What Are the Best Soccer Cleats to Wear on Artificial Turf or Artificial Grass?

By Holden Lewis

August 22, 2013

Artificial turf  has long been a subject of ridicule among soccer purists. But like it or not, turf is here to stay, especially in the States.

It goes by lots of names now: synthetic grass, turf, artificial grass, field turf, and on and on… But whatever you call it, by the end of this article, you’ll know how the modern artificial surfaces are made and the best soccer cleats to wear when you play on it.

How Field Turf Is MadeArtificial Grass: How It’s Made

I read a lot of marketing content on the manufacturer’s websites as I prepared this article. All I can say is: holy crap those guys use a lot of techno-babble.

Just ignore the hype. It doesn’t matter to to you as a player that the surface is uses “cryogenic” rubble particles. (Cryogenic rubber particles? Seriously?)

There are a few small variations between the different brands available today, but nothing that changes the way the surfaces perform for you as a player. Really, there are just 3 things you need to know:

  1. When you run on artificial turf, you’re literally running on rubber.
  2. The surfaces are made by “planting” plastic blades of grass in a base of rubber pellets, called “infill,”
  3. The rubber pellets sit on top of a layer of sand, which in turn sits on a woven fabric backing.

(“Infill,” by the way, gets its name from the installation process. When these fields are being created, they start by rolling out the “grass,” the same way you would roll out new carpet. Then they come back over the grass and add the “infill” down into the grass. First the sand, then the rubber on top of it. On a full sized field, the whole process usually takes several days.)

Why Artificial Turf Has Become So Popular

Installing artificial grass can cost a million dollars per field. But, despite the huge initial cost, the surface can be a big long-term cost savings for schools and universities that can absorb the up-front cost.

Modern artificial grass typically lasts 10 years, and it performs consistently in all weather conditions, a big benefit to football programs since grass fields get so torn up by the end of the season.

The Football Effect

Football players (American football players, that is) seem to love the stuff. In the NFL, for example, 14 of the 32 stadiums currently have artificial grass.

It makes sense really. The rubber infill is more forgiving for football players, who constantly find themselves being thrown to the ground. That has to be less of a toll on the body than a frozen football field in January.

For college programs and high schools, it’s no secret that the decision makers  have their football programs as their first priority. That’s where the money is. The soccer team gets a field too, but it’s rare that soccer is a primary decision-making factor.

Add it all up, and you can see why so many schools have replaced their natural surface fields with the artificial grass. If I were an Athletic Director with a good enough budget, I’d buy the artificial grass too.

Artificial Grass Shoes

Nike’s Artificial Grass Sole Plate

What It Means for Your Cleats

First of all, if you own a nice pair of firm ground cleats, those will perform just fine on modern artificial grass, and that might be all you really need.

That said, the cleat manufacturers have recently come out with some really interesting that are worth taking a look at.

Nike’s artificial grass cleats are really ahead of the pack. Their AG sole plate features three different sizes of hollowed out studs. The rubber infill will actually go up into those holes, allowing the cleats to “dig in” deeper to the artificial surface than normal cleats do.

And that’s really the point of cleats in the first place, to dig into a surface in a way that gives a player more stability and balance during the game.

At present, only Nike has the hollowed out studs, though the other manufacturers have been developing their own AG offerings. The other styles vary, but in general they feature more, slightly shorter cleats than what you’ll get from a firm ground shoe.

Can I Use Artificial Ground Cleats on Natural Surfaces?

Sure, but I don’t recommend it. The artificial ground cleats are made to grip an artificial surface. Firm ground shoes are made to dig in and penetrate a natural surface. Artificial ground cleats just aren’t made to do that.

In short, firm ground shoes work well on an artificial surface, but the reverse isn’t true. Artificial ground shoes don’t perform as well on natural turf.

So, Which Is Right for Me?

If you play exclusively on Artificial Turf, then go with artificial grass (AG) soccer cleats.

But, if you play even occasionally on natural surfaces, start with the nicest firm ground (FG) soccer cleats you can afford. They’ll do just fine on the turf. You can and add the artificial ground shoe to your gear bag later on.



facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Don’t Buy Soccer Cleats from eBay: A Horror Story

By Holden Lewis

August 8, 2013

Missing Shoe

Some time back, I decided I was going to try to save some money by buying my new pair of soccer cleats on eBay.

I went on, found the soccer shoes I wanted (Nike T90 Laser III’s, size 11), and placed the order. The vendor I was buying from was located in the U.S., had thousands of positive reviews, and a near perfect 5-star rating.

A few days later, I got the package in the mail and opened it, but I was greeted with a rude surprise:

Instead of shoes I got a shoe. A left shoe to be exact.

