One of the reasons why the game of soccer has developed so much over the years is due to changing surfaces. The beauty of soccer is that it can be played anywhere, and soleplates have developed over time to reflect this. Boots were originally developed for play on grass and featured Firm Ground stud configurations. Over time games were played on Artificial Grass, Astro Turf, wooden courts, hard futsal courts and even the street.
Firm Ground (FG) - refers to a natural grass surface that is mostly dry and firm. This is the most popular type of boot for outdoor soccer and can contain many different stud types and configurations.
Soft Ground (FG) - refers to a natural grass surface that is wet and muddy and needs increased traction. These boots usually contain metal screw-in studs and typically utilize a common stud configuration of four studs in the forefoot and two in the back.
Artificial Grass (AG) - refers to a field of short artificial grass laid over rubber pellets. These studs are normally shorter and sometimes hollowed out in order to prevent the boots from getting stuck too deep in the surface. Nike also includes a Texon shield in these boots to keep the foot cool when the temperature of the field’s rubber pellets rises.
Artificial Turf (TF) - refers most commonly to Astro Turf or other gravelly or dirt surfaces. Turf can be very abrasive on uppers, so these boots are built with heavy-duty rubber bottoms that provide protection, support and traction.
Indoor Court (IC) - refers to hard indoor playing surfaces like a futsal court. Tough rubber bottoms are built for these boots so that they are non-marking on court surfaces but are also protected against the abrasion of playing on a hard surface.
Nike and Adidas use research and rigorous testing to develop stud configurations that will enhance the performance of their boots. For example, the Nike Magista Obra 2 features a circular stud pattern underneath the area where the big toe meets the forefoot. This area is where players push-off when they begin a sprint, and the pattern creates rotational traction to enhance acceleration at this crucial push-off point. The Hypervenom Phantom 3 also features a new Hyper-Reactive stud configuration that utilizes hexagonal studs on the instep and bladed chevron studs on the edge of the foot. This allows for different traction based on how a player is accelerating, braking or cutting to the side.
Triangular/Bladed - Bladed studs like the ones found on the Mercurial Superfly are good for providing traction when a player pushes from the side of their foot like they do during a cut move.
Conical - provides stability and rotational traction during a wide range of movements.
Hexagonal - This stud shape provides rotational traction and push-off for cutting.
Of course, depending on the surface you will be playing on, we recommend purchasing the corresponding footwear. Buying the correct footwear will guarantee that your cleats will last longer. However, if you will be playing on multiple surfaces, purchasing three types of boots can be very expensive.
Best Bet for All-Around: There isn’t a one-type fits all solution when it comes to soleplates, but some stud configurations can technically be used on a variety of surfaces. If you only wanted to invest in one pair of boots we would recommend purchasing Firm Grounds. These boots can be used on wet and muddy surfaces as well as artificial grass.
If your home field is Artificial Grass: If your home field is artificial grass and you know that many teams in your league also use artificial grass fields, then an AG boot would be your best bet.
Players in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest: weather conditions vary greatly during the season with days of rain and days of sunshine. We recommend purchasing a pair of FG and SG to cover your bases.
Players in Dry Climates: If you’re in a drier climate and mostly play on grass, we recommend buying Firm Grounds and possibly a pair of turf shoes that are less expensive than AG but still provide traction for that surface.
To read more about the research and development that nike has put into their stud configurations check out their blog here: http://news.nike.com/news/nike-football-s-traction-revolution
Please let us know if you have any questions about which boots you should buy in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Nike Soccer.