Gridiron Football: America’s Favorite Sport
For the last half-century, gridiron football has been America’s favorite game. American football has the highest average attendance and viewership of any professional sports league in the United States. According to a 2014 report by CNSNews.com, there were over one million high school athletes who played football during the 2012-2013 school year alone.
Because of the sport’s immense popularity, athletic brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour release numerous football cleats to keep up with demand. Each brand has also crafted their collections to meet the different needs of the athletes on the field.
Here at RunRepeat, our goal is to make your life a little bit easier by helping you pick the best cleat for you. In the next sections, we’ll give you a rundown of the things you should consider before ordering a pair of football cleats.
Football Cleats 101: Things to Consider Before Buying Football Cleats
Buying the most expensive cleat doesn’t mean you’ll be getting the best in terms of performance. There are several factors to consider before spending your hard-earned cash on a pair of football cleats.
Listed below are just a few things to consider before buying a football cleat:
- Playing position and role
- Performance needs
- Sizing and comfort
Let us discuss each point and see how it affects your buying decision.
Playing Position and Role
American football is the most participated team sport in the United States, thanks in part to the number of players each team is allowed to have. Just to give you some perspective, an NFL team is allowed to have 53 players on their roster while the NCAA allows up to 105 players to be rostered.
A football team is generally divided into three separate units—offense, defense, and special teams. A player’s role is defined by their position in either of these core units.
The offensive unit’s goal is to score touchdowns. Offensive players work their way down the field until they reach the end zone.
- Quarterback (QB) — The quarterback is the field general. He calls the plays and initiates the action on the field. A quarterback must be able to think on his feet and throw the ball with power and accuracy.
- Running Back (RB) — The running back (aka halfback) does it all on the field. He’ll run, catch, block, and even throw the occasional pass. A running back should be quick and thrives on contact.
- Fullback (FB) — The fullback is the lead blocker out of the backfield. A fullback should be a good runner and have exceptional strength.
- Wide Receiver (WR) — For the most part, wide receivers are known as pass catchers. They split out from the rest of the formation and run pass routes as they wait for the pass from the quarterback. A good wide receiver should have blazing speed and sharp hand-eye coordination.
- Offensive Lineman — The offensive line consists of two guards, two tackles, and the center. Aside from the center, Offensive linemen usually do not touch the ball. They are in charge of protecting or making a block for the quarterback until he makes a throw or pass. Linemen are usually the biggest and strongest players on the team.
- Tight End (TE) — A tight end is a hybrid between a lineman and receiver. He makes blocks for the quarterback and running back, and he can also split out into the field to catch passes. Tight ends should have the strength and size to dominate at the line. They also need to have the speed and coordination of a receiver.
The defensive unit’s goal is to prevent the opposing team’s offense from scoring by tackling and causing turnovers.
- Defensive Lineman — Defensive linemen are the first line of defense. They consist of three to four players who line up opposite the offensive line. They are tasked to shed the blocks of the offensive linemen and tackle the ball carrier. Defensive linemen are generally big and strong.
- Linebacker (LB) — Linebackers back the defensive line and shadow running backs, tight ends, and sometimes wide receivers. Their duties include rushing the passer and tackling the ball carrier. Linebackers need to be both strong and fast.
- Cornerback (CB) — Cornerbacks support the run. They spend most of their time covering wide receivers but are sometimes asked to blitz the quarterback. They try to break up passes, tackle players, and intercept passes coming their way. Cornerbacks are usually the fastest defensive players.
- Safety (S) — Safeties are the last line of defense. They are responsible for covering tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers. Safeties are usually strong, fast, and capable tacklers.
The special teams consist of specialty players that take the field during kick-offs, punts, and field goals.
- Kicker (K) — As the name implies, the kicker is a strong-legged player who kicks the ball during kickoffs and field goals. The kicker should be able to kick accurately from a tee or a holder.
- Punter (P) — The punter kicks the ball away if the offense fails to make a first down. Similar to the kicker, the punter is also a strong-legged player who can kick the ball accurately after dropping the ball from their outstretched arms.
- Long Snapper (LS) — The long snapper is in charge of starting plays for the kicker and punter. He snaps the ball back to the kicker or punter for a punt or field goal attempt. After snapping the ball, the long snapper acts as an offensive lineman.
