Whether you are young or old, a new player to the game or a seasoned pro, everyone needs help selecting a new pair of boots from time to time. I receive plenty of emails from eager fans on a daily basis asking for simple tips and advice when it comes to selecting the right pair. There are so many options on the market at the moment and it really isn’t easy making a decision.
I’ve spent time reviewing the most frequent questions that we receive and I’ve put together what is definitely one of the most detailed guides you will find to help you select the right pair of soccer cleats.
If there is anything that might have been missed, let us know in the comment section below.
1. Reality – Boots don’t make the player, but they help!
First and foremost, lets tackle one of the most hotly discussed topics of soccer footwear. If you have ever read a soccer forum, you have probably came across one of the following comments:
“It is not about the boots, it is about the player”
“Boots won’t make you a better player”.
The players that write these comments are correct to a certain extent, but they are also very much under-educated in why the right footwear is vital. I am here to tell you why the right boots will make a dramatic difference to how you play. Let me use a hypothetical situation for a second. Have you ever driven a car in a heavy rainstorm? As a driver, you can only be as good as your own experiences with a car and everyone is at a different level. But lets say you don’t have any window wipers, your performance is drastically reduced. Then move to a set of regular window wipers, the ones that squeak and leave some smears as they move from side to side. They help you see out and you can drive pretty safely. Lets step it up a notch, say we gave you a set of Rainex wipers and sprayed some Rainex on the window – the beads of water literally run off the surface and you are left with extremely clear visibility. Not only does this help you see out and increase safety, it also increases your confidence in your ability to drive. In the same fashion, you can’t play without boots and the more suitable they are to your style, the more effectively they will allow you to play and offer an increased level of performance! Having the right pair can provide the building blocks to developing your game and help you improve your skills.
Then there is the pro player affect. It is important to select a boot that is right for you and not the one your favorite player wears. Granted, the boots he wears might just be the ideal pair for you, but don’t base your decision totally off that pro player. Just because they look great on Ronaldo and he plays amazingly in them, it doesn’t mean you are going gain super magical dribbling powers with a pair on. The right boots will help your game, just make sure you are choosing them for the right reason.
2. Work out your playing style
An important first step is finding out your own personal playing style. Every player that plays the game has a different style and approach and this can really dictate what boots are suitable for you to wear. Consider the position that you like to play most on the field and why you like to play there. There are players who continually stick to a certain position, while there are others that offer more flexibility. For those of you that play more than one role, think about why that is the case. For example, many players play centerback and revert to playing up top from time to time. This is usually because the player is big and strong and can win balls in the air effectively.
- Goalkeepers need something that offers great traction and an ability to move very quickly laterally, while a nice strike zone for kick-outs and back-passes is key.
- Defensive players will want to look for a boot that offers slightly more protection and something that allows for a clean pass on the ball.
- Midfielders need a boot that offers control and the ability to run up and down the pitch for 90minutes in total comfort.
- Wingers look for lightweight and a boot that provides the ability to accelerate and change direction quickly.
- Forwards will benefit from a boot that offers a clean strike zone and provides minimal weight for explosive movements.
3. Select boots according to the pitches you will be playing on
If you are going to be wearing your boots on wet, muddy pitches, you are not going to want a pair of HG boots as that will leave you sliding all over the place. The same is true if you play on artificial turf all year round, an SG boot just won’t be suited. Make sure to consider where you will be playing and how long you expect to be wearing the boots on that surface before hitting up online stores. If you really nave no idea and want to play it safe, an FG boot is usually your best bet as it can perform effectively on most surfaces.
- FG – Firm Ground boots are best suited to natural grass surfaces where it doesn’t rain regularly. With so many locations taking to artificial grass, companies are adjusting their designs and FG is now pretty much accepted as an option for Artificial pitches.
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- SG – Soft Ground boots should only be worn when the surface is soft enough for the studs to penetrate the surface. This is the configuration of choice for players in areas where it rains very frequently and they usually feature replaceable studs.
