9 Best Football Cleats 2021: Nike, Adidas, & Under Amour Options (Adult & Youth)

football cleats

Football players come in all shapes and sizes, and just like them so, too, do the cleats that they wear. This makes football cleats harder to shop for, especially if you are not the player himself or a former player or someone close to the game than most other types of athletic footwear. To help you figure out what the differences are and what are needed for a football cleat to do a good job for your athlete, or for you, we are going to be taking an in-depth look today. Our buying guide is going to help you decipher what is necessary and what is not, it will help answer any questions you might have, and then we will look at the most popular pairs on the current market as we move into 2019.

Top Football Cleats Comparison Chart

ProductMaterialCleat TypePriceWhere to Buy?
Nike Alpha Menace Pro MidSynthetic & MeshMid Cut$$$Check Price On Amazon
Adidas Freak X Carbon MidSynthetic/TextileMid Cut$$Check Price On Amazon
Under Armour Nitro Low McFabricMid Cut$$$Check Price On Amazon
Nike Vapor Shark 2SyntheticLow Cut$Check Price On Amazon
Under Armour Highlight McSyntheticMid Cut$$$Check Price On Amazon
Nike Vapor Untouchable Pro 3SyntheticLow Cut$$$$Check Price On Amazon
Nike Alpha Strike 2 Three-QuarterSyntheticHigh Cut$$Check Price On Amazon
Adidas 5.5 Star MidSyntheticMid Cut$$Check Price On Amazon
Adidas Adizero 5-Star 7.0SyntheticLow Cut$$$$Check Price On Amazon

Football Cleats Buying Guide

Positions and How They Affect You

In football, your position is key. There are very few crossover players in the true form of the word. You might see a player play on the offensive and defensive lines, or a player that players wide receiver and cornerback, or someone that is a linebacker and a full back, but those days are actually becoming less and less. Even if they do plays those combinations, the cleats will transition well to one another in general terms. However, there are some major differences in the looks, feels, and fits of them and they each has their ups and downs and will make you have to know what you need and where you’ll be playing in order to make the best, most informed decision possible. There are thus three different variations to look at, and we will do so below.

Low Cut Cleats

Low cut cleats are going to work best for those players that want to get maximum speed out of their bodies. A low cut means that there is less protection, but most crucially, it comes with less bulk. This means the player can run faster, make cleaner cuts, and break away a lot quicker. They also give you more flexibility in most cases, too, as you don’t have all that bulk holding you back. And with less weight means less pressure upon you and your foot. As such, the best positions that fit these cleats are going to be wide receivers and running backs. Unless you are a bigger running back, or one that has had injuries in the past, this should be a good choice. If you have had injuries before or are bigger, though, you may want to go with something a little more substantial before you start barreling people over.

Mid Cut Cleats

Mid cut cleats are going to be the option you’d want if you are the kind of running back we mentioned before. With mid cut cleats, you don’t have as much of your foot being locked down as the third and final option we’ll discuss in a moment but you also get more protection than a low cut is going to give you. This means that mid cut cleats are best for line backers, full backs and safeties. Others, too, could benefit from this type, including quarterbacks and some linemen, but it all just depends on preference, your size, and your injury history.

High Cut Cleats

High cut cleats are going to give you the most protection out there. These cleats are going to be as close to body armor as you can legally get on the field, so you need to understand that they will slow you down more than the other two types. The main thing that they add to the mix over the other two is the added ankle protection that they give. Because of all the pushing and possibility for tripping over people, this makes them a good option for lineman on both sides of the ball, particularly those in the middle part of the lines. They also can be a good choice for quarterbacks, with those that are not the most agile on their feet really needing them, or those that have had injuries and want to do everything they can to prevent more from happening also likely to desire them.

Types of Cleats

In this section, what we mean by cleats is the actual cleat itself. This is the bottom part of the shoe, which is the long piece of material which is used to provide you additional grip. Depending on the size and length of the cleat, you will either have more or less grip. Some types are good for one surface, while others are not. Some are able to be used on multiple types of ground, so you should take a look at these and carefully decide which is needed.

