Soccer shoes, soccer cleats, soccer boots, cleats, football boots, firm ground shoes – no matter what you call them, they are a game essential.
The different types, models, technologies and materials of soccer shoes can be overwhelming if you don’t know and understand the soccer shoe jargon.
This guide to the soccer shoe will break down the different aspects of soccer shoe buying for parents and players just getting started and act as a handy reminder for the seasoned professionals.
ANATOMY OF A SOCCER SHOE/SOCCER CLEAT
First off, let’s break down the parts of a soccer shoe. Even if you’re already familiar with the parts of a shoe, this will make it easier to understand the price, quality, performance and durability of each shoe.
Everything above the insole/midsole.
Bottom of the shoe, everything below the insole/midsole.
The cushioning inside the shoe, can be removable or attached.
The cushioning built into the shoe.
HEEL COUNTER AND CUSHIONING:
The back portion of the shoe, offers heel support.
Front portion of the upper, aka the strike zone. The part of the upper that makes contact with the ball. Many vamps are stitched or have added technologies to enhance shot power and ball control.
The blades or cones on the bottom of many soccer shoes to improve traction. The stud itself is often called a cleat and can be fixed/molded or detachable on the bottom of the shoe. Typically, there are three main types of studs: bladed, hard ground and round/conical.
The actual stud may be made of plastic, rubber or metal-tipped. However, check with your league before using metal-tipped as metal studs are banned from certain leagues.
Most firm ground cleats today have either bladed studs or a combination of bladed and conical studs. Bladed studs create less stud pressure over the course of a match. Bladed studs offer greater traction and speed, while conical studs offer a quicker release and greater stability. The conical studs offer more points of contact with the field, this stability means less risk of injury.
If you are playing on extremely hard, firm surfaces, hard ground studs are the way to go to ensure proper traction and a reduced risk of injury.
The three-dimensional foot model on which a shoe is constructed.
The last gives shoes their size and shape. Wide last is a term you’ll see on some shoes, which means it’s a shoes made for wide feet.
SOCCER SHOE TYPES
Once you understand the parts of shoe, the most important part of selecting a soccer shoe is understanding the kind of surface for which each shoe is designed.
FIRM GROUND SOCCER SHOES/AKA THE SOCCER CLEAT
Soccer shoes, soccer cleats, soccer boots – whatever the name, most of the time a soccer shoe is a firm ground soccer shoe. Firm ground is the classic soccer shoe with cleats/studs designed to provide traction and stability on most natural grass, outdoor soccer fields. Firm Ground or molded cleats generally have a series of non-removable PU/TPU/rubber studs that are either bladed or conical in shape.
Artificial grass is quickly spreading to fields around the country as it’s more sustainable, not as susceptible to weather, it offers a consistent surfaces and it requires much less maintenance. Some players choose to wear a different pair of cleats on natural and artificial grass, but that can prove to be quite cost prohibitive. Henceforth, as more and more soccer fields are converted into artificial turf and players are expected to be ready to play on both natural and artificial grass, adidas has responded with the hybrid AG/FG outsole.
These cleats are designed for acceleration on firm, natural surfaces and artificial grass with multiple cleat shapes and lengths. You’ll this new outsole design on adidas’ X and ACE.
Soccer shoes created for soft ground play have longer cleats for added traction on wet, muddy fields. Often, soft ground cleats have metal-tipped and/or detachable studs. The studs on soft ground shoes are also usually varying lengths. Many soft ground boots with their exchangeable and removable studs can be customized for playing conditions and fields.
Pro soft ground soccer cleats are a combo of fixed studs and traditional, detachable soft ground cleats. They are ideal for use on wet and muddy fields requiring maximum traction.
Artificial grass shoes are frequently used on new artificial turf and sun-baked hard ground. Artificial grass and hard ground soccer shoes usually have a large number of short studs that are evenly distributed across the entire outsole. Artificial grass shoes are pretty similar to firm ground cleats just with a lot more studs that are shorter for better support. The studs on an artificial grass or hard ground soccer shoe are usually rubber and designed to be extremely durable.
An indoor soccer shoe usually has a gum rubber flat outsole. They are created for playing indoor soccer or futsal in a gym or rec facility, but will also work for leisure and street wear. Indoor soccer shoes have a lower profile fit and look like a lightweight sneaker.
Designed for the fast, five-a-side play, futsal shoes are usually extremely lightweight. Futsal shoes have low profile rubber outsoles for traction on flat indoor courts and turf surfaces.
Turf shoes or turf boots usually have an extremely durable, rubber outsole. Artificial turf shoes have small rubber studs or patterns on the outsole to improve traction on hard, natural fields and artificial turf. Turf shoes are also great for soccer training and can be used as a back-up pair of shoes for play on hard surfaces.
Lifestyle is what we call the shoes not used for playing soccer. Created for everyday wear, the lifestyle shoe is also know as a street shoe. The lifestyle footwear you will find on SOCCER.COM is generally designed to suit a soccer player’s style.
Running shoes are essential for every soccer player. To maintain the general fitness level required of a player, an off-the-field training regimen is required. Most running shoes have a durable rubber outsole, provide excellent cushioning and feature a breathable nylon upper.
Often the same thing as a running shoe, training shoes almost always have a durable rubber outsole. Some training shoes will features a soccer shoe upper paired up with a rubber training outsole. Training shoes offer comfort and cushioning for your soccer training routine.
Women’s soccer shoes are designed on a narrower last or foot mold to better fit the female soccer player’s foot. Many female soccer players choose to wear a men’s soccer boot, but soccer shoes created especially for women’s soccer can offer a better fit and women’s specific performance technologies. If choosing to wear a men’s soccer shoe, women should size a size and a half down. For example a women who wears a size 9 women’s shoe would wear a size 7.5 men’s shoe.
SOCCER SHOE MATERIALS
Soccer shoes come in two basic upper materials: leather and synthetic.
Upper material can greatly affect the price, performance and weight of a soccer shoe.
Natural leathers and synthetic materials have different benefits. Natural leathers are known for their softness, excellent ball touch and ability to conform to the foot. Natural leathers are made from animal hides, while synthetic leathers are man-made materials. Synthetic uppers are almost always lighter and more durable. When you’re choosing a pair of cleats, consider how long you expect them to last, how much you are willing to spend and your style of play.
Of the natural leathers (calfskin, full-grain, kangaroo), kangaroo leather is premium. It is prized for its soft, supple fit that offers unrivaled comfort and great ball feel. Kangaroo leather molds to the foot and requires no break-in time. Preferred by professional players, kangaroo leather is an extremely light and soft material. Kangaroo leather is not waterproof or as durable as calfskin and cowhide leather. NOTE: Kangaroo leathers will generally stretch after a few uses. For the best fit, make sure that they fit snug out of the box.
Calfskin, another premium leather, offers an ideal blend of softness, thinness and durability. Calfskin is soft, and water-resistant with great ball touch. Calfskin maintains its shape better, but is a bit heavier than kangaroo leather.
Full-grain leather is usually thicker and tougher than calfskin and kangaroo. A water-resistant and durable material, full-grain leather can handle wear and tear. Full-grain leather also conforms to the foot for a fit, ball feel and comfort that is comparable to calfskin and kangaroo leathers. It will weigh more than kangaroo and calfskin leathers.
NOTE: Natural leathers tend to absorb water more than synthetic leather and are not recommended for consistent use on wet fields.
Synthetic upper can vary greatly from brand to brand and shoe to shoe. Synthetic uppers are usually lighter and more durable than natural leather uppers. Synthetics don’t offer the same comfortable fit as leathers.
It’s important to keep in mind; the more expensive soccer shoes are designed for performance and minimal weight. These premium shoes aren’t as durable as some of the more affordable models. Premium soccer shoes are designed to deliver an outstanding performance.The durability of soccer shoes can be extended with proper maintenance.
After each game, clean all dirt and debris from between the cleats/studs and wipe off the upper of the shoe. Also ensure your shoes are able to properly dry out after each game. Wetness/sweat or leaving cleats in a damp duffle bag can lead to the shoe breaking down more quickly.
Soccer cleats are put under a great deal of stress during game play, the average cleat will last one season.
For soccer cleats, the aim is for a snug fit ( especially in kangaroo uppers, which will stretch). Soccer cleats should fit as close to the end of the foot as possible, without touching the toes, for performance and comfort. A 1/4 to 1/2 inch gap is ideal.
Women’s sizing is smaller by a size to a size-and-a-half. For example, if you wear a women’s size 8, you would wear a men’s 6.5.Youth or junior sizes are simply smaller men’s sizes (sizes 1-6).Thanks to SOCCER.COM’s 3D shoe-fitting technology, you can compare the fit of almost any cleat or shoe on SOCCER.COM.
SOCCER.COM uses 3D scanning technology on the insides of shoes. Each scan provides measurements that are important to finding the perfect fit.
adiPRENE: adidas cushioning technology, a highly shock absorbent material
adiWEAR: adidas outsole material, durable, non-marking rubber
Blown rubber: Softer, less durable form of rubber. Made by injecting air into a rubber compound to reduce weight. It is more cushioned and more flexible than other rubber outsoles.
Calfskin: Leather from young cows, soft and supple
Duracoating: A treatment on the upper to offer durability and protection
Elastane: Stretch material (elastic fabric)
Embossed: A design is pressed directly onto a surface (leather or fabric)
EVA: (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) Cushioning synthetic foam that easy shapes and molded to foot
Full-grain leather: Traditional leather that still has the natural look and grain
Gum rubber: Natural, non-marking rubber
Hybrid Touch: adidas upper material with that offers a a hybrid of the benefits of leather and sythetic
Instep: Center section of foot (between toes and ankle)
Kangaroo: The leather made from a kangaroo hyde (the most premium and softest leather available)
Last: The mold around which a shoe is built
Lunarlon: Nike’s cushioning technology, a soft, durable foam core encased within a supportive foam carrier for lightweight, ultra-plush cushioning, springy response and support
Max Air: Nike cushioning technology
Microfiber/microfibre: Premium synthetic that looks and feels like leather
Nike Air: Pressurized air inside a tough, yet flexible bag, Air Sole units are in the midsole under the heel, forefoot or in both spots
Nike Shox: Nike’s patented, hollowed-out columns made of energy-efficient material that enhances durability and spring
Nike Zoom: Lightweight and durable, thin air pocket
Nubuck: Soft leather with suede look and feel
Pebax: A nylon material that bonds to rubber
Phylon: Lightweight, cushioning foam that is non-yellowing and not affected by water or bacteria
PU: Polyurethane, a synthetic that’s lightweight, flexible and durable
Sprintframe: adidas outsole technology
Sprintskin: Single layer synthetic
Sprintweb: adidas 3D texture and finish for ball control
Taurus: Premium, soft leather that’s lightweight
Toe Cap: Extra material sewn around the toe of a shoe, often suede
Torsion: Lightweight arch support
TPU: Thermoplastic polyurethane, a dense, durable, lightweight plastic
Traxion: adidas’ cleat design that provides maximum grip in all directions without excessive pressure points on the footSoccer shoes are easy to understand once they’re broken down.
What do you think? Helpful guide? What more would you like to know?