They say that the most important piece of equipment for doing any kind of physical activity is your footwear. Whatever it is you are doing, if you haven’t got the right shoes on your feet, you are just asking for injuries!
Football and soccer have a lot of differences, but they are both team sports played outdoors on grass, usually in the cooler months of the year. Another similarity these two sports have is that they require similar footwear called cleats.
But are there any differences between soccer and football cleats? Can you wear just one pair for both sports, or is it worth investing in a pair for each? Read this guide as I explain the difference between soccer and football cleats.
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SOCCER AND FOOTBALL CLEATS
|Differences||Soccer Cleats||Football Cleats|
|Design||Below the ankle, lightweight, various colors||Above or around the ankle, low weight, various colors|
|Studs||Rubber or metal. No longer than 21mm (0.82 inches)||Rubber, plastic, or metal. Between 0.25 and 1 inch|
|Material||Synthetic or leather||Synthetic or leather|
|Weight||Around 250g (8.8oz)||Between 312-425g (11-15oz)|
One key difference to deal with before diving deeper into this topic is the names. In American English, both the footwear and the protrusions from the soles are called cleats, while across the rest of the Anglosphere, the shoe is called a boot, while the protrusions are called studs.
Add to this the fact that soccer is actually called football in most of the world. Understandably, this can be super confusing. As a disclaimer, we will stick to the American terms and names in this article!
Modern soccer cleats are far removed from the heavy, black leather designs of yesteryear.
Nowadays, boots come in every color under the sun, with most players preferring brighter designs which are often customized. In fact, players who opt for traditional black boots today are seen as no-nonsense, old-fashioned types!
As they do not cover the ankle, soccer cleats perhaps do not merit being called “boots” after all. Due to a tighter fit below the ankle, some modern cleats do not even require laces.
Screw-in metal or rubber studs have been the norm since Adidas introduced them in the 1950s.
Today, they can be a maximum length of 21mm (0.82 inches), though the original idea of screw-in cleats was that players could replace the standard cleats with longer ones for playing in wet conditions at a moment’s notice. Most cleats have six studs, though eight or more is not uncommon.
Some players and manufacturers now use molded studs, known simply as molds or blades. These are not replaceable and can often be tailor-made to the athlete’s preferences.
Cleats were always made of leather until recent decades, with kangaroo leather being the most popular option due to its durability and lighter weight.
All major and smaller manufacturers still produce leather boots, but for many players today, synthetic boots are king. Synthetic materials are waterproof, maintain their jazzier colors better, and are lighter than their leather counterparts without losing any points on durability.
The first ever cleats specifically designed for soccer, from the late-19th century, weighed 500g (1.1lb), and that would double the weight during wet conditions thanks to non-existent waterproofing. Talk about heavy feet!
Thankfully, that is no longer the case, with synthetic materials bringing the average weight down significantly over the last few years. Pick up a soccer cleat in your local sports store today, and you may think you are holding a sock with studs!
The average boot in 2023 weighs around 250g (8.8oz), though the lightest pair on the market at the moment is the New Balance Furon V7 Pro, coming in at just 180g (6.35oz)!
The price of soccer cleats varies greatly. More often than not, you are paying more for the brand rather than the quality of the material. However, the more famous manufacturers do lead the way with the latest innovations, and you will see at least some difference in quality.
An entry-level pair of cleats will set you back around $40, while the cheaper options from more well-known brands cost between $70 and $100.
If you are after the latest pairs from brands that the pros wear, you will be looking more in the $150 to $500 price range. If you want any customization, then, of course, that will cost you extra.
The first cleats in American sports were designed for baseball. In the 1860s, manufacturers began adding metal cleats to baseball shoes to give players better traction in the field and around the diamond.
When American football became a major college and professional sport in the early 20th century, players initially wore baseball cleats. But soon after, they were adapted to the requirements of American football, and the first proper football cleats were born.
As the game and the playing surfaces changed through the decades, so did the cleats.
The main thing that separates the design of soccer and football cleats is that those for football are often cut above the ankle, offering a thin but useful layer of extra protection to the joint. However, with that said, lower- and mid-cuts are available, too.
Other than that, major brands such as Nike and Adidas offer a wide a range of colors, designs, and customization options — just as they do for their soccer products.
The cleats, or studs, themselves are much more varied than in soccer.
Football games are played on grass, synthetic, and hard surfaces, all requiring different cleat lengths and materials to perform correctly.
Many players use cleats with replaceable studs, with lengths usually available of 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, and 1 inch. The shorter ones, often made of rubber, provide a better grip on harder surfaces, while the longer ones are typically plastic or metal. You would probably need some 1-inch studs for an October day at Lambeau Field!
Other players, particularly the pros who are given plenty of pairs of cleats, may go for molded cleats instead, with different blade lengths, depending on the conditions.
Unsurprisingly, with many manufacturers using similar technology to make football and soccer cleats, the materials used to make football cleats are similar to those used to make soccer cleats.
Kangaroo leather reigned supreme for generations, but synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyurethane, have taken precedence in recent times, as manufacturers offer better durability, while players can enjoy unique, cool designs.
