Looking for the latest and greatest football cleats on the market?
In this guide, we’ve reviewed 9 of the best football cleats available in 2021. We’ve also outlined some key considerations when buying, helping you to pick the right cleats for your position on the pitch.
No time to waste? Check out our comparison table to view our top picks:
- Best football cleats for wide receivers
- Best football cleats for linemen
- Best football cleats for running backs
- Buyer’s guide
Best Football Cleats For Wide Receivers
DEFINITION: wide receivers are fast players who stick to the edge of the field. Their job is to pick up long throws during offensive plays.
Nike loves to make super fast cleats that have an almost barefoot feel when they’ve been broken in. The Vapor Untouchable 3 is no exception – these cleats have excellent acceleration off the mark due to their ultra-light woven upper and carbon fiber sole plate.
Another benefit of the woven mesh upper is the comfort it offers. These cleats are super breathable, and the molded foam insole plus additional midsole cushioning feels awesome to wear.
However, while there is a good level of cushioning to the Untouchable Pro 3, these cleats don’t feel too soft or flimsy. In fact, they provide excellent ankle protection and support, which is exactly what you need when sprinting down the sideline.
The Untouchable Pro 3 is a little more expensive than most other cleats out there. However, you definitely get what you pay for – Nike’s shoes would make an excellent choice for any budding NFL receiver.
Like Nike did with the Vapor Untouchable Pro 3, Adidas has prioritized comfort in producing the adiZero 8.0.
This cleat is one of the only options out there that fits great as soon as you buy it. There’s no need for any break-in period.
Adidas have achieved this level of comfort by using a soft, almost fabric-like upper material. This stuff is incredibly breathable and flexible, but still offers the support you need when sprinting.
Despite being so lightweight, these cleats are very durable, as you would expect from Adidas. Unlike with some other options, you won’t have to worry about the dreaded outsole split occurring mid-season.
Plus, they look great – there are a few different styles available.
On the whole, these are durable, lightweight cleats, and they offer good grip too. We can’t fault the adiZero 8.0 if you’re looking for a receiver’s cleat.
If you’re looking for the best possible foot and ankle support when sprinting, the C1N MC is probably your best bet. Although these cleats are branded as being made for quarterbacks, their snug fit and agility makes them awesome for receivers too.
The mid-cut ankle collar and 3D-molded tongue offer excellent lock-down, leading to superb overall stability when sprinting and turning.
You also get “4D foam” in the footbed which adapts to the shape of your foot, reducing annoying internal slippage. If you get the right size, these cleats feel fantastic – you can almost forget you’re wearing them.
As you’d expect from Under Armour, the C1N MC comes with full-length carbon and a material known as “Pebax” to help reduce weight. At 12.5oz, these cleats are reasonably light but still offer enough protection for you to avoid having to worry about being trodden on.
The issue with these cleats is they run a little small – we’d recommend ordering a size up. Also, they’re not the most durable option out there. Considering what they cost, it’s a little disappointing that they typically won’t last more than a full season (including training and games).
Best Football Cleats For Linemen
DEFINITION: linemen are strong but agile players responsible for running offense or defense in the line of scrimmage. They must wrestle with opposing linemen to defend or attack the quarterback.
As a lineman, you need cleats with excellent ankle and heel support to help you push your opponent with the maximum possible force.
You’ll also need shoes with great grip to avoid sliding back when wrestling. The weight of your cleats doesn’t matter as much as it does for receivers.
This is why the Freak X is an excellent option for players in the trenches. It has a heel cup designed specifically for extra support when pushing, and the extended collar gives you greater stability when making quick steps forward.
These cleats also have a carbon footplate, engineered to help you make quick turns and stops.
What’s more, the Freak X is very durable – they’ll definitely last you a season or more, depending on how often you play. They also come in a bunch of awesome colorways – we especially love the blackout one! The only downside would be the price – these cleats are a bit expensive. However, these are definitely some of the best football cleats for linemen you can buy right now.
Nike also makes a fantastic lineman’s cleat, and it’s a little bit cheaper than Adidas’s Freak X.
What makes this cleat so good is the amount of cushioning on offer. Nike have made an effort to include as much protection as possible around the toe area and near the laces, giving you the confidence to grapple and tackle without fear of being trodden on.
As a result of all this extra padding, the upper is quite a bit thicker than it is on other shoes designed for speed. This means that these cleats aren’t incredibly breathable.
