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At first glance, football cleats resemble other types of athletic shoes, such as track spikes and basketball shoes. However, the actual cleat part of the shoe - collectively known as studs - differentiates this type of footwear from others. Choosing the right football cleat can increase your safety, stability and body control on the field, but before you make your choice, you must be able to identify the basic components of the shoe.
The soles of a football shoe contain the defining element of the shoe - the peg-like studs themselves. The front part of the sole near the toe cap typically features about five to 10 studs, including studs around the side of the sole and one usually placed right at the tip of toe. The heel of the sole, meanwhile, typically has two to four studs. The mid-soles of football shoes are stud-free, and the heels are generally thicker than the mid-sole or toe area.
Some football cleats feature molded studs, permanently attached to the sole. Others have detachable cleats, which you can change out with replacement studs. Molded cleats cater to harder turf surfaces while detachable cleats work best on grass. Studs come in 1/2-inch, 5/8-inch, 3/4-inch and 1-inch sizes. Most studs are made of hard plastic or molded rubber, but some come with metal tips.
The body of a football cleat resembles a typical athletic shoe, with a low front profile and visible laces. However, football cleats come in low-cut, mid-cut and high-top styles. Lightweight low-cut cleats - favored by skill position players - stop just past the ankle while the tongues and toplines of mid-cut cleats extend a few inches past the ankle, offering a balance of mobility and ankle support. High-tops take on an almost boot-like profile, providing heavy-duty ankle support for positions such as lineman.
In the past, genuine leather served as the go-to material for football cleats. While some cleats still feature leather composition, most football shoes are made of synthetic materials. Commonly used football cleat materials include polyurethane, thermoplastic polyurethane and ethyl vinyl acetate. This materials range in appearance from plastic-like to rubbery to leather-like.