The Guide to Choosing the Right Soccer Cleat

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. So I put together a guide to help you choose the soccer cleat that helps you the most. 

Soccer Photo

Cleats are the most used equipment by every player that has ever played soccer. 

Every touch on the ball and every step that a player takes relies on a quality pair of cleats. 

But a lot of players aren’t sure which type or brand will fit the best. 

How to avoid overspending or having to purchase a pair every month. 

To help you out, we have put together a guide to finding the best pair of cleats that tick every box. 

So let’s get right into the article!

Related article: What to Pack For a Soccer Tournament | Advice By MLS-Next Player

Soccer Pickup Tournament
‘Soccer Pickup Tournament’ (#1 Unsplash – Izuddin Helmi Adnan)

Four Significant Characteristics to Look for in Cleats

Picking the best pair of cleats comes down to several factors, which we will be discussing in the following subsections. 

Depending on personal preferences, different players might pick different cleats. 

So in this article, we will be discussing four main characteristics of soccer cleats; Price, Fitment, Durability, and Material.


#1: Price

When mentioning the qualities of cleats, price is generally the first to come to mind. 

Price is essentially the basis of all other qualities that cleats have.

The lower the price, the lower the quality. 

Most manufacturers have three price points for their cleats based on quality.

Top-quality cleats go for over $200, mid-range examples for $100 or more, and entry-level cleats cost roughly $60. 

But based on your needs, at which price point should you start looking for cleats? 

Price tags spelling out SALE
‘Price Tags Spelling Out SALE’ (#2 Envato – JulieAlexK)

What Price Range Should You Look For? 

The top-quality cleats generally go for roughly $200, sometimes even $300. 

Cleats as expensive as ~$200 are usually made with only performance in mind. 

They’re the lightest in most cases and feel the best on the ball or while running. 

So for consistent competitive use, I highly recommend starting with the top-line cleats when purchasing a brand-new pair. 

Of course, several other characteristics need to be considered before making a final decision, which we will talk about shortly. 

Cleats that cost around $100 are the middle ground between cleats made for competitive use, and entry-level cleats made for recreational use. 

For most players, this will be the best bet. 

Mid-range cleats are made for longevity with similar characteristics to the top-line examples. 

The largest differences are rooted in the material and construction of the cleats. 

The $100 examples are more difficult to break in and can feel stiff on the ball, so it’s obvious that longevity is their main purpose. 

I recommend buying these cleats for players at the youth level, as cleats are treated harshly with rough turf and more consistent use. 

Most cleats in this price range are durable, so they are likely the best bet. 

Last but not least, entry-level cleats are around the $60 price range. 

At this price, cleats are usually made of cheap plastic with affordability as the objective. 

Rough use will chew through these cleats quickly, with the failing point commonly being the thickness of the material. 

Holes can form where the ball impacts the cleats most often, and the adhesive of the studs often breaks as well. 

I recommend choosing cleats from this price range for players below the age of 10 where the playing environment is less rough. 

Alternatively, these cleats are perfect for players who only play on occasion. 

This fulfills the purpose of the cleats to be cost-effective and allows everyone to have fun playing the game at a low cost. 

#2: Fitment

Fitment is one of the most important aspects of performance as well as comfortability. 

It’s roughly the same across the price points, with the main difference being the construction and the materials. 

Fitment is best evaluated by first wearing the cleats.

During this time, there are four key aspects to look for when measuring how well a pair of cleats fit. 

These are overall tightness, length, width, and heel stiffness. 

Each one has its role while certain characteristics should be prioritized over others, depending on the player’s needs. 

Player Test Fitting Adidas Cleats
‘Player Test Fitting Adidas Cleats’ (#3 Unsplash – JC Gellidon)


The overall tightness of the cleat when first wearing them is usually the least important characteristic that should be worried about. 

Most cleats will stretch to fit perfectly after several uses.

Essentially, the objective is to find a pair of cleats that feel decently tight around the foot without causing any discomfort. 

Tightness is an issue when it causes pain while walking, or the shoe takes a different shape than it’s supposed to. 

In this case, the pair is overly tight, and it will not stretch enough to fit. 

Competing with an overly tight pair can cause pain or even injuries such as a sprained ankle. 

In this case, a larger size should be tried. 

On the contrary, when the foot can slide around inside the shoe, a smaller size should be tried. 

Having large cleats can reduce performance by making it difficult to control or even feel the ball. 

Additionally, running can also become difficult and increases the risk of injuries. 

So in this case, it’s best to try a smaller size. 


After confirming that the pair of cleats feel snug and comfortable, the length of the cleats should be checked. 

Sometimes the front of the cleat can be too long, leaving too much room in front of the toes. 

Although it’s possible to perform well even with the length of the shoe being too large, it’s better to avoid it. 

Controlling the ball will be difficult because this extra room cushions the ball before it touches the foot.

Try wearing a smaller pair. 

At other times, the length of the cleat can be too short. 

The issue is that the toes will crunch against the front of the cleat, causing pain or even a foot injury. 

Two solutions exist to this problem, the first one being a larger pair of cleats. 

