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Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best football cleats

Many types of activities, including sports, use special equipment, and football is no different. In fact, football may have more wearable pieces of gear than any other sport. And while many people focus on gear like helmets and shoulder pads, don’t forget about the key piece of gear on the feet: football cleats.

Even though these shoes look fairly similar from model to model, it’s important to understand their differences. If a player doesn’t have the right cleats, they may not have enough traction to successfully play the sport. In a worst-case scenario, the wrong cleats could cause a player to lose their footing, leading to a severe lower leg or ankle injury.

Understanding the key components that go into football cleats will help you make the right decision whether you’re getting shoes for recreational flag football, competitive tackle football, or something in between.

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Recreational adult players might be able to use the same football cleats for two or three seasons, but children will probably need new cleats every year as they outgrow them.

Key considerations

There are a number of key components to consider when looking for a pair of football cleats, including the style of the studs and the way the shoe fits in the ankle area.

Type

The cleats, or studs, on the outsoles are available in a few different configurations.

Rubber: Rubber-molded studs are permanently attached to the bottom of the shoe. These studs provide a bit more comfort than studs made of hard plastic, so you’ll often find them on football cleats for younger players and inexpensive shoes for adults. The rubber studs aren’t hard enough to easily penetrate firm ground, though.

Hard: Hard-molded studs also attach permanently to the bottom of the shoe, but these are harder than the rubber-molded studs. They’re made of durable plastic that allows the player to dig more easily into the ground. These aren’t quite as comfortable as rubber-molded studs, but the significantly better performance makes them a popular choice for football players of all ages.

Removable: Removable or detachable studs screw into the bottom of the shoe rather than being permanently attached. This feature allows the player to swap out the studs to match the playing conditions, for example using longer studs on a soft, muddy field. College or professional players frequently use this type of cleat, but they can be too expensive for the casual player.

Turf: Football cleats made for use on artificial turf have short rubber nubs that are permanently attached to the bottom of the shoe, rather than long studs. Players don’t have to worry about muddy, soft ground when playing on artificial turf, so long studs aren’t necessary. The rubber nubs on turf football cleats provide good traction.

Fit

Football cleats are cut at different heights on the leg, depending on the amount of ankle support the player needs.

High-top: A high-top football cleat extends up the leg like a sock to provide maximum support, but the trade-off is that it restricts freedom of movement. Linemen typically select high-top shoes, as well as players who experience frequent ankle injuries.

Mid-top: A mid-top football cleat hits at the middle of the ankle. These cleats provide some freedom of movement and some protection for the ankle. Linebackers and tight ends may wear these shoes, as well as players who sometimes have ankle injuries.

Low-top: The collar of a low-top football cleat is cut beneath the ankle, allowing for maximum freedom of movement. This is a popular style with receivers and defensive backs who must perform quick movements. However, it doesn’t offer any support for the ankle.

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Caution
Avoid wearing football cleats when walking across pavement. The hard surface can wear down the studs relatively quickly.
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Features

Those looking for football cleats will find hundreds of different designs, colors, and materials, simplifying the process of finding a shoe that matches your favorite colors or team uniforms.

Materials

Leather: Players who don’t mind spending a bit more for a pair of football cleats can find some made mostly or all of leather, which allows for freedom of movement in the foot and provides better comfort than synthetic materials. A mostly leather shoe may include some synthetic materials in the upper near the ankle, particularly in high-top cleats.

Synthetic: Less expensive football cleats typically consist of mostly or all synthetic materials. These may look like leather, but they don’t provide the same level of flexibility or longevity.

Color

There was a time when football shoes were black or navy blue and not much else. That clearly is no longer the case. Nearly any color combination you can think of is available from the major brands. We wouldn’t recommend picking football cleats based solely on color and appearance, but once you find a few models that meet the needs of your feet, you should have many color choices available.

The biggest names in football cleat manufacturers include Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour.

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Accessories

Football glovesFootball players need gloves to protect their hands and give them a firmer grip on the ball.

Flag football setFlag football is a popular sport for adults and children, and this set provides enough gear for ten players. The pieces are durable, and everything fits in a carrying bag.

Shoe deodorizer: Football cleats can develop some pretty bad odors, but this KIWI deodorizer spray helps your shoes smell fresh. It’s safe for use on leather and synthetic materials too.

Glow-in-the-dark footballs: Generally intended as toys and for casual play, these balls use LEDs and phosphorescent chemicals to allow players to see the ball at night.

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Did You Know?
Color designs and combinations for football cleats vary quite a bit, so players can find a shoe that matches their uniform colors if desired.
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Football cleat prices

Inexpensive

Expect to pay $25 to $50 for a pair of football cleats that consist of synthetic materials with rubber studs. These have minimal cushioning.

Mid-range

These football cleats cost $50 to $100 per pair. They can be either synthetic or leather and deliver a good level of cushioning. Hard plastic studs are common in this price range.

Expensive

For high-end brand-name football cleats that have the latest colors and designs, expect to pay $100 to $300 per pair. These shoes use leather and other high-end materials and have excellent cushioning.

Tips

Understanding the terminology associated with football cleats can help you figure out which model best meets your needs.

  • Upper: The upper has the tongue and the laces, which can be tightened or loosened for comfort and support. The upper can be a low-top, mid-top, or high-top design.
  • Midsole: The midsole connects the upper with the outsole. The midsole typically has some foam for cushioning and some flexibility in the materials to allow the foot to move naturally without bending too far.
  • Outsole: The outsole is the bottom part of the shoe and provides stability. The studs/cleats fit into the outsole, which means this part of the shoe needs to be very firm to keep the cleats in place without breaking under stress.
  • Heel: The heel cup at the back of the shoe needs to provide stability for the foot. When a player is blocking or tackling, a sturdy heel cup helps them maintain balance while driving forward.
  • Studs: The studs, or cleats, are the pegs or nubs attached to the outsole. They allow the player to dig their feet into the ground, providing leverage for quick movements. Football studs are typically conical.
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Some players have two pairs of cleats: one for games and one for practice. Be sure to break in the game cleats by wearing them for a few practice sessions before your first game.

FAQ

Q. Can I wear soccer cleats to play football?

A. Football players could wear soccer cleats in theory, but the slight differences in these two types of shoes can create some problems. Soccer cleats don’t have any studs near the toe area, so soccer players can kick the ball without catching a stud in the ground. However, football players (other than placekickers) want studs in the toe area to gain the traction they need.

Q. How do I clean muddy football cleats?

A. If the cleats have dried mud and grass stuck to the outsole, banging the shoes together can break the mud loose. To clean the shoes, mix some laundry detergent and warm water. Use a rag or old toothbrush to clean any soil on the shoes that won’t wipe off with a dry cloth.

Q. Is there a safe way to dry football cleats?

A. Don’t use a hair dryer on wet cleats, don’t leave them in the sun, and don’t put them in a clothes dryer. Instead, clean the shoes and remove any mud and grass. Then tuck some wadded-up newspaper or charcoal packs inside the shoes to draw out moisture (and odors). Deodorizer spray can help to eliminate odors after the shoes are dry.

Q. How long should the studs be?

A. Longer studs work better for those who play on long, natural grass surfaces that can be wet. Shorter studs work well on hard soil and short turf. Pay attention to any rules your or your child's league may have regarding the length of the studs. A limit of 0.5 or 0.625 inches is common in many youth football leagues.

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