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Men’s Football Cleats Buying Guide
Whether you’re buying cleats for yourself, your varsity football star or your peewee football starter, choosing the best football cleats maximizes performance and prevents injury. The specialty shoes have features designed to work with the rugged requirements of the gridiron, but sorting through the differences from one pair of cleats to the next can be difficult.
Explore this football cleats buying guide to buy your football player the footwear he needs for a successful season.
Importance of Buying Football Cleats
Why does a football player need specialty shoes? Football cleats are designed with the unique demands of the football field in mind. Outfitting your player with football cleats may help him reach his potential and stay safe on the field.
Here are some reasons why buying football cleats is important:
- Football-specific support: Football cleats take into consideration the types of movements and the potential sources of injury that face football players. They provide the structure and support that makes those moves easier and safer. Cleats for baseball or other activities have different features with those sports in mind. It’s important to choose sport-specific cleats for the greatest protection and performance.
- Traction: The cleats provide traction on the football field. This can be particularly important on different playing surfaces and in rainy or slick conditions. Without proper traction, football players would slip and slide around the field and miss out on the grip they need to explode down the field.
- Ankle protection: Ankles face a lot of strain and potential for injury in a typical football game. No matter their position on the field, supporting and protecting ankles is a concern. Football cleats are designed with that support in mind, minimizing the risk of sprains and other ankle injuries.
Anatomy of a Football Cleat
All football cleats include an upper, midsole, outsole and cleats. Each distinct area features a special design made just for the demands of playing football. Inspecting all the different parts helps you find a cleat that provides the greatest protection and suitability for a particular player.
The upper portion covers the top of the foot and ankle. It is the flexible material that often contains the designs and logo of the shoe brand, in addition to protecting the foot in game situations. Football cleat uppers typically consist of either leather or synthetic material.
Leather football cleat uppers offer greater protection and support while still allowing for flexibility. Leather cleats tend to mold and stretch to the foot, but they become overly stretched eventually. Leather is more absorbent, which can cause heaviness and require a little more care. Leather cleats are generally more durable, but they often come with a higher price tag.
Synthetic materials tend to retain their shape better when the shoe gets wet. They usually weigh less than leather and are easier to make waterproof. Some synthetic upper materials aren’t as durable as leather and lack the breathability and flexibility you get with leather.
When checking out the upper portion of the football cleat, pay attention to the closure method. Tied laces are common and allow for control over the tightness of the shoe. Velcro tabs are sometimes used to secure the shoe. Cleats may combine laces with tabs. Others use solid strapping to provide extra support at the ankles.
The midsole cushions the feet, forming the inner layer where the foot rests. You’ll find a variety of materials and many different technologies that provide support and cushioning for various situations and feet types. Those advanced technologies may provide a bit more cushioning or support, but determine if you actually need that extra technology before spending more money for it.
The outsole is the visible outer sole portion that touches the ground. This portion of the football cleat protects the bottom of your feet and helps support the midsole. Football cleats typically offer less flexibility in the sole area than other athletic shoes. This stiffness is necessary to properly support and protect your feet.
Cleats, also known as studs or cleat studs, go onto the bottom of the outsole. These bumpy or spiky pieces give you traction on the field. They dig down into the ground, giving you grip to maneuver on the surface instead of slipping across it.
Styles of Football Cleats
When figuring out how to choose youth football cleats online, the style is one of the biggest ways to narrow down the options. Football cleats come in three basic styles: high-tops, mid-cut and low-cut. Each style of adult or youth football cleats comes with pros and cons, often based on the position your athlete plays on the football field.
Let’s explore the styles of football cleats:
- High-tops: High-top football cleats feature an extended upper section that covers the ankle. That extra support can minimize the risk of ankle sprains, particularly when making lateral movements on the field. High-tops are often useful for linemen since they often move laterally during game play. Players who have weak ankles or who have had previous ankle injuries may opt for a high-top cleat to provide extra support against ankle stress and strain. Others simply prefer the extra stability, no matter what position they play.
- Mid-cut: Slightly lower than the high-top style, mid-cut football cleats hit at the ankle. This option blends stability and support with speed and movement. The weight is also balanced: not quite as heavy as a high-top cleat but slightly heavier than a low-cut cleat. Skilled players often wear mid-cut cleats. This includes quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs. These skilled players get some ankle support without the cleat interfering with the specific moves and skills required of the position.
- Low-cut: The low-cut football cleat hits just below the ankle, giving it a look similar to a soccer cleat. The stopping point below the ankle means less support and stability in that area. The advantage is better flexibility in the ankle, which can allow for cutting across the field suddenly. The lower style also cuts weight, keeping the footballer light on his feet for faster speeds on the field. These cleats benefit agile players who rely on their speed and mobility to make plays.
