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Buying Football Cleats: Factors to Consider

Whatever your child's position is on the football field or the type of field on which he plays, there are football shoes (called "cleats") specifically designed for him.  When helping your child select football cleats, there are two important factors to keep in mind.

First, that while there are two styles of  of football cleats ("football style" shoes, which have long cleats, or "soccer-style" shoes, which have short cleats), long-cleat football shoes are associated with a greater incidence and severity of knee and ankle injuries when compared to soccer-style shoes. The higher incidence of injuries is thought to be due to the fact that football-style shoes make the foot temporarily stationary in the turf, and therefore unyielding to any internally-or-externally-applied forces.  Because the foot is planted, it isn't hard to see why there are more injuries with the long-cleat football shoes.

 Second, there are two different types of cleats:  molded and detachable cleats. Most are designed exclusively for either grass or turf fields, so consider what types of fields your child most commonly plays on. If their games are played on both grass and turf, you can opt for a multipurpose cleat. One important sidenote: Some schools, teams, and leagues DO NOT allow Metal and/or detachable cleats, so make sure to ask before you buy.

Shoe Styles. 

Football cleats come in three styles--or heights--to accommodate the varying needs of players by position. 

  • High-tops  extend up the ankle to provide extra support, especially for lateral movements, in order to reduce the risk of ankle sprains.  Linemen benefit from this extra support because they spend a lot of their time moving from side to side during the course of a game, which puts a lot of stress and strain on their ankles

  • Mid-cut.  A mid-cut shoe offers more support while still allowing maneuverability.  This style best fits the game of players at the so-called "skill" positions:  defensive backs, running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks.

  • Low-cutLow-cut shoes are preferred by some players because they are lightweight. The lower cut provides extra maneuverability, allowing a player to make quick cuts on the field, but obviously provides less support and protection against ankle injuries.

Shoe Materials

The shoe's upper portion usually is made from either a leather or synthetic material. 

  • Leather breathes well, which helps keep a player's feet more comfortable, and is generally more flexible, a big plus in both comfort and function.  Leather shoes are also very durable.  They are, however, more expensive.
  • Synthetics don't have the breathe-ability or durability of leather, but are also less expensive.  Most shoes use synthetic materials somewhere, especially to provide reinforcement or support in the forefoot, mid-foot and ankle.

Cleat types.

There are two choices: molded and detachable cleats. Most are designed exclusively for either grass or turf fields, so consider what types of fields on which your child most commonly plays. If their games are played on both grass and artificial turf, you can opt for a multipurpose cleat.

  • Molded.  These cleats are permanently attached to the outsole on the shoe's bottom.  Turf shoes usually use molded rubber cleats to give a player spring and traction on the harder turf surface.  Molded cleats are generally less expensive than shoes with detachable cleats.

  • Detachable.  Detachable cleats use studs that can be removed and replaced to fit field conditions on all types of grass--hard and dry or wet and sloppy.  Their versatility makes detachable cleats preferable if your child primarily play on grass.  The shoes can be easily customized with a wrench and replacement cleats, using shorter studs for a hard, dry surface and longer studs when playing on a wet, sloppy field.

There are a number of cleat accessories to consider in order to protect your investment and to ensure the best performance.

  • Buy some extra laces to avoid the frustration of trying to tie a broken lace together in the car or during a game.

  • Consider treating the cleats, especially leather. Mink oil conditions the leather so it's softer and more comfortable and it also protects the leather from damage from rain, snow, sun, and keeps water out.

  • Buy replacement cleats in a variety of sizes and make sure you have a cleat wrench to remove and replace cleats, if you buy a shoe with detachable cleats.

  • Replacement cleats generally run in 1/2-, 5/8-, 3/4- and 1-inch sizes. Having all four sizes gives you more options for different field conditions.

Determine Your Child's Cleat Size

  • Determining proper shoe size is essential to a comfortable fit for football cleats.

  • Don't assume your child's football cleat size is the same as it is with other shoes.