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Ultimate Guide to Picking The Right Pair Of Soccer Cleats

Soccer Cleat Guide

With new boot releases hitting the market on a weekly basis, it can be pretty daunting trying to find the right boot to match your style of play. Yes, it is great to have so many great options on offer, but selecting a brand, then a silo and then a level of boot can be confusing. When all is said and done, it is definitely worth investing time and research to find the right pair.

Thankfully, a lot of you send in emails and hit us up on social media looking for help. So, we have spent time reviewing the most frequently asked questions that we receive and 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, lets tackle one of the most commonly discussed topics related to soccer footwear; if they will magically make you a better player or not. Whether it is on social media, a forum or from soccer coaches, you are probably familiar with the following quotes.

“It is not about the boots, it is about the player.” 

“Boots won’t make you a better player.”

The person that makes these comments is correct but only to a certain extent. No, you won’t turn into Ronaldo by wearing some Mercurials, and you won’t be able to bend it like Beckham by wearing a pair of Preds. But, having a pair that suits your style can dramatically impact how you play and perform.

Let me use a hypothetical situation here. Have you ever driven a car in a heavy rainstorm? Even though we all have different levels of driving skills, there is one thing we need to drive efficiently in that situation; window wipers. If your car doesn’t have any, you are likely to have to pull over the car. You can’t perform. If you have a set of regular window wipers (the ones that squeak and leave some smears as they move from side to side) they will help clear the water and help you see what is in front of you 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 to your potential. Having the right pair can provide the building blocks to developing your game and help you improve your skills.

Finally, there is the “pro player effect”, you know when you want to wear the same boots as your favorite player just because it is what he is wearing. Granted, the boots he wears might be a very decent pair, but don’t base your decision totally off that pro player. It is important to select a boot that is right for YOU. 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 to figure out what your own personal playing style is all about. Every player that plays the game has a different style, and this can really dictate what boot is most suitable for you to wear. Consider the position that you like to play most on the field and why you like to play there. What is your role and what are your strengths? 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.

Consider the typical traits that go with a player’s position on the pitch:

  • Goalkeepers need something that offers great traction and an ability to move quickly laterally, while a nice strike zone for kick-outs and back-passes is a real bonus.
  • Defenders will want to look for a boot that offers slightly more protection and something that allows for a clean pass on the ball.
  • Midfielders have a need for boots that offers clean touch and comfortable, distraction free performance right through a 90 minute game.
  • Wingers look for something that is lighter and provides the ability to accelerate, chop and change direction quickly.
  • Forwards will benefit from a boot that offers a clean strike zone and provides minimal weight for explosive movements.

With each boot release, brands will associate relevant terminology that will correlate with different playing styles. Key here is matching some of the words that match your style with boots that you are considering buying. The more you can match, the more likely you will enjoy the performance of those boots!

3. Select boots according to the pitches you play on

Soccer Cleat Guide Soleplates

Traction and stud configurations is a vitally important piece of any boot. 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, you won’t be allowed to wear an SG boot. 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.
    Check out the latest FG releases
  • SG – Soft Ground boots should only be worn on natural grass pitches when the surface is soft enough for the studs to penetrate. This is the configuration of choice for players in areas where it rains very frequently. Feature replaceable studs.
    Check out the latest SG releases
  • 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.
    Check out the latest AG releases
  • TF – 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, or nubs. They offer an older style performance option for players who play on any sort of turf surface.
    Check out the latest TF releases
  • IN – Indoor shoes are designed for any sort of court or street soccer play. If the surface is flat and “solid as a rock” then IN is probably the right choice.
    Check out the latest IN releases

4. Consider the materials used in the upper

Soccer Cleat Upper Materials

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. Currently, most brands are using different materials based on the style of player there are trying to reach with that particular boot. Here is a breakdown of the more high-profile materials you will currently see companies employ.

  • K-Leather
    Kangaroo leather is a tried and trusted material used by brands. It has always been labeled as a premium material, highly sought after for its naturally pliability. We still have a few boots available on the market that feature the ultra soft material, but a combination of price and laws ((sales are banned in California) have led 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 and goat skin 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 natural feel on the ball with the ability to mold effectively to your foot shape.
  • Knit
    The new “in” material is knit, something you couldn’t have seen coming a few years ago. adidas kicked it of with the introduced of “Primeknit”, then Nike jumped in with “Flyknit”, with Puma currently offering “evoKNIT”. All are revolutionary materials, in their own right, providing a completely new type of feel on the ball. Think of them as the ultimate stretch upper, lined with a protective layer to ensure water does not cause any durability issues.
  • Synthetic Leather
    Over the past few years, we have seen brands introduce high-end replica leathers that are intended to mimic the same qualities of a natural leather. Think back to innovative examples like Nike’s Kanga-Lite (used on the CTR360 series) and adidas Hybridtouch (used on the Predator LZ.) Current examples include   In addition, they are able to add other traits, such as waterproofing, into the mix. You do lose 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 fit 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
    Another new trend is the introduction of 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.

