Soccer cleats or football boots as they are known around the world come in many different combinations and permutations of upper, cleats and playing surface. Let’s outline the basics:
The cleats or studs are designed to be used in different weather and field conditions as follows:
Soft Ground (SG)
Soft Ground (SG) or “Screw ins” are typically used in wetter conditions around the world such as Northern Europe and Northwest USA. These tend to have fewer cleats/studs and can be interchanged. The replaceable cleats or studs are usually removed and replaced using some kind of spanner/wrench/key. The cleats/studs tend to be longer so as to grip into the softer ground and/or mud. Typically the back two cleats/studs are a little longer than the 4-6 cleats/studs under the front of the foot. Traditionally “Screw ins” were the cleats/boots worn by pro players, but since the quality of pitches around the world have improved with drainage, you very rarely see mud or waterlogged conditions on a pro soccer pitch/field.
Hard Ground (HG)
Hard Ground (HG) consist of many smaller cleats/studs and are typically used when playing on hard, dry grass, all weather (artificial) pitches and even snow/ice conditions.
Turf Shoes are very similar to Hard Ground shoes, but there tends to be even more cleats and they are usually a little shorter than Hard Ground cleats. They can be used on modern artificial grass fields, dry grass fields and in the street.
Indoor or futsal shoes are similar to tennis shoes and are worn on indoor turf fields, indoor wood floor gymnasiums, plastic sport court surfaces and on the street. They have a much thinner sole to them than tennis shoes to keep the foot low and avoid ankle rollovers. Most wood surfaces require the shoes to be non marking so that they do not leave unsightly marks on the wood surface.
It is very important to make sure that the soccer player selects the correct shoe for the conditions at the time. Ideally the soccer player should have two types of shoe available in order to give them the best options. Selecting the right shoe for the playing conditions will help reduce injuries as well as permit the soccer player to perform without any difficulties.
This is the part of the soccer shoe that wraps around the foot and forms the primary surface for contacting the ball. The upper part of the shoe can be made using synthetic and/or natural material such as leather.
Over time the upper part of the shoe has undergone tremendous research and development as soccer shoe makers attempt to launch a shoe that can claim to improve the touch and feel on the ball, the power and accuracy of shots and passes and the speed or pace of the soccer player wearing them. Often such claims are clever wordsmithing from the companies’ marketing departments.
When choosing which type of upper for a soccer shoe, the soccer player has to decide upon comfort, touch and feel on the ball and durability. The soccer player should also consider the likely weather conditions and field conditions also. Water retention, heat evaporation, ability to stretch in warmer climates, ability to dry off quickly in wetter conditions are all factors to be considered.
Here are the major options available when selecting the upper of a soccer shoe:
Usually thicker, more durable and more affordable. More suited to wetter conditions and frequent use.
This kind of upper is softer, more comfortable and provides a nicer touch on the ball. Not as durable or tough as full-grain/calf skin leather. Also more expensive as well.
Pittards leather is a specialized kind of leather exclusive to the German soccer brand, PUMA. This is an attempt to provide the softness of a kangaroo upper and the durability of a calf skin upper.
Synthetic shoes can range from very cheap plastic shoes right through to the top of the line material in crazy colors! Typically the appeal of these kinds of uppers are the lightness of the shoe giving the impression that wearing them will improve the speed of the soccer player. Synthetic uppers provide manufacturers with the ability to be creative in terms of colors and designs as well. Often players chose these types of uppers favoring fashion and coolness instead of comfort and performance. While super light synthetic uppers may help the soccer player run quicker because they are carrying less weight, they often forfeit the quality of the touch on the ball and the ability to control the ball as well as shoot and pass accurately.
Soccer shoe manufacturers often combine different surfaces on the soccer shoe to try and provide the best of both worlds between lightness and speed as well as durability and comfort.
Some cleats have a synthetic surface on the upper in the regions where the upper contacts the ball more often, a classic example if this was the old Adidas Predator cleats.