Everything to Know Before Buying Your First Pair of Soccer Cleats

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. A large part of my ability to perform is having cleats that fit my needs. Here is everything that players new to soccer need to know about cleats. 

Soccer Photo

Arguably the most important piece of equipment that a soccer player can own to help them compete is a pair of soccer cleats. 

There are thousands upon thousands of cleats available on the market today, each being vastly different from the other. 

It can be overwhelming for new players to learn everything about cleats, so we made a guide tailored specifically for beginners!

We know that soccer is incredibly fun, and want to help you take full advantage!

Our main goal today is to provide the crucial bits of information to prevent anyone from feeling overwhelmed. 

If there is any confusion about a certain topic, so please be sure to check out any links embedded in the text for clarification. 


Related article: Are Futsal Shoes Useful for Soccer Development? | Shopping Guide

Soccer Player Showing Off Leather Futsal Shoes
‘Soccer Player Showing Off Leather Futsal Shoes’ (#1 Unsplash – Justus Menke)

The 7 Aspects of Soccer Cleats For Beginners

As a player who is new to soccer, it might not make much of a difference to get a certain cleat over another, so there is no need to stress. 

Instead, try to enjoy the process of finding your first pair of cleats!

Don’t be afraid to check out any cool-looking pairs because who knows, you might end up wearing them. 

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

#1: Price

For beginners, most cleat manufacturers divide each cleat model into three different versions. 

An entry-level version, a mid-range version, and a high-end version. 

The price follows the trend, with the entry-level version being the cheapest and the high-end version being the most expensive. 

Each one is slightly different in some way, with the most common difference being quality, stud pattern, and longevity. 

Here is what you should know about each. 

Price of Cleats
‘Stack of Money for the Price of Cleats’ (#2 Envato – RLTHeis)

Entry Level (~$60)

Entry-level cleats are the best start for players who are new to soccer. 

These provide a solid platform to start learning the fundamentals of the sport. 

There isn’t much more you need at first, and here is why. 

As the entry-level version of each model, the main goal is affordability and protection

They’re made of thick, but cheap materials to sustain affordability while also protecting the foot from injuries. 

Getting stomped or kicked in the foot is very common at lower levels of soccer so cleats with extra padding are a must-have.  

But regardless, marginal improvements such as thinner material for a better touch won’t make a difference during the learning phase of soccer.

If you’re completely new to the sport, this is the version of soccer cleats that I recommend. 

I had great fun with my first pair of soccer cleats because they protected my foot from injuries, and kept me playing soccer for 10 more years and counting!

Mid-Range (~$120)

Mid-Range cleats are where it gets more interesting. 

This version of cleats is tailored toward advanced players who play regularly throughout the week. 

It prioritizes the durability of cleats over everything else to allow players to spend money on cleats less often

Instead of being made of cheap plastics, these are most commonly made of fake leather or more durable synthetic materials. 

Allowing for extra features such as textured designs for better grip on the ball, or waterproofing. 

More high-tech stud patterns are also introduced on this version of cleats that provide better stability in certain situations. 

On top of that, these cleats are made of thinner materials that provide players with a more accurate feeling of the ball to increase performance. 

In my opinion, the upgrade from entry-level cleats is worth the money. 

The extra money spent on this version will save at least the same amount in the long run due to its longevity. 

From my experience, they can be used daily with games over the weekend, without having to buy an extra pair for the same season. 

High-End ($200+)

Whether high-end cleats are worth it is a hit or miss in most cases. 

The intended audience for this version of cleats is competitive players on high-level teams or Academy rosters. 

High-end cleats prioritize performance over everything else by using the best materials and technologies

These cleats use materials such as real leather or other synthetic materials. 

Stiff sole plates are also introduced in this version of cleats to improve sprint speed and acceleration. 

Furthermore, aggressive stud patterns are also used to allow players to dig in while performing sharp direction changes. 

It’s also possible to find cleats that are tailored for specific roles on the pitch, such as defending or attacking. 

Thin synthetics provide a better feel of the ball for skillful attackers, while padded leather protects defenders while performing rough tackles. 

I would only recommend high-end cleats to players who are serious about soccer. 

These shoes are as good as it gets regarding performance, responsiveness, and comfort. 

They last about half of a season with regular use, so it’s not the most affordable option out there. 

#2: High Top vs. Low Top

One of the most obvious differences between certain cleat models is whether they’re high-top or low-top. 

Low-top designs give more of a traditional look to cleats, without any extra features being added to the opening of the shoes. 

High tops, on the other hand, look futuristic with a sock extending out of the opening of the shoes.

But aside from cosmetics, does this have any function?