I contacted the seller and they were apologetic. A week later the right shoe showed up and was reunited with its lost mate.

The Real Problem: Authentic or Not?

As much as it stunk to have to wait an extra week to get a complete pair of soccer cleats, it occurred to me much later that I really didn’t know what I had been sold.

To this day, I really don’t know if my Laser III’s are an authentic Nike product or not. And more and more, we’re hearing stories about counterfeit cleats being sold on the internet. I expect that this will continue to be a problem as the price of the high-end models continues to climb.

Protecting Yourself

I saved about $15 by going through eBay on the purchase of my Laser III’s, but it wasn’t worth the price. The only way to truly know you’re getting an authentic product is by buying from reputable sellers. I’ve had good luck with Soccer.com (a.k.a. Eurosport), who has been in the online/mail-order game for decades, even before the internet via their print catalogs.

My dad has an old saying: you spend most of your life asleep or standing on your feet. Don’t skimp on beds and shoes.

Couldn’t have put it better myself Dad. Whether the potential savings is $15 or its $200, when it comes to the best soccer cleats, I won’t cut corners. You shouldn’t either.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Cow Leather in Soccer Cleats: The Basics

By Holden Lewis

August 7, 2013


Cow leather is a much more familiar material than the kangaroo leather I discussed in an earlier post. I’m sitting on a leather couch as I write this, so it feels more normal to be talking about the material and its use in soccer cleats.

In this post, I’ll just be covering the basics about good old fashioned cow leather.

In general, cow leather is heavier and less form-fitting than kangaroo leather. It’s more durable though, and is a cheaper material, which is why you often see it in lower-tier soccer cleats.

There are two basic kinds of leather that you’ll see listed as materials in soccer cleats:

  • Calfskin leather.
  • Full-grain leather.

Calfskin Leather Comes From… Calves of Course

Calfskin leather is just what you’d expect it to be: leather made from the hide of young cows. The younger animal’s hide is typically stronger and has higher tensile strength (that is, it can stretch more without damage) than leather made from the hides of older animals.

Calfskin leather is a very common in lower-priced soccer cleats, along with some mid-level choices.

Full-grain Leather Means It Comes From a Single Cut of the Material

When manufacturers say their shoes are made of “full-grain leather,” that simply means the leather that made the shoe came from one single piece of hide. The “full-grain” part of it means the material will be stronger, since it doesn’t have seams in it, as it would if two or more pieces had been joined together.

The confusing part is that sometimes soccer shoes list their material as “calfskin leather” and other times they list it “full-grain leather.” So what’s the difference?

In truth, all natural material soccer cleats are made of “full-grain” leather. So it might very well be that your “full-grain leather” shoes could also be made of calfskin. Thus, if a manufacturer chose, they could list the material as either “calfskin leather” or “full-grain leather,” and either choice would be an accurate description.

In either case, you’re probably looking at a second-tier cleat, at best.

In a future post, we’ll cover the fancy new hybrid materials that are on the market now, including Taurus and Galeo leather, along with with Kanga-lite and a few others.


facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Why Manufacturers Use Kangaroo Leather for Soccer Cleats

By Holden Lewis

August 6, 2013
Adidas Copa Mundial

Adidas Copa Mundial: The Classic K-Leather Soccer Shoes

So there’s someone out there who’s job it is to make leather from a kangaroo?

Seems strange, doesn’t it? I once thought leather came exclusively from cows. But that was before I got my first pair of Copa Mundials.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Keep reading, and by the end of this post, you’ll know why kangaroo leather (aka K-Leather) is THE go-to choice for the best soccer cleats made from natural materials.

My Introduction to Kangaroo Leather

I remember the first time I heard that some soccer cleats were made of kangaroo leather (aka K-leather). I was 17 and standing with my Dad in our local soccer shop, and the clerk had just handed me a pair of Adidas Copa Mundials to try on. Size 11.5, a half size less than my previous shoes.

“They’ll be tight,” the guy said. “But they’ll stretch and form to your foot after just a few times wearing them.”

That clerk was right. Those Copas were my first real high-quality boot, and remain some of the best soccer shoes I’ve ever worn.

The Upsides: Lower Weight, Higher Strength, and Better Performance

We’ll go in depth into cow leather in a different post, but just to set the stage, cow leather includes calfskin, full-grain, and Taurus materials, all which come from a cow hide.

Companies use Kangaroo leather for a simple reason: it’s better than cow-hide leather. It’s lighter, softer, and molds to your foot quicker than any other material on the market, including any cow-hide or synthetic. Depending on who you listen to, K-Leather has 10 times the tensile strength of cow-hide leather and is 50% stronger than goatskin.

