football cleats
buying guide
  • The anatomy of a cleat
  • The kick-off
  • Common playing surfaces
  • Essential football cleat accessories
  • Caring for your new cleats
  • Other essential football accessories

To make leaping interceptions and sharp lateral cuts, skillfully sprint toward the end zone, and score touchdowns, you need the help of high-quality, durable football cleats. But out of all the options at Academy Sports + Outdoors, how can you be sure you pick the best cleats for you?

That is why we are here, to help you figure out the right features and level of support for your position, skill-level and style of play so you can come out a winner during every practice and game. Read on to learn about what makes up a high-quality cleat, and what features you should look for in yours.

pro tip: Keep in mind that every team and league may have different rules. Before you buy a new pair of cleats or other football gear, find out if your school or local league has specific regulations on what you can wear.

why your football cleats are important

Football cleats give you the support you need out on the field. Without a pair of quality, durable, high-performance football cleats with the right fit, you run the risk of injuring yourself as you make sharp cuts, and tackles. Football cleats keep your feet comfortable and supported during every play. They also offer the traction you need to stay on your feet. They're one of the most important pieces of equipment you have, so it's essential that you choose the right option for your position and playing style.

The Anatomy of a Cleat

1- The Upper: Typically crafted out of leather or synthetic leather, uppers are made to withstand regular use out on the field. Uppers have strong laces and straps to lock in your ankles and provide a snug, safe fit, while incorporating flexible, breathable materials for comfort. Low-cut, mid-cut or high-cut uppers offer a variety of ankle support options. Keep reading to find out which cut might be right for you.

2- The Midsole: Often called a footbed, the midsole cushions your foot and heel. This portion works to reduce impact under a variety of conditions, keeping you nimble and comfortable during practice and games.

3- The Outsole: The outsole gives you stability in formation and the traction you need to dig in, shake off defenders, and tackle with confidence all season long. With a variety of spike options to choose from, you can find an assortment of cleats with different cutting capabilities, stopping power and acceleration abilities.

The Kick-Off: Features to Consider

With so many features to choose from, it can be challenging to find the right cleats for you. When shopping, keep in mind that you want your shoes to offer these three essential things:

Reliable traction. When you make sharp cuts or sprint toward the end zone, it's important that your cleats give you traction you can count on. When you feel confident in your shoes, you'll perform better on the field.

Extra stability. Staying on your feet during every play is crucial. When your shoes offer you proper stability, you'll find yourself being able to shake off defenders, make sharp cuts and score a touchdown in confidence.

Strong support. Like any piece of football equipment, you need to stay supported during every play. Your cleats should offer you ankle support, extra comfort, breathability and confidence that you will navigate the field with ease.

To tell if your cleats offer incredible traction, stability and support, try on a few pairs. While you shop, make sure you're looking for high-performance elements that match your playing position, including the cleat's cut and spike style.

Not sure which cut, spikes and cleat materials you need? We're here to help. To get started, consider the following:

The Cut

Football cleats are designed in either low-cut, mid-cut or high-cut designs. The choice you make truly depends on the level of support and mobility you want on the field. In addition to your personal preferences, the position you play may impact the cut you choose.

  • High-cut: These cleats lace all the way up the ankle to provide the snuggest, most supportive fit, but the added bulk can make them heavier and impact mobility – making them better for players that operate near the line of scrimmage like linebackers, centers and guards.
  • Mid-cut: This style offers a slightly looser, lower fit than high-cut cleats for easier maneuvering and moderate ankle support – preferred by players who need to move while staying protected in heavy traffic, like running backs, cornerbacks and mobile quarterbacks.
  • Low-cut: The lightweight design of low-cut cleats offers better agility and navigation for running and shaking tackles – ideal for positions that need to cover the field quickly, like wide receivers, tight ends and free safeties.