Molded Cleats

The modern game of football predominantly features this style of cleat because it is just so easy to manufacture and to use. Molded cleats are what they sound like, they are cleats that are attached to the shoes permanently. As such, they obviously can’t be taken off. This is sometimes an issue if you are walking on pavement, which should be done at a minimum, but they also won’t fall off, either, so it is a good thing to have if you are worried about that happening due to a very dry, hard surface on the field of play.

Detachable Cleats

Detachable cleats are the opposite of molded cleats. The advantage that detachable cleats bring you is versatility. With them, you can change from a longer cleat, which will help you dig into the ground better and drive faster, or you can go with a shorter one to help you when the ground is wetter and softer. The negative part of detachable cleats is that they can come easily, especially if you don’t tighten them in well, they take a a lot of time to adjust, and they can be more expensive as well. They are oftentimes more expensive because they are customized, but they can be well worth it in the right circumstances.

Rubber vs TPU

These two terms are going to come up sometimes, and they might mix and match some with the section below, but they are still useful to talk about here. Rubber spikes are going to be a little bit heavier than TPU ones, but they are wider. Having the extra width means they disperse energy better and thus are better at absorbing shocks, which contrary to popular opinion, is not just used when you are jumping around only. TPU spikes, meanwhile, have the advantage of weighing less. They are thinner and don’t have as much in the way of shock absorption, but they do allow you to be lighter on the ground, so that is something to look into if you are emphasizing that over all else.

Length of the Cleat

As we mentioned briefly in the detachable cleats section, the length of the cleat can play a big role in how well you will do. If you are going to be playing for sure on fields that are all dusty and hard, then it is safe to say that a rounded, short cleat is best for you. Long cleats won’t do as much good for you in this environment at all. If you are playing in places that have a lot of dampness to them, or if the field is soft, then you can go with a longer cleat. This will dig into the turf much better and help you cut from side to side. A lot of times you won’t experience any issues going in a straight line, but you might just mess up when you go to cut, which is just as important, if not more so, than running full speed straight ahead. If you are in variable conditions, look for something in between. This will serve you well in the event that it is rainy or dry. Most cleats sold are good for multiple conditions, so you shouldn’t fret too much about it.


A football cleat has to feel good on the player, or else he will not be too happy with it. To get that proper fit, you need to know what to look for. First and foremost, you need a shoe that is going to be snug but not too tight. The way to get this is to always keep a thumbs width between the toes and the end of the shoes when measuring. This is massive for football cleats due to having a cleat up under the toe, so if you don’t get this right you won’t just have the edge of the shoe making you uncomfortable and forcing you to blister but you will also have the bottom side bugging you constantly, too. Remember the snug part? This is where that comes in. It’s also a very bad idea to have a pair of cleats, or any shoes for that matter, that are too big. It is going to cause some severe problems if you are running and basically end up sliding in your shoes back and forth like you were on a boat ride at the amusement park. Your shoes need to be snug to you to keep you locked in, or else you will never get the best out of them. This is particularly hard to swallow if you are a parent because you don’t want to buy cleats. Let’s face it: football is an expensive sport to play. But compromising your child with a pair that are too big just so they can grow into them will not help their experience and may actually make them worse for it. Furthermore, it can lead to injuries whether because of a fall, because they lost their shoe and got stepped on, or because of the toll that adds up on the body over time. As such, you shouldn’t do them wear shoes that are not fitted right. A further reason to avoid the practice of sizing too large is that they simply are growing very fast anyway. If you buy a pair of shoes this fall hoping to last this fall as well as next fall, you’re unlikely to see them be able to wear them because they are going to grow so much. So not only do they skip out on having a good fit, they won’t even be able to reuse them. Don’t skimp out, or it could end up costing you in a variety of ways. Returns can be a pain, but they are much better to go through than dealing with an improperly fitted shoe.

Materials and Uppers

The materials that make up a shoe are always very important to look at, as it can determine just how well they hold up over time. Some materials are great for a short time, or for certain situations while being poor at others. We’ll help you take a look at them here to prevent you from any possible confusion over them later on. The upper part of the shoe is one of the most telling parts of the shoe. It can show you whether it will hold up or if it will have good breathability, so it’s vital to figure out what kind of materials that are used.