High-Top, Mid-Top and Low-Top Adidas Cleats
‘High-Top, Mid-Top and Low-Top Adidas Cleats’ (#3 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)

Benefits & Drawbacks of High Top Cleats

The most prominent function of high-top cleats is to improve ankle stability while playing. 

Supposedly, by grabbing onto the ankles, cleats are better connected to the player and become more responsive to movements made by the player. 

Some players also think that it’s more comfortable than traditional low-top designs, allowing players to wear them for longer periods. 

Furthermore, high-top sleeves add an element of protection for the ankle, reducing the pain when being stepped on.

From my experience wearing high-top cleats, I can say that the benefits depend on the model of the cleat. 

Some high-top models have all of these functions, while others don’t. 

It also depends on the player, the shape of their foot and ankle, and generally what they consider comfortable. 

So it’s a feature that has to be test fitted before making a decision. 

#3: Stud Pattern & Shape

Stud pattern is another difference that can be obvious just by looking at the cleats. 

But does it make a difference? 

The short answer is no, stud patterns barely make any difference. 

When beginning to play soccer, marginal improvements such as the stud pattern don’t matter. 

Here is what you need to know when starting to play at a higher level. 

Adidas Cleats With Shiny Sole Plates
‘Adidas Cleats With Shiny Sole Plates’ (#4 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)

Differences in Stud Patterns 

Studs are oriented across the bottom of the shoe so that the foot is balanced at all times

Whether that is walking or sprinting, all stud patterns have the same job. 

The difference comes when direction changes are introduced into the equation. 

When performing direction changes, players often shift their weight and lean their bodies at extreme angles, forcing them to use their toes and the outside of their feet. 

So it’s beneficial to have cleats with studs positioned near the perimeter of the stud plate. 

Though, there are also benefits to having more studs toward the inner part of the soles. 

These studs provide more stability when pivoting, backpedaling, or when the front of the soles is used to navigate the field. 

Central Defenders who do not make sharp direction changes benefit the most, as they will have better stability with this type of stud pattern.

Among many, it allows them to perform tackles with more stability, as more studs will be planted into the ground as they step to take the ball.

Difference Between Stud Shapes

The most common stud shape is a tapered cylinder. 

But in the last decade, manufacturers started using more aggressive shapes that provide better stability by catching more material. 

Ninety-degree, L-shaped corners are as common as cylindrical studs in modern cleats, but what’s the difference? 

As we said previously, aggressive corners do a better job of digging in to catch more material on the ground. 

The more material the studs catch, the better stability players have while running or changing directions. 

Well, what about cylindrical studs? 

Cylindrical studs don’t catch any material, they simply dig as deep into the ground as possible to provide stability. 

While these are adequate for players who are new to the game, more aggressive studs can make a difference for more advanced players. 

#4: Firm Ground vs. Soft Ground

A common difference that can easily be confused is between Firm Ground (FG) and Soft Ground (SG) cleats. 

It may already be obvious from the names, these titles refer to the playing surface. 

Leather Soccer Cleats Dragged on Rough Surface
‘Leather Soccer Cleats Dragged on Rough Surface’ (#5 Unsplash – Feo Con Ganas)

Firm Ground (FG)

Firm Ground (FG) cleats, also known as Artificial Ground (AG) cleats, have plastic stud plates that are designed for turf use. 

These studs are short and only dig into the turf about a half inch. 

It’s possible to use these on real grass as well, but please remember that the studs are very short so it’s easy to slip. 

The stud plate will quickly fill up with chunks of grass and prevent the studs from digging into the ground.

Slipping too many times can be dangerous and in the worst case cause an ankle injury or even broken bones from the impact on the ground. 

Soft Ground (SG)

Soft Ground (SG) cleats are designed for grass use and have much longer studs that are made of metal.

Metal studs are significantly longer than their plastic counterparts, making them a better fit for grass use. 

This means that grass chunks will not fill up the stud plate so it’s a much safer option for playing on real grass. 

Additionally, metal studs can be replaced with longer or shorter ones, depending on the playing surface. 

Players may want longer studs for muddy fields where players can slip easily, or shorter studs when the dirt below the grass is dry and hard. 

As long as the referee considers it safe, metal studs can even be used on turf fields.

#5: Midsole Stiffness

The midsole of cleats is integrated into the sole plate and is located below the arch of the foot. 

As a player’s foot touches the ground while they run, the midsole bends and provides support for the foot. 

As the foot leaves the ground, the midsole snaps back into its original shape so that the foot is straight. 

This propels players forward as they run and increase their speed and acceleration

Essentially, the stiffer the midsole is, the faster players are. 

