The Essential Soccer Equipment List

Soccer is an easy sport to pick up and start playing, partially because it doesn’t require very much equipment. At its core, all you need is ball and you play a pickup game. Once you start playing a little more, though, you’ll find that there is a collection of essential soccer gear that you’ll want to have.

We’ve put together our complete soccer equipment list, in order from most important to least. We have each of these for our soccer playing.

Cleats

A good pair of soccer cleats is by far the most essential piece of equipment for playing this wonderful game. One of the beauties about soccer is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of gear to play, but cleats are the exception – we would consider them a must have.

Cleats allow you to plant, cut, and accelerate on the field. They are designed to form fit your foot, resulting in better touch on the ball. Without cleats, you’ll be slipping all over the field, and your traps, passes, and kicks will be off.

Every foot is different, and so you’ll want to spend some time making sure you grab the right pair. For example, there are specialized cleats for wide feet and for flat feet. Depending on your specific foot, these specialized cleats can be a lot more comfortable, while also giving you better accuracy at the same time.

Close up of a soccer ball and some adidas soccer cleats

In addition, there are specialized cleats for the specific position you play. This might not be very important if you’re buying a pair of cleats for your kids, but as you get into the high school and club spots, you might want to consider it. You can pick up a pair of cleats designed for forwards and strikers, for midfielders and wingers, or for defenders and fullbacks.

If you weren’t overwhelmed enough by all those options, keep in mind that you’ll want a different style of shoe if you play indoors. Indoor soccer differs a lot from outdoor soccer, but the most important difference is that you’re playing on turf.

Most indoor players prefer wearing a high traction shoe rather than a cleat, although some styles of cleats can be worn indoors. Either way, look up the rules for where you’re playing before making a decision.

Shin Guards

Shin guards might seem a little funny until you’ve played a game of soccer, and then you realize how essential they are. A fast paced game of soccer typically comes with its fair share of ankle hacks and shin kicks. Without guards, you can do serious damage to your shins.

Shin guards as a concept have actually been around since the ancient Greeks used them in battle. In soccer, they were first introduced in 1874 by Sam Weller Widdowson. Their popularity and has waxed and waned over the years, but they have always been a consistent in the sport.

It wasn’t until FIFA required shin guards in the 1990’s that a lot of effort was put into their form and fit. Nowadays, you can find shin guards in all shapes and sizes, depending on your preferences.

The two most common types of guards are sleeve shin guards and slip-in shin guards. Sleeve guards are worn, almost like an additional sock. Slip-in guards are just as they sound – they “slip-in” underneath your socks. A modified version of the sleeve version comes with an ankle support brace as well, which is particularly great for defenders.

You’ll find a lot of debate over which is preferred. Generally speaking, sleeve guards are preferred until a player reaches the high school level, and then its up to personal preference. The best pair of shin guards will depend on how much protection you want vs how much comfort your prefer.

Socks

With shin guards a requirement in the game, soccer socks have a new level of importance as an essential piece of equipement. The rules state that your shin guards must be fully covered by your socks. In other words, you’ll need a good pair of socks specifically designed for soccer.

Soccer socks should fit tight and come all the way up to the knee. As a matter of fact, they will typically go above the knee, and the style is to fold them down and back over your guards, in essence doubling up on the sock over this area.

Good socks are made from state-of-the-art synthetic material like nylon, polyester, and spandex. This helps keep the sock up on your leg while running, while also wicking moisture and sweat away.

If you play on a team, you’ll usually want several pairs of socks. Your team uniform, which is typically provided, will work for games, but you’ll need socks for practice. And, with multiple practices per week, it’s usually a good idea to have enough socks for a full week of activities.

Soccer Ball

You might think that a soccer ball should be higher on the list, and in many cases, you would be right. While you obviously need a soccer ball to play soccer, you often don’t need to buy one right off the bat. With that being said, if you expect to improve any, you’ll need to pick one up.

For starters, make sure you get the correct size ball. Technically balls come in sizes 1-5, but you’ll typically see sizes 3-5 most commonly used. Size 3 is generally for ages 8 and under, size 4 is for ages 8-12, and size 5 is for 12+.

Close iup of a blue and black Nike soccer ball on a soccer field

There are also different quality levels of soccer balls, with the two most common being training balls and match balls. Match balls are usually reserved for game situations, and so you’ll probably be looking to pick up a good training ball.

You can buy soccer balls made of varying degrees of leather and synthetic, and can find options for really cheap and really expensive. It might be worth it pick up a couple of different brands, styles, and makeups to see which you prefer.

Goalkeeper Gloves

Obviously, if you aren’t planning on playing goalie, then you can skip over this section – you don’t need gloves unless you’ll be playing in goal. However, for a goalie, gloves are perhaps the most important piece of equipment they can own.

Again, if you’re new to soccer, you might thinking “you just need a pair of gloves, right? Nothing more”. But, there is actually a lot that goes into goalie gloves, and several important things to consider.

For starters, the nicer the glove, the more padding they will have throughout the glove. Padding helps protect your hands from hard shots. Nicer gloves will also have better grip throughout the glove, which is essential for trying to catch a rapidly moving ball.

Higher-end gloves also have finger and wrist protection incorporated into the design. Hard shots can do a number on your fingers, bending them back to the point where they dislocate. The best goalie gloves have finger guards and wrist protection to keep you safe.

