Baseball: How to Buy Cleats: The Extras
The studs are obvious, but what about all the little things that go into your cleats? You might have neglected what could really change your game.
Copywriter, T. Scharfenberg | Article date: 01/04/2013
When choosing your baseball cleats, the absolute first thing to consider is your league's rules. There are regulations on stud material and length. For more information on that, you can check out our article on Baseball Cleat Outsoles. Before you make your decision on which cleats to buy, take a look at the smaller factors that make a big difference.
Leather vs. Synthetic Uppers
Leather is the more traditional choice for cleats in any sport. It's sturdy yet flexible and fairly lightweight. Leather's biggest attribute, however, is its breathability. A natural material will usually allow air flow and moisture evaporation better than a man-made material. You can get a high-quality leather upper Mizuno 9-Spike Pro Low KL 6. It uses kangaroo leather for a uniquely soft feel and durable performance.
Synthetic cleats will hold sweat and moisture inside more, and, because of their lack of ventilation, they are much more water-resistant, making them a good choice if you're playing on a muddy field. Mizuno's 9-Spike line features synthetic cleats, often made with their Dynamic Synthetic Leather®. This premium material combines the properties of both leather and synthetic, for a cleat that is breathable, comfortable and durable. You can also look for mesh inserts within a synthetic cleat in order to keep your feet cool. The Jordan Jeter Legend Elite does a great job of that with mesh windows along the inside and outside of the foot.
Currently, leather still seems to be more popular for high-level players. Manufacturers are always working to advance performance, though, so man-made synthetics will continue becoming more functional. It's causing the market to shift slightly as players look for a snug, more supportive feel. Thanks to the more advanced material, reinforcement can be added to the forefoot and midfoot of these cleats. Many of them also contain ankle support if needed.
Wear your game socks when trying on cleats for the first time. This will give you the best idea of how they will fit with baseball socks on game day. Make sure your cleats have some flexibility to give them a consistently good fit over time. But when you first buy them, you should be looking for a snug fit that doesn't slip on your foot or cause instability. Even with a tighter fit, you'll want to leave room in the toe. This will help avoid injuries like turf toe when you're changing direction. If you're looking for an extra snug feel but don't want to lose room in the toe, try a pair of cleats that uses a Velcro® strap.
Weight vs. Stability
Lightweight cleats are the trend in sports right now. The extra boost of speed is a great thing, but remember that the lighter your cleats are, the less stable they will be as well. Depending on your outsole and cleat style (metal vs. molded), your low-cut cleats should be between 11 and 14 ounces on average. If you're wearing a mid-cut style, they'll generally weight between 13 and 15 ounces. If you are considering an exceptionally light cleat or are looking for extra stability, you can look for two qualities specifically. The first would be additional ankle protection, including an ankle strap. This will better support your foot and ankle even though the upper material is thinner. Second, take a look at the stud placement. A cleat pattern that places studs on the outside edge of the shoe will help you with your balance and stability. One of the more unique revelations in the lightweight support area comes in the Spine Metal cleat. Under Armour cored out the outsole to reduce some weight, but added in a Pebax® spine that keeps the foot stable and supported during movements.
Choosing an appropriate stud length is important in the same way choosing metal or molded is. Each has its pros and cons, depending on what surface you're playing on. Shorter cleats tend to be better for hard surfaces. They keep your foot from digging in too much and sticking in the dirt. Longer studs perform better in softer soil. They help grip the soft surface and give you some additional traction. They are less stable though, so it's a trade off. If you're playing in the outfield, you may want to consider owning two pairs of cleats: one with short studs for running the bases, another with longer studs for playing in a wet outfield. Unfortunately, depending on your league, you may not have much of a choice in this matter. Leagues regulate stud length the same way they do cleat material, so be sure to check with your coaches so you don't end up with an illegal cleat.
Since dragging your toe is a common baseball movement, especially for pitchers, it's important to choose a cleat that is durable in that area. One with a reinforced toe cap is ideal. Look for a strong overlay that will keep this area from being torn. Luckily, this aspect has become commonplace in most baseball cleats. You can even get some extra-strong toe caps that are multi-layered for extra durability, and 3N2 specializes in these tough toe bumpers. The 3N2 Pulse + uses TPU over the toe the prevent wear.
The cut of your shoe makes a big difference on the amount of ankle stability you have. If you're looking for extra support, try a mid-cut or 5/8-height cleat. Low cuts are good for freedom of movement and allow for quick cuts and changes in direction. Middle cuts offer more support without losing too much of your mobility. If you go with a high cut cleat, it will extend up the ankle for optimal support on lateral movements, but some players consider these somewhat restrictive. Under Armour has worked to add mobility to a high cut though, with their Spine Highlight. It made a spark in football and is now available in a baseball design as well. They wrap the ankle in form-fitting CompFit that reduces the need for taping.
One of the most important factors in choosing cleats is what you can't see. The internal makings are what will keep you comfortable and focused. You'll want a sole that will keep you from feeling pressure from your cleat studs. Because cleat outsoles have to be stronger than regular shoes, you'll need extra cushioning. Look for a cleat with a good amount of insole padding in the forefoot, arch and heel areas. Nike's Zoom Vapor Elite includes a Zoom unit for responsive midsole cushioning, a proven technology across several sports. You can also consider other factors like moisture management technology or anti-microbial properties to keep your padding in top shape.
While there are many factors to consider, you shouldn't feel overwhelmed. You can let Eastbay's Cleat Finder do some of the work for you and narrow down your search. Whether you prefer a super lightweight cleat or one with more support and padding, you can find your perfect style within the hundreds of Eastbay baseball cleats.