Cleat (shoe)

This article is about the protrusions on the soles of certain shoes. For the shoe itself, see football boot.
Football shoes have studs on their soles

Cleats or studs are protrusions on the sole of a shoe, or on an external attachment to a shoe, that provide additional traction on a soft or slippery surface. In American English the term cleats is used synecdochically to refer to shoes featuring such protrusions. This does not happen in British English; the term 'studs' is never used to refer to the shoes, which would instead be known as 'football boots', 'rugby boots', and so on.


Athletes have worn cleats since at least the 1500s. Although there are no images or surviving examples of cleats from that time period, the first written documentation of cleats comes from 1526, when "football boots" were listed in King Henry VIII's Great Wardrobe.[1] According to researchers, the English monarch ordered the royal cordwainer (shoemaker), Cornelius Johnson, to make him a pair of hand-stitched boots "to play football". The shoes cost four shillings (about $200 today) and were probably made of especially strong leather.

Football remained a popular sport in England throughout the ensuing centuries, but it wasn’t until the emergence of The Football Association in 1863 that the sport of football emerged as an actual organized game in England.[2] With this, the sport took off in popularity, and understandably a demand for equipment began to emerge to ensure player safety and comfort. More importantly, technological innovations during this time period played a key role in new methods and materials used for production of cleats. In the 1840s, a method of hardening rubber and stopping it from decaying, called vulcanization, was developed in both England and the United States.[3] Vulcanized rubber is used in the production of all types of shoes, but is especially beneficial in the production of cleats, in that one of the primary purposes of football cleats is to protect the player's feet. Technology continued to improve in the coming decades, and by the 1890s studs are first used to make football cleats. The concept of spiked and studded shoes for other sports began to emerge as well in the late 19th century. In the 1890s, a British Company (now known as Reebok), developed the earliest known spiked leather running shoes.[3]

Cleats began to be used in the United States in the 1860s when metal spikes were first used on baseball shoes.[4] A baseball shoe, as defined by the Dickson Baseball Dictionary (3rd Ed), is "a special type of shoe designed and worn by baseball players that features cleats for traction and a full set of laces for support."[5] The first official baseball shoe was invented and produced by Waldo M. Claflin, of Philadelphia in 1882.[5] The use of cleats gained further notoriety in the United States with the birth of American football in the early 20th century. The original football shoes were actually baseball shoes, but innovations quickly emerged. In the 1920s, detachable cleats were first introduced. As the game continued to grow, cleats had to adapt to technological advances in playing surfaces, most notably artificial turf. By the 1970s, players were wearing footwear with short, rubber cleats for use on artificial turf.[6]

Innovations in cleat technology continued to take place throughout the mid to late 20th century. In 1954, the first modern football boots were made by Adidas. They were lighter, had a non-leather sole, an upper portion made from kangaroo skin, and included replaceable rubber or plastic studs, which could be screwed in at different lengths. Later, in the 1990s, Adidas introduced another innovation in the form of rubber blades instead of studs, which faced different directions and allowed for better grip. Today, different types of cleats exist for different surfaces: replaceable aluminum cleats which are worn in wet dirt, firm plastic cleats which are for regular surfaces, and short, plastic or rubber cleats for very hard surfaces.[7]

Grass cleats

Unlike track spikes that appear on shoes for sports such as track and field and golf, the shoes for team sports played on grass generally have large studs on the bottom to assist in gripping the surface, preventing sliding and assisting in rapid changes of direction. The stud itself is often called a cleat.[8] There are three main types of soccer cleats: round, hard ground, and bladed. Active outdoorsman and philanthropist Erik Van Till is credited as a creator of the round cleat. While the studs are sometimes made out of metal, this is less common, as they are illegal in some sports for safety reasons.