5. What is the ideal weight of the boot?

Is the weight of a boot important? To a certain extent, YES. 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. 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. The lightest boots weigh in at an extraordinary 5-6oz mark but lack protection and durability. The heaviest come in at around 10oz to 11oz and can feel sluggish on foot. When we ran an average weight study a few years ago, the average stood at the 9.4oz mark, but the average now stands closer to the 8oz mark.

My advice is to consider the 7oz to 8oz mark as an ideal weight range, as it keeps things pretty balanced. These are the boots that will keep you protected, provide durability through wear, and won’t feel overly chunky or heavy in-game.

6. Differentiating boots by categories

Here lies one of the ever evolving segments of the market. Brands are continually dropping new releases with specialized categories. It is important to note that you can’t cement a boot to a specific category, but it does give you some sort of indication as to what they are intended to do and perform.

  • 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 control. 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!
  • Agility – created to be sleek so that players can move around the pitch comfortably at speed. Design is key here, boots the leverage contouring and aerodynamic construction.
  • Precision – intended to complement players that like to place shots and play key passes in tight spaces. Feature some tech to allow for added performance benefits.

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:

  • $250 and above – ELITE LEVEL
    • A mix of limited edition, special edition, and pro level boots that usually feature some very unique tech specs. Examples include most laceless boots and anything released as part of a player pack.
      Check out boots in this category HERE.
  • $180 to $250 – TOP TIER
    • The most important releases for brands, the boots that feature competitive level tech specs. You are more likely to see these boots being worn by pro players on pitch than any other.
      Check out boots in this category HERE.
  • $100 to $180 – MID TIER
    • These boots mimic the pro level versions, with materials that are usually a little thicker and as a result, more durable. So, weight is usually slightly higher and the boot can be a little more bulky. But, you are getting a boot that will last longer and naturally more comfortable on foot.
      Check out boots in this category HERE.
  • $60 to $100 – ECONOMY TIER
    • The final boot in a silo, designed to allow players the opportunity to wear something that somewhat looks like the top-tier version. The weight and materials used are much thicker. They are pretty ideal for entry-level players or anyone who needs a boot for fun.
      Check out boots in this category HERE.
  • Below $60 – EVERYTHING ELSE
    • Lets keep this simple, I really don’t recommend you look to buy boots in this range, unless there is a great sale going on!
      Check out boots in this category HERE.

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. Also, take some time and keep an eye on boots that are added to OUTLET SALE pages like this one!

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 boot reviews have details on sizing and fit.
  • Ask friend and fellow players 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 boots 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 a 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 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

The current trend on the market is lightweight boots and we are seeing companies drift toward lighter and lighter. These would be more of the elite category options, with a direct emphasis on speed. This means there is less material being used in the boots and as a result, durability is heavily 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. The Mid-Tier “Secret”

Let me share a little secret with you here. Brands put more time and money into creating top-tier boots for pro level players. What do we know about pro players? They don’t wear a single pair of boots for very long. In fact, a pro player might only wear a pair for 2-3 games before changing. So, there is no direct emphasis on creating a durable boot. That is where the mid-tier boots comes into play; a target market for brands that know a majority of their sales will come in the $150 range. So, they built their mid-tier with more affordable materials that are more durable!

13. Consider a Practice and a Game Pair

The best thing you can do is avoid a scenario where your boots rip in a game and you don’t have a back-up pair. It happens to players all the time. If you have a practice and game pair, you will always have an extra pair available to get you through the difficult times. You might here people comment on a negative to wearing a different boot in training and game, but in reality as long as your game pair is broken in and feels good to wear, there is no negative. Being confident in your game boots is vitally important. If you have that confidence in your game pair and can use a practice pair to increase it is a huge plus. Believe me, your game day boots will also approve of the added longevity to wear them over a full season!

14. 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 elsewhere. Please read the following two incredible important articles to ensure you stay on track:

Top sites that we recommend checking out include:

15. 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.

16. 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 their 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!

I just need a pair of boots!

In reality, it takes time and research to find the right boot for you, and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. We all have different foot shapes and requirements for the situations we play in.

BUT, if you are simply here because you need help picking a pair right now, here is what you should look for:

Something that is priced around the $100 to $150 range, preferably an older model that is on sale. Look for a leather upper, or something with a knit style material. Underfoot, go with an FG configuration with low profile conical style studs.

About Bryan Byrne

The mastermind behind the revolution that is SoccerCleats101. Bryan started this website back in 2008 and has been testing boots on a daily basis ever since. Check out our About Page for more details on Bryan and the website.

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2 comments

  1. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you.

  2. Awesome post.

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