- Return Specialists — The return specialist is the player a punter or kicker kicks to during punts and kickoffs.
As you can see, your position and role on the field play a considerable part when selecting football cleats. In fact, brands have created collections to meet the specific needs of different kinds of players and positions.
For example, Nike Football has three major collections—the Alpha, Vapor, and Force. The Nike Alpha series is designed for unstoppable playmakers. The Nike Vapor collection is engineered to help skill position players reach their top speed on the field. The Nike Force line elevates a player’s explosiveness and gives them more leverage in the line of scrimmage.
Since American football is a full-contact sport, football cleats are designed to provide players firm support to withstand the rigors of the game. Like basketball shoes, football cleats have several performance features that help athletes elevate their game on the gridiron.
Football players need to stay supported during every play. The cleats you wear should offer enough ankle support and give you the confidence you need to navigate the field.
Football cleats come in either low, mid, or high-top designs. A player’s choice of style mostly depends on the level of support and mobility their position requires. For example, linebackers usually wear high-tops for support, quarterbacks wear mid-tops for mobility, while wide receivers wear low-tops for speed and agility.
- Low-top — Low-top football cleats (like the Adidas Adizero 5-Star 7.0) are lightweight and allow maximum maneuverability. Skill position players prefer this type of cleat because they offer better agility on the field.
- Mid-top — Mid-top football cleats provide a mix of ankle support and mobility. Mid-top cleats are preferred by players who need to move quickly and stay protected in heavy traffic.
- High-top — High-top football cleats are bulkier and offer more support than mid-tops or low-tops. Players who thrive in the line of scrimmage prefer high-top cleats because of its increased support and containment.
A football cleat’s upper can be constructed of different materials to provide varying levels of support, durability, and comfort. The upper is typically composed of leather or synthetic materials to withstand regular use on the field.
Aside from using leather and synthetics, brands have also developed performance technologies such as Nike Flyknit, Adidas Primeknit, and Under Armour Threadborne. These proprietary technologies are engineered to provide increased comfort, support, flexibility, and durability.
- Nike Flyknit — Nike Flyknit technology is a digitally engineered knitting process that allows the upper to be constructed in a complete 360-degree form. The knit upper wraps the foot and helps athletes feel more secure on the field. Usually, Nike’s high end football cleats (e.g., Nike Alpha Menace Elite 2) are equipped with this technology.
- Adidas Primeknit — Primeknit technology is Adidas’s branded method of crafting the entire upper in one piece. Fused yarns are digitally knitted and fine-tuned to provide support and flexibility exactly where they are needed. Like Nike Football, Adidas also equips their top-tier football cleats (e.g., Adidas Freak Ultra) with Primeknit technology.
- Under Armour Threadborne — Inspired by paracord, Under Armour weaved threads around cord panels to create a light, durable, and supportive upper material. Cam Newton’s signature cleats (such as the C1N MC) with Under Armour usually feature this technology.
Football cleats come with a lockdown system to keep that foot secure during play. Aside from the regular lace-up closure, some cleats also feature a one-piece bootie construction, hook-and-loop straps, and even zippers to enhance lockdown.
Other features that increase lockdown are Achilles pads, a heel cup/clip, and proprietary technologies such as Flywire cables.
- Lace-Up — This is the most common type of closure system found in most football cleats. This type of lockdown system offers a fully-customizable fit.
- Slip-On — Most premium football cleats feature a one-piece knit construction that provides a snug one-to-one fit.
- Strap — Some football cleats feature hook-and-loop straps to provide increased support and lockdown.
Football cleats need to have reliable traction to help you perform better on the field. Cleats or spikes provide grip as your cut, juke, spin, and sprint towards the end zone.
- Molded Cleats — Molded cleats are permanently attached to the outsole. This type of cleat offers solid traction on the field.
- Detachable Cleats — Detachable cleats have studs that can be changed or replaced. These cleats are quite versatile since players can change the studs depending on their position and the playing conditions. Nike’s Force Savage Pro 2 D is an example of this type of cleat.
Football cleats are constructed of different materials that are engineered to withstand the rigors of the game. Also, the material you choose dramatically impacts how you perform on the field.
Listed below are the most common materials used on football cleats.
- Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) — TPU is a lightweight and water-resistant material that can withstand extreme temperatures. TPU can also stand up against severe impact and is more dent resistant than metal.