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- AG – Artificial Ground is the newest type of configuration that companies are trying to incorporate into the market. AG is specific to newer turf surfaces and the top brands have proven extremely effective in producing excellent traction. Not to be used on FG.
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- HG – Hard ground is a boot type that is quickly being replaced on the market. The remaining pairs are an ideal option for players who play on dry surfaces, or surfaces where grass has been worn away and the ground is more bare. This configuration features a low profile with many conical studs to help keep you balanced. Can also be used effectively on FG surfaces.
- AT – Turf shoes have long been the preferred choice for players on artificial surfaces. They feature a very low profile with a concentrated number of small conical rubber studs. They offer an older style performance option for players who play on any sort of turf surface.
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- IN – Indoor shoes are designed for any sort of court soccer play. If the surface is flat and “solid as a rock” then indoor is probably the right choice.
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4. Consider the materials used in the upper
Every player seems to have a different preference for the upper used in their boots. Some like the natural, glove like fit that eventually comes from a leather boot, while others prefer to have the consistent performance provided by straightforward synthetic uppers. You will notice that certain companies will stick with one material for a range, while others will look to create several different styles and use opposite materials in order to provide the player with more options to choose from. Here is a breakdown of the more high-profile materials you will currently see companies employ.
- K-Leather – for so long, companies relied on using kangaroo leather in their boots to produce the premium, most sought after releases. Now, that trend is quickly evaporating and becoming a thing of the past. We still have a few boots available on the market that feature the ultra soft material, but a combination of price and activists lobbying the companies has lead to new materials being produced and incorporated. If you want a boot that really molds to your feet while providing plenty of durability, k-leather is the way to go.
- Natural Leather – leathers such as calf skin and goat have been widely used on many top level boots. For the most part, these are the only natural leathers that companies still seem to be using. A leather boot offers a really unique feel on the ball and the opportunity to use them on a pair is definitely worth considering.
- Synthetic Leather – this is the area where companies seem to be headed. The top brands like Nike (Kanga-Lite) and Adidas (Hybridtouch) are working to really produce high end replica leathers that mimic the same qualities as a Natural leather. In addition, they are able to add other traits, such as waterproofing, into the mix. You do loose some of the natural on the ball feel, but as newer materials are being developed, we are getting closer and closer to a pretty perfect performance match.
- Synthetic – Then there are the uppers designed to offer a completely different experience for players on the ball. Synthetic boots tend to feature much thinner materials and actually provide players with a slightly larger fir from first wear. You won’t encounter much stretch from the material, something that is worth noting if they feel tight from first wear.
- Mesh – the new trend seems to be using mesh through uppers. This is the same sort of material used in running shoes and because of its thin nature, it provides an extra lightweight feel. The downside is the fact that it allows moisture into the boot, so it has the potential to add more weight and leave your feet wet. Several companies are dealing with this by creating materials that feature waterproofing technologies.
- Knit – in the past year, adidas has introduced “Primeknit” and Nike has introduced “Flyknit” to the boot market. Both are revolutionary materials, providing a completely new type of feel on the ball. The upper of both is also lined with a protective layer to ensure water does not cause any durability issues. And both series have also taken the route of higher cut ankle collars.
5. The weight of a boot
Another area that offers players an opportunity to explore different options is the actual weight of boots. We have seen a rapid dip in the average weight of boots over the past several years with the emergence of new materials and technologies used by companies. When we ran an average weight study a few years ago, the average stood around the 9.4oz mark, but the average now stands closer to the 8oz mark. At one stage, we saw a flurry of boot releases from companies such as Adidas, Puma and Pele Sports that broke the mark of lightest boot ever released. My advice right now is to consider the 8.0oz mark as a perfect option as it keeps things pretty balanced.
From a numbers perspective, the lightest boots weigh in at an extraordinary 5-6oz mark (such as the Puma V1.10 SL, Pele Trinity 3E, Adidas F50 adiZero), while the heaviest sits around the 11oz (Adidas Copa Mundial is a prime example). The 5oz to around the 8oz mark is considered to be super lightweight, with anything under 9oz considered lightweight.
