Football: Lightweight vs. Stability
Eastbay Football Copywriter, T. Scharfenberg | Date Updated on: 6/25/13
It's all about speed for everyone on the field, but when is lightweight a boost and when will it put you at risk?
How Cleats Get Lighter
Creating lightweight cleats has gotten to be a real science. You can’t lessen the weight without new materials and techniques that can keep the cleat functioning at its full performance. One of the most important parts of the lightweight game is your cleat’s upper material. adidas is best known for this innovation with their adiZero 5-Star. Now in the second version, this cleat is down to 6.7 ounces. They use a thin layer of TPU over the thin SprintSkin upper to help add stability. Inside, a SprintWeb support frame keeps your foot stable during cuts. All brands are working on their synthetic materials and the goal is to keep them ultra-thin. Because of the nature of these synthetics, they keep the same amount of strength even when used as a single layer.
Probably the most important part of your cleats, the outsole plate, is also getting a makeover as cleats get lighter. Cleat manufacturers are making them with thinner, lighter and harder plastic. Some cleats, like the 5-Star or the Under Armour Spine Brawler, feature cutouts in places to reduce weight. In the 5-Star 2.0, Sprint Frame ridges add thickness and support to the most important stress points of an outsole, allowing the rest of it to be exceptionally thin and light. As for the Spine Brawler, UA is proving that every position on the field can have lighter cleats. By coring out the cleat plate, weight was removed. The eliminated material was then replaced by a lightweight Pebax® Spine that supports the foot from toe to heel.
One of the more unique techniques for reducing weight is Nike’s Dynamic Flywire. It’s available in the Alpha Pro cleats this year, and supports the foot with thin fibers, rather than a full piece of material. The Dynamic Flywire expands and contracts with the foot’s movement so there is never a point where you’re not locked down. Needless to say, cutting out that midfoot material definitely shaved some ounces off of these cleats. It’s what pro players like Patrick Peterson (DB, Arizona) depend on for flexibility and support in a low cut cleat.
Side Effects of Reduced Weight
The most obvious sacrifice you make for a light cleat is ankle support. In fact, low-cut lightweight cleats don't have any real ankle support at all. The good news here is that lightweight technologies are making their way into mid-cut styles, so the stability isn't totally lost in those models. Also because of the lack of foam, both on the ankle collar and under your feet, these shoes can be less comfortable than a heavier design.
The thinner plate and higher center of gravity in these cleats will reduce your balance slightly. There's just not much there to support your weight, especially when you're driving your feet into the ground while running. Also keep in mind that this reduced amount of surface area can affect your traction.
When You Should Avoid Lightweight Cleats
These days, there’s not a single position on the field that doesn’t want and need to be quick. But if you’re an athlete that has had ankle injuries in the past, ankle stability needs to be your first priority. This includes the skill players who tend to get knocked around more often. So if you’re a lineman, for example, you should definitely be thinking about high-cut ankle protection instead of a lightweight. Also, if you’re playing on soggy ground and need detachable cleats, you’re going to have to accept a little extra weight. There are light detachable options, but they’re probably never going to be the lightest shoes on the market. This year, adidas offers the Filthyquick Mid D, which weighs just over 10 ounces.
Combining Stability with a Light Weight
If you're looking for a way to get the best of both worlds, there are a few characteristics you can look for. As we explained with the 5-Star, you can find cleats with some sort of internal support system, including a material that will stand up to your play, even though it's thin.
If you need more ankle support than a lightweight cleat tends to provide, consider a mid-cut cleat. A lightweight mid is a great choice for quarterbacks and running backs that need a combination of support and maneuverability. Consider the lightweight mid-cut cleat your "happy medium" choice. Or check out Under Armour's innovative addition to the game: the Highlight MC. It has a crazy-high upper that is built to replace taping, but still weighs in at just 9.9 ounces - not at all bad for such a support design.
It’s not just about the cut and materials, though. Look at the stud pattern and shape for a guess on how much strength they’ll bring. Triangular studs add more surface area and therefore more traction and stability. You can that shape, as well as other specialized cleats in one package with the adidas Crazyquick: triangular studs for cuts, circular studs for rotation, and bladed studs for on-point stopping. You can also look for a cleat pattern that places the studs along the edges of the sole. The Nike Vapor Carbon Fly 2 use cleats along the side to give you stronger, quicker acceleration. It also includes Nike Flywire for a lightweight design with allover stability.