- Polyurethane (PU) — PU is a durable material that has the same elasticity as rubber. Like TPU, PU can also withstand harsh weather conditions.
- Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA) — EVA is a flexible and durable material that can withstand extreme heat and cold. EVA is water-resistant and will not crack from stress or age.
- Poron Urethane — Poron is a breathable material that keeps water and sweat away from your feet. Poron can also withstand hard impact and will not weaken with age.
- Pebax — Pebax is a thermoplastic elastomer that is highly resistant to impact, flex fatigue, and harsh weather conditions. This lightweight material offers excellent support and does not weaken in cold weather.
Sizing and Comfort
Another important factor to consider when buying a cleat is the overall fit and comfort. A cleat must provide a comfortable fit in order for you to fully enjoy what it has to offer.
One would think that sizing for all brands would be roughly the same. But the reality is, shoe manufacturers use different lasts when crafting cleats — because of this, getting the right size can be a bit tricky.
Players also have different preferences when it comes to sizing. Some love a snug fit while others like to have a little wiggle room.
At RunRepeat, we scour the internet to find out how a particular football cleat fits. We try to help you arrive at a decision even without trying them on.
Some football cleats are equipped with a comfortable midsole to keep you going all game long. The foam midsole is designed to enhance comfort, responsiveness, and help absorb cleat pressure.
- Nike Lunarlon — Nike Lunarlon is a specially designed dual-density foam that provides soft yet springy cushioning.
- Nike React — Nike React is an ultra-soft and ultra-springy foam that made its debut in 2017. React is lighter and more durable than any other foam Nike has developed.
- Adidas Boost — Boost is Adidas’s most innovative cushioning technology. Boost foam compresses under pressure and instantly bounces back to its original shape. It offers the highest energy return out of any foam out in the market.
- Under Armour Micro G — Under Armour Micro G is a high-rebound, low-compression set foam that provides a low-to-the-ground and responsive ride.
- Under Armour Charged — Under Armour’s Charged cushioning offers unrivaled shock absorption and energy return. Charged is designed to lessen the impact and greatly enhance bounce back.
Frequently Asked Questions about Football Cleats
How do I break in my football cleats?
Not all football cleats are good-to-go right out of the box. Most cleats need some time to break in before they become comfortable to play in. Here, we'll provide some tips on how to break-in your new cleats.
- Wear your newly-purchased cleats.
Flex your football cleats.
- If your house is carpeted, walk around the house while wearing your new football cleats.
- Go for a walk in the park or your backyard.
- Play a leisurely sport like catch while wearing the cleats.
Soak your new football cleats in warm water.
- You can give your new cleats a really good flex to soften up the materials.
- Hold the toe and heel and repeatedly bend the cleat in as many different directions as possible. Keep bending the cleat for around 15 minutes or until you feel it soften up.
- Wear your new cleats with your game socks on.
- While seated in a chair or stool, place a bucket on the ground and put both feet in it.
- Pour warm water in the bucket until the water reaches just below where the tongue or laces begin.
- Keep flexing your toes and heel while your cleat is in the water.
- Remove your cleats from the water once you feel them soften up.
- Make sure that the water remains warm during the entire process.
How do I clean my football cleats?
Gridiron football is a tough game, and your football cleats take the majority of the beating on the field. Here we'll give you a step-by-step guide to keep your cleats looking good as new.
- Remove your cleats as soon as you leave the field — hard surfaces like concrete and pavement damage the cleats.
- Knock off the excess dirt, mud, and grass by hitting the outsole against each other.
- Dry scrub the remaining grime using a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush will do) or a cleat specific cleaning tool.
- Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing two cups of warm water and one teaspoon of laundry detergent, hand soap, or dish soap.
- Dip the soft-bristled brush into the soapy solution and finish cleaning the outsole. Once the brush becomes filled with dirt, run it under a stream of clean water before dipping it again in the cleaning solution.
- Dip a washcloth or paper towel in the soapy solution then wipe the soles of the cleat to remove any remaining debris.
- Remove the laces and dip them into the cleaning solution. Let the laces sit for around ten minutes then gently scrub them to remove dirt build-up. After cleaning the laces, run them under clean water and lay them out on a towel to dry.
