Soccer Gear Buyers Guide

Suiting Up for Soccer
Soccer Cleats / Soccer Shoes

On the pitch, your feet rule the game, making your cleats the most important pieces of equipment you use. As your primary contact between yourself and the ball, soccer boots have the most dramatic and direct affect on your in-game performance. That's why it's important to find the soccer shoes that suit your style of play, and fit your budget, to get the most out of your game.

When shopping for new soccer cleats, there are two general features to take note of; the upper and outsole of the boot. The outsole, or traction, of the cleats determine which surfaces they're designed for, while the upper is primarily where the ball contacts, determining your touch on the ball.

To get the best traction, acceleration, stopping power, and maneuverability on the field, find a pair of soccer shoes with outsoles designed for your typical field playing surface:

  • Firm Ground (FG) / Molded - Versatile and popular amongst beginner and intermediate players, suited for almost all natural surfaces.
  • Soft Ground (SG) / Replaceable - Well suited for experienced players on soft or wet surfaces, cleat studs can be screwed on and off to tailor performance to conditions.
  • Hard Ground (HG) / Multiground (MG) - Designed for artificial or hard natural surfaces such as frozen fields and sun-baked pitches.
  • Turf - Various raised patterns instead of studs make these best for harder field surfaces and artificial turfs.
  • Indoor - Traction designed for indoor play on hard gym surfaces.

The type of leather or synthetic material used in the upper generally affects your touch on the ball. Softer, more expensive leathers give you more control and better touch, while sacrificing durability. Different materials also retain or resist water, altering performance in wet conditions:

  • Leather
    • Kangaroo - The most expensive, highest-quality, and softest soccer cleat leather, for maximum comfort and touch, with minimal durability.
    • Calfskin / Full-Grain - More durable, yet not as soft, light, or comfortable as Kangaroo, calfskin cleats are moderately priced for lasting performance.
    • Pittards Leather - Used in Puma soccer shoes only, Pittards is calfskin, treated for water-resistance and improved softness.
  • Synthetic
    • More affordable that leather, synthetic uppers are perfect for entry and mid-level players.
    • Typically water-resistant, but with less touch than leather
  • Premium Synthetic
    • Water-repellent micro-fibers keep cleats light and dry
    • Typically combined with leather for optimal touch and performance
Soccer Socks

As required, soccer socks are worn high, to cover your shin guards during match play. But they should also provide some performance benefits as well. When purchasing new soccer socks, think about what conditions you'll be playing in. If you typically play in hot weather, look for thinner socks with moisture wicking materials like polyester and spandex. If you play during the colder months, thicker socks with natural materials, like cotton, seal in heat for better protection and comfort from the chill. Since they're fairly affordable, it's a good idea to own a few pairs of soccer socks to suit changing conditions.

Shin Guards

Although they come in a variety of styles, materials, and price-points, the goal of shin guards are all the same; disperse and absorb impact energy to protect legs, shins, and ankles from injury. Expensive, pro-level shin guards utilize fiberglass, Kevlar, polyurethane, and other advanced materials to wrap around the leg for maximum comfort and impact absorption. More accessible, affordable shin guards are built with hard plastic shells, backed by foam and comfortable materials to fit against the shin with Velcro and other wraps. Generally, the larger the area the shin guard covers, the safer you are from injury.

Soccer Apparel (Shorts and Jerseys)

Lightweight, breathable, and moisture wicking, advanced soccer shorts and jerseys keep players looking and playing great! They come in tons of styles and colors, and your choice should generally be a matter of personal preference. However, to stay fast and agile on the field, make sure you soccer apparel is comfortable, properly fitting, and low-profile.

Soccer Goalie Gear
Goalkeeper Apparel (Jerseys, Shorts, and Pants)

Soccer goalie jerseys are all about style and performance. With a huge variety of bright colors and intimidating designs, you'll stand out in goal and strike fear in the competition. Arm and elbow pads, built into most goalkeeper jerseys, protect you from impact injuries when diving for shots. Some keeper jerseys also use silicone patterns on the chest to help slow ball rotation when caught, improving control.

To protect your lower half, goalkeeper pants and shorts are typically designed with low-profile, impact-absorbing padding around the hips and knees, reducing sting from dives and jumps, and giving you the confidence to play more physically.

Goalkeeper Gloves

To improve ball control and make the stops that make the game, all without breaking fingers and bruising hands, goalies need great goalkeeper gloves. Designed with a huge variety of foams, materials, styles, and advanced technologies, companies like Reusch, Nike, Rinat, Uhlsport, and Brine give goalies of all levels quality gloves for training and match play. Learn more about our huge selection of soccer goalkeeper gloves from Sports Unlimited soccer goalie glove buyer guide.

Soccer Game Gear
Soccer Balls

Strip the game down, and you realize that the only thing you ever really need to play soccer is a ball. But what makes a soccer ball, and why are some dramatically more expensive than others? The answer is true flight; a great soccer ball goes where you want it to. The how, rests in the construction of the ball.

Typically sewn with 32 panels (although 18, 26, and other configurations exist), soccer balls are made of a casing over an internal bladder. When choosing a new soccer ball, these two features determine the performance, and price, of the ball:

  • Cases are made with either PVC or Polyurethane (PU), although some are made with a mixture of the two.
    • PVC makes for more affordable, harder, durable, and less lively balls, than PU, making it a good choice for practice or starter balls.
    • PU delivers a softer touch with more responsiveness, although it will scuff and wear faster.
  • Bladders are made with either latex or butyl
    • Latex bladders are used in pro-level balls to deliver a soft feel, although they don't retain air as well as butyl.
    • Butyl bladders do not provide as true a flight as latex, but are typically used for better air retention.

Soccer balls come in a variety of sizes, designed for different ages, skill levels, and games.

  • Mini balls are great for practicing, indoor use, and fun drills.
  • Size 3 balls are great for ages 7 and under.
  • Size 4 balls are designed for ages 8 - 11.
  • Size 5 balls are meant for ages 12 and over, and are the official ball size of the World Cup.

Soccer Goals

There are hundreds of varieties of soccer goals, so when looking for a new goal, narrow down your search by understanding your budget, your intended use, and your skill level. Plastic soccer goals, such as pop-up soccer goals and portable goals, are lightweight, affordable, and perfect for training, drills, and scrimmages. On the other hand, metal goals are more expensive, durable, and heavier, to deliver more consistent performance, making them great for match play and institutional / league use. Goals also come in a variety of sizes, designed for players of all ages and skill levels. Young, entry level players should use a goal between 4' x 6' and 4.5' x 9' while older, experienced player should use a standard, full-sized goal, 8' x 24'. Read more about choosing a new soccer goal set with our Soccer Goals Buyers Guide.