Why Picking Out the Perfect Pair of Cleats Is So Important for Soccer Players
Soccer players get a bit of a break when it comes to equipment. You don’t need to buy expensive helmets, sticks, rackets, or thick padding for every square inch of your body. But the flipside is that the right pair of cleats becomes extremely important. There’s a reason, after all, that most of the world calls it “football.” If you don’t protect and support your feet appropriately, comfort and performance will suffer.
Your feet do everything in this game.For one, the average soccer player will run about 7 miles in a 90-minute game—that’s about double what a tennis player will run in a 3-set match, three times as much as a typical basketball player, and five times as much as a wide receiver or cornerback in an NFL game. But it’s not just about keeping your feet from getting sore after running an “unofficial” 10k on the pitch. Aside from occasional headers or trapping the ball with your chest, your feet are basically the only way you can interact with the game (unless you’re a goalkeeper, obviously). The demands on your feet and legs are massive:
- You need a soft first touch and good control for carrying the ball up the pitch and dribbling around defenders.
- You need precision accuracy for shooting and passing.
- You need the power to launch a shot on goal, put a cross deep into the box, or clear the ball out of danger.
- You need to be able to generate a quick burst of speed to get to an open space—or to close it off from an attacking opponent.
- You need to be able to stop, change directions, move laterally, and make all kinds of complicated maneuvers quickly, smoothly, and safely.
The boots don’t make the player—but they do matter.Of course, a great pair of cleats isn’t going to suddenly turn a substitute defensive midfielder into the team’s star striker. We don’t want to give you the wrong impression. A middling player with the best and most expensive gear is still probably going to have some struggles. And an elite talent would find ways to succeed despite their gear. This we do not deny. On the other hand, the quality of your boots is most certainly a critical component of your on-field performance. It’s not the only thing, or even necessarily the most important thing. But ask anyone who ever found that “perfect” pair of cleats, and they’ll tell you. No matter how talented you are (or aren’t), the right gear will definitely elevate your game. And they can even greatly reduce your risk of injury, too. For example: How heavy do you want your boots to be? Cleats have gotten lighter and lighter over the years, with some super-lightweight models less than 8 oz. That’s awesome news for wingers who rely on acceleration and speed, and can help any player meaningfully reduce their level of fatigue after 90 grueling minutes. On the other hand, the potential trade-off in stability or durability might not be worth it for some players—for example rugged, physical defenders. Likewise, different cleats have different strike zones, are made from different materials, and may have different kinds of tradeoffs between cushioning and “responsiveness.” Even the size, style, and arrangement of the studs on the bottom of the cleats might be great for soft grass but less ideal for artificial turf—or vice versa. In other words, it’s not simply a matter of “more expensive = better.” It may well be the case that a cheaper pair of boots is actually the superior choice for you personally! It all depends on how you play, what you play, where you play, and even what kind of foot type you have.
Don’t worry—we’ll help you find the perfect pairUnfortunately, finding the absolute best of the best for you and your game might require a little trial and error. We probably don’t have to tell you that the market is crowded with brands and styles of all types, with all kinds of features, advantages, and disadvantages. But you can rule out a lot of sub-optimal choices and make the journey to finding the perfect pair go a lot quicker by starting with a visit to the Colorado Center for Podiatric Sports Medicine. As the official team podiatrist for the Colorado Rapids, our own Dr. Yakel knows a thing or two about soccer cleats. Cleat evaluations for soccer players—pros and amateurs alike—is one of our specialties. We take as much into account as possible, including:
- The shape of your foot and your lower limb biomechanics. These can influence sizing recommendations, as well as help us determine whether or not you need custom orthotics. We may perform a gait analysis to help get the most precise information. And we get our soccer orthotics made at the same lab that serves the USMNT and the USWNT.
- The way you play. Are you a streaky winger? Nimble striker? Aggressive defender? All-around midfielder? Do you prefer to make a quick pass under pressure, or take on defenders one-on-one? We can make recommendations on the features you should look for based on your playing style and role within your team.
- The places you play. Do you spend most of your time on water-logged grass? Dry grass? Bare ground? Newer artificial surfaces? Older artificial surfaces? The cleats you choose—and in particular the type and arrangement of the studs—make a huge difference here. You want something that will provide good traction on your preferred field type.
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