Buying and Using Sports Cleats

A picture of kids playing soccer

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Sports cleats are special shoes that are specifically designed for field sports such as soccer, football, and baseball. Most sports cleats have small plastic spikes on the bottom of the shoes that improve traction in grass and dirt and help prevent slips and falls while making quick starts, stops and turns on the field.

Sports cleats are designed specifically for the demands of the sport, and it's important to wear a cleated shoe that is made for the sport you intend to play.

Types of Sports Cleats

The two basic types of sports cleats include:

  • Molded Plastic Cleats
    • These cleats have plastic spikes or studs arranged in various patterns on the bottom of the shoe. They are versatile and can be used on different field types and in all weather conditions.
  • Detachable cleats
    • Detachable cleats are designed with metal spikes that can be removed so you can match the right length and width of spike for the condition of both the weather and the field.

Most experts recommend that recreational players wear molded plastic cleats due to a higher risk of injury with detachable metal spikes. The metal cleats offer a superior grip and better traction, which has been linked with more ACL injuries and ankle sprains.

Leather vs. Synthetic Sports Cleats

Sports cleats come in both leather and synthetic materials. Leather is generally preferred because it molds to your foot, breathes well and doesn't cut or chafe. But if you play in wet weather conditions, synthetic materials may last longer and keep you drier. Newer synthetic sports cleats are more available and generally less expensive, so if you are growing or wear out cleats quickly, you may be better off with synthetic cleats.

Caring for Your Sports Cleats

Taking care of your cleats will extend their life and comfort. Here are a few tips to remember whenever you use your cleats:

  • Wear your cleats on the field only. Wearing your cleats on pavement can wear them out and reduce the traction of the spikes which can increase the risk of slips, falls and other injuries.
  • After games and practice, wipe your cleats with a damp cloth.
  • Clean any mud or dirt off the bottoms with a soft soapy sponge or brush.
  • Allow your sports cleats to air dry out of direct sunlight.
  • If you have leather cleats, follow the manufacturer's instructions, which may include using leather softeners or polish.
  • Never store them at the bottom of a dirty gear bag under wet or sweaty clothes.
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Article Sources

  • American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, General Principles in Cleat Selection, Accessed August, 2009.
  • The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Soccer Injury Prevention, patient handout, July 2007. Accessed July, 2009.