The game of soccer requires the use of a variety of equipment. But one of the most important pieces of equipment used by players in every game is soccer cleats.
However, if you’re new to the sport of soccer, then you may not yet know what soccer cleats are.
Well, in this article I’ll explain everything you need to know about them.
Soccer cleats are the footwear worn by players when playing in a soccer game. Soccer shoes look similar to other kinds of footwear with the addition of small protrusions on the bottom of the shoe, known as studs or cleats. These cleats provide traction for the player as they move around the field.
Soccer cleats have been used in soccer games for over 100 years, but they have changed dramatically and evolved over time.
In this article, we’ll look at why they are used, what they are made of and look like, and if it’s even a requirement to wear them during a soccer game.
To help you choose the best soccer cleats for you, I’ve also 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)
Why Soccer Players Wear Cleats
Probably the most important question to answer to start with is why players wear cleats.
I don’t know about you, but there have been many occasions in my life where I have been out on a grass field, it pouring with rain, the ground is soaked and muddy, and it’s almost impossible to stay on your feet if you change direction suddenly, or lose your balance for a second.
Having a good grip between your feet and the ground is really important if you don’t want to end up on your face in the mud!
And this is no different in soccer.
The ground conditions can be unpredictable. Sometimes it can be wet from the rain, sometimes hard from a frost, or sometimes dry and slippery from a lack of rain.
Cleats are small protrusions on the bottom of a shoe that provides traction for a player as they move around the field.
Soccer cleats are designed to prevent a player’s foot from slipping in any situation as they move over the ground.
Although cleats are most effective and most appreciated when the ground is particularly wet or slippy, they are just as useful when the ground is dry or hard.
The small protrusions on the bottom of the shoe are designed to dig into the ground with every step a player makes.
As the player then moves away by pushing against the ground with their feet, the cleats provide the player with far more grip and friction against the ground than they would otherwise have had with a flat surface on the sole of their shoe.[source]
This extra grip allows the player to move forward with greater power, speed, and even confidence than they would otherwise have been able to.
Playing soccer often leaves your cleats muddy. To help you know how to clean them without damaging them, check out my article – How to Clean (and Dry) Cleats: Safely and Effectively.
Are Cleats Required for Soccer?
Having understood why soccer players wear cleats, the next question often asked is – do soccer players have to wear cleats?
Interestingly, the answer to that question is no!
There is no requirement within the rules of soccer for a player to wear soccer cleats. The laws of the game do require a player to be wearing some sort of footwear, but they don’t have to be soccer cleats.
This means that a player who has misplaced or forgotten their cleats before a game can still take part in whatever shoes they have with them.
I know I’ve played soccer in “normal” shoes many times when I haven’t had cleats with me, and although after understanding why a player does wear cleats I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s far better to wear them than not, you can get away without them if needed.
(Although, on a wet and rainy day, I can tell you from experience that it can be pretty much impossible to stay on your feet for long without cleats!)
What do soccer cleats look like?
When it comes to the question of what soccer cleats look like, there are literally thousands of different designs of soccer cleats out there.
If you head to a soccer store such as soccer.com you will see a vast array of different soccer cleats to choose from.
On a sidenote, if you are looking for recommendations on what soccer cleats to buy, head over to my Recommended soccer cleats page. There I explain in detail which cleats I think are the best. And if you’re looking for the best cleats for a toddler, check out this article I wrote explaining what the best option is for their small feet!
However, there are certain elements that all soccer cleats have in common.
Overall a soccer cleat looks like any other closed-toe shoe. It consists of:
- A collar around the ankle
- Heel support at the back
- Outsole or Sole plate – the bottom of the cleat
- Insole – Provides cushioning for your feet
- Midsole – a layer between the insole and outsole
- Upper – completely covers the top of your foot and toes
- Studs -The hard protrusions on the bottom of the cleat
While soccer cleats can have a wide range of different styles, colors, and materials, they all contain the elements listed above.
How are Soccer Cleats Different?
Although the overall appearance of a soccer cleat is the same as any other soccer cleat, there can still be significant differences between them.
An area of a soccer cleat that does vary depending on the cleat is the shape and configuration of the studs, as different playing surfaces require a different type of stud.
There are 3 main types of studs:
- A conical stud
- A hexagonal stud
- and bladed stud [source]
Conical studs are the most traditional-looking studs used. If you go back and find a picture of some soccer cleats from the turn of the last century, you’ll immediately notice the similarities.
The truth is that the conical stud is still used because it is still good and what it does. Formed into the shape of a cone, these studs are a great option on wet or soft ground as they sink right in to provide better traction.
This allows greater stability for a player, while the shape offers quick release from the ground allowing the player to move off quickly.
The hexagonal stud is similar to the conical stud in that it can go deep into soft ground.
The advantage of the flat sides of the hexagon, as opposed to the circular shape of the cone, is that the flat sides provide more grip and traction when the player pushes off again.
The bladed stud is best suited for a harder surface.
Rather than sinking into the ground, this type of stud is designed to provide greater traction on the surface. It also provides multiple points of contact and a better grip on the surface.
These studs are specifically designed to allow free movement for the player without causing injury to a player.[source]
Choosing the correct type of stud for the ground, you will be playing on is an important part of preparing for a game. And if you want to know if you can use metal cleats or not, then check out this article I recently wrote.
The Materials Soccer Cleats are Made out of
Another difference between soccer cleats is the materials they are made from.
Soccer cleats are made from one of three materials:
- Synthetic materials
K-Leather stands for Kangaroo leather.
Kangaroo leather is one of the lightest leathers available to use for footwear which makes it ideal for soccer cleats. Over time, the leather stretches and conforms to the shape of the player’s foot, making the cleats feel incredibly comfortable to play in.
One of the disadvantages of this is that they can sometimes overstretch, and eventually, they will need replacing.
Another disadvantage of leather is that it can be very absorbent and, in wet weather, can feel much heavier at the end of the game than they did at the beginning.
Despite these disadvantages, K-leather cleats do offer a superior level of protection for the feet as opposed to the alternatives, as the leather is thicker and often stronger than the alternatives.
This pair of soccer cleats on u90soccer.com is a great example of high-quality k-leather cleats.
The beauty of synthetic materials in soccer cleats is that they improve year on year as the technology behind them improves.
Although the top of the range, synthetic cleats come with a price tag to match, the mid-range ones are improving all the time.
Synthetic is a great choice for cleats if a player needs footwear that is lightweight and waterproof and is probably the most widely used material used in soccer cleats today.
However, synthetic cleats do have the disadvantage of not only being generally less comfortable to wear than leather boots, but they tend to offer less of a feel of the ball as well, mainly because they don’t mold to the shape of the player’s foot as effectively.
These synthetic soccer cleats on Amazon are a really popular example of good soccer cleats.
Knit is a relatively new material on the market for soccer cleats.
Created with an almost continuous length of yarn, this material is designed to give an almost barefoot-like feel while being worn.
As I’m sure you can imagine, being made of yarn makes these cleats incredibly lightweight and allows the player’s foot to feel the ball with every touch in a way that is not possible with the other materials.
It’s also exceptionally breathable, allowing the player’s foot to stay as comfortable as possible.
The disadvantage of this material is also what makes it great. It’s thickness.
Although this makes the cleat extremely comfortable to wear, it offers very little protection against the impact of the ball on the foot.
These soccer cleats on soccer.com are a great example of Knit cleats.
Different cleats need looking after in different ways. For a detailed guide on how to care for your cleats, check out my article – How to care for your soccer cleats: Tips to make them last.
Types of soccer cleats
Another area of soccer cleats that is worth looking at and understanding is the different types of soccer cleats and the initials used to describe them.
There are five types of soccer cleats:
- Firm Ground Cleats – Designed for grass surfaces that are “firm” underfoot
- Hard Ground Cleats – Designed for ground that is completely dry
- Soft Ground Cleats – Designed for ground that is soft and muddy
- Multi-Ground Cleats – Designed to be used on multiple different surfaces
- Artificial Ground Cleats – Designed to be used on artificial turf
Different soccer cleats are designed differently depending on the type of playing surface they are intended to be used on.
For example, a soccer cleat designed for soft ground will have much longer studs than a soccer cleat designed for hard ground. The longer studs will stick further into the ground and offer more grip on what is a more slippery surface.
If you’ve spent any time looking for soccer cleats to buy, you’ve probably come across cleats listed as “FG soccer cleats“, or “MG soccer cleats“, or even “IN soccer cleats“.
This can be very confusing!
To help explain, I’ve put together a description of each soccer cleat type and their initials below.
What initials describing soccer cleats mean
|Soccer Cleat Initial||Meaning of Initial|
|FG Soccer Cleats||Firm Ground|
|HG Soccer Cleats||Hard Ground|
|SG Soccer Cleats||Soft Ground|
|MG Soccer Cleats||Multi-Ground|
|AG Soccer Cleats||Artificial Ground|
|IN Soccer Cleats||Indoor|
|SG-Pro Soccer Cleats||Soft Ground Pro|
|ST Soccer Cleats||Street|
As you can see in the table above, the initials before the name of a soccer cleat refer to the type of surface those soccer cleats are designed to be used on.
Most of the initials are self-explanatory but let me take a moment to explain a few in more detail.
At first sight, firm ground cleats and hard ground cleats may sound like the same thing. And although they can be used interchangeably up to a point, they are designed for slightly different conditions.
The firm ground cleats are designed for grass surfaces that are dry and “firm” underfoot but still have a bit of softness or moisture in the ground.
Whereas hard ground cleats are designed for ground that is completely dry. Surfaces such as incredibly dry grass or dirt surfaces.
The MG in MG soccer cleats refers to multi-ground soccer cleats. These cleats are specifically designed to be used on multiple different surfaces. Although this makes them great if you can only get hold of one pair, remember, they are good on all surfaces but not really great on any.
The last two that it’s worth explaining a little bit more about are the SG-Pro cleats and the street cleats.
The SG-pro cleats are effectively a superior option to the SG cleats. They are more carefully designed for a soft surface and offer better traction and comfort. A large number of professional soccer players use SG-pro soccer cleats.
Street soccer cleats are, as the name suggests, cleats that are designed to be used on the streets.
They are designed for hard surfaces such as concrete, road surfaces, hard courts, or any paved areas and are hard-wearing.
Hopefully, you now feel you have a much better understanding of soccer cleats, why they are worn, and the different types.
If you are looking for more recommendations for soccer equipment, click on this link to go to my Recommended Soccer Equipment pages. There you will find a range of different products I think will be just what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for more info about soccer equipment, then click this link to go to my article on the 15 Pieces of Equipment used in Every Soccer Game.
And finally, if you’re interested in the history of the soccer cleat from the 1500s until the modern day, check out this video below!