Cleats are an integral part of athletics and many sports require them. Like other equipment you need for sports, that sounds easy enough. Where the confusion sets in is there are different types of cleats for different sports as well as variations of cleats within the same sport category. You want to set yourself, or your young athlete, up for success and certainly don’t want to have cleats make any current foot issue worse. Needless to say, that’s a lot to consider.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and look no further. The following article will guide you through how to properly select the right cleat, features to pay attention to and how custom orthotics can be integrated so you can play at the top of your game.
Features of Cleats
There is a large amount of variability between different kinds of cleats. Features such as material selection, cleat arrangement and heights (low cut, mid cut and high cut) are just a few differences that exist. When selecting a sport cleat it is important to remember that soccer cleats do NOT have a front cleat while football and baseball cleats do (pictured below).
This can be a big factor to take into consideration when looking for a “multi-purpose” cleat, say, for a growing child. For instance, if your child plays both baseball and soccer, soccer cleats can be worn for baseball/football, but baseball/football cleats can NOT be worn for soccer because of the presence of the toe cleat. What the toe cleat allows baseball players to do is properly grip into the ground when running around the bases while this would not be advantageous for soccer players to have as they undergo many more agile (side-to-side) movements. Also, due the nature of soccer players stepping on each others feet when challenging for a loose ball, the front cleat could potentially cause more damage to an opponent.
The upper design of the cleat can range from traditional leather to any combination of synthetic (man-made) materials. These materials have different advantages such as leather is thought to conform to the foot better than a synthetic material in that it will breathe and expand better as soft tissue expansion and swelling happens during the duration of the sport. Leather is also thought to interact with the ball surface better than synthetic which can help to enhance ball control in a sport like soccer. However, synthetic materials are lighter, more durable and have began to have different patterns on the vamp (front of the foot) to help with ball control.
The height of the cleat (low/medium/high), when looking for baseball or football cleats, pertains to the amount of ankle support required for the player. Normally soccer cleats will remain low cut as this will allow the individual to be more agile when making cuts to and from the ball.
What about Turf?
When going out to buy cleats, it is advantageous to know the playing surface that you will be participating on. If the surface is natural, such as grass (soccer/ baseball) or clay/gravel (baseball infield), you will want to stick to a regular cleat with spikes on the bottom. However, if the field is artificial turf, you may want to think about a turf shoe. A turf shoe is composed of a rubber bottom that will interact with the turf field for better traction. You can wear cleats on turf (if the facility will allow you to) but the plastic or metal cleats tend to provide less control when moving from side to side, when compared to a turf shoe
It is often thought that when choosing a soccer cleat, you want it to be as tight as possible so that there is very little room for your foot to move within the cleat. However, like choosing any other shoe, you want the shoe to fit “snug.” This means that there should still be room between the end of the big toe and the end of the cleat. It is also important to remember that when choosing a cleat, if your are looking at a leather upper material, the cleat will stretch with wear and use. You will notice that when purchasing, most cleats are built around a fairly narrow last (the shoe’s internal shape), which can pose an issue if you have a wider foot. In this case, it may be advised to look at a cleat made of leather, rather that a synthetic material, in order to help accommodate the width of your foot.
Can my Orthotics Fit in my Cleats?
When coming in for an orthotic assessment, it is important to provide details on the sports that you participate in, especially if there is pain with activity. Because the the cleat is built around a very narrow last, aspects such as orthotic thickness, material selection and the profile of the device will need to be taken into account. With this being said, your orthotics can certainly be tailored around as need be in order to be utilized comfortably within your cleats.
Still have cleat questions? Contact us today to book an appointment with one of our Pedorthists for advice specific to your needs.