With all of the diving and sliding that you do in goal, cheaper gloves wear out quickly. That’s not to say that you need to spend a lot of money, but definitely spend a little time reading up and buying a pair that will last you for several seasons.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning: you don’t have to have gloves to play goalie. It isn’t a mandated piece of soccer equipment, and there are plenty of people who play without them. However, you’re at a disadvantage – goalie gloves are worth their weight in gold.

Gear Bag

There are a lot of little items you’ll want to have with you while you play soccer. Typically, these range from a water bottle to tape to a pump for your ball, along with any personal items and maybe a snack.

While none of these are requirements, you’ll end up wanting at least a few of these, and you’ll need a bag to carry it in. There are actually quite a few different types of gear bags you can get to hold your soccer equipment:

  • Ball Bag: These are bags designed to only hold your soccer ball. Usually, you’ll be picking up a bag to carry a number of soccer balls. This is typically needed by a coach who has to transport balls back and forth to practice. Just grab a basic mesh bag – no need to spend a lot on this!
  • Gear Bag: This is just a standard gym bag, in practice. Bonus if you buy one large enough to hold a single soccer ball along with your other gear. We like this model made by adidas.
  • Gear Backpack: A soccer gear backpack is a lot more robust, and a great option, especially if you’re on a traveling team. These are a lot more robust than just a standard, over-the-shoulder bag – we love this updated version from adidas.
  • Combo: Need the best of both worlds? This backpack from Diadora stores a soccer ball and also acts like a gym bag that you can wear on your back.

Water Bottle

One thing is for certain when you’re playing soccer – you’ll exert a lot of energy. Soccer is a fantastic cardio workout, and you’ll be doing a lot of running, whether at practice or playing in a game.

As such, make sure you have a water bottle that stays in your gear back. We recommend one that is dedicated completely to soccer. That way, you’ll have less of a chance of forgetting it or leaving it somewhere else.

Yellow water bottles ina tray for soccer players

We love this athletic water bottle by Embrava – it holds 32 oz of water, has a really large and simple cap to drink from, and is BPA free and eco-friendly.

Uniform

For most, this isn’t a big concern, because your uniform will be issued to you by the team you play on. From rec soccer to organized club soccer, all the way up to the collegiate level, soccer teams pretty much always include a uniform as part of the program.

Where it can matter is when you are playing in a pickup game, or on an adult recreation team. In either of these situations, you might need to have a couple of different options that your team agrees on.

For example, it’s not uncommon that all of the players on an adult indoor soccer team agree on a specific jersey top to wear. Here’s a simple, generic soccer jersey by adidas that you can pick up.

Another option is to just pick up a collection of pinnies, which are essentially vests that you wear over top of your shirt. This is an easy way to organize a pick up game of soccer and ensure that each team is wearing the same color. You don’t have to spend a lot – here is a great cheap option on Amazon.

Practice Clothing

Beyond any sort of uniform that you wear, you’ll need clothes to practice soccer in. We’ve already discussed the socks that you need to wear, but you’ll need shorts and shirts to exercise in.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when you’re picking up a good pair of soccer shorts. For starters, this style of shorts normally goes most of the way down your thigh, but rests above your knee. In essence, soccer shorts are longer than running shorts, but shorter than basketball shorts.

You don’t want shorts that are too baggy, which is why it’s best to avoid the classic gym shorts. With that being said, make sure they aren’t too short – you’ll appreciate having some material between you and the ground when you go in for a slide tackle. If possible, stick with a good pair of shorts designed specifically for soccer.

When it comes to shirts for playing soccer in, any athletic top will do just fine. Many prefer an option that is breathable and wicks moisture, which is great if you ever find yourself playing in the rain or the hot, summer sun.

Sliders

It only takes misjudged slide tackle to realize that soccer shorts aren’t enough to protect your legs every time from getting rasberry’s, rashes, and skins. Add to that that you probably will be playing some of your soccer on uneven grass with holes and dirt patches, and you’ll see why wearing sliders is a necessity for most.

Sliders are just as they sound – you wear them under your shorts as underwear, and they protect your legs as you slide in soccer. They are similar to compression shorts, except they have added padding along the backside of the legs to help protect.

Opt for a pair that have moisture wicking as a part of the material. Otherwise, they can turn into a hot mess and cause you more problems than they’re worth.

Woman in red sliding in the field

Soccer Tape

KT tape, otherwise known soccer tape, is predominantly used by players to hold their shin guards and socks in place. The tape is actually designed to help allow players to play through muscle injuries, but doubles as a cosmetic option for most.

It’s no secret that shin guards often move all over the place while playing soccer, and it can get annoying really fast. In addition, socks constantly fall down or get pulled down from the activity. This cheap and convenient tape is great to keep in your soccer equipment bag and have on hand.

Pump

Often an afterthought, keeping a ball pump in your equipment bag is easy to do, and will come in handy when you have a flat ball.

Soccer players hate kicking flat balls. They come off your foot really hard and don’t travel as far. It’s hard to connect solidly with a flat ball, and makes shooting much more difficult.

And, with these conditions, we’re not just talking about soccer balls that are completely flat. Even a ball that is slightly under on air can have these effects. Having a pump in your bag that you can whip out and quickly get the ball to its proper air volume.

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