However, even though weight isn’t such a big deal when buying cleats for linemen, these are still pretty light pair of cleats. Nike have engineered an outsole and cleat configuration which gives you the traction you need to push with real force in any direction.
Meaning, you can grapple head-on, while also maximising the force of your lateral pushes when shoulder-to-shoulder with an opponent. At the same time, this outsole weighs virtually nothing, helping to keep the cleats as light as possible.
As well as the high-top design, the plate is also made of TPU for additional support. Meaning, you can keep your head in the game and forget about the possibility of rolling your ankle.
This isn’t a cheap cleat, but it is very durable – no need to worry about the front of the toe splitting. In terms of football cleats for linemen, nothing really beats the Force Savage Elite.
This pair of cleats is engineered specifically for linemen. Unlike the Savage Elite we just looked at, you get an extended high cut collar and strap, designed to lock your foot in place. Nike has also engineered a specialized “Flywire” outer material which improves stability when running – another feature that’s perfect for linemen.
The issue with this design is it can make the cleats a little hard to get on at first. They do break in over time though, and the level of lockdown provided is simply unparalleled.
Considering the technology on offer, the Lunarbeast Elite is actually priced fairly reasonably – it’s not cheap, nor is it too expensive, in most colorways at least.
It’s also quite durable, but the upper isn’t as tough nor as thick as the Savage Elite. However, the “Lunerlon” midsole material offers excellent cushioning and comfort in-game.
Overall, if you’re worried about your foot slipping inside your cleats, these are a good choice due to the security they offer. However, do be aware that they can be difficult to get on, at least until you’ve had the chance to break them in.
Best Football Cleats For Running Backs
DEFINITION: running backs are multidimensional players who perform a number of roles in the offensive backfield. They may block opponents, receive short passes, and take handoffs from the quarterback before throwing or running the ball down the pitch.
With regards to football cleats, running backs require gear similar to what receivers use – lightweight shoes built for speed. However, running backs are generally more versatile players, so they need a better all-round football cleat that enables them to move with agility.
This is why the Adidas Freak Mid football shoe is such a great option for guys playing RB. The company’s patented “Sprintskin” upper is super lightweight but still offers awesome support, helping you to make turns quickly and comfortably.
Furthermore, the rubber sole is reinforced with DuPont Kevlar, which offers great grip and excellent durability. You also get an extended ankle collar which provides good stability when turning and sprinting.
Overall, these are a fantastic pair of cleats for the price.
If you’re looking for a simple cleat that’s super-easy to get on, try the Nike Alpha Pro 2. It has a more traditional look (low cut with no ankle collar), and as a result it’s a bit cheaper than most other Nike options on the market right now.
These cleats have pretty much everything you’d want as a running back:
- Molded sole with screw-in spikes – you can interchange them depending on the conditions for better grip.
- Lightweight “Nikeskin” outer material for improved speed & agility.
- Good level of interior padding for comfort.
Considering what you get, the price is very reasonable. The only downside would be the lack of ankle support (compared to other football cleats) due to the low cut design. However, the lack of an ankle collar allows for a greater range of movement on the pitch, which can be very useful for running backs.
Under Armour loves to make a comfy cleat and the Highlight MC is no exception. The molded “4D foam” footbed feels awesome to walk on for the life of the cleat, as it’s a surprisingly durable material.
UA has also used their “ClutchFit” technology which wraps around the top of your foot, resulting in an almost barefoot feel when running.
You also get the support you need for agile turns on the field – the mid cut design and “PlasmaX” plate provide excellent stability.
Although Under Armour loves to use weird buzzwords, these football cleats do perform as well as they say they will.
They’re light, comfortable, and offer great support, which is exactly what you need as a versatile running back. These football cleats also come in a few pretty decent colorways – but nothing beats the white/metallic silver in our opinion. 😛
The only downside would be the cost – the UA Highlight MC is pretty expensive. However, we think they’re worth the money.
To help you pick the right football cleats, we’ve outlined some key things you should consider when buying.
1. Football Cleat Diagram
Before we dive in, it’s important to understand the terminology used to describe the different parts of a football cleat.
Note: the upper refers to the outside of the cleat. It goes all the way around the shoe, and plays a big role in determining how comfortable the cleat is to wear.
The sole has three layers, each shown in the diagram.
