Soccer cleat manufacturers have continued to up their game in design. The huge diversity of soccer cleats on the market is making it harder for soccer players to make their choice.
One issue that gets soccer players worked up when it is time to make a choice is finding soccer cleats that will enhance their kicking ability. But, do soccer cleats make you kick better, or are those soccer players simply victims of misinformation?
Some soccer cleat manufacturers (like the PUMA evoPower Vigor) market their products as enhancing kicking power. They argue that the soccer cleats have flexible outsoles that allow your foot to flex more naturally and deliver near-natural shots.
Others like Nike incorporate rate-dependent foam in the upper of some of their products. The rate-dependent foam is a soft foam that hardens upon impact with the ball to deliver more powerful shots.
All the manufacturers claim they have tested these products in the lab, but should you take their words for it? Think about it, manufacturers will likely say anything that increases the appeal of their products.
However, we would tell you all we know based on credible and verifiable research. We took a really deep dive into the topic and this is what we found.
Do soccer cleats make you kick better?
Without mincing words, the answer is yes. Soccer cleats do make you kick better, but not in the way that the manufacturers advertise it. We scanned through over a dozen academic research and one thing that they all agree on is that soccer cleats can affect your kicking power.
However, what they have been unable to establish is what features enhances your kicking power. This is because, in situations where they experienced improved kicks, it was due to a complex interaction of various features of the cleats.
Nevertheless, don’t think that simply wrapping a soccer cleat around your feet will give you an instant 1 or 2 km/h of shot power. So, how exactly can a soccer cleat make you kick better? This is what we know.
Soccer cleats can make you run faster
It is no secret that wearing lighter soccer cleats can help you run faster. Ever since the discovery of this fact, soccer cleat manufacturers have continued to experiment with different materials and designs to make lighter products.
For example, they removed the metal spikes that were found in earlier soccer cleats and replaced them with rubber spikes. Interestingly, one of the tricks to achieving a more powerful strike is a run-up.
Run-up allows you to build momentum which is transferred to the ball. The more momentum you build, the more force will be transferred to the ball leading to a more powerful strike.
During his days on the soccer pitch, Roberto Carlos was famous for running up the ball and driving powerful shots behind the reach of the goalkeeper. He did that every single time that he wanted to take a free kick.
Therefore, we cannot say that it is a coincidence. Running up the ball helps to generate a powerful shot and if your soccer cleat improves your burst, then it also indirectly makes you kick better.
They can influence your confidence
It is possible to break your foot from kicking a soccer ball. That fear can make a soccer player not kick the ball properly.
Inasmuch as it is not advised, some soccer players feel more comfortable kicking the ball with their toes. In indoor soccer like futsal, it is a great technique that helps the players to deliver more powerful shots.
However, there have been instances where young soccer players broke their toes in the process of kicking the ball. Putting on a nice pair of soccer cleats can burst a soccer player the confidence to kick the ball with any part of their foot they feel most comfortable using.
Improve traction and better foot plant
Right from the early days of soccer when players used factory boots to play, some soccer players already understood the importance of traction to their performance. Therefore, they often modified their work boots by adding metal studs to them to improve traction.
Manufacturers of soccer cleats started replacing the metal studs with leather studs in the 1800s. The general idea was to make the soccer cleats lighter and safer while improving their traction on firm ground or soft ground, particularly in outdoor soccer.
Indoor soccer like futsal doesn’t permit the use of soccer cleats with studs. However, their flat-soled cleats are also designed to improve traction in their own way. So, what is the relationship between traction and kicking the ball?
Well, to kick the ball, you need to plant one of your feet on the ground while the other swings to make the strike. If your striking foot is not properly positioned, you miss your shot, miss your target, or slide and fall to the ground.
Again, just like in running, the soccer cleat doesn’t directly help you kick better but it does so indirectly by supporting your planting foot. The shape, height, and arrangement of the studs all contribute to the traction you will get out of your soccer cleat.
Improved ball control
In terms of ball control, manufacturers are also pushing their limit and there are now soccer cleats that are marketed as improving a soccer player’s ball control or swerve when they kick the ball.
Soccer cleats in this category often have pillow-type elements or padding on the upper and rubber elements on the side. These features have been proven to be effective by experts.
For example, soccer cleats with a wide toe area make it easier to drive the ball low and hard. This is due to even pressure distribution across the ball.
On the other hand, soccer cleats with rounded toe areas will lead to limited impact area and uneven pressure distribution which can cause the ball to move away from the intended target. Little wonder soccer players often use their instep to kick the ball when accuracy is required.
Likewise, a soccer cleat with a spiked or ridged upper will increase friction with the ball during contact. This increased friction will prevent slippage during kicking.
Perhaps, you have seen an instance where a soccer player tried to kick the ball but instead, the ball spins over their foot and moved in the opposite direction. That is what happens when there is low friction between the soccer cleat and the ball.
However, the downside of all those extra materials is that it makes it more difficult for the player to feel the ball on their feet which makes it harder for the players to properly gauge their shooting power.
Soccer players think that they are kicking harder when they use soccer cleats with thin upper than when they use ones with thick upper. So, when soccer players say they get better shot with soccer cleats with thinner uppers, it is simply a matter of perception.
The comfort of your shoes may affect your kick
Several studies have shown that comfort and traction are the two top features that soccer players desire from their cleats. However, studies have shown that comfort doesn’t directly affect your kick.
The impact of comfort on kicking happens indirectly through your planting foot. When you wear uncomfortable soccer cleats, you will notice that you will find it more difficult to walk.
This difficulty will also affect how you place your planting foot when attempting a kick. Better stability in the planting foot in combination with higher traction will improve your kicking speed and accuracy.
The weight and thickness don’t matter
If you think that thing soccer cleats will increase your kicking velocity, research strongly disputes that. One study clearly shows that soccer players usually record better kick velocity when they kick with bare feet.
Lighter soccer cleats can boost our run-up speed which can impact your kicking velocity. On the other hand, heavier soccer cleats can slow you down a bit but that weight increases the impact on the ball thereby compensating for the lower velocity.
As we have outlined, soccer cleats can affect your kicking. However, the most important factor to blame for this is the traction produced by the soccer cleat.
Soccer cleats that have better traction will make you kick better compared to those that offer less traction. Therefore, forget the fancy designs and marketing antics and focus on the traction the next time you want to make a purchase.
The shape and material of the upper matter too—albeit not as much as the traction. The impact of the upper on kicking is more prominent when you consider ball control rather than enhancing the velocity of your kick.
So, we strongly recommend that you train with the soccer cleat that you will use on matchday. Constantly training with your matchday soccer cleats will help you to get used to its dynamics and better condition your mind and muscles to use them for speed or control.
Lastly, training is what makes the difference. As we mentioned earlier, you cannot magically gain 2 km/h on your shot simply by putting on any soccer cleat. Likewise, you cannot gain better ball control by simply swapping your old soccer cleats with a new pair.
You need to work hard and build those skills. Soccer cleats will only sharpen the skills that you already have.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!