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The roots of soccer can be traced back to around 2 millennia back. With all that time to evolve, the rules, playstyles, and equipment used, have all changed drastically. Somewhere along the line, someone figured that the players’ traction on the field should be improved. Hence – soccer cleats. Soccer is not the only sport using this piece of footwear; they are also used in football. How are football and soccer cleats different?
Soccer cleats are lighter than football cleats. Football cleats also have a toe stud for improved grip. The final difference is the fact that soccer cleats mostly come in a low-cut style for improved maneuverability, while football cleats can be high-top, mid-cut, or low-cut, depending on the player’s position.
Even though they might appear similar at first glance, there is a noticeable difference between football and soccer cleats. After explaining the basic differences, the question of distinguishing between the two still remains. You also might wonder which soccer cleats should you buy. In this article, we’ll try to address these key questions:
Can you wear soccer cleats for football?
Before we answer this question, let’s take a brief look into the history of cleats:
According to some unlikely to have ever happened stories, cleats were first introduced into soccer during the rule of Henry VIII. Apparently, the English king orders the first pair in 1526. We tend to disregard this story, as this was too early for soccer to be popular in England, but it is still an interesting one to mention. The much less interesting, but the much more likely, version of the cleats’ origin story is that this piece of soccer equipment was introduced into the game in the early 1800s when soccer became popular in Great Britain.
Cleats existed beforehand but were used for muddy work in the fields, or wherever a common worker needed more traction. These work/soccer shoes were made of leather, with nails attached to the bottom. Predictably, these primitive cleats led to a lot of injuries and even deaths. In 1863, the rule that no nails, iron plates, or similar materials can be used in soccer boots. The game moved on to the leather studs. Cleats as we know them were first introduced during the 1920s.
If we were to ask Henry VIII, the original leather/nail combination would still be in use. He would also probably not have a problem with soccer cleats use in football. However, we don’t live in the 1500s, and there are, as we touched on previously, some crucial differences between these two types of cleats. In short, the answer to the question of Can you wear soccer cleats for football is – no. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the difference between soccer and football cleats:
For improved agility, speed, and less strain on players, soccer cleats tend to be much lighter than football cleats. Remember that soccer players typically need to keep running for 45 minutes before their first break. In football, some positions, such as receivers and defensive backs, also benefit from lighter cleats, so these players actually might choose to wear soccer cleats if there weren’t for one pesky thing:
We’ve also mentioned that football cleats tend to have a toe spike. As the name suggests, it is located near the big toe, and its goal is to provide additional traction for low starts and blocking/pushing against the opposing tacklers. This stud is missing in soccer cleats as it would interfere with the players’ running ability, as well as with ball handling.
Another major reason why soccer cleats can’t be used for football, and vice versa, is the toe feel. For football players, with the exception of punters and kickers, a cleat’s striking area and toe feel are irrelevant elements. In soccer, on the other hand, both of these are crucial. Manufacturers have spent decades developing cleats to reach the levels we are at today: soccer cleats need to feet perfectly in order for a player to remain in control of the ball every time it reaches him/her. In football, comfort takes the primary role over performance.
Football players can choose from different types of cleats, depending on their needs:
High-tops are meant for maximum ankle and lateral movement support and they are preferred by linemen. Mid-cut cleats offer less ankle support with more maneuverability and these cleats are preferred by defensive backs, running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks. To gain maximum running speed, some defensive backs might opt for low-cut cleats.
For soccer, there’s only one option – low-cut cleats that provide the player with ankle maneuverability, increased running speed, and the best shooting performance. The other types of cleats used in football would represent a serious drawback if worn by soccer players.
To summarize, soccer cleats are simply not designed for football. The materials used, the shape and size of the cleats, as well as the overall design and construction are engineered for each sport individually. Those moving from one sport to the other will, unfortunately for their pockets, have to invest in new cleats. More on this later. First, we should discuss how a beginner can tell the difference between these two types of shoes.
How do you know if cleats are for football or soccer?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are some major differences between soccer and football cleats. However, these differences might seem minor to an untrained eye. We’ve already talked about the overall feel, weight, and height differences among cleats designed for these fairly different sports. In addition to everything listed previously, here are some tips on how to tell if cleats are meant for football or soccer:
- Football cleats are characterized by the following things that even a beginner can notice:
The cleats at the bottom of the shoe are longer, as they need to dig into the field to provide traction. These cleats commonly have an additional toe cleat. To provide protection from being stepped on, the leather on football cleats tends to be heavier than on those meant for other sports. Also, football cleats come in 3 heights we’ve already mentioned (high-top, mid-cut, and low-cut).
- Soccer cleats come with shorter cleats, as they are designed for running and agility. There’s no toe cleat, as it would interfere with running and ball handling. With performance in mind, soccer cleats are built lighter and in only one height: low-cut.
To add on to the confusion among those looking to buy new cleats, sports such as lacrosse and baseball also use this type of footwear. These shoes are, yet again, similar but not the same. Here’s how we tell these apart:
- Lacrosse cleats have the actual cleats on the outside of the sole to improve stability and side movement. Once again, a toe cleat comes into play. Lacrosse cleats usually come in mid-cut height for some ankle support. The last two features make them unusable in soccer. When it comes to weight, lacrosse shoes are similar to soccer cleats, which makes them unsuitable for football. A lacrosse cleat can, however, be used for baseball.
- Baseball cleats have a toe cleat that helps with acceleration and traction on the pitch. They are light, which means that they are not meant to withstand a player stepping on them, making them unusable in football.