In olden times, leather as the only way in which you could in regards to footwear. This was the choice that everyone made because that was it. Back then, it was very hard and tough to break in. Things now, though, are different as it is much softer and offers a premium feel. However, leather has sort of been phased out in recent years and decades. As cheaper materials have become more popular, leather has been forced to move aside in favor of other things. They still might be seen, and they are still an influence because they inspire newer types of materials, but they are no longer nearly as prevalent as they once were.


Synthetic materials are those that have been made by man to closely resemble other products most of the time. These materials have found popularity due to just how good of a job they do at mimicking the leathers that used to be found, and oftentimes have surpassed them. Synthetics used to be extremely tough and coarse, worse than leathers were. They were hard to break in and they were slippery as could be on top. This made them tough to use in a variety of sports. But as technology has gotten better, they have as well. This has made them end up being good grip wise, while also being very flexible. A lot of synthetics have passed the old leathers for that. On top of that, they are usually cheaper, allowing you to find an overall less expensive shoe or have a shoe with more in for the same price. Lastly, what synthetic materials do above leathers is last longer. This is something you’d never, ever want to turn down. Longer is always better because it’s simply more bang for your buck.


Mesh is another possible material that can be used on the upper part of the shoe. This material can also be used on the sides and on the tongue as well, while some shoes have even started to place it at the back. What mesh does it give you breathability. This is simply a big word to mean that you are able to breathe. It’s probably going to sound like a trivial thing to have in a shoe, but it can make a world of difference. By using tiny vents or perforations in them, shoes can drain moisture out of your feet. Instead of dampness heading right to your socks and your feet, making you even heavier than you already were because of all of the pads on your body, they help take that away. In cold environments, sometimes these aren’t a good idea, but oftentimes in today’s market those shoes are so well insulated that the tiny holes don’t hurt you at all. The only time you should be worried is if you see a review saying that they don’t do well in the cold. Likewise, a ton of vents also makes it easier for water to go in. Occasionally, a shoe will be good at letting out water but also poor at getting it back out. While all shoes are going to take a beating in the pouring rain, some are going to do better than others. Lots of mesh isn’t great in this sort of scenario, but it’s not like other materials are going to help you feel less bogged down, either, when it comes to that and you are on a mud pit.

Best Football Cleats Reviews

1. Nike Alpha Menace Pro Mid

One of the awesome things to come from Nike in this model of their shoes is the fact they they use the Nikeskin feature. Nikeskin is something common in all of their cleats, but it makes these very easy to to clean, makes them durable, and also makes them lightweight. This is one of the reasons why this shoe has rinse to #1 above the other two big companies dominating the market right now. On top of those things, the designs are very nice, with a number of options to pick from due to the colors as well as a modern look to them for the modern player that has to look fresh on the field. The cleats on the bottom of these shoes are molded from plastic, and it will give them traction on both grass and turf, which is going to allow you to be very versatile. With a lot of schools moving to turf fields nowadays, you might find yourself either playing there once or twice a season so it could prove to come in handy. The Flywire that Nike uses for a number of its shoes comes into play here, making these cleats very stable and supportive at the same time. Despite that, you don’t feel all that locked down by them and they aren’t heavy or bulky enough to hold you back from making big plays. The bad bits begin with the fact that they run narrow, so those with wide feet are going to have to adjust accordingly. They are also a little bit heavier than some of the low top models. On top of that, breathability is not a major factor with these, so days in hot climates might be a little tougher than you planned.


