There’s a certain magic felt when people talk about soccer. There’s a reason it’s considered the world’s game. According to FIFA, there are approximately 265 million people playing soccer all over the world, which is part of what makes the game so beautiful. The simplicity of it all makes it perhaps one of the most enjoyable and appreciated activities across the board. Unlike many of team sports, it doesn’t require much equipment. But when you consider the fact only one part of your body touches the ball and many players run more than 9 miles in a single game, you better invest in a great pair of cleats.
Perhaps the pinnacle of any soccer player’s equipment has to come down to their cleats. Even if you’re thinking “well yeah, but people play barefoot.”, That doesn’t necessarily mean you should as well. No, buying cleats is serious business, as the manufacturers of these kicks have put a lot of time and energy into formulating pairs for each position. Additionally, a solid pair of cleats could completely up your gameplay, as well as prevent injury. And while all of this might sound a little silly at first, going through and figuring out your specific needs are going to save you a ton in the long run.
In our search for the perfect cleat, there are a few factors to consider that we’ve outlined below. This isn’t necessarily the definitive rulebook for what to buy but rather a cursor to refer back on in your search. The most important thing though is to keep in mind what your goals are as an athlete, as well as what you feel comfortable with. Nothing could be more important than your happiness on the field, which is why your cleats play such a significant role.
While it’s going to take a little bit of homework, finding the right cleats are going to up your game in no time. All you need to do is take in some of what we’ve listed below in helping you find the right match.
What Position Are You?
One of the first steps in determining the right cleat for you is looking at your position and style of play. With soccer, there’s a lot of complexity regarding how each position is taken on. For example, some midfielders might have a better strength attacking while others play a more defensive role. Additionally, the skill level and strategy of the rest of your teammates will also largely dictate how these positional aspects will come into your role on the team, as well as what type of cleats you should go after.
While it’s good to be mindful of the type of footwear you have, nothing is ever set in stone. As you read through, think about how each type of cleat might be beneficial to your particular strengths. After all, just because you play defensive back doesn’t mean you can’t play with a pair that is light on your feet. No, this is just a cursor based on each position. Take it as you will, and always, follow what you feel is right.
Forwards and Strikers
As a striker or forward, the first thing you’re going to have to assess is the type of offensive strategy or strengths you use. While some players like Neymar or Messi are nimble on the ball to get to the goal, other strikers like Lukaku or Rooney come through with more force, especially in situations like headers. For these qualities, these players are pretty particular about the type of cleats they’re after, which makes sense given the diverse range of play per the position.
As a midfielder, the kind of cleat you need is going to vary based on if you find yourself in more of a defensive or offensive set. Keep in mind; this can fluctuate game-to-game, as well as team to team regarding what strategy you’re playing off your strengths. All-in-all, a lot of midfielders go for hybrid shoes that are lightweight but offer solid grounding for transitional play.
Stability is a defenders best friend, with transitional play and power being a must. Try to look for cleats that are firm ground, providing the traction necessary to come off in a quick notice but still have control in utilizing transitional play. Additionally, it goes without saying that playing defender is a tough position, so having a pair that is sturdy enough to go through some abuse is a must. Overall, a defensive player’s cleats are going to mirror their style, with a sense of brute force inferred.
Finally, a goalie’s cleats are going to be a unique hybrid of both power, support, and agility. As the ones who spark the play, the ability to strike the ball at a clean angle is a must. However, goalies also are in charge of being the last line of defense for when the ball is coming down the field, meaning they need to be able to move and transition quickly within the box. This makes their cleat choice usually a solid blend of sturdy material with a speed-like build.
A Few Of Our Favorites
Now that you have an understanding of the different styles per each position, it’s time to start delving into what’s available. While most of these are the latest models out, they’re all essentially iterations of previous versions, with the most striking difference being the technology and materials at hand. Given the hefty price tag for new cleats, I’ll note that these are only to give you an example, which ultimately it’s up to you if you’re aiming towards new or used (more on this later), as well as the type of support system you might need.
With magnificent design and technology that many of the top strikers of the world love, Nike is absolutely killing the cleat game right now. Check out a few of what we consider the best picks:
Popularized by players like Neymar, the Vapors are an excellent choice for a low-profile, lightweight cleat. Mainly used as short-grass fields, these bad boys have a great feel for control, as well as contouring to your feet. These are especially a good choice for players that like to do a lot of fancy footwork or are after ball control.
