If you are playing competitive or casual soccer, you have probably given your choice of soccer cleats 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 soccer shoes 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 cleats 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. These types of soccer shoes supposedly work on multiple fields.
It won’t surprise me if more manufacturers decided to 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 Cleats
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 ground.
HG soccer shoes are primarily used on hard surfaces. These are typically soccer fields with no grass, or fields with extensive no-grass patches on them, exposing a harder surface beneath. Unlike FG cleats which pierce into the grass, HG soccer 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 grounds, you need soccer shoes that allow you a firm standing on soccer fields.
Enter Soft Ground (or SG) soccer cleats. 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 soccer shoes and for training. They have several studs concentrated on the sole, which are much shorter in the SG or FG shoes.
These soccer shoes are meant to be worn 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 gum rubber sole, allowing for better traction on an indoor surface.
- Full grain leather upper with suede overlays offer...
- Embossed EVA midsole for superior comfort
- Non Marking gum rubber outsole for excellent grip...
In addition to the nature of the studs and the sole, soccer shoes are also differentiated by the 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:
Interchangeability - Indoor VS Turf Shoes
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 soccer shoes to play on turf? Or vice versa? Are there multi-purpose shoes that would work everywhere?
The answer, as with most things, is “it depends”. As mentioned above, indoor soccer shoes are primarily meant for indoor courts/gyms. Whereas, turf soccer shoes function best on artificial grass surfaces. For the most part, indoor courts will not allow players to wear anything else than futsal shoes on them.
This is due to the possibility of leaving marks on the glossy surface. Centers operating artificial turf pitches however, may allow different types of footwear. Whether or not one type of shoe can be used on the other type of surface depends on the following factors:
Certain centers only allow some types of soccer shoes. In some cases, there may be centers with artificial turf pitches, but with restrictions on using shoes with cleats (due to damage to turf). In these cases, one may be forced to use indoor soccer shoes or sneakers on a turf surface. Indoor courts almost always require participants to wear indoor soccer shoes. This prevents marks on the surface.
If the rules allow for either type of shoe, and you are limited by your budget, I’d suggest getting a nice pair of indoor soccer shoes. These work well on both indoor courts, and on artificial turf surfaces. As mentioned above, the reverse is not always true, since most places will not allow turf soccer shoes on indoor courts.
If rules/budget are not a factor, it may make sense for you to try out both sets of shoes on a given type of surface.
Before you make your purchase, borrow a pair of indoor court, and turf soccer shoes from a friend. Try out each pair on both. My suggestion is to ultimately purchase a pair for each surface, as they optimize performance, and minimize the risk of injuries.
If you are a pro, you are likely already using FG soccer cleats exclusively. My recommendation would be: the higher the level of play, the better it is to pick a pair that is optimized for the type of surface you are playing soccer on. It simply allows for better performance and once again, reduces the risk of injury.
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 soccer cleats.
For a beginner however, they may not be able to afford or even want to purchase 2-3 different pairs of soccer 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 other 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:
Based on the above, the soccer shoes that fit the most surfaces are the FG shoes. They are the best choice for FG grass surfaces and in my opinion, are a good backup option for SG, hard ground, and artificial turf surfaces. The only surface they don’t work on at all are the indoor court.
However, as mentioned above, most soccer 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 turf shoes. I would not recommend getting SG, HG, or Indoor Court soccer shoes unless you are going to be playing exclusively on those surfaces.
Can You Wear Indoor Soccer Shoes On Turf? - The Overtime
If you are an aspiring 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 turf shoes), 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 FG soccer shoes. These will allow you to play on most surfaces.
As far as playing indoor soccer, I highly recommend sticking to indoor soccer shoes. Most places will enforce this rule anyway.
You will likely not be able to use AG or Turf soccer 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 artificial 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 turf shoes, or FG soccer cleats, 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!