The Ultimate Guide to Cleats for Problem Feet
Posted by Jenn F. on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Soccer is a beautiful game, one that brings players many health benefits. Socializing with teammates leads to better mood, improved self image, and a sense of being a part of something. Regular exercise, especially strenuous exercise, improves muscle tone, cardiovascular health, and may prevent many illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer’s. But the sport is also intense, physical, and potentially damaging… especially for the feet. As a lifelong soccer player I’ve tried more cleats than I’d like to admit. Every season I’d start with a new pair, and every season they’d torture my feet. With all of the cutting, pushing off, sprinting, landing, and kicking in soccer, an ill-fitting cleat can be disastrous for the feet, leading to all sorts of unpleasant side-lining injuries. Finding an excellent, supportive cleat can mean the difference between chronic pain and injury and years of healthy playing. Here is a guide to some great cleats for a variety of foot problems and concerns.
Wide feet are a notorious problem for cleat-wearers. Cleats tend to be long and narrow, a profile that’s been reinforced by soccer aesthetics more than by any sort of functional logic. The Under Armor Dominate is a great brand for wide-footed players. It’s also underrated (Under Armor is a relatively new company on the cleat scene—a place where people tend to have fierce brand loyalty). You may also consider the Nike T90 Laser III, a higher-end option.
This is a common soccer injury, particularly in athletes who play more than once a week. As we’ve discussed before, it’s an overuse injury in which the plantar fascia (the band that runs along your arch) becomes inflamed and painful. Cleats are notoriously bad when it comes to this particular condition—they rarely provide adequate arch support and often have stiff soles that put pressure on the plantar fascia. First, try to find flexible, supportive cleats, like the Nike Vapor VII. Second, wear turf shoes during practice. Turf shoes are more flexible, supportive, and they are better shock absorbers but they have small rubber nubs instead of plastic cleats, so they’re not regulation for games.
If you’ve got a pronation (your foot tends to roll inward, towards your arch) the Nike Tiempo is an excellent choice. It offers more lateral support than most cleats and has a high heel, which adds ankle support too. If your pronation is severe however, cleats probably won’t be enough on their own. Consider orthotics (see below).
Many long-term soccer players wear orthotics to correct foot problems that have developed over years of playing the sport (increasingly, new players are wearing them too, a fantastic trend that may save young athletes from a whole lot of pain and frustration.) Unfortunately, most cleats aren’t designed to accommodate orthotics. They may not have removable insoles and are often too shallow to fit an insert and a foot at once. The Adidas Predator Pulse solves both of these problems with a deep instep and removeable insole (though these are so spacious, you may not need to remove it at all). They’re rather pricey but when you consider the money you’ll save on foot care down the line, they’re worth it. If you don’t like the Predator Pulse, ask your doctor about a low profile orthotic specifically designed for shallow, narrow cleats.
Great cleats are critically important but it’s also important for coaches to plan practices and games with players’ feet in mind. Switching from turf to grass, running on varied terrain, starting an intense new training regimen, and not providing enough rest between practices or games can all contribute to athlete injury. The best cleats in the world are just one factor in a soccer player’s overall foot health.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.