6. Differentiating boots by categories
- Control – designed using elements around the pass and control zone, aids players when it comes to ensuring quick control and solid passes.
- Power – offers players some added oomph when hitting shots, usually this comes in the form of technology across the strike zone.
- Speed – all about producing a lightweight boot, usually incorporates a synthetic upper and a very minimal overall design.
- Hybrid – a boot that looks to mix different styles, like for example speed and comtrol. This will be a lightweight boot with some added form of technology through the pass zone.
- Heritage – focused on providing players with a no-nonsense final product that is comfortable and durable. Less technology, more leather!
7. Come up with a budget
Setting a budget and sticking with it is key, for two reasons. First, you obviously don’t want to go over budget or spend and an extreme sum on boots you weren’t expecting to buy in the first place. And second, you can often find ways to grab two quality pairs of shoes at heavily discounted prices if you shop around and look for deals. In general, there are four levels of boots to select from:
- $150 and above – This is the elite level, with the boots in this range offering aspiring players the opportunity to wear the same boots and technology as their idols. Because these are the type of boots designed for the professional players, durability can often be affected. Pro players are offered multiple boots in a season and regularly change them out. Pro level performance, but quite often durability is compromised.
- $80 to $150 – This is the mid tier range, with plenty of quality boots sitting in this region. This is the level of boot that most players will purchase and it is the range where most boots are sold. Performance in this range often outperforms the elite level and there is the benefit of more durability in the shoes.
- $40 to $80 – This is the level where most lower tiers sit, or the final boot in a silo. Companies usually maintain a similar visual look with these boots, but performance is often lacking. Any added technology will be removed but they are still a solid option for new players or those playing at a non-competitive level (or simply for fun.)
- $10 to $40 – Lets keep this simple, I really don’t recommend you look to buy boots in this range. In many case you will simply be getting a boot with a logo. That is, of course, unless there is a great sale and a pair of boots drops below $40.
When it comes to sales, there are always plenty on offer – you just need to know where to look! We regularly feature exclusive deals with online sites and leave a collection of those offers up on our “Steals and Deals“ page for players to take advantage of. In many cases, an older style model of a boot will go on sale as soon as a new version is released. Take advantage of this! And there are many examples of where the older model is seen to be a high performer than the new boot. Just because they are on sale it doesn’t mean the performance has all of a sudden decreased – it simply means stores are trying to move them in order to bring in newer models.
8. Figure out your foot shape
One thing that a lot of new players are unaware of is the fact that pretty much every boot on the market fits in a different way. Even when you look across a single brands silo’s, you will see that they have intentionally sized each boot in a different fashion to suit several player types. If you have the opportunity to get into a soccer store and try shoes on, you are golden and way ahead of the game. Unfortunately, a lot of players have to rely on buying new boots online. There are 3 specific ways to figure out what boots suit you best:
- Read review sites like SoccerCleats101 – all of our reviews have details on sizing and fit.
- Ask a friend what boots they wear and compare your fit with theirs.
- Talk to coaches, they see a lot of players wearing a lot of different boots.
9. If they are too big….If they are too small….
This is where the rule of thumb comes in – if you have a thumb space between your toes and the top of the boot, they are too big. If you have no space then they are too small. The right distance to look for is about a baby finger width between your toe and the top if the boot. If you feel your toe pressing against the upper they are definitely too tight.
One of the most common mistakes players make is continuing to wear a pair that isn’t the right size – don’t fall into this trap. Let’s be honest, we have all purchased a pair, opened and tried them on at home, found them too long and decided to try them out “just in case they fit”. Well, they probably won’t and now you are left with a used pair of boots. Be sure you have some additional space toward the front of the boot, your toes are not pressed heavily against the forefoot of the boot and your ankle isn’t completely restricted against the heel when you wear them for the first time. If you can find a fit that doesn’t constrict any part of your feet, you are headed in the right direction of playing without having your feet blister.
