Soccer cleats are a weakness of mine – in a good way. I love shopping for and purchasing cleats. When I was a kid, soccer cleats were usually black and nondescript. Now, they’re full of color with some fantastic designs and interesting technologies. That said, cleats should be matched to the playing surfaces — especially for indoor soccer. Not all soccer cleats are good for indoor soccer.
Determine the Indoor Soccer Playing Surface
Playing surfaces for indoor soccer vary. Futsal is sometimes referred to as indoor soccer and is played on a hard surface – like a basketball court. True “indoor soccer” is usually played on turf. But, there are various kinds of turf. Short, hard, first generation astro turf used to be the typical indoor surface and is still used in some locations today. However, many locations have now switched to the softer, longer more natural artificial grass or field turf surface.
Match Your Soccer Shoes to the Playing Surface
Your soccer shoes need to be selected based on the actual playing surface. Fortunately, most soccer cleats designate the playing surface for which they are intended. Typical designations for manufacturers include Firm Ground, Soft Ground, Multi-Ground, Artificial Grass, Turf and Indoor. When shopping, you will often see them abbreviated as FG, SG, MG, and AG (Turf and Indoor usually aren’t abbreviated).
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Indoor Soccer Shoes for Futsal / Hard Surface
For futsal, Indoor soccer shoes are the only type of soccer shoe you can wear. As I mentioned, futsal is played on a hard surface. Cleats do not work on a futsal surface. Indoor soccer shoes, on the other hand, typically have soft, flat, rubbery soles with a gripping pattern – like a basketball shoe or a tennis shoe. Indoor soccer shoes provide exceptional traction on the hard surface and work great for futsal. Here is one of my favorites on Amazon:
Adidas Kids’ Copa
Indoor Soccer Shoes or Turf Shoes for First Generation Artificial Turf
For first generation, astro turf, you can wear either Indoor soccer shoes or Turf shoes. Astro turf is characterized by very short artificial (plastic) blades of grass packed tightly together and laid directly over a hard surface. Turf shoes are the best option for this first generation artificial turf. Turf shoes have soft soles covered in short “nubs” for gripping the artificial surface. Indoor soccer shoes also work well on first generation turf. Cleats, however, should not be worn on this surface. Here’s a turf shoe on Amazon:
Adidas Kids’ Nemeziz
Several Types of Soccer Shoes Work For Current Generation Turf, But Not All
For the current generation artificial grass or field turf (I use the terms interchangeably in this post), Artificial Grass (AG) cleats will work along with Multi-Ground (MG) and even Firm Ground (FG) cleats. Current generation artificial grass is typically characterized by longer individual artificial blades of grass, packed with tiny rubber pellets to make the turf softer and fuller.
Artificial Grass Cleats
Artificial Grass cleats are specifically made for the current generation field turf. These cleats have a firm sole and multiple short studs that are usually circular in shape. The studs are longer and fewer in number than the nubs of turf shoes, but a little shorter and often greater in number than firm ground cleats. The studs are short to match the length of the artificial grass which is typically shorter than natural grass.
The studs for Artificial Grass cleats are circular in shape to allow for traction on the artificial grass without getting caught or tangled in the turf. The higher number of studs reduces the number of pressure points on the foot which is more comfortable on the harder playing surface. Check out these AG cleats:
Adidas Edge.4 Predator
Firm Ground Cleats
Firm Ground cleats can be used for field turf. Firm Ground cleats have a firm sole and fewer short studs than Artificial Grass cleats. As opposed to Artificial Grass cleats, the goal of the studs for Firm Ground cleats is to penetrate grass and get traction on the hard dirt underneath the grass. Fewer studs keeps chunks of sod from getting stuck in the cleats (which isn’t an issue with field turf).