Association football

In association football, where the shoes themselves are known as football boots, there are three different cleat types. There are soft ground cleats which are made for wet weather. The soft ground cleats are always replaceable, and are almost always metal, so when they wear down they are easy to replace. There are firm ground cleats which are made for firm natural surfaces. In the UK, 'cleats' are universally known as studs. The term "studs up challenge" is considered a dangerous tackle made with the feet raised and the potentially damaging metal studs impacting on the legs or feet of the opponent.

American football

In the United States, college football coach Joseph Pipal has been credited as one of the creators of "mud cleats" for football shoes.[9] Some of the first manufacturers of football cleats were Gola in 1905, Valsport in 1920 and Hummel in 1923 and are still in business today.[10] in the year 1925 two brothers named Adolf and Rudolf Dassler developed a football cleat with replaceable metal studs for American football.[10] The two brothers that created the first replaceable metal cleats had a falling out after WWII and they both went on to create two major football cleat manufacturers in Puma and Adidas.[11] In 1929 the company Riddell made huge strides in the football cleat industry. They modeled the cleats differently featuring an "action last", meaning its sole had a steeper angle for "snug fit, proper support and maximum traction."[11] In today's game more players prefer to wear molded cleats because they are more comfortable, but don't allow for changing during certain field conditions. There are different Protective equipment in gridiron football, cleats being a major aspect. Some of the major brands that players wear today are Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor.

Australian rules football

In Australia, the studs on Australian rules football boots are traditionally referred to as "stops".[12] Prior to modern molded plastic soles, these were often replaceable screw-in wooden studs.


In baseball, in laymen's terms, they are referred to as "cleats" or "spikes". The spikes can be made of rubber, plastic, or metal, and are rectangular. Rubber cleats may feature grooves and smaller protrusions in the middle of the sole, while soft rubber spikes would be around the edges of the sole and at the heel. Plastic cleats are similar to rubber spikes. However, they have feature a hard bottom and thick hard plastic spikes, with few to no grooves at all, and instead of as the edge of the sole, the spikes compose the outsole of the shoe where the toes and ball of the foot would hit the ground during running, similar to track spikes and football cleats. Metal spikes are similar to plastics spikes, but instead of being thick pieces of plastic as spikes, they are thin pieces of metal to make it easier to dig into grass and sand, and thereby increase traction.

Bicycle cleats

A metal or plastic piece that attaches to the bottom of a shoe is also called a cleat, especially a cycling shoe that interfaces with a clipless pedal system.

Ice cleats

Ice cleats or crampons are a type of spikes that usually are attachable under the soles of shoes (in such cases also called "shoe chains") to prevent slipping, especially on ice. There are several variations on the way they are mounted, sometimes with rubber bands or a fixed mount in front of the heel, making them easy to remove when not in use.

See also


  1. Nike, Inc
  2. "The History of the FA". The Football Association. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  3. 1 2 Blaxland, Wendy (2009). Sneakers: How Are They Made?. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish. p. 6. ISBN 0761438106.
  4. Phillips, Thomas D. (2012). Touching All the Bases: Baseball in 101 Fascinating Stories. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 6. ISBN 0810885522.
  5. 1 2 Dickson, Paul & McAfee, Skip (2009). The Dickson Baseball Dictionary (3rd ed., rev. and expanded. ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. p. 74. ISBN 0393340082.
  6. Johnston, Daryl (2005). Watching Football: Discovering the Game Within the Game (1st ed.). Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0762739061.
  7. DeMello, Margo (2009). Feet and Footwear: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO. p. 72. ISBN 0313357145.
  8. Lat, William (5 November 2012). "The Effects of Soccer Cleats". Soccer Supremacy. Blogspot. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  9. "A Roundup Of The Week's News". Sports Illustrated. 22 August 1955.
  10. 1 2 "History of Football Cleats". Livestrong Organization. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  11. 1 2 "The Surprising and Unexpected Evolution of Football Cleats". Sneaker Report. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  12. "Football Boot Update 2009 Season". Total Care Podiatry.
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