If the next size up is too large, then we move on to the next solution.  

We previously said that cleats stretch over time to be the perfect fit without impacting performance or overall comfort. 

It holds in this case. 

As a last resort, it’s possible to wear two socks at once with a larger cleat to prevent the foot from sliding around, but this has a huge drawback. 

Wearing two socks causes the shoes to be overstretched, decreasing their lifespan significantly. 

I recommend avoiding this technique because it can cause soreness in the ankles and the foot, or even rip the cleats.  


Width is another significant aspect of cleats that has to be addressed.

Cleats are less likely to stretch toward the side because the laces hold the material together. 

Since playing with loose laces can decrease performance and even cause injuries, the only solution is to find a wider pair. 

A rule of thumb when looking for wider cleats is to find models constructed with leather.

Leather can stretch to size much better than synthetic materials, leather cleats are more comfortable for wide feet. 

Furthermore, Adidas-branded shoes are known for being more forgiving toward people with wider feet. 

I have had the opportunity to wear several pairs of their cleats, and from my experience, the Copa Sense series is the best pick. 

Additionally, the Nike Tiempo works just as well, for a cheaper price. 

Heel Stiffness

Some soccer players have longer or wider-shaped heels. 

It may bulge out a little bit toward the back or the sides, and in these cases, the heels of the cleats shouldn’t be overly stiff. 

Key characteristics to look for are padding or thick cushioning material inside of the cleats, and around the heels. 

Especially with examples made out of synthetic materials, padding is crucial to avoid blisters or chafing on the skin. 

Once again, leather cleats tend to be more forgiving than pairs made of synthetic materials. 

Unlike synthetic materials, leather stretches easily to take up the shape of the heels and is less likely to cause blisters or pain. 

#3: Durability

Durability is a characteristic that largely depends on the price of the cleats. 

Though different materials will also affect the durability, the price dictates the construction, and the quality of the materials used in the cleats. 

For this reason, we can break this subsection into three parts, for the three price points. 

Top-quality cleats that cost $200 or more, cleats that cost $100 or more, and anything below $100.

Please keep in mind that these prices are rough estimates, and prices can slightly fluctuate with sales or when new models are introduced. 

Soccer Player Dropping Their Cleats
‘Soccer Player Dropping Their Cleats’ (#4 Unsplash – Jonathan Ward)

Top-Quality ($200+)

As we mentioned previously, top-quality cleats prioritize performance over everything else. 

Lightness and comfort are the two main focuses of these cleats. 

So durability is a hit or miss at this price. 

Regardless, it can be assessed in two ways on top-quality cleats. 

The first aspect of durability is how the stud plate is attached to the body of the shoe

A very good sign that cleats can stand rough use is that there is no stitching along the seam of the studs. 

Stitching can rip during use, which will make it easier for the adhesive between the studs and the body of the shoe to break. 

When the adhesive breaks, the studs separate from the body, destroying the cleats. 

Feeling the thickness of the material that constructs the main body of the shoe is another way that durability can be assessed. 

Though this is an arbitrary method, a great comparison is an authentic pair of leather cleats. 

Getting a feel for the thickness of the material on these shoes can give an idea of how thick the material is on other pairs. 

As long as the thickness feels similar to its leather counterparts, the cleats are durable enough to last a while. 

Mid-Range ($100+)

Mid-range cleats are slightly different from top-quality cleats.

These examples are less focused on performance and comfort, but instead more focused on durability. 

The durability of mid-range cleats can also be assessed in a couple of different ways. 

The first method is the same as on top-quality models. 

Search for any stitching along the seam of the soleplates, where it connects to the main body of the shoe. 

Stitching is not the end of the world since these models are cheaper, but it’s still a good idea to avoid them when possible. 

The second way that the durability of mid-range cleats can be assessed is by feeling the stiffness of the material. 

The stiffer the material, the harder and more durable it is. 

Now, it’s also important to realize that stiffer shoes are more difficult to break in, which can lead to blisters or chafing on the skin. 

So as long as the material feels rough and strong, it’s likely a durable pair of cleats. 

Lastly, the thickness of the material can also be tested the same way as top-quality cleats, however, it will be less accurate. 

Mid-range cleats are made of less pristine materials because durability is the main focus. 

Essentially, these cleats are made of thicker and stronger materials, so it’s unnecessary to compare an already durable pair to another. 

Entry-Level (~$60)

Entry-level cleats are the most difficult to assess out of the three price points. 

Most of these cleats are made of the same plastic material with very simple construction. 

More often than not, they’re stitched and glued together with a weak adhesive.

From testing a few different brands at this price point, I was able to come up with a method to see how durable a pair is before purchasing them. 

I noticed that most pairs will crease at the inside of the foot, behind the bone where the big toe starts. 

This is where most cleats fail. 

Either because the material ripped or because the stud plate separated from the body of the shoe. 

So before making a purchase, try on the cleats and see if they crease in sensitive areas such as the inside part of the foot. 

These areas come in contact with the ball often, so they can wear down quickly if creases form. 