Also, the shape of the studs can vary. Some Firm Ground cleats have circular studs which are great for lateral agility and sole of the foot ball control. Others have blades, which tend to dig into the soil better and are good for straight line speed. Even though the characteristics of Firm Ground cleats are intended for natural grass, they also work well for the current generation field turf — though not as well as Artificial Grass cleats. Here’s a solid pair of Firm Ground cleats:
Nike Mercurial Vapor 14
Multi-Ground cleats can also be used for the current generation artificial grass. Multi-Ground cleats have a firm sole and combine some of the characteristics of both Artificial Grass cleats and Firm Ground cleats. In some cases, Multi-Ground cleats may even combine both circular studs and bladed studs in an attempt to get the best of both worlds. These cleats can do it all:
Indoor Soccer Shoes
Indoor Soccer shoes should not be worn on the current generation field turf. The rubber pellets that are added to the turf make changes of direction fairly difficult if you don’t have studs digging in. It can be surprisingly slick.
Turf shoes can be worn on the current generation artificial grass, but I would not recommend it. While turf shoes do have “nubs” which provide some level of traction, I still find quick changes of direction difficult because of the rubber pellets. That said, turf shoes tend to be more comfortable than cleats, so I’ve seen many players use them for field turf. For more information on turf soccer shoes, check out 6 Best Turf Soccer Shoes – 2022.
Soft Ground Cleats
Soft Ground cleats should not be used for field turf. Soft Ground cleats have a firm sole and even fewer studs than Firm Ground cleats – and they’re typically longer, screw in studs. Studs are often at least partly metal as they are intended to penetrate the soil of a wet, natural grass playing surface. Fewer studs keeps mud from getting caught up in the sole; and the screw-in nature allows for varying stud types depending on the conditions (and also easy clean up afterward!). However, the studs are typically too long for artificial grass and the fewer number creates uncomfortable pressure points on the hard surface. This is a sweet pair, though, for the right conditions:
Puma King Top
What are Soccer Cleat Uppers Made Out Of?
Another important aspect of soccer cleats is the material of the upper. There are four basic materials that all have their positives and negatives: Calfskin Leather, Kangaroo Leather, Synthetic and Knit.
Calfskin Leather is probably the most common leather used for soccer cleats. It tends to take a little time to break in, but is durable and provides solid padding / protection. Calfskin Leather also has excellent touch once it’s broken in.
Kangaroo Leather is softer than Calfskin Leather, but is also much more expensive. It is extremely comfortable out of the box and provides top notch touch. It’s not as durable as Calfskin Leather, but does provide good protection and padding.
Many of today’s cleats (including most youth cleats) have a Synthetic upper. Synthetic is light weight and usually doesn’t require a long break in period. It provides reasonable protection in all weather conditions, but not much padding. It is not as durable as leather. Synthetic uppers often have a textured surface to provide grip on the ball, but touch, in general, is not as good as leather.
Knit is extremely light weight and allows for the best touch of all the materials. However, it does not provide much protection or padding. In wet conditions, knit soaks up water. Finally, Knit is not very durable and wears out quickly.
Are Collars on Soccer Cleats Helpful?
Many newer soccer cleats have collars. Collars are intended to provide compression and stability around the ankle area. There are shoes with no collar, mid-cut collar (cut off right at the ankle bone), or high-cut collar (extends above the ankle bone). The use of a collared shoe is really a personal preference. I like the freedom of no collar, but my kids both like the support of a mid-cut collar.
Why Don’t Some Soccer Cleats Have Laces?
Finally, soccer cleats can be either laced or laceless. Laced cleats tend to fit tighter and provide better touch and stability, while laceless cleats provide a cleaner striking area. As a midfielder, I prefer laced cleats, which allow for greater lateral mobility and control. However, a wing might prefer laceless as that position involves more straight line running and striking.
Soccer Cleats Can Be Confusing
Picking the right cleats can be confusing. If you’re playing indoor, make sure you know the surface of the playing field and match your cleats accordingly. The rest of the cleat characteristics are really personal preference. Try them out. See which ones you like. Maybe you’ll become a soccer cleat fanatic like me!