  • Very comfy cleats
  • Extremely stylish and modern
  • Gives a lot of traction


  • Not very breathable
  • Heavier than low tops
  • Sizing runs narrow

2. Adidas Freak X Carbon Mid

Making the cut at #2 is a ‘freakish’ cleat from Adidas. This mid top will allow players to zoom all over the field, whether they are a quick player or a bigger one while also giving them the protection that they need. The way that this cleat gets so much strength despite being relatively lightweight compared to others of similar size is because of the Kevlar plate. Made by DuPont, it allows it to have a ton of strength while keeping its weight down. In addition to that, it increases the amount of traction available, which is never a bad thing to have out on the field of play. The bootie like look and feel is also different from most others out there, with the tongue rising up above the heel area to let you fit in easily and lock you in better. It’s almost like a sock, too, so you get comfort on top of the support. In that way, it feels very much like it’s a low top, which means you will be able to cut quicker. Cushioning is very nice in these, with places in the back of the heel and on the tongue, locking you into place while giving you a cushy feel at the same time. One of the things that bigger players will appreciate is the toe cap. This will make it much harder for you to pick up toe injuries if you happen to stub your toe into other players and helping make sure you can drag that toe to make a catch without it grabbing in the turf and injuring you. These are very good on turf because they have hard plastic on the bottoms and are also very breathable. The draw backs for these are the lack of a flashy design. On top of that, they have less support as others out there in regards to the ankle area.


  • Kevlar gives strength without weight
  • Feels like a low cut cleat
  • Toe caps prevents toe injuries


  • Designs aren’t all that inspiring
  • Ankle area not as supportive as other mid cuts

3. Under Armour Nitro Low Mc

The first low cut to make the list, the Nitro Low from Under Armour is a good choice for those speedy players that want to be quick enough to avoid ever needing extra protection. Just because the weight is lower, though, does not make these a poor choice. They have a lot of features, such as a toe cap to give you protection as you go out to catch passes or as you dig into the ground to turn around the edge. The TPU clip in the back enforces the heel better and gives you more stability than you’d have while also locking you into place. The EVA they use in the insole makes the feet feel like they are in an extension of a sock, which in turn only serves to increase the comfort and durability of the bottom and inside of the cleats. The soles are made from synthetics, and they also allow the cleats to last longer as a result. One thing to keep in mind is that this is a show predicated on speed. If you are a so called ‘skill’ player, these are cleats meant for you. If you are a bigger player that plays in the less glamorous positions, you won’t have a ton of protection or support from them and will be in imminent danger every time you play. Coming in a number of colors to help you match your team, or to stick out if you choose, these shoes look great and offer more than the previous Adidas model. They’ve also done as good job at including mesh, and one of the things I think deserves a big mention is that it is not obvious that it is there, which increases the looks factor ten fold in my book. The other worry about them is that they are not the most comfortable shoes in the world, showing to be a little bit stiff and tough to break in initially.


  • Great for smaller, quicker players
  • Very durable
  • Excellent traction


  • Not for bigger players that need protection
  • Stiff and tough to break in

4. Nike Vapor Shark 2

If you want to keep a low profile and have a low cut but want to go with another brand, then the Vapor Shark is a good choice to have a look at. Looking almost like a soccer cleat, this shoe is also one that comes in at a heck of a bargain and will leave those short on cash happy as can be. The Vapor Shark has a clean, shiny look to it, and as such you know right off the bat it’s made from synthetics. This makes them easy to clean and also lightweight. The insole is great with a foam insert and they use the Phylon midsole to give shock absorption to you. The outsole has the Nike Fast Flex, which means they have placed the cleats underneath the player in a unique way to better help them with traction and speed off the line. The negative to these is that they are not very breathable as the entirety is just about synthetics. This does increase the durability as it negates the chance for tears of mesh, but it means they can be too hot to handle on very hot days. Also, like many Nikes, they are not good for wide feet, so that could cause you to have to make adjustments or skip them over altogether.


  • Extremely good price
  • Synthetics make life easier
  • Will hold up a while


  • Not much protection
  • Not good for people with wide feet
  • Not the best pair of cleats for hot days

5. Under Armour Highlight Mc

If you want something with a whole lot more protection and support to it, then this is the pick for you. The UA Highlight Mc is one of the best and most popular pairs out there because they offer so much in the way of support. With a high ankle guard back behind you, you don’t have to worry about rolling an ankle over in almost all situations you could find yourself in. They’ve also done a good job at keeping them light and comfortable, while also being flexible, with these cleats, which is a huge thing to have. So many that are super protective just don’t give you those things, and with these you don’t have that worry. The use of the Clutchfit technology has made them more grippy and it provides the ankle with further support, only underlining how useful the Highlight can be as you look to make the highlight reel. The rubber sole that is used is able to give them that aforementioned flexibility we mentioned, unlike the previous pair, for example would be able to do with synthetics. They’ve also got a lot of cool colors to pick from, too, making your choice a little bit easier (or harder)! The down side to this shoe is that many have found them to be too narrow for their size. They also are pricier than most, and they have been shown to be difficult to get on and off.