As football cleats are not needed for constant running like their soccer counterparts, they can be a little heavier, focusing more on protection.
The average weight of a football cleat is between 11 and 15 ounces. Players that do rely on speed, such as wide receivers and cornerbacks, will usually take the lighter options, while the heavier, sturdier footwear will be the choice of lineman.
The cheaper football cleat options tend to start off at around $50, while a standard pair from trusted names such as Under Armour or Nike will be double that price.
Top-of-the-range cleats can be found from $250 and above, though if you fancy a pair of Nike Vapor Edge Dunks, you will have to part with around $765 of your hard-earned cash.
GUIDE FOR BUYING SOCCER AND FOOTBALL CLEATS
So, what should you buy? Here are a few tips to help you out!
TIPS FOR BUYING SOCCER CLEATS
- Comfort is key: You are going to be doing a lot of running and moving at speed. If your cleats are not comfy, you will be in a lot of pain very quickly. Your cleats should fit like a glove; snug but not too tight.
- Know the surface: Are you playing on muddy pitches or rock-hard ground? Grass or artificial? Make sure you know what kind of surface you will be playing on, and buy cleats designed for that type of pitch.
- Consider your position: Cleats nowadays are made with particular positions in mind. Lighter boots are tailored to the more creative and fastest players, while more robust cleats are designed with center backs in mind.
BEST SOCCER CLEAT BRANDS
- Adidas: This German brand has been an innovator for nearly a century and is famous for its Predator and Copa Mundial lines.
- Nike: The American brand began making soccer cleats in the 1990s and instantly became a huge hit with the Mercurial Vapor range and Total 90s.
- Puma: The rival to Adidas, with the two companies founded by brothers, Puma is still a major player in the cleat world. The Puma Kings are up there with the best cleats of all time.
WHAT CLEATS DO FAMOUS SOCCER PLAYERS WEAR?
- Lionel Messi – Adidas L10NEL M35SI X Speedportal
- Cristiano Ronaldo – Nike Zoom Mercurial Superfly 9 XXV
- Karim Benzema – Adidas X Speedflow 1
- Kylian Mbappe – Nike Zoom Mercurial Superfly 9 XXV
- Erling Haaland – Nike Phantom GX
TIPS FOR BUYING FOOTBALL CLEATS
- Consider the cuts: No, we don’t mean bleeding, but the cut of the shoe! Linemen will prefer high-tops for better ankle support as they move from side to side. Mid-cuts will suit those with more diverse roles, such as quarterbacks, linebackers, and running backs, while lightweight low-cuts are better for receivers and cornerbacks who require speed and agility.
- Know the surface: This is as important for football as it is for soccer. If you are only ever playing on one surface, choose cleats designed for that surface. On the other hand, if you are playing on grass one week and a hard surface the next, go for some detachable cleats so you can adapt.
- Size matters: Cleats are not your regular shoes, so the size you usually take for work shoes or even sneakers may not be your cleat size. Always try a pair first before buying. If the size is not right, you will not be able to perform at your best, and this can even lead to injury!
BEST FOOTBALL CLEATS BRANDS
- Nike: The US giant has been making sports apparel since the 1960s and moved into cleats in the 1990s. Major products include the Alpha Menace and Vapor Edge Pro.
- Under Armour: Unsurprisingly, another American brand makes the list. Under Armour has only been around since 1996, but every NFL game will have a pair of Highlights or Spotlights on display.
- Adidas: The best European manufacturer of football cleats, Adidas has adapted its soccer knowledge to provide top football cleats such as the Adizero.
WHAT CLEATS DO FAMOUS FOOTBALL PLAYERS WEAR?
- Patrick Mahomes – Adidas Freak Ultra 21
- Joe Burrow – Nike Alpha Menace Elite 2
- Nick Bosa – Nike Jordan 1 High
- Justin Jefferson – Under Armour Spotlight 2022
- Aaron Donald – Nike Lunarbeast Pro TD PE
CAN YOU WEAR FOOTBALL CLEATS FOR SOCCER?
You certainly can. In particular, if you play one sport competitively and the other recreationally or only on occasion, you can certainly manage with only one pair. But if you are serious about playing both soccer and football, it will be worth investing in a pair of cleats for each sport.
DO SOCCER CLEATS WORK FOR FOOTBALL?
While they do work, be careful if you wear soccer cleats when playing football. The extra support that a football cleat offers is definitely needed in some positions. However, if you play in a position that requires speed and agility, a soccer cleat could be a good fit.
If you want to invest in one pair for both, we recommend either a low-cut, synthetic football cleat with removable studs or a leather soccer cleat with removable studs.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I REPLACE MY CLEATS?
The top athletes might get a new pair (or two) for every game, but you don’t need to do that! As a general rule, expect to get a full season’s use out of a pair at the very least. However, many amateur players will wear the same pair for much longer than that, and if you go for a good quality pair, your cleats may last longer than a single season.
As for price, if you want one pair that will last, invest in a pair in the $100 to $150 range.