Are Modern Soccer Cleats Better Than Old Soccer Cleats? Find Out

Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. Older cleats have always interested me and many others, but can they keep up with modern cleats? Here is everything you need to know. 

Soccer Photo

As soccer players become more involved with the sport, they naturally gain more information about the equipment they play with. 

More specifically, cleats. 

Many players, including myself, have gone through a phase of loving older generations of cleats and wanting to purchase a pair. 

The problem is that in the modern game, it’s crucial to have cleats that ensure peak performance during competition, which begs the question;

Are new cleats better than old ones, or is that just a myth? 

Modern cleats can be better than old models because they feature improved technology. New cleats have more aggressive stud plates, thinner and more durable materials, and lighter construction. Playing for 90 minutes can be more fatiguing and painful in older cleats than in modern cleats. 

In this article, we will compare the overall characteristics of the previous generation’s cleats to the ones players use today. 

By the end of this article, we will provide enough information to make it easier to decide whether or not it is worth purchasing older cleats. 

Related article: Everything to Know Before Buying Your First Pair of Soccer Cleats

Elite Synthetic Material Adidas Cleats
‘Elite Synthetic Material Adidas Cleats’ (#1 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)

What’s better, old or new? Let’s find out. 

We will use two specific cleats to represent the previous generation of cleats. 

The first pair of cleats is the Nike Tiempo Legend V, which represents leather cleats, and the second is the Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III, which represents speed boots. 

Why these cleats in particular? 

Firstly, these cleats were very popular during their release and are still popular among players with an appetite for older cleats. 

Additionally, we have first-hand experience with both cleats, which we can use to keep the article accurate. 

Please remember that these cleats are used to represent the previous generation of cleats as a whole, not to be individually compared to modern cleats. 

So without further ado, let’s get into the comparison!

Synthetic and Leather Material Cleats
‘Rubber Textured Modern Cleats & Leather Cleats’ (#2 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)

Why Wear Older Cleats? 

There are several reasons why players might want to wear older soccer cleats, but they rarely involve performance (we discuss performance in the next section). 

Here are some examples:

Firstly, players might want to wear older cleats because they grew up watching them. 

Whether it was during games or television commercials, many players grew up dreaming about owning a certain pair. 

It may be nostalgic to wear them, making it more enjoyable to compete with cleats that represent their continued love for the game. 

Other players prefer older cleats because of their design. 

Older cleats have a more sleek design than modern cleats, with a slick and smooth surface, while new models have texture differences, such as rubber bits. 

I’ve also heard fellow teammates tell me they preferred a disconnected tongue from the shoe, which is common in older cleats. 

I can’t confirm if that makes a difference; perhaps other players also thought about it, but I have yet to notice the difference. 

Lastly, players wear older cleats because a certain professional used to wear them. 

For example, the Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III was worn by Christiano Ronaldo, so it was popular among Ronaldo fans. 

Rarity can also be a contributing factor since these cleats have already been out of production for a long time. 

Professional Soccer Player Wearing Nike Mercurial Vapor 11
‘Professional Soccer Player Wearing Nike Mercurial Vapor 11’ (#3 Unsplash – Володимир Король)

Performance Aspects

So now we’re onto the performance aspects of newer and older cleats. 

The primary differences between older and newer cleats are the Material and its quality, Stud Pattern, Stud Plate, and Overall Weight. 

Slight differences in each category make cleats from various generations feel distinct, and we will discuss how each can affect performance. 

As a side note, some professional players wear older cleats and still perform well. However, there is a reason that most players prefer modern cleats. 

Modern cleats are custom fitted for professional players’ feet, have better technology, are more comfortable, and manufacturers have improved many components since previous generations. 

#1: Material Quality

When discussing the material in soccer cleats, one of the most important aspects is how the ball feels when players wear the shoes. 

Speed boots such as the Nike Mercurial series have adopted thinner synthetic materials that provide a more raw feeling of the ball. 

On the other hand, leather boots such as the Nike Tiempo or Adidas Copa Sense are still most commonly made with kangaroo leather, but they feature more padding than previously. 

So what does this mean? 

Speed boots today provide a more raw feeling of the ball because they’re constructed with a thinner material that transfers the ball’s impact more accurately to the foot. 

Using older cleats will not significantly impact the feeling of the ball, but it takes some time to get used to. 

While we can’t fairly compare durability due to material deterioration in older cleats, it’s important to know that the material in new cleats is of higher quality. 

Additionally, modern materials are better at taking up the shape of the foot once, so playing in them for a full 90 minutes is more comfortable. 

Leather Boots are more similar to each other between generations than speed boots mostly because they use the same type of material, kangaroo leather. 

The difference is that since newer leather cleats tend to be much softer and more padded, it takes a while to get used to the feeling of the ball. 

The padding cushions the impact more than before, so players who don’t regularly wear leather cleats will take time to get used to it. 

With that said, after I got used to wearing Nike Tiempo Legend 9 cleats, I could not wear any other cleats because of how good Tiempo cleats are. 

#2: Studs & Stud Pattern

The stud patterns on different generations of cleats can be much different from each other. 

