Navigating the youth soccer cleat market can be a challenge for any parent. With a 4, 6 and 8 year old now playing soccer, I’m in the midst of trying to figure out what works best for each of my kids. Having the right footwear can make a huge difference in kids appreciation for the game. The last thing you want is to put them in the wrong footwear and have them feeling uncomfortable through play, not allowing them to truly fall in love with the game. I’ll be honest; I’ve struggled through the process myself.
As a result, I wanted to put together a proper guide with our experiences to help others out! We will be adding some additional reviews as more boots arrive in, but here some key rules to follow and our take on some of the top youth boot options currently available. Note that for this portion, we are focusing on youth options for players 9 and under, with the sizes running between a 6K and a 13.5K (K stands for Kid.)
Rule #1 – Comfort Is Key
At the youth level, your biggest focus should be finding a boot that fits well and is comfortable. Forget about all the tech specs and flashy colors, none of that matters at this stage. The goal is to ensure they fit properly and don’t offer any hot spots compared to their size and foot shape. This can prove challenging, but ask them to walk around in them to see if there are any areas of pressure. If all seems good, you are on your way to step #2.
Tip: Loosening laces right down to the bottom rung is an important tip for parents who’s kids are experiencing some problems. If issues persist even when the laces are loosened, then they are not the right boots.
Rule #2 – Ensure You Have the Right Size
Since you want the boots to last longer than a few weeks, ensuring there is enough space to grow into is pretty important. In general, use your pinky finger as a guide to the max room they should have toward the front of the boot. If you press down on the upper with your pinky, there shouldn’t be any extra space left over between their toes and the front of the boot. Too much room, and you kid will feel clumsy in the boots and their feet will tend to slip. Too little room and you hit step #1 above!
Rule #3 – Figure Out the Right Balance
In order for your future star to develop, they need a boot that suits their style of play and aids their performance. This will regularly be a boot with more modern upgrades and a slightly higher price point. I’m not talking mega add-ons or miraculous shooting zones, instead it has a lot more to do with lightweight and added protection in the right areas. Don’t be immediately sucked in by the persuasive advertising machines that is Nike and Adidas – their boots are great, but there are also many other better value for money options out there.
Boots We Have Tried
So, over the past few weeks we picked up several different styles of boots from soccer.com. Their youth selection has grown a lot recently, so it is one of the first places you should be looking. For each of the kids, we ordered the exact same size as they currently wear in each boot. That way, the sizing and fit can be compared against what we deem to be a “true to size” option.
Here are the results to date, we hope to add more boots on here over the coming weeks!
Mckinley, Age 8, Size 13.5K
Over the past year, Mckinley has been wearing a pair of adidas Predator LZ that I actually purchased a few years back and saved for her. She really enjoys them. But, obviously they are not an option that we can recommend since they are now unavailable. She is a HUGE Alex Morgan fan, so securing a pair of Nike Phantom Venom was a must. Outside of that, she was very open to options and we went with a pair of laceless Preds and the latest New Balance has to offer. Here is how those boots played out.
New Balance Tekela v2 Magique Junior
Performance wise, these turned out to be a real winner. We have had success with New Balance youth boots in the past, so I was pretty confident when picking these out. Mckinley wasn’t overly excited when she saw them, they are not as bright and flashy as the others. But, she was able to put them on very easily and immediately dashed off to try them out.
Right through play, she didn’t encounter any discomfort and enjoyed the overall fit. It really does help to be able to open the laces, pull back the tongue, and allow for an enjoyable first fit in the boots.
adidas Predator 19.3 Laceless
Visually, these seem like a very exciting boot. The immediate reaction was of disbelief that there were no laces. How cool! But oh my word, trying to get them on proved to be a bit of a disaster. The mid cut collar is extremely tight and proved extremely frustrating to get on. No exaggeration, there were moments when I was worried about pulling a muscle! When we eventually got them on, the fit was too uncomfortable to be able to wear. Length wise, I could feel there was some extra space between Mckinley’s toes and the top of the boot. But, she was convinced that they were just too tight. It could be the fact she is unfamiliar with a boot that relies on being snug when no laces are available.