Molded Versus Detachable Cleats
Football footwear comes in two basic cleat styles: molded and detachable. Like the style of football shoes, the type of cleats each come with advantages and disadvantages, depending on player preference and playing conditions.
Molded cleats attach permanently to the shoe’s outsole. You cannot replace the cleats on this style. The arrangement of the cleats often varies by brand, but the bumps typically span the entire length and width of the shoe. Check out some of the features and considerations of molded cleats:
- Suitable for turf: Molded football cleats work well on turf fields because of the traction they afford. Turf fields often require more traction for body control.
- Low maintenance: This type of football cleat doesn’t need much care during the football season since you won’t be removing, replacing or swapping out the cleats. You simply put on the cleats before a game, and you’re ready to play.
- Affordable: Molded cleats are typically less expensive than detachable cleats, which makes them a more affordable option for rec leagues or occasional play.
- Lack of flexibility: Since you can’t swap out the cleats on molded soles, you only have one option in terms of traction. This makes it difficult to adapt the cleats to different playing conditions. It also means once the cleats wear out, you have to replace the entire shoe instead of just replacing the cleats.
Detachable football cleats allow you to remove the cleats and replace them with new cleats. While the arrangement may vary somewhat, detachable cleats usually follow a seven-stud design with cleat locations including two on the heel, four on the ball and one at the front, under the toes. Cleat locations can range from six to 10, depending on the manufacturer and the model.
Keep these things in mind when considering detachable football cleats:
- Versatility: Because you can change the cleats to different sizes and lengths, this type of football shoe gives you the greatest versatility for varied field conditions. For example, the player can use shorter studs on a dry field one week and longer studs the next week for a rainy game day. Detachable stud sizes include ½ inch, 3/8 inch, ¾ inch and 1 inch.
- Replacements: Choosing a detachable cleat style can extend the life of the footwear. If the cleats start to wear out, you can simply replace them instead of buying an entirely new pair of football cleats.
- Difficulty for youth players: Older, more experienced players can easily determine the proper cleat type and change them with the wrench tool required for the job. Younger players may have more difficulty changing the cleats before a practice session or game.
The cleat material is another factor in determining the quality of a football shoe. Metal, rubber and plastic materials are all options for cleats. As manufacturing practices advance, new materials become available, offering new advantages on the field. Here are some newer cleat materials and the benefits of each:
- Thermoplastic polyurethane: Lightweight yet durable; water resistant; able to take high impacts with less denting than metal; holds up in extreme temperatures
- Polyurethane: Elasticity of rubber with high durability; holds up well in extreme weather
- Pebax: Thermoplastic elastomer; lightweight yet supportive; resists impact; works in extreme weather without stiffening or weakening
- Poron urethane: Permeable layers to help keep feet dry; breathable; stands up to impact; won’t shrink or weaken
- Ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA): Flexible yet durable and crack-resistant; highly resists water; holds up well in extreme temperatures
When choosing between molded and detachable cleats, consider the player’s age and ability to handle stud changes. Molded cleats are often sufficient and easier for a younger player to handle. Since molded cleats are more affordable, going that route is often the most economical option for young kids whose feet continue growing.
When your child’s feet stop growing — usually sometime in high school — investing in detachable cleats may be worth it. Teen and adult football players may prefer the flexibility of detachable cleats.
Before choosing a pair of football cleats, check with the league to determine if there are certain requirements or restrictions. Some leagues ban detachable or metal cleats. This is particularly true at the youth level. Some beginning football leagues don’t require specific football cleats or recommend only wearing molded cleats.
If detachable cleats are allowed, the league may limit the length. For example, a high school or rec football league may allow studs up to ½ inch. Anything longer would be banned.
No matter the level of football play, understanding league regulations before making a purchase saves you money. If you show up in a pair of restricted cleats, you may not be allowed to play in that game, and you’ll need to spend more money to buy the proper type of cleats.
Football Cleat Fit and Sizing
Football cleats need to fit the athlete properly in order to fully protect the foot. It’s tempting to buy a size larger than needed, especially for young players with rapidly growing feet, to get more use out of them. Unfortunately, this puts the wearer at risk for injury on the field. Resist the urge to save money by choosing cleats that fit your child’s foot right now.
Don’t just assume you or your football player will wear the same size in cleats as he does in regular shoes. Measuring the foot before buying cleats is essential for getting a proper fit, especially if you’re buying cleats for a child whose feet are still growing. Measure feet while standing up, preferably at the end of the day when feet are at their largest. Go with the measurement of the longer foot.