  • Molds to the ankle
  • Lots of colors and styles
  • Rubber is very flexible for a high cut


  • Runs narrow in relation to size
  • Costs more than most
  • A little hard to get on

6. Nike Vapor Untouchable Pro 3

If you are seeking a low cut with a ton of color options, then the Nike Vapor Untouchable Pro 3 is as good a choice as any. With so many colors to pick from, they are sure to make anyone happy and be able to match their school or their favorite team. These cleats are very good at being lightweight and helps you be quicker on the field, both in a straight line and when coming up to speed. They also have some energy return properties to them, which are a huge boost and make them not as sapping on the feet. OF course, with them being a low cut, they don’t have as much support, but they do have a good amount of it for this type of cleat nonetheless. Mesh makes them breathable, while they have used carbon playing on the bottom to secure the cleats themselves, helping further reduce the weight needed. The negatives to these are pretty obvious, with the lack of support due to being a low cut being one of them. They’ve also got a little bit more of a sparkling look to the Swoosh, which could put a few off.


  • Very fast shoes
  • Sock like feel inside
  • Many colors to choose from


  • A little glittery of a look
  • Not as much protection for bigger players in the trenches

7. Nike Alpha Strike 2 Three-Quarter

If you are a Nike guy and you want a bootie like feel and look, then this is the one for you. The Alpha Strike 2 has a few different colors, most of which are very vibrant to pick from, and also has that distinct look to it. Much like a ¾ sleeve, this cleat is going to give you some protection without binding you down. The tongue is up higher than the back, which makes you feel locked in without sacrificing all of the freedom of a high cut. They are thus very flexible to use. The breathability is very good on these cleats, not only allowing your feet to air out but also keeping them dry if the field is wet as well. Because of their style, they are comfortable and also are light, making them an ideal pick. The bad news about these is that they run small. They also tend to be very narrow, which is not anything new for Nikes. Those two things will have to be something you look out for if you are thinking about buying them. They also could be tough to put on for younger players.


  • Lightweight
  • Very nice and flashy colors
  • Excellent breathability


  • Tough to get on the foot
  • Runs small and narrow, too

8. Adidas 5.5 Star Mid

A cleat that is very reminiscent of a soccer cleat, the Adidas 5.5 Star Mid is going to only be a slide upgrade in protection to those. They do have a mid cut design, and as such, this means they are going to be a little better than flatter cleats. On top of that they are quite durable, with both the upper and the sole being made out of synthetics. This does increase the durability of them, but it can make them a little bit stiffer and harder to break in because of the material, which is less flexible than rubber. The inside uses their “Sprintskin’ technology to use just one single layer of the synthetics to make them lighter and also give your feet a lot of responsiveness to the ground. The heel cup is an excellent addition to them as it holds the foot into place and thus makes sure you aren’t moving around inside the shoe. The fly plate on the outside uses TPU to make you able to gain traction while cutting on the field. Laced with EVA, the insole is comfortable. The other negative that I see to these is the lack of choices for colors, with only two looking to be available. They are a good cleat for the price if you don’t mind the downs of them!


  • Good budget price
  • Mid cut protects and supports more
  • Very responsive


  • Not many colors to choose from
  • Can be a bit stiffer

9. Adidas Adizero 5-Star 7.0

If you are looking for a pair of cleats that are among the very lightest that you will find in the game of football, then this is your pair. These cleats don’t have a ton of protection to them at just under 10 ounces, but they do have a lot of traction and comfort to go with them. These shoes use EVA in the insole and are coupled with a heel cup to lock down your foot and make sure it doesn’t move. The colors are also simply stunning, offering a variety of inspired designs to the wearer to make you feel like you truly are the five star recruit out on the field whenever you step on it. Confidence is key, and these will give it to you. The laces are something to be pointed out on these, as they use a structure that fits to your own foot, meaning they will be more comfortable as they relieve pressure that could be caused by one size fits all kinds of styles. The upper has used what Adidas call “Speed Spat” tape to help put the seams together to make them more flexible and lighter than others out there. The traction is among the best out there due to their “sprintstuds” and the “sprintframe” plate which helps you dig in to run in any direction. One thing to keep in mind is that these are not going to have a ton of support because they weigh so much less than most pairs out there. They are also going to cost a little more than some others out there, so that could be a downer for those on a budget.