Ultimately, it’s up to individual players to choose the type of cleats they’ll be playing in. Some football players might prefer the lighter soccer cleats, while soccer players might go for the heavier, traction increasing football cleats. As long as the cleats meet the regulations of the sport and don’t endanger anyone’s safety, all bets are off. What are the rules and regulations for soccer cleats, you may wonder? Let’s take a quick look:
According to FIFA and NCAA, all cleats that are specifically designed for soccer are allowed, including those with detachable studs made from metal. Now we come to the interesting part; the front toe stud, as the one used in football, baseball, and lacrosse, is, in most competitions, banned due to the high risk of injury it presents.
Most leagues allow only for molded cleats, meaning that the studs are a non-removable part of the soccer shoe’s soleplate. This is also the most common type of soccer cleats. The materials used for the actual studs can be different. However, some leagues and states, such as Massachusetts, have decided to ban cleats with any form of metal on them to minimize the risk of injury.
Keep in mind that national and international leagues do reserve the right to implement their own rules regarding this piece of equipment. Make sure to check your league’s requirements before buying soccer cleats.
Now, the time to actually look at some shoes has come.
5 best soccer cleats
After going through all of the differences between soccer and football cleats, there’s only one thing left to do; choose your next pair. Not many manufacturers have perfected the technology for creating good soccer cleats. The list, in fact, involves just a few names: Adidas, Puma, and Nike. More recently, Under Armour joined the game, but they have quite a way to go before reaching the level of performance that the other 3 brands have been consistently producing. Take a look at our list of the 5 best popular soccer cleats models that you can buy today:
1. Adidas Predator 20.3
Available through our Amazon link, the Adidas Predator 20.3 is a set of soccer cleats that doesn’t compromise neither on performance nor on style. Further characterized by a strong construction and excellent traction, the Predator 20.3 is an excellent choice for your new firm ground cleats.
Designed from synthetic materials, the upper molds to the player’s foot, offering a snug and comfy fit. The low top is there to ensure maximum foot movement and ball control. The Adidas Predator 20.3 comes with a sock construction that links the ankle with the shoe, for even more speed and agility.
If you’re looking for comfortable and durable soccer cleats that offer great traction and stability, the Adidas Predator 20.3 might be just what you’re after.
2. Nike Mercurial Superfly 7
Known as one of the fastest cleats in the game, Nike Mercurial Superfly 7, available on Amazon, is currently in its 5th edition. Superb performance, combined with eye-catching looks, is what makes this model one of the top 5 soccer cleats on the market.
The textured flyknit upper provides comfort, while the 3D Speedrib texture allows the leather parts of it to create the perfect amount of friction between the shoe and the ball. Control, power, and accuracy are the top 3 things that come to mind when testing the Mercurial Superfly 7.
Even though they might feel tight at times, the Nike Mercurial Superfly 7 cleats are far from being uncomfortable. The durability is there, as well as the Cristiano Ronaldo stamp of approval, which many admirers of soccer will appreciate.
3. Puma Future 5.3 Netfit
The first and only Puma model on this list, the Puma Future 5.3 Netfit, available on our Amazon link, is one of those things that you either love or hate. Some might find them flashy while others will find the looks unique and endearing.
You might think that the Netfit system that this shoe is created around is gimmicky and fragile compared to the traditional leather uppers, but you’d be surprised: the shoe provides excellent support, comfort, and control over the ball. When it comes to durability, it doesn’t appear to be an issue.
Available in two flashy colors and one neutral ones, the Puma Future 5.3 Netfit cleats cater to all types of soccer players; those who like remaining understated, and those who prefer flashy shoes and playstyle. Go for these shoes if you play on firm ground, with little to no chance of rain.
4. Nike Vapor 13
Another Ronaldo-approved shoe, the Nike Vapor 13 can be admired and purchased through our Amazon link. This is a truly well-built soccer cleat, with performance and all-condition usability that are matched by its appearance.
The upper of these cleats is built for support of the foot and control over the ball. Nike Vapor 13 brings exceptional touch and speed to the table, and it can only improve your game. This might be the best pair of shoes for use in both wet and dry conditions, due to Nike’s All Conditions Control technology applied to the model.
Plenty of shock absorption for strong kicks, with a cushioned insole and a soft heel, is what makes Nike Vapor 13 one of the top choices among soccer professionals. Amateurs should really give this one a try.
5. Adidas Performance Copa Mundial
In the sea of modern-looking soccer cleats, the Adidas Performance Copa Mondial stands out with it classic, yet timeless design. You can check out the model on Amazon by clicking on the link above.
Constructed using Kangaroo leather, the Copa Mondial definitely jumps out from the crowd of fabric-made uppers. The shoe feels supportive and comfortable, with a mold that adjusts to the player’s foot and fits like a glove. The control and feel of the ball are at a decent level, and there are no issues with sweat that some leather cleats can cause.
Go for this model if you’re after a classic design. If this is your first pair of soccer cleats, definitely don’t hesitate with the purchase. On the other hand, those used to more modern shoes might have a hard time adjusting to this one.
When ordering your new pair of soccer cleats, make sure to account for proper soccer socks, as well as any type of ankle brace or undersock that you use regularly. Generally speaking, soccer cleat sizes won’t match your everyday shoes, so pay attention to the size guide. In order to perform their purpose correctly, soccer cleats need to fit like a glove and feel like a part of your body.
It’s easy to get confused while choosing your next pair of soccer cleats. Avoiding simple mistakes, such as buying cleats for the wrong sport is not that uncommon. Even some sporting goods salespeople have a hard time differentiating among those. We hope that after reading this article you won’t face those issues and that you’ll have a clearer picture of what to look for in your new pair of soccer cleats.