The Spikes

Spikes are found on the bottom of a cleat and are the key to traction and stability on the field and come in a range of design options. That said, there are two primary spike styles to choose from:

  • Molded Spikes: Molded spikes are permanently attached spikes that provide solid traction on the field. Youth leagues, high school teams and casual players typically prefer hard-molded cleats because they tend to be cheaper and come ready-to-wear. Molded spikes also tend to be less sharp, so most youth football cleats come in this style.
  • Detachable Spikes: Detachable spikes are longer and stronger than molded plastic or rubber spikes, and you can remove, replace or switch out each spike depending on position or playing conditions. Advanced high school players, college teams and professional players generally prefer the precision of detachable spikes.

Once you decide on the kind of spike you want, consider the material they're made of. The material you choose can significantly impact the way you play.

  • ● Rubber spikes have wider studs and deeper grooves for better traction, plus greater shock absorption.
  • ● TPU spikes are made of plastic. They feel harder than rubber spikes but are more lightweight for greater speed and performance.
PRO TIP: Check with your team to determine if you're required to wear certain spikes on the field. Usually, youth leagues are required to use plastic spikes because they are more affordable, easy to use and provide a higher amount of safety on the field.

The Materials

Depending on the brand, style and model you choose, your football cleats could be constructed out of a variety of materials. Since different materials offer different types of support in varied conditions, it's important to check that the cleats you choose will work well in your specific environment.

Some popular materials used to make today's football cleats include:

  • Polyurethane (PU). This material is durable enough to withstand harsh weather conditions while also having the elasticity of rubber, giving you flexibility on the field.
  • Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU). Lightweight and water-resistant, TPU can take on extreme temperatures with ease. It also has the strength to resist dents, wear and tear.
  • Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA). Flexible and durable, EVA can take on both extreme cold and hot conditions without cracking. It's also water-resistant to keep feet dry in wet climates.

Common Playing Surfaces and Your Cleats

The field you play on will typically either be fresh grass or synthetic field turf, depending on where you live or which field is closest to your team. While the surface may not seem like it makes a big difference, it can affect the way you play. Check the following considerations when determining which cleats are right for you:

Playing on Fresh Grass

Natural grass has more cushion and even more give to it. The major setback for fresh grass is that the surface may change depending on the weather. For example, on sunny days, fresh grass will grip easily to your cleats and offer a higher amount of traction. On rainy days, though, you may be more likely to slide around and have trouble gripping the ground while you run.

If you know you'll be playing on natural grass during most game days, look for cleats with detachable spikes. That way, you can change out your spikes depending on the current conditions and always play at a high level.

Playing on Synthetic Turf

Today's synthetic field turf provides more support than it did in the past. Now, artificial grass typically has a rubber layer between blades of grass to provide greater flexibility and traction. Since this type of surface doesn't change depending on the weather, you can stick with one pair of durable cleats for every game.

To get the most traction on synthetic field turf, choose a pair of cleats with molded spikes. These provide greater traction and grip without restricting your movement, letting you catch passes, make tackles and score touchdowns in confidence.

PRO TIP: At the end of the day, it's really all about your comfort. Check with your local league to determine if you're required to wear a specific spike style. Then, choose the spikes you feel most comfortable with. If you have the option of wearing either detachable or molded spikes, we recommend trying on both styles before you buy to discover which one gives you the greatest support.

How to Fit Your Cleats

Now that you know which features matter most to you, it's time to try on some options! When all is said and done, the most important thing about your cleats is having a proper fit. If your shoes are too tight or too big, you will inhibit your performance and put yourself at increased risk for injury.

Typically, cleat sizes run the same as regular shoe sizes, but fits will vary by brand and manufacturer. The best way to ensure a good fit is to head over to your local Academy and try on a few pairs before buying.

Use these quick and easy tips to make sure you find a pair that fits you best:

  • ● Stand up and measure both feet. If one foot is bigger in size, choose a pair of cleats that will fit that foot. That way, you won't have blisters and discomfort when you play.
  • ● Try on cleats while you wear the high-performance socks you'll be wearing on the field.
  • ● When lacing your cleats, make sure you pull the laces tight. They should be tight enough that your cleats don't slip, but not so snug that they make you uncomfortable.
  • ● A well-fitting shoe should have about half an inch of wiggle room between your big toe and the end of the cleat. If there's any more space, your cleats will be too big, potentially causing a painful turf toe injury, where your toe jams into the front of the over-sized cleat during quick stops and starts, or having them to fall off while you play. If there's less than half an inch of wiggle room, your cleats will be too tight, causing blisters and inhibiting your performance.
pro tip: If you're shopping for youth football cleats, buy a size that fits your athlete right now. Don't size up with the idea that your little MVP will grow into them - doing so will just put your little player at more risk.