Unfortunately, I can’t see these being a very good option for youth players. There are too many parameters that determine if they are a good option or not, something you really don’t want to put down to chance. My advice, and Mckinley’s, is to avoid these boots.
Nike JNR Phantom Venom Academy
Without a doubt the best looking boot we picked up. But again, they are super tough to get on. Even though there is no collar on this boot (it features a regular ankle cut), there is a neoprene inner sock that proves problematic getting your feet into them. If your child has a very narrow foot, then it might not be a problem. We struggled to get them on, and when we eventually did, they fit nicely. There was some pressure along the heel that resulted in some adjustments, and light stretching of the boots to get them to fit a little better.
Length wise, there was plenty of room available to grow into, but through the ankle and midfoot the fit ended up being tight. Ultimately, they weren’t the most comfortable and ended up being the #2 option from the 3 boots. I don’t see Mckinley wearing them very often unless I spend some additional time stretching them out.
Savannah, Age 6, Size 11.5K
We got pretty lucky with the boots we picked out for Savannah, and they prove to be the boot options that I would recommend most as a result. She is in her second season of soccer and had been wearing a generic pair of Nike boots last season. So, the opportunity to get some cool look boots in different styles was a huge deal.
adidas X 19.3 Laceless
These proved to be the fan favorite! I was a little concerned when they arrived that the constrictive fit might prove too much for the first boot tested. It did take a little work to get the on the first time, but they were an absolute success in every category. Something I really like about them is the fact the collar through tongue area is a soft fabric material with a stretch feel. So, it is decently accommodating, allowing for easy entry into the boot while providing a secure enough fit without laces. It also has some padding to it that in theory reduces the stress of impact on the ball.
Savannah found them to fit very well right around her foot with no pressure points, and after wearing them I found it difficult to get her to test other boots.
Nike Junior Mercurial Vapor 13 Academy
Another really solid boot that were thoroughly enjoyed on pitch. Given they have a traditional style lacing and tongue, it is very easy to get them on first time. The upper is a little stiffer, with a slightly more squared box toe design. That doesn’t alter performance a whole lot, but both reasons are why these drop to a very respectable second place. No discomfort, but the pliability of the X19.3 meant that they proved to be a preferred option. Again, they were comfortable on foot with no pressure points.
As a parent, I find myself wanting to recommend these as a safer and more suitable option for parents that simply want a boot that “works.” And I definitely feel like Savannah enjoyed wearing them.
adidas Nemeziz 19.3 Laceless
Review to follow in the coming weeks…..
Austin, Age 4, Size 9K
Unfortunately for Austin, there aren’t many choices available in his size. This was the one and only currently available to us. But, we had no problem testing them out considering they come in his favorite color right now, orange! He is new to soccer this year, taking advantage of any chance he gets to put his boots on and kick around a ball.
Joma Champion Junior FG
A fan favorite from the moment they arrived and we opened the box. They are very easy to slip on since they have a traditional lacing system. Open up the laces, pull the tongue out to create a nice opening and slip your foot in. Size wise they are very comparable to his running shoes, and that worked out very well comfort wise. For kids this age, having something that is simple and that they enjoy is the most important thing. Underfoot, they feature some very low profile conical studs, with the design dispersing pressure very evenly. They are only suitable for grass surfaces, you won’t want to wear these on court or streets. For the price, they are a very decent starter boot!
What We Have Learned!
First thing, it definitely isn’t easy getting the fit right. But, when you do it makes a huge difference. Being comfortable in your boots allows you to enjoy the game, and that in turn can produce the confidence to do good things on the pitch. Laceless is a very novel idea, and although it worked out pretty well on one of the boots we are testing, it really doesn’t allow you to dictate your fit. Laces are the all important component to allowing you to determine how tight or loose you want the upper material to fit around your foot. This is definitely worth keeping in mind.
As I said, we will continue to add more boots as we can get them. If you have any comments or suggestions on recommended options, please let us know in the comments below!
And if you are looking to find the largest selection of kids boots available on the market, make sure to check out soccer.com.