#4: Material

Last but not least, the material of the cleats should be taken into consideration as well. 

Different materials have different levels of durability, different feel on the ball, and different levels of protection around the foot. 

Since the three price ranges will have different types of materials, we will divide this section into the three price ranges as well. 

Black Soccer Cleats Made of Synthetic Materials
‘Black Soccer Cleats Made of Synthetic Materials’ (#5 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)

Top-Quality ($200+)

Top-quality cleats are most commonly made of thin, but expensive synthetic materials that provide a rigid structure to the cleats. 

These cleats are very light, tightly wrapping around the foot to become one with the player. 

Controlling the ball with these cleats feels raw, precisely feeling every touch on the ball. 

For the same reason, however, these cleats provide very little protection around the foot. 

It’s very painful to be stepped on and it can easily lead to broken toes or a broken foot. 

I recommend these cleats only to attackers who receive the ball often, as they need the raw feeling of the ball to control it consistently. 

Defenders should avoid these cleats because, without any protection around the foot, rough tackles can easily lead to injury. 

Leather cleats have very little in common with cleats made of synthetic materials. 

This material is much thicker, which provides a padded feeling to the ball. 

Leather cleats are great because they are very comfortable, last very long, and provide a lot of protection for the foot. 

I recommend these cleats to defensive players because the extra protection allows them to perform rough tackles with less risk of injuries. 

Mid-Range ($100+)

Mid-range cleats are also most commonly sold with different types of synthetic materials

These have similar characteristics to the materials used in top-quality cleats, with the key difference being the thickness. 

Mid-range cleats are generally made with thicker materials, providing a less raw feeling on the ball. 

So for this reason, I recommend these cleats to players who are relatively new to the game but play consistently. 

Mid-range cleats provide an affordable platform for players to improve and start mastering the sport of soccer at a more affordable price. 

A very similar material to leather that some cleats are constructed of is calfskin.

This material has similar characteristics to leather, starting with its flexibility and thickness. 

Furthermore, they provide enough protection to prevent injuries from happening when an opponent stomps on the foot. 

The only drawback of calfskin compared to leather is its durability. 

Calfskin generally starts looking worn earlier than leather, but the material can last just as long. 

Entry-Level (~$60)

Entry-level cleats usually only have one option in terms of material. 

A cheap, plastic-feeling material that provides little to no structure for the cleat. 

Some have thicker shells, and some have thinner shells, but the main advantage of this material is that it provides some protection. 

Entry-level cleats have thicker material than expensive models made with synthetic materials, so they naturally provide more protection. 

The downside is that this material lasts a very short time in a rough environment. 

Although the price difference is about $40 compared to mid-range cleats, entry-level cleats last half as long, if that. 

I only recommend entry-level cleats to recreational players who want the advantage of protection around the foot while maintaining affordability.

Orange Adidas Soccer Cleats
‘Orange Adidas Soccer Cleats’ (#6 Unsplash – Braden Hopkins)


Price is the first characteristic of cleats that comes to mind when purchasing cleats. 

Manufacturers usually split up their cleats into three different price points based on quality. 

The top-quality models go for anywhere between $200 to $300, made strictly for performance and comfortability. 

Mid-range examples sell for roughly $100 to $170, prioritized for longevity while still providing a quality experience. 

Lastly, entry-level cleats go for around $60, with the objective being affordability. 

Fitment is the next characteristic that follows, which is the same across the three different price points. 

Key aspects include correct sizing for the length and width of the shoe, as well as fitting for irregularly shaped heels. 

Durability closely relates to the price of cleats, as the quality of the material and construction of the cleats decreases with the price. 

Durable cleats generally have no stitching along the seam of the stud plate and the body of the shoe, leaving no room for rips. 

Additionally, the material that the body of the shoe is made of, is thick enough to handle rough playing environments. 

A quick way to test the thickness is to compare how thick it feels to how thick leather cleats feel. 

If the two feel similar, chances are that the cleats in question are durable enough for rough use. 

Material is mostly based on preference or position of play. 

Attackers should generally purchase synthetic material cleats because they provide a raw feeling of the ball. 

This allows them to control the ball consistently, feeling even the lightest touches. 

On the other hand, leather cleats are generally made for defensive players. 

This material protects the foot from injuries, allowing players to perform rough tackles without any risks. 

Image Attribution & Licensing

Featured Image: ‘Lineup of Quality Adidas Soccer Shoes’ by Fachry Zella Devandra (Licensed via Unsplash)

#1: ‘Soccer Pickup Tournament’ by Izuddin Helmi Adnan (Licensed via Unsplash)

#2: ‘Price Tags Spelling Out SALE’ by JulieAlexK (Licensed via EnvatoElements)

#3: ‘Player Test Fitting Adidas Cleats’ by JC Gellidon (Licensed via Unsplash)

#4: ‘Soccer Player Dropping Their Cleats’ by Jonathan Ward (Licensed via Unsplash)

#5: ‘Black Soccer Cleats Made of Synthetic Materials’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)

#6: ‘Orange Adidas Soccer Cleats’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)