Essential Football Cleat Accessories

Once you find the best football cleats for you, pick up the essential accessories you need to score. Keep these spare cleat accessories on hand so you're always prepared to play at practice and in games:

  • Extra shoe laces. Extra laces are always great to have on hand in case yours rip during a game.
  • Replacement studs/spikes. If you use detachable spikes, make sure you have replacements in case one breaks off, along with any variations you need to execute specific plays in a range of conditions.
  • Cleat protection. Keep shoe conditioners and oils in your gear bag to extend the life and use of your football cleats for many downs to come.

Caring for Your New Cleats

Believe it or not, there are ways you can keep your cleats looking like new, even when you put them through the ringer. Use these simple steps to take care of your football cleats in between games:

You will need:

  • ● Three clean cloths
  • ● Warm, soapy water
  • ● Hydrogen peroxide
  • ● Scrubbing brush

1- Shake off any loose dirt, mud or grass.
2- Use a clean cloth to wipe away surface dirt on the uppers and clumps of dirt from the bottom of your cleats.
3- Dip a second clean cloth into the water and ring it out. Then, wipe down the outside of your cleats. Repeat this step until the outside is clean.
4- Pour a little hydrogen peroxide onto a new, dry cloth. Wipe this cloth across the interior of your cleats to disinfect and freshen the footbed and help prevent bacteria from growing.
5- Once clean, let your cleats dry completely before using them again.

Other Essential Football Accessories

Once you've found the perfect cleats for your playing style, use our Football Shoulder Pads Buying Guide and Football Helmets and Sizing Guide to get the rest of the essential protection you need to play safely. While you're with us, grab some additional football accessories to help you sprint, score touchdowns and win games for your team, including:

FAQ from Parents About Football Cleats

1- Can you wear soccer cleats for football?

We don't recommend it. Football cleats are typically designed longer than soccer cleats are, allowing your child to dig into the field and have greater traction. The spikes on the bottom are also in a particular pattern for the game of football, most importantly employing a front spike that sits just in front of the toes. While football cleats come in three height options, soccer cleats are only low-cut, meaning your child won't have all the ankle and foot support they need to make sharp cuts, turns and tackles.

2- How long do football cleats last?

Football cleats are extremely durable. Typically, your child will grow out of their cleats before they need to be replaced. The older your kids are, the more miles they'll put on their cleats. In this case, cleats will generally last one to two seasons.

Once your feet are done growing, we recommend buying two pairs of cleats at the same time. That way, you can alternate between the two and get more use out of them.

3- Do football cleats need to be broken in?

They should be. That way, you or your child won't come home with blisters and cuts after the first day of practice. To break them in, simply wear them around your own house and yard for a few days before bringing them to practice.

4- What kind of spikes are best for my child?

Typically, your local league will have regulations regarding which kind of spikes your child can have. Check with the coach to make sure you by the appropriate pair of cleats.

5- Is one brand better than the others?

No! We recommend trying on different brands, styles and cuts to feel which one is best for you or your child. Make sure you feel completely comfortable and supported, and you'll have all the protection you need out on the field.

Academy Sports is proud to carry everything you need to conquer tough practices and thrilling games. Find all your football gear online or in store today.

This guide is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for consulting with your physicians, coaches, trainers, equipment managers and/or other professionals for specific advice tailored to your need and situation. No protective equipment can totally eliminate the inherent physical risks of football. In no event shall Academy Sports + Outdoors be liable for direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special, consequential damages, or any damages whatsoever arising out of or in any way connected with the use of or performance of information, products, services or reliance on the contents of this guide. The use of this guide is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Website Use that can be found here.