The Downsides: Cost, Durability, and the Poor Kangaroos

You’ll only find K-Leather in high-end shoes, because it’s significantly more expensive for the manufacturers than cow leather and most synthetics. Durability is usually less too. Eventually, the leather that once stretched to mold to your shoe will simply stretch out to where it no longer supports you. This happens with any soccer cleat, but it happens faster in K-Leather.

There have been some questions raised about the treatment of the Kangaroos that are the source of K-Leather. In some parts of the world, Kangaroos are raised like cattle and used for both their meat and their leather.

David Beckham caused a stir in 2006 when he dropped his K-Leather Adidas Predators and switched to a synthetic boot after being sent video by kangaroo-welfare activists. Beckham wasn’t the first to make the move, but his profile was likely the final nudge that spurred a huge growth in synthetic material development by all the top soccer shoe manufacturers since then.

Whatever your preference, yes, K-Leather is made from Kangaroo hide, and for good reason. If you like a natural material shoe, and you want the very best soccer cleats out there, then K-Leather is the right choice for you.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

When to Buy Firm, Soft, or Artificial Ground Soccer Cleats (And the ONE Style Every Player Needs First)

By Holden Lewis

August 3, 2013

“What do all those codes mean on the soccer cleats?”

It’s a question I know confuses a lot of people, especially those who are looking for a really nice pair of soccer cleats for the first time.

And I understand why. When you first go to an online store, you realize there are as many as eight different styles of shoes, each with its own code (FG, SG, AG, AT, HG, IS, IN, and Futsal). It can be a little overwhelming. But fear not. By the end of this article, you’ll know what the best soccer cleats are for your situation, and why.

Firm Ground Soccer Cleats

Firm Ground Soccer Cleats

Firm Ground (FG) (aka “Molded”)

At their core, firm ground soccer cleats are designed to grip firm, natural surfaces, the kind you’d find on most natural grass fields. Firm ground cleats are the most important pair of cleats for most players.

In addition to firm natural surfaces, firm ground shoes also perform well on hard ground and artificial grass surfaces (more on artificial surfaces below). They do ok on soft ground, but don’t be surprised if you slide a little when you try to make quick changes of direction. Even so, you have to get to a really wet field – something bordering on mud – before the firm ground shoes become totally ineffective. And in that case, even soft ground shoes usually won’t keep you from slipping.

Firm ground shoes are not a good option for an old-fashioned flat green carpet, in which case indoor shoes (IS or IN) – also known as ‘flats” – or futsal shoes are the ideal choice. And of course, if you’re playing futsal on a basketball court, you’ll need special shoes for that.

So, if you want to make an investment in one really nice pair of soccer cleats, put your money into the best firm ground shoes you can find.

When to Buy Other Styles

After you have your firm ground shoes, the other styles are really nice to have in certain situations. Here’s when the other styles really come in handy:

Soft Ground (SG) (aka “Studs” or “Screw-ins”)

Soft Ground Soccer Shoes

Soft Ground Soccer Cleats

Soft ground shoes are for when it’s wet. Soft ground shoes have removable studs for cleats, and you can get different length cleats to swap out based on how wet the field is. The wetter the field, the longer the studs you’ll need.

If you live in an area with a lot of rain and you play outside most of the time, soft ground cleats are probably worth the investment . Goalkeepers, too, often prefer studs to firm ground cleats. Some keepers find the added traction helps them grip the ground when they push off to dive or make the other extreme changes in direction peculiar to their position.

Artificial Grass Cleats

Artificial Grass Cleats

Artificial Grass (AG)

If you play a lot on modern field-turf style artificial surfaces (the kind with the fake green “grass” and rubber-pellet infill), then an artificial ground shoe is a good addition to your equipment bag.

Nike leads the way here with their distinctive AG soleplate. The little hollowed out conical cleats grab and mold to the rubber infill pellets you’ll be playing on better than any other AG shoes out there right now. That said, the other manufacturers have some nice options too. In most of those configurations, the soleplate has more, somewhat smaller cleats than their firm ground counterparts.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the Nike AG shoes. It’s a subtle difference, but I’ve found I do feel a little more balanced in these shoes at my indoor complex, which installed artificial grass a few years ago.

Artificial Turf Soccer Shoes

Artificial Turf Soccer Shoes

Artificial Turf (AT) or Hard Ground (HG) (aka “Turfs)

Turfs are a versatile design that can work well on either hard natural surfaces or a variety of artificial surfaces.

The defining feature of turfs are the little short rubber “knobs” on the bottom of the shoe. They tend to be a little lower profile than either artificial grass or firm ground shoes, since they don’t have traditional cleat plates.

For outdoor play, turfs can make an amazing difference for those who regularly train on sun-baked, hard as a rock surfaces. On artificial surfaces, they work really well if the turf is relatively flat. That is, if the little nylon “grass blades” are really short, or if they’re all trampled down, then turfs might be the perfect choice.