  • The most outstanding looks you can find
  • VERY lightweight
  • Extreme traction provided


  • Not the best for budgets
  • Probably best for bigger players to keep away

Conclusion And Final Football Cleats Recommendations

Finding the right pair of football cleats can be very tough. The field that you play on, the position that is being played, and so many other things are big factors. In a game where injuries occur so frequently, it is tough to know for certain how to help prevent them. There is no question that the right pair of cleats can help ensure better safety on the field, though they can never guarantee that. After today’s guide, you will be able to more accurately pinpoint the things to look for on a cleat. And you will understand and have better confidence in a range of topics that will make you a smarter consumer that will be ready to make a good purchase decision.

FAQ’s About Football Cleats

Why Is It So Important to Buy Football Cleats?

Football cleats are so important because safety is truly paramount in the game. There are few sports that are as dangerous or cause so many injuries, and while no amount of clothing or footwear is going to totally stop them, they do help you protect yourself as best as possible. Football cleats are just one more added layer that you have against impending doom on any given play.

How Do Football Cleats Differ From Other Cleats?

One way that football cleats differ from others is in the cleated area. In soccer and in baseball, you do not have a cleat up underneath the toe. This is used in football to be able to grip that much better, meaning that you would have a firm advantage over a player with a soccer cleat on, for example. They are also bulkier and more protective than those for other sports, as they emphasize support and safety over speed and quickness. With that said, they are not made to slow you down and do a good job of staying as light as possible on the whole.

Does The Weight Matter?

The weight of a cleat definitely plays a major part in your overall happiness with the shoe. A cleat that doesn’t weight anything at all is never going to protect you as much as you need it to. However, they can be overboard and be too heavy for you sometimes as well. This might be the case for you if you are a speedy runner and want to burst through the seams. It’s all about your spot on the field and knowing yourself in relation to weight. If you see that a shoe uses quite a bit of synthetic (man made products) materials in the shoes, then you should have a pretty good idea that they will be light in weight. Synthetics mirror leather, but they do so in such a way that is lighter and just as durable. They are also cheaper and better for the environment as well, so that is something to keep an eye out on.

Does Price Matter Much?

Price is always, always going to be a crucial part of the selection process, no matter what you are shopping for. You’d really love to have that Ferrari, but you most likely have a Ford budget. That’s why there are more Fords on the roads than the luxury Italian brand. Sometimes, price is going to be a misnomer. You can find some really awesome deals for inexpensive sums of money. Other times, you might overpay for something. Frequently and most often, though, you do get what you pay for. There are duds out there that won’t stand up well, but by and large you will be paying for quality and should pay as much as you reasonably can afford when looking for a pair of cleats. If you are playing at the pee wee level, price is going to be less important. You don’t need a vastly expensive pair of cleats because they often are going to grow out of them before too long. This is not to say you should be heading to the superstore and going to the shoe department, but it is to say that you shouldn’t break the bank in this particular area.

Is Style A Factor?

Style is also something to weigh in your mind when making a choice of football cleats to use. Style is going to make you stand out, or it is going to help you blend in and be a part of the team. This might be something that you want to do, or it could be the opposite of what you want. If you want to stand out in a big way, you can go for something flashy. If you just want to show you are a tough as nails, old school player, pick something plain. There is all kinds of stuff to look at and think about when it comes to the colors and designs of cleats.

Does Brand Matter?

Brands do make a difference to some people, there is no question about that. Right now, the game of football has three brands dominating the gridiron: Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas. These three are well above everyone else in nearly all aspects of the cleat game in this sport, and as such, those are going to be the bulk of the cleats that you find players to be wearing and available in public when you shop as well as online. This does not mean that you can’t find a quality pair of cleats from another manufacturer, but it does have to be said that is it tougher to do so. If you have gotten used to wearing a certain brand, it’s always a good idea to stick with them. In most cases, the fit is going to be a bit better for you as they should match previous shoes.

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