If you are playing competitive or casual soccer, you have probably given your choice of shoes a lot of thought. And rightly so. With the different surfaces, league rules, weather forcing players indoors, it is a good idea to think about what shoe(s) work best for your needs. A few decades back, one would primarily be playing on a rough grass surface. Now there is natural grass, artificial grass (or turf), indoor turf, indoor court, and variants within those categories. Each of these surfaces is different from the other. A good pair of shoes may be ideal for one surface but pose a challenge on another.
In order to make a decision between the types of shoes, it is useful to know the categories of soccer shoes that exist. There are five or six general categories for soccer shoes, depending on the surface of play. These categories have evolved over time, and continue to do so. For example, Nike is one of the manufacturers of Multi Ground (MG) shoes – which are not mentioned below – that supposedly work on multiple surfaces. It won’t surprise me if more manufacturers create multi-purpose shoes, allowing people to be able to play on multiple surfaces without breaking their shoe budget.
In the meantime, I generally group soccer shoes into one of these five categories:
Types Of Soccer Shoes
These are what the pros use. Professional soccer clubs usually play on neat cut grass fields with firm and dry surfaces. The rubber studs (or cleats) on the soles provide extra traction on firm surfaces.
HG shoes are primarily used on hard outdoor surfaces. These are typically fields with no grass, or fields with extensive no-grass patches on them, exposing a harder surface beneath. Unlike FG shoes which pierce into the grass, HG shoes are designed to sit on the surface and have a higher concentration of studs, but at a lower height.
If it is muddy on the pitch, you don’t want to be caught flat footed and slide or fall over. Not only can this impact your performance in the game, it can also be a recipe for injuries. For muddy surfaces, you need shoes that allow you a firm standing on the field. Enter Soft Ground (or SG) shoes. These are generally designed with long metal studs that dig into the mud. These shoes are intended to be used on soft/muddy surfaces only and are not appropriate for other pitch types.
Turf (or Artificial Grass)
AG shoes are designed for artificial grass fields. They can occasionally be used as a backup for HG shoes and for training. They have several studs concentrated on the sole, and are much shorter than studs in the SG or FG shoes.
These are shoes you wear when playing in an indoor court. This is not limited to soccer, but includes other sports like basketball as well. These are as close you are going to get to standard sneakers and have a flat rubbery sole, allowing for better traction on an indoor surface.
In addition to the nature of the studs and the sole, shoes are also differentiated by the type of material. Leather shoes typically offer the best feel and fit, and are usually the material of choice amongst professionals.
Mid and entry level players may prefer synthetic shoes because of their lower price points. However, the choice of material doesn’t necessarily vary with the surface. The differences mainly exist to provide the market a variety of price points.
The below matrix summarises the differences between the above shoes:
|Type Of Shoe||Studs||Stud Concentration||Functions Best On?|
|FG||Rubber Studs||Spaced Apart||Outdoor Grass Pitches (Firm)|
|SG||Long Metal Studs||Spaced Apart||Outdoor Grass Pitches (Muddy/Soft)|
|HG||Short Rubber Studs||Concentrated||Outdoor Hard & Dry Pitches|
|AG (or Turf)||Shortest Rubber Studs||Very Concentrated||Artificial Grass|
|Indoor Court||None, flat||Not Applicable||Indoor Courts|
Interchangeability Of Shoes - Indoor VS Turf
Understandably for beginner players, they may be looking for a one shoe fits all approach (pun intended). It is costly to have multiple pairs for different surfaces, and so players may look to purchase one or two pairs that work on multiple pitches. So the question may arise, can I use my indoor shoes to play on turf? Or vice versa? Are there multi-purpose shoes that would work on many surfaces?
The answer, as with most things, is it depends. As mentioned above, indoor shoes are primarily meant for indoor courts/gyms. Whereas, turf shoes function best on artificial grass surfaces. For the most part, indoor courts will not allow players to wear non-indoor shoes on them.
This is due to the possibility of leaving marks on the glossy surface. Centers operating turf pitches however, may allow different types of footwear. Whether or not one type of shoe can be used on the other surface depends on the following factors:
Interchangeability Of Shoes - All Surfaces
The above factors also extend to the interchangeability between other types of shoes. You may choose to wear sneakers on an FG pitch and function fine, but the mobility will be a lot worse than a good pair of FG shoes.
For a beginner however, they may not be able to afford or even want to purchase 2-3 different pairs of shoes in order to get playing. For these players, I recommend using the chart below. It contains my first, second, and third choice of shoe for a given surface. Note that you should only use the third choice if you have absolutely no option. Moreover, the choice of shoe is obviously constrained by the rules of the league or the place you play in. Always follow the rules. If the league allows for flexibility, you can opt to use the first or second choice below:
|Surface||1st Choice||2nr Choice||3rd Choice|
|Firm Ground||FG Shoes||AG Shoes||Indoor Court Shoes|
|Soft Ground||SG Shoes||FG Shoes||Indoor Court Shoes|
|Hard Ground||HG Shoes||FG Shoes||AG Shoes|
|Artificial Grass (Turf)||AG Shoes||FG Shoes||Indoor Court Shoes|
|Indoor Court||Indoor Court Shoes||AG Shoes||FG Shoes|
Based on the above, the shoe that fits the most surfaces is the FG shoe. They are the best choice for firm ground grass surfaces and in my opinion, are a good backup option for soft ground, hard ground, and turf surfaces. The only surface they don’t work on at all are the indoor court. However, as mentioned above, most shoes besides the indoor court shoes won’t be appropriate for that surface. So if you’re a beginner, and looking to invest in a single pair, I’d go for a nice quality pair of FG shoes. A second choice would be AG shoes. I would not recommend getting SG, HG, or Indoor Court shoes unless you are going to be playing exclusively on those surfaces.
Other Useful Soccer Articles
Can You Wear Indoor Soccer Shoes On Turf? – Final Words
If you are a professional soccer player, you should definitely invest in the type of shoe optimal for the surface you play on. In some instances, this may mean investing in multiple pairs. For mid-level players, I’d recommend getting at least two pairs (FG and AG), so that you have a decent coverage across the surfaces. If you are a beginner and would just like to purchase one pair, I’d go for a FG shoe. These will allow you to play on most surfaces.
As far as playing on indoor courts goes, I highly recommend sticking to indoor court shoes. Most places will enforce this rule anyway. You will likely not be able to use AG (or Turf) shoes in indoor courts, and more importantly, they will not be comfortable to use, and potentially cause injury. On the other hand, indoor court shoes may work fine on turf surfaces, and are likely permitted by centers (in some cases, may even be required).
The choice of shoe tends to become less important when you are trying to pick up the game. Your priority should be to practice, practice, practice. Whether it’s with an AG shoe, or an FG shoe, try the below tips to improve:
- Kick the ball about whenever you get the chance, to improve your control.
- Dribble the ball around obstacles to practice movement with the ball.
- Watch soccer games to understand positioning and movement off the ball.
- Engage in HIIT training. Soccer tends to be a very volatile sport. You go from 0 to 60 very quickly. Interval training can help with maintaining your fitness.
- Identify things to work on on a weekly basis and set targets to achieve those goals.
- Stretch before and after every session to prevent injury and speed up recovery.
- And most of all, enjoy the beautiful game!