking for recommendations for new soccer cleats then check out my recommended soccer cleat page.
For a detailed guide on how to look after your cleats, check out my article – How to care for your soccer cleats: Tips to make them last.
And for more soccer cleat info check out one of my other articles:
- 11 reasons expensive soccer cleats are worth it
- Why soccer cleats are great for Lacrosse
- Soccer Cleats: Everything you need to know
- Best soccer cleats for toddlers