On Speed Boots, manufacturers introduced more aggressive stud shapes and patterns during the previous decade of cleats. 

Newer cleats feature flat and more rectangular studs to dig into the playing surface efficiently, while older models have both cylindrical and flat studs. 

Newer patterns include studs around the perimeter and the center of the sole plate, while older models only feature studs around the perimeter. 

The difference in the traction between the generations is minimal, so I wouldn’t be worried about it. 

Leather Boots feature stud patterns that are less aggressive than speed boots and are more similar throughout generations. 

Newer leather cleats tend to have more flat studs than previous generations, which makes little to no difference. 

A benefit that older cleats have over newer models, however, is that more cylindrical studs provide a better platform for a Soft Ground conversion. 

Longer, metal counterparts can replace cylindrical studs to provide better traction on grass. 

#3: Stud Plate (Midsole Stiffness)

There are a couple of differences between older and newer generations of stud plates; midsole stiffness, material, and the feeling of the ball. 

The largest difference between generations featured on Speed Boots comes with the material of the stud plate. 

To help players run faster using the rebound of the shoes, some manufacturers experimented with stiffer midsoles made of carbon fiber. 

Compared to midsoles featured in modern cleats, they’re competitive, but newer models feel more responsive. 

Additionally, older sole plates lose their bounciness through normal wear and tear, while new cleats stay consistent through regular use. 

Leather Boots also featured the same upgrade as speed boots, but newer models come out on top when comparing the different generations of leather cleats. 

Older sole plates made of carbon fiber or other materials that were considered stiff for the time are exactly that, just stiff. 

Like speed boots, these sole plates are difficult to bend until broken in, but then they lose their bounciness. 

Newer leather cleats have similar sole plates as their speed boot counterparts, so they’re consistently bouncy and feel very responsive. 

#4: Overall Weight

The overall weight of cleats can be significant for players who play a lot of minutes during matches. 

Wearing heavier boots can slow down players’ stride while running and cause fatigue as the game progresses. 

Speed Boots have minor weight differences, with newer models being lighter and older models being slightly heavier. 

I generally perform the same practice routine during my individual training, and when I switched from new to old, I could not notice the weight difference. 

Though it was not a side-by-side comparison, the difference in weight between generations of speed boots is insignificant. 

Leather Boots have a more significant difference in weight between generations. 

Modern leather cleats, especially recently, have gotten significantly lighter than previous generations, reaching roughly the same weight as speed boots. 

So light that the difference in weight between modern speed boots and leather boots is unnoticeable. 

With that in mind, it’s possible to feel the difference in weight between old and new leather cleats, but it’s easy to get used to it. 

Soccer Player Wearing Nike Hypervenom Cleats
‘Soccer Player Wearing Nike Hypervenom Cleats’ (#4 Unsplash – Haiden)


The durability is difficult to compare between older and newer generations of cleats. 

Older cleats deteriorate as they go unused, with glue being the worst perpetrator. 

The glue in older cleats tends to get stiff and lose its strength after a while, causing it to break as the cleat bends. 

When this happens, studs commonly separate from the shoe’s body and destroy the cleats. 

The most common solution to this issue is to use a strong adhesive to glue it back together. 

Even if it doesn’t provide the same strength as the original glue, it may allow players to use the cleats sporadically.  

Modern cleats rarely have the adhesive break under regular use, so they’re a better option when considering durability. 

Additionally, if it does ever happen, most manufacturers consider it a flaw and replace them free of charge. 

Price Comparison

Older cleats will almost always be more expensive than new cleats. 

It makes sense because older cleats are out of production, but their demand is still high. 

While modern premium cleats can go for up to $300, cleats from the past decade can cost upwards of $1000 or more. 

If you want to shop for modern premium cleats at a more affordable rate, please check out our list of the best places to shop for less

Professional Soccer Player Wearing Nike Mercurial Vapor 11
‘New Rubber Textured Adidas Cleats’ (#5 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)

Conclusion: So Are New Cleats Better Than Old Ones?

So are new cleats better than old models? 

Yes, new cleats are better than old ones for various reasons, such as material quality, studs and pattern, overall weight, and durability. 

These characteristics may improve certain aspects of player performance, but at the same time, older cleats will not harm performance. 

Our only concern is durability since older cleats may deteriorate to the point where they break during regular use. 

They’re also costly, so ensuring they’re in great shape before purchasing is important. 

So what type of cleats do you prefer, the modern or the previous generation of cleats? 

Image Attribution & Licensing:

Featured Image: ‘Nike Mercurial Vapor 12 Elite and Superfly Vapor 12 Elite On Grass’ by Fachry Zella Devandra (Licensed via Unsplash)

#1: ‘Elite Synthetic Material Adidas Cleats’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)

#2: ‘Rubber Textured Modern Cleats & Leather Cleats’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)

#3: ‘Professional Soccer Player Wearing Nike Mercurial Vapor 11’ by Володимир Король (Licensed via Unsplash)

#4: ‘Soccer Player Wearing Nike Hypervenom Cleats’ by Haiden (Licensed via Unsplash)

#5: ‘New Rubber Textured Adidas Cleats’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)