Nike Hypervenom Phantom
The Hypervenom series was built with the purpose of ground control. With futuristic innovations including flyknit technology, the materials are breathable and contour to your comfort through wear. Additionally, the stability these cleats provide allow for clean cuts, as well as follow throughs on kicks and strikes. Yes, Nike came together with the right intentions on this one, which should be considered as a good choice as an all-in-one stop.
Nike Magista Opus II
Another excellent choice regarding a firm ground cleat, the Magista Opus II has a sleek design that fits a more traditional athletic style. The body style is much more sturdy than the Hypervenom’s flyknit shell, making them a prime choice if you find yourself in close quarters around the box (especially on free kicks).
Finally, the Superfly’s take on a stylish design that blends new-age tech with a traditional firm-ground foundation. These cleats have an agile build for even more agile players, making them one of the best in the business for those that move quickly throughout the front.
Adidas has been a mainstay in the cleat world for a long time, coming up with some recent concepts that are giving Nike a run for its money. Here are a few we think are pretty noteworthy:
Adidas X17 Purespeeds
First in our lineup from Adidas comes the X17 Purespeeds. These cleats are designed with the Messi’s of the world in mind, with quick legs and even quicker feet. Furthermore, the frame of these is incredibly comfortable in how they mold to your feet. Make no mistake, if you can get your hands on a pair of these, you’ll never want to let them go.
Adidas Nemeziz 17’s
While the X17 might try to mimic what Messi’s about, the Nemeziz is the actual product of one of the world’s greatest. With having a knack for being an agile speedster, these cleats are some of the best out. Their top features a no lace system, instead strapping in and contouring to the shape of your feet. The best part, however, is how affordable they can be, with the 360 agiles coming on the higher end and the regular versions clocking in around $60 new.
Finally, rounding out the X series of Adidas comes the 17.3’s, the latest iteration of their series. These cleats mean serious business when it comes to having a stable ground. Their design is a perfect crossroads between comfort, style, and mobility, and definitely a choice to consider as a staple cleat.
As one of the godfathers of the cleat game, Puma has been releasing some products that are challenging the way we look at the standard cleat.
The evoPOWER’s are a strong-legged player’s best friend. These cleats are absolutely killer when it comes to striking the ball beyond the box, and something that should be in consideration in looking for an option that’s all brute force. With a sturdy outsole, a pair of these will help you drive the ball as far as the eye can see.
Another great cleat from the Puma camp has to be the evoSPEED, which has a more athletic build while still contributing a sturdy outer. A great hybrid between a pure speedster shoe versus one with more dynamic, these can be a pair to look at for an overall no frills, straight business cleat.
Constructing The Right Fit
While a lot of the information above might seem somewhat overwhelming, we assure you this isn’t as complicated as you might think. The overarching goal here is to first and foremost focus on comfort, with everything else coming secondary. Even with all we’ve discussed on the style of play and whatnot, everyone has a different perspective on what they find enjoyable to play with. However, with how fast paced the game moves, it’s a wise investment to buy a pair that will provide the right amount of stability. Neglecting this could potentially not only cost more in the long run but potentially be a career ender.
According to a study published by the CBC, improper cleats can lead to ACL tears and other serious injuries. Mainly due to quick transitions on the wrong set of turf, the spikes designed to keep the foot in place can actually be quite dangerous if misused. And while cases like this aren’t exactly coming about every day, they do happen more often than you think. To prevent this, make sure you know exactly what type of field or turf you’re going to play on primarily, as well as what kind of cleats you’re after. If you find that you’ll be splitting your time, then plenty of the options above have interchangeable hybrid shoes for different spike sizes. As silly as this sounds, these practices could potentially be saving you quite a bit, so it’s imperative you take note.
Another common issue with poor cleat fitting is dealing with overpronation/supination. As Nike notes, this is either when you’re running and putting pressure on the outside or the inside of the foot, rather than equally distributed throughout. Pronation/supination is a relatively common problem amongst those who run a lot, which either buying shoes with a higher arch or buying inserts can help tremendously.
As you examine what type of shoes to buy, the next thing to consider is if you should go with a new or used pair, which both have their pros and cons.
New Or Used?
When it comes to buying shoes, many of us have probably found a steal at the thrift store or boutique on a second-hand pair. According to EcoGoodz, second-hand goods are something approximately 80% of the world buys, with sports equipment being a huge driver. However, in terms of buying cleats, there are a few factors you should take into consideration.
With new cleats, you have a guarantee that the quality will be sound, and the body will form and mold to the shape of your feet. More, newer cleats are going to be more durable, without any surprise damages or broken insoles/cushioning. This is, of course, the easiest option to ensuring the best product but can also come at an expensive cost.
While the used market can help you save a tremendous amount of money, you have to be on top of your game in knowing what to look for. If buying online, only go with a trusted source, and have them send as many pictures as possible. You want to dig into the potential wear and tear of the cleat, highlighting if they pronate a certain way, as well as any anomalies that are unique to their style of wear. Additionally, make sure simple things like the holes for spikes aren’t completely stripped, and if the sizing is accurate. Remember, a lot of the older models of the shoes mentioned above can be great for the position you play, but you’ve got to do your homework on what type of fit it is, as well as a little bit on the previous owner. Finally, if you receive a pair of used cleats and they don’t feel comfortable, always move on to the next thing. It’s never a smart idea to risk potential injury because you wanted to save a few bucks, and in the grand scheme of things, it will actually cost you much more than just buying another pair.
Making Your Decision
As you start to hone on the type of cleat you want, where you want to buy it, and the style of play/terrain you’ll be on, it’s time to review how to go through your purchasing process. First, take a look at the shoe and see how it might fit comfortably, especially for your position. If you find something online, it’s not a bad idea to go into a store to try on a similar pair to cross compare. Second, your cleats are going to be a reflection of how you play the game, so envision yourself in the day-to-day action, and how you’ll think they handle. And finally, always be certain of the type of terrain you’ll be on (I.E, turf versus grass field) as this will take up a significant portion of what cleat will work best for each.
In the end, the best piece of advice we could give is just to find something that is comfortable, has a great fit, and allows you to have the mobility for the position you’re in. It’s okay if you fall in love with something that might not hit every check mark, as long as it relatively falls within the confines of your initial goal. This is something of a gut feeling, so follow that, and the rest will come into play.
Hitting The Field
Once you’ve made your purchase, it’s time for the best part: to hit the pitch and see how these things run. Don’t be alarmed if things feel a little awkward at first or aren’t what you expected walking out of the store as this is a part of the natural process of breaking cleats in. Start out by going out with doing your full range of motion. How do cuts feel? Short passes? Long passes? Shots? Etc. All of these factors are going to not only help you feel more comfortable in your new kicks but also dictate if you need to make any adjustments moving forward.
As no cleat is perfect off the bat, check and see if there might be anything you need to do to take these to the next level. Whether it be inserting insoles to help with arch support or taping around the top, plenty of players focus on the little details to increase their comfort level and performance. These are your babies, so trick them out however you deem fit, because once you get them rolling, you’ll be off to running the field in no time.
If you’ve found that your cleats just aren’t your thing, then it’s relatively easy to trade up. With the used market starting to thrive, you definitely have options available to find a new pair. Furthermore, what works for you might not be what works for others, which is why it’s important to listen in on how you feel rather than look or what’s considered standard. Honestly, some goalies wear cleats designed for strikers as much as there are strikers who rock defender-centric pairs. Even if you still haven’t found your niche, that’s okay, as this is a continuous process.
At the end of the day, the feeling you get when you put on that pair of cleats is all that matters. These are tools to empower you to become a better player, providing a better range of versatility for whatever a game throws at you. Additionally, exploring as many options as you can is one of the best ways to really delve into what works, whether that be for a new or used pair. The message here is just to have fun, learning and growing as much as you can.
As the world’s most popular sport, soccer has a special place in hearts. Playing the game is an honor and one you shouldn’t take lightly, especially if you’re able to afford yourself a solid pair of cleats. And as every athlete’s goal is to improve every single day, having a pair of cleats that provide a catalyst to do so is crucial. This is part of a continuous story, one you’re writing every moment you hit the field. Because at the end of the day, don’t you want your cleats to have a story too?