Just a quick tip for players who find they can’t find a boot that offers enough width in the forefoot. This is a tough and I regularly have readers who look for advice on where to get the right fit. First, you can try the brands personalized service, where they normally allow you to create a boot with a wider last. miadidas and NikeID are prime examples to check out. If that is not an economical option for you, look at boots that have a natural leather upper, Kangaroo is the most preferable. Using a boot with K-Leather will allow for some stretch room. A quick tip for players who have a pair that are too tight, try soaking them in hot water for 15 minutes while wearing them, it will loosen up the stitching and allow for some extra stretch.
10. Sizing for younger players
Many parents face a tough decision when buying players for younger players based around sizing. Many parents find it difficult to decide if there is enough room in a boot and how much is needed to allow the player to perform at their best level without growing out of the boots too quickly. For kids under the age of 12, my advice is to apply the above rule except insert baby finger instead of thumb. So, a baby finger width will be too much space. Look for about a half a finger space or somewhere in between. Of course, this will vary according to the child’s size and it also means they will grow out of the boots quickly.
For many, finances will be a factor but a baby finger width should give you enough room to allow your player to grow into the boot and mold the boot to their shape without affecting performance. Any sort of a boot with a leather upper is also an ideal option, as the leather will stretch slightly over time and provide a longer lifespan for the boot. You can search through the largest selection of youth soccer shoes at soccer.com.
11. Lightweight means less durability
Just a note here, the current trend on the market is lightweight boots and we are seeing companies drift toward lighter an lighter. This means there is less materials being used in the boots and as a result, durability is compromised. In the past, a good boot could easily provide a player with a solid two seasons, but we are now at the stage where a single season seems to be an achievement. If you are looking for a more durable option, consider boots that weigh in above 9oz and feature a leather upper rather than synthetic.
12. Ordering Online – Get it right
First off, we recommend checking out boots at a soccer store before buying – it offers you the ideal opportunity to really understand what the boots are about and store employees can be a very useful and knowledgeable resource (for the most part!)
If you decide to order online, do yourself a huge favor and don’t buy from an unknown source. We regularly get contacted from readers who have purchased from what looks like a legitimate source only to have a fake pair of boots show up, or in some cases no boots at all. Basically, stick to the well known US sites and don’t go trying to get an amazing deal through a site in China. Please read the following two incredible important posts to ensure you stay on track:
- Unique Looking Boots That You Don’t Want to Buy!
- Avoid Counterfeit and Find the Right Website to Buy From
The sites we recommend checking out if you are in the market for new boots include:
13. They have arrived – breaking in your boots
You now have your new pair of boots and are ready to wear them. Not so fast – don’t rush things. Taking time to break in new boots can prove invaluable for your feet and the life of the boots. Look to wear them for one or two jogging sessions at first to loosen up any stitching and allow the soleplate to flex into a more natural position with your feet. This will also decrease the potential of blisters. Having your tried and trusted boots on hand is extremely important as you wear your new boots. If you feel any sort of pressure or tight spot, switch out immediately. Don’t risk the potential of having your feet damaged and decreasing your performance. Take the opportunity to jog in them several times more and they should then be ready for game time. If after several wears you are still feeling some discomfort, the boots are probably not the right option for you.
14. Enjoy and treat them with respect!
Finally, maintenance is key to ensuring your boots live a solid life and perform with you through the good and bad days. The sign of a passionate player is the person who takes them out of there bag when they get home and offers them some personal care. You don’t have to buy the best cleaning products or spend hours nursing them.
[Also See: Taking Care of Your Boots]
All you need to do is take them out of their boot bag and let them air dry in a nice cool area, out of direct sunlight or heat. Once they have dried out, stuff them with some newspaper and put them back in your bag for the next game. If you have some leather food, I’m sure you boots wouldn’t mind if you paid them some extra attention!