Use these tips for trying on football cleats and finding the best fit:
- Bring socks: Take along a pair of game socks so you can try on the cleats the way they’ll be worn in the game. If the player uses any additional inserts, orthotics or other support items, try the cleats on with those as well to ensure they work together.
- Consider width: The length of the player’s foot helps narrow the selection down to a specific size, but the width of the foot is also a factor. Some football cleats may come in a wide or narrow version to better fit the player’s foot. This allows for comfortable wear and the greatest amount of protection for the foot.
- Wiggle the toes: Football cleats should fit snugly, but the toes should not be crammed into the toe box. While standing, have your football player wiggle his toes. If he can’t move them around, the shoe is not a good fit. Look for something with a little more space in the toe box.
- Check the length: Too much extra length makes the football cleats difficult to wear. Buy cleats no more than a thumb’s width longer than the longest toe. This gives you a little room for growth and movement without being so large that the cleats interfere with game play.
- Look for immediate comfort: The idea of waiting until you break shoes in for comfort is not a winning strategy. While football cleats may become more comfortable as they mold to your feet, they should feel comfortable right away when you try them on. Avoid buying a pair of cleats that seem to pinch or rub uncomfortably. These issues may never go away and could cause blisters or raw spots on your feet.
- Test your moves: It may feel a little silly, but try some of the moves you do on the field while trying on the football cleats. If you order your cleats online, you can do this at home. If you buy in the store, don’t worry about what others think. Pretend like you’re on the field and perform a few moves. Do the cleats allow you to perform those skills fully? Do they feel comfortable while doing the football moves? If they seem to inhibit your normal movement, try a different pair.
- Check tightness and looseness: Football cleats should fall somewhere between too tight and too loose. Tight shoes rub and cause foot pain. Loose cleats may slip off the heels, which is annoying and could affect your football performance.
Brands of Football Cleats
When you buy football cleats, brand is often a deciding factor. Choose a name brand football cleat from a reputable shoe manufacturer to ensure the quality of the shoe. Many youth football players have a brand preference or want to have the prestige of a particular brand of cleat.
Nike offers a variety of football cleat models bearing the classic swoosh symbol. That brand recognition helps your youth football player fit in on the field. Some examples of Nike football cleats for kids include:
- Nike Shark football cleats
- Nike Alpha Pro football cleats
- Nike Lunar football cleats
- Nike Code Pro football cleats
Under Armour men’s and boy’s football cleats are another name brand option. Under Armour football cleats for sale include many high-top options. Youth Under Armour football cleats come in a variety of colors to coordinate with team colors or personal preference. Some examples of Under Armour boy’s football cleats include:
- Under Armour Crusher cleats
- Under Armour Highlight RM football cleats
- Under Armour Highlight MC cleats
If your child’s foot is too large for the Under Armour youth football cleats, move up to the sizes in Under Armour men’s football cleats to get a better fit.
The look of a player’s football cleats and gloves can also play into the decision-making process. If your child plays on a team, check on color or style requirements. For example, the team might require black football cleats in any brand or something more specific, such as white Under Armour football cleats. Shoelaces may need to match the color of the football cleats for uniformity. Some leagues may allow an accent color even if the cleat needs to be primarily white or black.
Buying Football Cleats
Knowing how to buy football cleats saves you time and money while ensuring your football player has the support and protection he needs on the field. If you choose to buy football cleats online, check the return policy to ensure you can return or exchange the cleats if they don’t work for your child. Read the description and specs well to find cleats online that fit your football player’s needs.
When you buy cleats, consider picking up some extra items:
- Extra cleat studs: If you order detachable cleats, buy extras as replacements. This gives your player backup studs should something happen to one. You can also order different sizes of cleats if your player wants the versatility of changing the size to match the playing conditions.
- Cleat wrench: Detachable cleats require a special cleat wrench to remove or replace the studs. Make sure you have one on hand if you buy a pair of detachable cleats.
- Extra laces: Always have extra laces of the correct length on hand. This allows for a quick lace change if one breaks during a game or practice.
- Protection: Extend the life of the football cleats by using shoe oils and conditioners. These products increase the durability of the cleat material and help them stand up to water, extreme temperatures and other weather-related issues.
Are you ready to score a touchdown with a new pair of football cleats? Schuylkill Valley Sports has you covered from ankle to toe. We offer a wide selection of styles, brands and materials in football cleats for both men and boys. Check out our football cleat selection online, or visit one of our store locations where our store associates are ready to assist you in finding the best football cleats that fit your needs. We offer all the gear you need for a win on the football field, with a wide selection of high-quality products for the football player in your life.