Midsole stiffness can be tested by bending the cleat in the middle. 

As long as it’s fairly difficult to bend the cleats, the midsole stiffness will help your athletic performance, even if it has little effect. 

Additionally, letting go of the cleat to allow it to snap back into place can demonstrate how the midsole propels a player forward while running. 

Fast Player Passing Defender
‘Fast Player Passing Defender’ (#6 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

#6: Weight

Although modern cleats weigh roughly the same regardless of the model, it’s still a determining factor when looking for new cleats. 

The reason is that soccer games are very long compared to other sports. 

So any extra weight on the feet will cause significantly more fatigue over time. 

It will make running difficult, and performance levels will diminish. 

The largest determining factor for how much cleats weigh is the material that it’s made of. 

Leather or leather-like materials tend to be heavier than synthetics.

Especially when considering older cleats, the difference in weight between the leather cleats and plastic cleats is rather large. 

I would only recommend leather cleats to players who don’t constantly run throughout a game, such as central defenders. 

Another factor that plays a role in the weight of cleats is the sole plate

Soft Ground (SG) soleplates that are designed for grass use are much heavier than Firm Ground (FG) soleplates because of the metal studs. 

And although manufacturers have figured out ways to make them lighter, the plastic studs are still much lighter than their metal counterparts. 

Fabric Material Adidas Cleats on Display
‘Light, Fabric Material Adidas Cleats’ (#7 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)

#7: Material

We briefly mentioned in the previous section that the material of cleats has an effect on the total weight that a player has to carry on their feet. 

Leather cleats will be heavier than cleats made of Synthetic Materials, and Soft Ground (SG) soleplates will be heavier than Firm Ground (FG) soleplates. 

Another benefit that the material of the cleat can provide is protection for the foot. 

What makes leather cleats heavier than synthetic material cleats is that leather is much thicker than synthetic materials. 

So when an opponent steps on the player’s foot, leather will do a great job of absorbing the impact with its thickness to protect the player. 

Thin synthetic materials, on the other hand, tend to be very thin and provide little to no protection for the foot. 

Being stepped on causes a lot of pain, often bruising, and sometimes even an injury. 

But the benefit is that they are extremely light, and provide a less padded touch on the ball.

Adidas Copa Leather Cleats With Gold Stud Plates
‘Adidas Copa Leather Cleats With Gold Stud Plates’ (#8 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)


The Price is the first indicator of what quality the cleats are going to be. 

Entry-level quality goes for around $60, mid-range cleats for around $120, and cleats over $200 are high-end. 

The most notable cosmetic difference between cleats is whether they are high-top or low-top.

High-top shoes tend to be more comfortable and protective of the ankle, while low-top shoes give a traditional feel for cleats. 

Stud pattern & stud shape are also differences that can be obvious when looking at cleats. 

They can provide marginal benefits for players to increase their athletic performance. 

Firm Ground (FG) sole plates consist of plastic studs that are designed for use on turf fields. 

It’s possible to use them on grass, however, it can be dangerous as it increases the chances of slipping and getting injured. 

Soft Ground (SG) sole plates are much heavier than their plastic counterparts, consisting of longer metal studs, designed for use on grass fields. 

The metal studs are interchangeable with longer or shorter ones, depending on how soft the playing surface is. 

Midsole Stiffness is all about speed and athletic performance. 

The midsole is located below the arch of the foot and is designed to propel players forward while running. 

As the midsole bends when the foot touches the ground, it snaps back into its original shape as it leaves the ground, propelling the foot forward. 

The weight of cleats is another factor that can potentially affect the performance of a player. 

Players who need to carry more weight on their feet will be fatigued earlier than others, decreasing their performance. 

The material of the cleats also greatly matters, especially when considering injury prevention. 

Certain materials are thicker than others, such as leather, which will provide significantly more protection than thin synthetic materials. 

Image Attribution & Licensing

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

#1: ‘Soccer Player Showing Off Leather Futsal Shoes’ by Justus Menke (Licensed via Unsplash)

#2: ‘Stack of Money for the Price of Cleats’ by RLTHeis (Licensed via EnvatoElements)

#3: ‘Adidas Cleats With Shiny Sole Plates’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)

#4: ‘Adidas Cleats With Shiny Sole Plates’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)

#5: ‘Leather Soccer Cleats Dragged on Rough Surface’ by Feo Con Ganas (Licensed via Unsplash)

#6: ‘Fast Player Passing Defender’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#7: ‘Light, Fabric Material Adidas Cleats’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)

#8: ‘Adidas Copa Leather Cleats With Gold Stud Plates’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)