How to Choose and Fit Football Cleats

Football cleats in a football field

How to Choose Football Cleats

We»ll say it over and over again when it comes to footwear – make sure your feet are comfortable! That is the most important step to any running, athletic, and sport shoe. But here are a few other tips to help you find the cleat that will be a partner to your play, rather than hold you back.

How to Measure Your Feet

Diagram of measuing your foot
  1. Put on the game socks first.
  2. Feet swell during the day, so measure them when they are a larger size, such as in the afternoon or evening.
  3. Tape a piece of paper on the floor against the base of a wall. Stand on that paper with heel touching the wall.
  4. Have a helper mark the longest part of your foot at the toes and mark the two points on the widest part of your foot. Repeat for left and right.
  5. Trace the toes to measure against the cleat and make sure there’s a thumb’s width room or more room from the edge of the toe.
  6. Use a ruler to measure the heel to toe length & the width of your foot.

How to Fit Football Cleats:

Close up of a blue football cleat
  1. Don’t plan on “breaking in” an uncomfortable shoe. If it pinches or rubs the wrong way to start, the discomfort won’t change after use.
  2. Don’t rely on manufacturer sizing. Many brands have different physical sizes, so make sure to check that the sizing is true, and choose the shoe based on how it fits and feels, not how its size is labeled.
  3. Ankle and foot injuries are fairly common in sports, and a supportive cleat may help prevent them from occurring. If you have to choose between sizing up and sizing down, size up for the toe space, then tighten the laces around the midfoot for a snug fit.
  4. It is best to buy and test game socks before fitting for a cleat. The athlete should wear the socks during the fitting.
  5. The upper should fit snugly against the foot, without room to slip or slide. It shouldn’t press on any pressure points or cause chafing or pain.
  6. There should also be extra room, at least a thumb’s width, from the longest toe to prevent injuries such as hammertoe or mashing from quick changes in direction. The cleat should not rub against the foot to cause blisters.
  7. The athlete should also practice making the motions of running, walking, and quick changes in direction to make sure that the cleat performs the way they want, and feels comfortable on the foot.

Types of Cleat By Position

Video on types of football cleats

First, there are two things that every position needs, for different reasons.

  1. Traction – Football cleats have a stud or spike at the toe of the shoe – to dig into the ground for pushing on the line or taking off quick and changing direction for receivers.
  2. Protection – Football players are in the middle of nearly two tons of clashing bodies. That means tough outsoles and uppers, or ankle support, or detachable cleats, depending on position.
    • Lineman – Pushing back the opposition. Digging in. Breaking through. The battle on the line to defend and attack – every part of the game is won or lost due to your struggle.
      • Keywords: High cut, support, traction, stability, protective, digging spikes, detachable studs for customization, 7-10 studs, toe talon, injury recovery
    • Versatile Player – You can hold the line. You can run it in. You can pass. You can recover fumbles, blast your way through the defense, and chase down the offense.
      • Keywords: Mid cut, lightweight, support, traction, stability, detachable or molded studs, durability, 10-12+ studs
    • Skill Player – You’re a runner. You zigzag between tackles and dance your way to the end zone. You can catch the ball or the opposing team’s RB. Your team looks to you for speed and agility.
      • Keywords: Low cut, lightweight, traction, molded spikes, 12+ studs, forefoot overlay, stability, toe or heel talons, durability

Shoe Styles, Weight, and Cleat Types

3 different types of football cleats
  1. High Cut – also known as high tops, these cleats extend up over the ankle, sometimes as far as mid-calf. These are used for protection against kicks from other cleats, and also as extra support for injury-prone ankles. They don’t have the flexibility of mid or low cut cleats, but they’re good for players who will put continued forward pressure on their ankles.
  2. Mid Cut – these cleats offer more support than low cut cleats, without sacrificing as much flexibility as high-cut cleats. These are usually the preferred cleats of versatile and skill players who need a wide range of motion as well as stability.
  3. Low Cut – often more lightweight than the other cleats, the low ankle allows the greatest range of ankle motion for quick cuts on the field. Useful for players who rely on speed and skill.
  4. Lightweight – the next greatest thing in cleats. More cleats are being made with lightweight durable upper and sole materials. Lighter cleats mean less fatigue later in the game, giving the athlete more energy to make the final push. It might be good to train in heavier cleats and use lighter cleats in a game situation to help build up both endurance and energy. Just make sure they have the same flexibility and situated spikes.
  5. Molded Cleats – permanently attached to the outsole, these studs are usually made of rubber and plastic of varying lengths and formations. These are good for players who play on a single type of field. They can be cheaper than detachable cleats, but if a stud breaks, the entire shoe may need replaced.
  6. Detachable Cleats – rubber and metal studs can be inserted or screwed into the plate of the outsole, which allows the player to adapt their cleats to the field – hard, muddy, grassy, or artificial turf. They also allow easier customization for players searching for the perfect mix of traction and action.