Indoor Soccer Shoes

Indoor Soccer Shoes

Indoor Shoes (IN or IS) (aka “Flats”)

Flats are specifically designed for flat carpet surfaces. If your field looks like it’s a reincarnation of the Astrodome surface from 1976, then make sure you bring your flats. You’re going to need them.

One huge thing to watch out for. The shoes are labeled “indoor,” but that doesn’t mean their right for all indoor surfaces. Many indoor facilities have now switched from flat carpet surfaces to modern artificial grass. And indoor shoes on artificial grass is about as effective as indoor shoes on natural grass. Just be sure to check with your facility to see which surface you’ll be playing on before you go out and buy something new.

Futsal Shoes

Fustal Soccer Shoes

Futsal Shoes

Futsal shoes are for use on anything resembling a basketball court. Often this means a hardwood or hardened rubber surface. Either way, it’ll be flat and fast.

The key feature here is to make sure they say “non-marking” sole. There’s no quicker way to get kicked out of a league than to wear shoes that scuff up the playing surface.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

High-end Best Soccer Cleats Guide

By Holden Lewis

July 31, 2013


$ = $1 – 75
$$ = $75 – 100
$$$ = $100 – 150
$$$$ = $150 – 200
$$$$$ = $200+

Brand & Family
ModelsUpper MaterialWeight (oz.)List Price
Nike CTR 360Maestri III FGKanga-Lite09.2$$$$
Nike HypervenomPhantom FGSynthetic
Nike MercurialVapor IX FGTeijin microfiber
Nike TiempoLegend IV FGK-Leather/Kanga-lite09.4$$$$
Adidas adiPURE11Pro SL TRX FGK-Leather06.6$$$$$
Adidas F50adiZero TRX Synthetic FGSynthetic05.8$$$$$
Adidas F50adiZero TRX Leather FGFull-grain leather07.0$$$$$
Adidas Nitrocharge1.0 TRX FGSynthetic08.4$$$$$
Adidas PredatorLZ TRX FGSynthetic08.0$$$$$
PUMA evoSPEED1.2 FGCalfskin leather09.0$$$$$
PUMA KingSL FGMicrofiber05.8$$$$$
PUMA PowerCat1.12 FGK-leather08.4$$$$$
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Find the Best Soccer Cleats for Your Game

By Holden Lewis

July 26, 2013


Wondering what the best soccer cleats are for your game?

You’ve come to the right place. The interactive chart below lists the most popular cleats out there right now.

Make & ModelUpper MaterialWeight (oz.)List Price
Nike Hypervenom Phantom FG
Calfskin leather09.0203.99
Adidas Nitrocharge 1.0 TRX FG
Adidas Predator LZ TRX FG SL
Adidas adiPURE 11Pro SL TRX FG
PUMA PowerCat 1.12 SL FG
Adidas F50 adizero TRX FG Synthetic
Adidas F50 adizero TRX FG Leather
Full-grain leather07.0230.99
Nike Tiempo Legend IV FG
Nike Mercurial Vapor IX FG
Teijin microfiber
PUMA PowerCat 1 Graphic FG
Nike CTR 360 Maestri III FG
Adidas adiPURE 11Pro TRX FG
Nike Hypervenom Phatal FG
PUMA PowerCat 2.12 FG
Adidas adiPURE 11Core TRX FG
Full-grain leather09.4109.99
Nike Mercurial Veloce IX FGTeijin synthetic
Nike Premier FGK-Leather08.6$$$
Nike CTR 360 Trequartista FGKanga-Lite09.4$$$
Adidas Copa Mundial FGK-Leather11.7$$$
Adidas Predator Absolion LZ TRX FGSynthetic09.4$$$
Adidas F30 TRX Leather FGCalfskin leather09.8$$$
Adidas Nitrocharge 2.0 TRX FGSynthetic10.0$$$
Adidas F30 TRX Synthetic FGSynthetic09.4$$$
Nike Mercurial Victory IX FGSynthetic
Nike Tiempo Mystic IV FGCalfskin leather09.4$$
Adidas Predator Absolado LZ TRX FGSynthetic09.0$$
Nike Hypervenom Phelon FGSynthetic
Adidas adiPURE 11Nova TRX FGFull-grain leather09.6$$
Nike CTR 360 Libretto III FGSynthetic08.8$
Nike Tiempo Natural IV FGCalfskin leather08.8$
Adidas F10 TRX FGSynthetic09.4$
Adidas Nitrocharge 3.0 TRX FGSynthetic10.0$
PUMA PowerCat 3.12 FG
Full-grain leather08.671.99
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather