Do You Need Cleats for Soccer?

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Soccer is a high intensity sport played both indoors and outdoors, and requires you to have the combination of endurance and agility. Soccer players are constantly turning, cutting, and accelerating on the field, and soccer cleats are an essential component to excelling and reducing the risk of injury. We go through which type of soccer shoes to wear on each field type.

Are soccer cleats necessary?

For outdoor soccer played on grass surfaces, cleats are a necessity. However, they are not required in the rules of soccer.

FIFA, the international soccer governing body, states this in their rulebook: “Shoes with soles containing aluminum, leather, rubber, nylon or plastic cleats, studs or bars, whether molded as part of the sole or detachable, are allowed.”

Pair of blue adidas soccer cleats on a goal net

For indoor soccer played on composite surfaces, many players prefer to wear turf indoor soccer shoes for youth or for adults instead. 

Do you have to wear cleats in soccer?

While there are no specific rules that force a player to wear cleats, it is highly recommended. And, almost every soccer player wears cleats, ranging from the youth levels to prep and collegiate all the way up to the professional level.

The two biggest distinguishing factors in whether to wear cleats are outdoor vs indoor soccer, along with the type of surface you’re playing on. 

Indoor and Outdoor Cleats

Generally speaking, outdoor soccer players wear cleats while indoor soccer players where shoes. The outdoor game is played on grass, or a grass-like surface, and so all the benefits that cleats offer can be utilized.

Indoor soccer is played on an artificial surface. Depending on the specifics of the surface, players will utilize cleats or turf shoes. That brings us to the second factor that determines whether you should wear cleats: the type of field surface. 

Natural and Composite Surfaces

The type of surface is more of a factor in what type of soccer shoe to wear than whether it is indoor or outdoor.

For example, outdoor soccer can actually be played on natural grass or artificial grass. Completely artificial surfaces are banned in leagues like the English Premier League, but are very common in other professional leagues like the MLS in the United States.

At the prep and rec level, composite surfaces are becoming a lot more common, as they are easier to maintain. Here are the four standard types of soccer field surfaces:

  1. Manicured and landscaped grass field: This is a well maintained field, typically seen on professional surfaces. You won’t find divots, potholes, or lumps. The field will be even and free of dirt or rocks. The grass will be of a consistent height and type. This type of surface is usually best paired with a soccer cleat with short, screw-in studs. 
  2. Non-manicured grass field: This is still a natural surface, but more common of what you find at a park or rec field. There are natural divots and lumps, and the grass is inconsistent. This type of surface typically requires a soccer cleat with a long stud. 
  3. Composite turf field: Newer turf fields that are made of composites, often times rubber and plastic. Players often prefer turf shoes in these conditions, but soccer cleats with shorter studs would also work. 
  4. Astroturf field: Old school turf fields that are the least likely to resemble a natural surface. With that being said, the style of astroturf would dictate whether to wear an indoor soccer shoe or a traditional cleat. 
Man in blue about to kick a soccer ball

How do cleats help you in soccer?

Cleats will help you in a variety of ways and will help you perform a lot better. Here are a few ways soccer cleats help:

  • Increased Agility: Whenever you plant while wearing cleats, the studs that protrude from the bottom of the sole dig into the grass. This gives you greater traction to make sharp cuts with. Given that soccer is a game with frequent starts and stops, along with a lot of side to side movement, cleats are imperative to maintain good agility. 
  • Less Chance of Injury: Cleats allow you to grip the ground and move your body the direction you want it to go. Without cleats, you increase the risk that your legs slip and slide. This is increased even more when you are making a hard cut, as the most frequent soccer injuries are ligament-based
  • Better Form Fitting: Soccer cleats are designed to form fit around your foot, giving you the best touch to the ball that you can have. When kicking a ball with tennis shoes or athletic shoes, the fabric and material in some places will actually affect your kick. Cleats provide the lowest resistance for kicking.

The most popular cleat brand in the Premiere League is Nike. This surprises many because adidas is so commonly affiliated with soccer, but Nike has won out in market share.

Can you wear metal studs in soccer?

While many players and officials believe that metal studs are outlawed in the game, that is actually not true. Metal spikes are traditionally worn at the higher levels of soccer, especially in areas that rain a lot. The metal digs into softer ground a lot better than plastic or rubber.

Metal cleats are banned at lower, youth levels many times. Youth soccer cleats are specifically designed to maximize safety for the players. 

Also, it is important to note that a referee can ban a pair of soccer cleats at any time he or she deem them to be unsafe.

Another soccer cleat regulation is that there can be no stud based at the front toe. Often times called the front toe, this is common to have on a baseball cleat, but is outlawed for soccer because of injury potential and how it can impact the kick.

This is why baseball cleats can not be worn for soccer. 

Rear of soccer cleats and a soccer ball

What other equipment is needed for soccer?

One of the greatest parts of soccer is that it can be played with relatively little equipment. Cleats, for example, are not mandatory for playing soccer. While you’ll want to have them for competitive play, it isn’t a requirement.

Shin guards are a necessity, and you’ll want to pick up a good pair of guards that protect your whole shin. You’ll also want soccer socks, because they are specifically designed to hold your shin guards in place.

It’s hard to imagine practicing and playing soccer without owning a soccer ball, and they are relatively inexpensive to pick up. Beyond that, there aren’t any other essential equipment pieces for soccer