Leather or Synthetic Uppers

Red and black football cleats in grass

Most football uppers are synthetic rather than leather – as the leather may not provide the level of protection that hard synthetic materials do. Leather uppers usually provide the most breathable environment for feet.

On the other hand, the lack of ventilation in synthetic cleats means that they are best used in wet and muddy conditions. Although they can trap moisture inside the cleat, mesh insoles can provide some space for breathability, and many manufacturers like Nike are seeking to create a synthetic material that acts more like leather. Synthetic uppers will stay tight on the foot, and provide more support than leather. They will often be more durable than leather, but may not provide the same comfort.

How to Clean Football Cleats

Let’s tackle the outside first. Let’s also ignore the pun.

  1. Using a soft-bristled scrub brush or old, soft toothbrush, scrub the dried mud and dirt from the hard shell of the outsole.
  2. Using a dry cloth, rub excess dirt off of the upper.
  3. With a mixture of water and a tiny bit of laundry detergent, clean off the remaining dirt on the upper with a sponge or damp cloth.
  4. Use a water-only damp cloth to remove any detergent on the shoe.
  5. Air-dry the cleats. Do NOT put them in the dryer, even for tumble dry.
  6. Repeat for stubborn stains.

What about the inside of the shoes? They can get pretty rank. Here’s three methods to handle that problem.

  1. Take a clean cloth and dampen it with hydrogen peroxide. Give the inside of the cleat a good wiping to remove bacteria. Air-dry your cleats. One problem with this method is that hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect on certain materials.
  2. Use a bowling shoe disinfectant and deodorizer to spray the inside of your shoes. Make sure you loosen the laces to get deep into the toe area. Make sure that the spray is EPA approved and safe for your skin.
  3. Wow. The smells are being really stubborn. So grab a huge zippable plastic bag, put your clean, dry stinky cleats in them, and shove them in the freezer overnight. (Explain to your housemates first so they don’t get a surprise when they go for the ice cream.) The cold will kill most of those stubborn bacteria, as they prefer warm, wet environments to grow.

But what if your shoes have insoles? How do you clean those?

  1. Remove the insoles from your cleats.
  2. Repeat the process that you did for the cleat uppers – rubbing off dry dirt, applying water and a light amount of detergent until clean, then rinsing with a damp cloth.
  3. Air-dry before placing any insoles back into their shoes.
  4. If they smell, give them the same freezer treatment as above.

Football Socks Options

Here are a few features available in football socks that may help your comfort and game play:

Red football sock
  1. Cushioning and padding for comfort and protection on ankles, toes, heels, and calves.
  2. Compression and arch support.
  3. Moisture-wicking materials.
  4. Vents and openings for breathability.
  5. Ribbed cuffs for secure placement on the calves.
  6. Specific tailoring for left and right feet.
  7. Shaped heels and toes.
  8. Upper calf or knee-lengths.

Take the time to find the perfect pair of socks. Try them out during practice, and keep with the brand and style that work the best for you. The perfect cleat to sock fit will enhance your comfort in the game.

When to Replace Football Cleats

Replace your cleats every year. Unlike fully functioning shoulder pads and helmets, cleats can’t be reconditioned. Break in your new cleats during practice for game time. If you find a good fit in a certain brand and style, continue to purchase new cleats in that brand and style as long as you feel comfortable.

Replace your cleats if the studs and/or the stud fixture is broken. Don’t play on cleats with loose or improperly attached studs. Always replace your cleats if they hurt your body – blisters, arch pain, tendonitis, shin splints, leg and back pain.

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