HOW TO CHOOSE THE CORRECT BASEBALL/SOFTBALL CLEATS
Last Updated: May 10th, 2019
By: Taira Jordan
Baseball and softball players sprint, slide and throw fast, accurate balls, so it is no wonder that they need cleats specifically designed for the demands of their sport. Built with a front toe cleat to provide the necessary grip when running the bases and accelerating quickly, baseball and softball cleats are different from football and soccer cleats (so unfortunately that pair of football cleats you have from last season just won’t cut it). When choosing a pair of baseball or softball cleats, it is important to consider the cleat’s height, material and cleat type.
When choosing between the three cleat heights, you are choosing your level of ankle support.
- High top cleats cover your ankle and provide extra support, especially when moving laterally. Since high top cleats help protect ankles from injury, they are the preferred cleat of youth baseball and softball players. The taller height makes it a heavier shoe and because of this, high top cleats are the slowest of the three cleat types.
- Low top cleats provide the least ankle support but are also the lightest, and thereby, the fastest of the cleat heights. If speed and stealing bases is your priority, the short height lets you make fast lateral movements and sprint as fast as possible.
- Mid top cleats are a compromise between speed and stability. Not as heavy as high-top cleats, they provide more speed, while the mid height offers more stability compared to low top cleats.
Baseball and softball cleats are generally made of one or a combination of the following materials: genuine leather, synthetic leather and mesh material.
- Real or genuine leather is breathable, supple and durable but is also the most expensive material option.
- Synthetic leather provides good support but can be less breathable than real leather. Mesh and synthetic leather are often combined to produce a shoe with the ideal support and breathability at an affordable price point. As cleats made of synthetic leather are less expensive than real leather cleats, they are the preferred cleat of youth ball players.
Before selecting one of the four main cleat or shoe types, understand which surface you will be playing on and if metal cleats are allowed in your league.
Metal cleats are preferred by professional ballplayers but are prohibited in youth baseball and softball leagues due to safety concerns. These cleats provide the best grip and benefit each position: give pitchers expert stability as they dig their toe into the mound and provide infielders and outfielders the best traction to accelerate and make quick runs. When playing on dirt, gravel or grass, metal cleats pick up and retain the least dirt, gravel or grass of any type of cleat.
However, due to their expert grip, metal cleats can cause injury to knees or ankles when a runner suddenly changes direction. They can also cause severe injury to a fielder’s leg when a base runner slides feet first onto the base and because of this are not allowed in youth leagues. Metal cleats can be worn down when worn on a surface other than dirt, gravel or grass so care should be taken not to wear them on concreate or other surfaces.
- Rubber or molded cleats feature non-removable rubber cleats that can be worn on most surfaces without being worn down and are good cleats for all ages, especially youth baseball and softball players. They are generally less expensive than metal cleats and last longer but do not provide the same expert grip. In muddy or wet conditions, rubber is the ideal cleat as they will not get you stuck in the mud like a metal cleat would.
- TPU cleats are like molded cleats but instead of having rubber cleats, they feature a solid, molded plastic cleat. With many of the same benefits as rubber cleats, TPU cleats can be used in youth baseball and softball leagues.
- Turf shoes or turf trainers are usually used for practice on turf fields and provide more traction compared to regular athletic shoes. Metal, rubber and TPU cleats should not be worn on turf or artificial fields as the protruding cleat can tear up and destroy the turf. Cleats will also not grip the turf well, which increases the likelihood of injury to the ball player. As turf shoes are more comfortable compared to cleats, slow pitch softball players will sometimes wear them during all-day tournaments.
When sizing for baseball or softball cleats, the fit should be snug with not much room for the foot to move. If between sizes, the smaller size should be selected as the cleat will stretch some as it is broken in. For children with growing feet, the cleat should never be more than a half size bigger than their current shoe size or only big enough for a single finger behind the ankle.