- Dip the soft-bristled brush in the soapy solution and scrub the upper of the football cleat. Start scrubbing at the middle area near the laces and work your way down to the sides. This method allows for dirty water to fall downwards naturally.
- Dip a sponge pad into the cleaning solution and wring out excess water with your hands. Hold the cleat and rub the upper to remove any remaining dirt.
- Use a paper towel or clean, dry rag to dry the football cleat. You may also stuff newspaper inside to absorb excess water that may have seeped inside the cleat.
- Once completely dry, relace the cleat.
How to prevent blisters from new football cleats?
There’s nothing worse than playing in a fresh pair of cleats and then getting bloodied and bruised after. Here are just a few to on how to prevent getting blisters.
- Don’t wear your new cleats directly into a game or practice.
- Take the time to break in your cleats. Start with light activities like jogging around the field before practice. Doing so allows the cleat to adapt to the shape of your foot.
- Bring a second pair of cleats that are already broken-in. Once you feel any discomfort from your new football cleats, take them off and change to your already broken-in cleats.
- If possible, try the cleats in-store to get a comfortable fit. Check for pressure points and make sure that you have the appropriate size. Do not buy football cleats that feel uncomfortable from the first try on.
- Wear good, quality football socks. Regular socks are not thick enough and cannot support the pressure and movements from gridiron football. Also, normal socks do not absorb sweat and moisture as well as performance football socks.
- Apply lubricant to blister-prone areas of your foot. Apply some petroleum jelly on portions of your feet that you know are susceptible to sores and blisters. You may also apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly on your heels and toes to reduce friction between your football cleats and your skin.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Wet feet can cause considerable movement and friction inside the cleat. Also, if you do get a blister, clean and dry feet are less likely to become infected and will heal faster.
- Apply antiperspirant or deodorant on your feet. Antiperspirants or deodorants help keep your feet as dry as possible throughout the game. Apply some antiperspirant or deodorant on your heel, toe, and forefoot to lessen the chances of getting blisters.
- Use moleskin on blister-prone areas. Moleskin is a special type of material that is designed to reduce friction between your skin and cleat. So, even if you have not broken-in your cleats, you can cover hotspots with moleskin to prevent blisters from forming.
- Double sock. Two layers of socks may reduce the friction between your skin and the cleat.
Are there football cleats for women?
Football cleats usually come in men's sizes. Because of this, women may find it a little tasking to shop for football cleats.
As a general rule, a woman's size is a size and a half smaller than a man's size. For example, if a woman wears a size 8, she can try on a size 6.5 men's cleat and see how it fits.
Luckily, brands like Adidas are trying to make football cleats more accessible to women. In 2019, The Three Stripes teamed up with Atlanta Legends Defensive Specialist Coach Jen Welters and crafted a special-edition female football cleat.
"For Adidas to actually produce a cleat made for me really shows the power of the brand and the future of football for women," Welter said in an interview. "It requires more specialization and a real commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have the ability now to grow football for women, not just from my stubbornness [to do so], but from [Adidas's] visibility, profile, and perspective.”
A League of Our Own: A Brief History of American Football
Gridiron football, or more commonly known as American football, originated in North American universities in the 19th century. Gridiron football evolved from two popular British sports—Rugby and Association football (Soccer).
Often called ‘mob football,’ early versions of the sport was chaotic. It had a mix-and-match set of rules and a large number of players on both sides. Matches would often end with a high rate of injuries.
On November 6, 1869, players from two North-Eastern colleges held the first intercollegiate football match in New Brunswick. Playing a soccer-style game, participants from Princeton and Rutgers advanced the ball towards the scoring goal by kicking and swiping at it with their hands. Rutgers won the inaugural match with a score of six goals to four.
Many North-Eastern colleges adopted the increasingly popular game, so an effort was made at standardization. So in 1873, representatives from Rutgers, Princeton, Columbia, and Yale formed the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA).
Despite this development, several colleges still retained their own rules. So, throughout the late 19th century, intercollegiate matches led to swapping rules and styles between institutions.
It wasn’t until Walter Camp became a vital member of the IFA that the game would transition from a rugby-style play towards its more modern form.
Recognized as the ‘father of American Football,’ Camp introduced innovations such as the line of scrimmage, a system of downs, and the 11-man team. He also established the quarterback position, offensive signal calling, and the scoring scale used in football today.