The right shoes are vital when playing soccer. Different field surfaces require specialised cleats to ensure that a player has enough traction to run and make quick starts and stops. Both firm-ground and hard-ground soccer cleats are for outdoor play but have differences that allow for different types of field conditions.
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Early soccer shoes date back to England's King Henry VIII, whose personal shoemaker made his shoes. The late 1800s saw official guidelines and rules for soccer shoes. Through the years, cleat styles and materials have evolved to provide choices to the soccer athlete that express his style and provide optimum performance for different types of indoor and outdoor soccer fields. Today, companies produce soccer cleats made of leathers and synthetics that come in a wide variety of styles and colours.
A soccer player needs to know the main type of playing surface that her team will use when choosing a soccer shoe. If playing on a hard surface or artificial turf, a hard-ground cleat is preferable. Hard-ground cleats are also suitable for frozen surfaces. Firm-ground soccer cleats are best for playing surfaces that are neither too hard nor too soft. Most youth fields in the United States are firm ground and therefore a firm-ground shoe is acceptable for most players, especially if budgeting is a concern.
Construction of both the upper and inside of hard-ground and firm-ground soccer cleats is similar. The bottom part of the shoe, or outsole, is different. The hard-ground soccer cleat has short studs on the bottom of the shoe. These studs are evenly distributed and typically are round. The short stubbiness provides traction but reduces pressure on the foot caused by the hard surface. Firm-ground soccer cleats have longer stubs that are not evenly distributed. The stubs on firm-ground shoes may be either round or blade shaped.
Whether choosing hard-ground or firm-ground cleats, purchase cleats that fit properly. A soccer shoe that hugs the foot helps prevent blisters and reduces ankle and knee injuries. A good fit also helps the player's touch and control on the ball. When shopping for a new pair of soccer cleats, wear shin guards and game socks so you know how the shoe will feel on game day. Purchase a shoe that fits your foot and not one with "room to grow," which will add to your injury risk.
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