Once you have determined what type of soccer shoe is right for you, the next choice is what shoe material you’ll want to focus on depending on your needs and preferences. Soccer shoes are constructed of leather or synthetic material, with each having advantages. Leather shoes are constructed with natural animal hide while synthetic shoes are made from manufactured material.
Often preferred because of their ability to increase comfort and performance by conforming to the contours of your foot, leather soccer shoes also offer players protection as leather is a thicker material than synthetic material. Many players prefer leather shoes because the material’s ability to conform to the foot is said to allow them more sensitivity for feeling and controlling the ball when playing and training.
Unfortunately, leather is more absorbent than synthetic material, which means that they will become heavier and more difficult to clean and maintain over time. Another disadvantage mentioned by players is that the shoe’s ability to conform to the foot can become a disadvantage if and when the shoe stretches too much and the snug fit is lost.
There are several forms of leather soccer shoes, including kangaroo leather, calf-skin / full grain, and pittards leather.
Considered the top-of-the-line leather material, kangaroo leather, or sometimes referred to as k-leather, provides the wearer with unparalleled fit and comfort. The material of the shoe greatly increases the player’s sensitivity to the ball and allows for maximum ball control and navigation. The light material promotes agility and requires little to no break-in time. Many k-leather advocates praise the durability of the shoes and insist that they are the perfect shoe for both play and training. They aren’t waterproof, however, which can make them less desirable for outdoor games.
It should be noted that, like any leather shoe, the fit will be lost if the shoe stretches too much. K-leather shoes are also becoming increasingly hard to find and are more expensive than other kinds of leather shoes.
Calf-skin / Full-grain
Cow skin leather can be either full-grain or half-grain, which is determined by the age of the cow when the shoes were made. Half-grain is synonymous with calf-skin, referring to shoes made when the bovine was in its youth. Calf-skin is generally softer, thinner, and lighter than full-grain leather. Both full-grain and calf-skin shoes are able to withstand the wear and tear of intense soccer.
Cow skin leather doesn’t have as much tensile strength or durability as a k-leather shoe, so more material is required during the manufacturing process. This results in a heavier shoe which may decrease speed, but often offers the player more foot protection.
Cow skin leather cleats take longer to break-in than k-leather shoes, but many players insist that their thicker construction allows for a softer touch on the ball. Cow skin leather shoes are naturally water-resistant, which may make them even more appealing to outdoor players.
Pittards leather provides performance-supporting glove and shoe material for many sports. Pittards leather is calf-skin leather that has undergone a patented, one-of-a-kind treatment process. The developers of Pittards sport leathers manufacture footwear known for being lightweight and durable, with an extremely high tensile strength. Their shoes are flexible and durable with increased traction and trip for strenuous sports.
The company is the only manufacturer of authentic Puma shoes. They specialize in various forms of active wear, so most players have no trouble finding products that suit them. Pittards leather shoes are water-resistant and represent the mid-priced shoes, being cheaper than k-leather but more expensive than the average calf-skin pair of shoes.
Synthetic soccer shoes also offer players a choice so that you can select the material that meets your needs – synthetic leather or lightweight synthetic material. Your more traditional synthetics are designed to emulate leather while lightweight synthetics are designed with a thin, breathable material in mind that is similar in function and feel to a minimalist shoe than a leather cleat.
Synthetic shoes, or shoes constructed of man-made material, retain color and design better than leather footwear. They are also usually water-resistant which makes them lighter in less-than-ideal playing conditions. While this water-resistant quality makes them easier to clean and maintain, some players report that they make a slick contact with the ball in the rain, decreasing sensitivity and control. These shoes have a longer break-in time and conform less to the player’s foot. Synthetic shoes often feature more breathability than traditional leather cleats.
Premium synthetic shoes feature all of the advancements of shoe design technology and combine the best aspects of synthetics and leather into one form. The shoes are typically made of water-resistant microfibers and are very lightweight and breathable. They are sometimes combined with leather to form a hybrid shoe that has ideal fit and comfort on any surface. Many entry or mid-level players are advised to opt for synthetic shoes and move towards premium synthetic material if they can afford the higher cost.
Knit and Mesh
Mesh and knit soccer shoes, while much less common than traditional leather or synthetic materials, are being seen more and more on the soccer fields. There is a trend emerging that has seen the use of mesh through the uppers, or every part of the shoe above the insole and midsole. Mesh is widely used in running shoes because of its lightweight, thin, breathable qualities. Unfortunately, mesh does not offer much protection to the foot and it isn’t waterproof.
Knit soccer shoes also provide lightweight breathability to players. Adidas and Nike have both released versions of knit soccer shoes within recent years. These shoes feature a protective layer not included in most mesh shoes that provide some water protection. Like mesh shoes, these do not generally provide as much protection as more traditional soccer shoes and are not recommended for individuals who play in high-contact leagues.