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Soccer Shoes? (I Thought They Were Cleats!)
The name of the footwear used for playing soccer is commonly referred to as cleats, or in Europe, boots. However, if you are speaking of indoor soccer, it is quite proper to refer to your cleats as shoes, especially since they don't actually have the spikes usually associated with cleats. Indoor soccer shoes should have a non-marking rubber sole, meaning even hard use on a gym floor or other surface will not leave it worse for the wear. Many players who frequent both grassy and indoor fields refer to their indoor shoes as flats, and their traditional grass field shoes as cleats. Flat soccer shoes are also appropriate on dry artificial surfaces, even when outdoors. Before we consider the different types of uppers available on soccer shoes, a brief explanation of what is meant by the term upper will help you in your decision process.
Quite easily put, the upper is that section of the shoe which will come in constant contact with ball. Uppers can be comprised of an assortment of natural leathers and synthetic blends of leathers. You can realize the best 'feel' or touch on the ball with the most expensive leather, which is Kangaroo, however, along with the high price, there are a couple of other downfalls to consider. Soccer shoes made with Kangaroo leather uppers will not last very long, and along with the sacrifice for durability, they will also require a treatment, or special coating, to help prevent water retention. That being said, though, virtually anyone who has played in Kangaroo leather will tell you it is the softest, most lightweight boot you will ever own, and the cost and other sacrifices are well worth the price for the tremendous touch on the ball.
Next in cost comes Pittards leather, which is currently only available from Puma in soccer shoes. This is a specially treated calfskin leather, which goes through a patented process to gain a water-resistant quality, also causing it to dry faster. These boots will maintain their softness longer than untreated calfskin, and also stretch less, therefore affording the player a truer fit for a longer period. These boots are not as expensive as Kangaroo leather, and do offer many fine qualities the Kangaroos lack. Calfskin leather is the old stand by choice for soccer shoe uppers, for good reasons. It is the least expensive of the natural leathers, and yet offers great durability, and much less stretching than the Kangaroo. You do sacrifice some of the intricate touch on the ball that is so beautiful with the Kangaroo, since the calfskin uppers are heavier, however, for a beginning to mid-range player these should see the season out with no complaints. Whatever type of shoe you ultimately choose, good fit is of the prime importance. Go to a sports store, with knowledgeable associates to assist you in choosing the correct style and size. Having your soccer socks with you for the fitting will prove invaluable.
The boots need to fit closely in the heel and the toe, and do bear in mind that good leather shoes will stretch a bit. As a coach, I always advised my players to wear their new boots around the house the week before using them in a match. This enables a bit of the breaking in to begin, prior to the tough use they will see on the field. The last shoe every player should own is a good pair of soccer sandals. These rubber slides often offer a bit of nubbing on the insole, a great cooling comfort to weary feet.
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