Your foot is in contact with the insole, which is often removable, and made of a soft foam. Then there’s another layer of cushioned material underneath, called the midsole. Finally, the outsole is on the outside. It’s what touches the ground, and what your spikes are attached to.
2. Different Football Cleats For Different Positions
In the reviews above, we’ve shown how different football cleats are best for players in different positions on the football field.
What this boils down to is this:
- Receivers need light football cleats with good grip for maximum pace when sprinting.
- Linemen need cleats with excellent ankle and heel support for wrestling and tackling opponents.
- Running backs need a well-rounded football shoe with excellent agility for skipping past opponents but also good support for shielding the quarterback.
If you don’t play in one of these positions, consider what your role is on the pitch and what would help you to perform it as well as you possibly can (would you want extra agility, speed or support?).
3. How To Find Your Football Cleat Size
Most manufacturers will include a size chart on their website which can help you to find the right size.
Simply Google the brand name + size guide and measure your heel to toe length. Then compare your measurements with the guidelines shown.
You should also consider reviews from customers as some football cleats will run large or small. Amazon for example has a function that tells you how a pair of shoes will fit.
If you’re still unsure, go to a store and have a walk around in a few different cleats. You can then go home and buy online if the price is better.
For kids, be sure to get a pair of cleats that fit snugly – not shoes that they need to grow into. This is because loose cleats can cause severe blisters if worn for a training session or game. The discomfort associated with these sores can affect a child’s ability to run properly, which can lead to more severe injuries further down the line.
4. Different Types Of Football Cleat Spikes
There’s currently two different types of football cleat spikes on the market:
- Molded spikes are molded directly into the bottom of the cleat. They’re suitable for most synthetic turf and grass surfaces and come ready to use. You can’t remove or swap out molded spikes.
- Screw-in spikes are separate to the shoe itself, so you can detach them and swap them for other spikes if you wish. Players use detachable spikes because they can be interchanged depending on the weather conditions and the playing surface.
5. Different Types Of Football Cleat Cuts
These days you can get football cleats with differing levels of ankle support.
- High cut cleats like the Nike Force Lunarbeast Elite come up above the ankle. They provide the best ankle support and stability of any type of football cleat.
- Mid cut (MC) cleats like the Adidas Freak X Carbon come up to the ankle. They provide awesome support but can be difficult to get on.
- Low cut (LC) cleats like the Nike Alpha Strike 2 do not have an ankle collar, instead they finish at the top of your foot. They’re simple, cheap and easy to get on. Some players also think that low cut cleats offer a greater range of movement (better agility) on the field.
6. The Difference Between Soccer And Football Cleats
Football cleats have much better ankle support and greater internal cushioning than most soccer cleats. As a result, soccer cleats are normally lighter but offer less protection if your foot gets trodden on.
Also, football cleats have a central spike in the toe area, because football players are often on their toes, ready to jump for their opponent. Soccer cleats do not have this extra stud, so they offer less speed off the mark when you’re on your toes.
Therefore, we wouldn’t recommend using soccer cleats for football or football cleats for soccer, as they’re both specifically designed for very different sports.
7. Football Cleat Color
If you’re a semi-pro, high school or college player, your team might have some rules about what color cleats you can wear. They might need to match your team strip, or they might need to be a neutral color such as black and white (like in the image above).
8. The Difference Between Adidas, Nike and Under Armour Football Cleats
Adidas has been making soccer cleats for nearly 100 years now. Since entering the American football market, the German company has had incredible success in producing gridiron shoes. Their football cleats are renown for their comfort, build quality and excellent ankle support.
Nike has been in the football shoe business for a lot longer than Adidas, as they’re an all-American brand. For decades Nike has been a market leader in this space, renown for their innovative, comfortable and stylish football cleats. They can be a bit expensive but Nike cleats are often worth the extra cost.
Under Armour is the new kid on the block in the football shoe world. They’ve been making compression clothing for football since 1996, only recently beginning to make cleats and other footwear. Unlike the old-timers, Under Armour is willing to make quite outlandish shoes to grab sales. They’re famous for their cleats’ slick styling, awesome ankle support and great stability when running – UA cleats tend to hug the foot.
You’ve reached the end of our buyer’s guide! Hopefully you found this article helpful.
If you’re still not sure what pair of cleats to get, leave a comment below and we’ll get right back to you. 🙂
About the author
Tom is an accomplished writer, with years of experience producing buyer’s guides and tutorials for athletes online.
And it goes without saying – he’s sports-mad.