The synthetic vs leather material dichotomy offers pros and cons for soccer cleats. Both materials have benefits and drawbacks that can help you determine your preference. What are some key differences between them, and which is better?
Synthetic soccer cleats are form-fitting and won’t expand over time, making them perfect for narrow feet. The material is lightweight and thin for increased agility and a closer touch on the ball. Leather soccer cleats are heavy and thick for added protection, durability, and a more comfortable fit. The material can mold to the shape of your foot.
The battle between synthetic and leather soccer cleats is ongoing, but they each provide unique benefits depending on what you’re looking for.
This article is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about synthetic and leather soccer cleats. Keep reading for details and the pros and cons of each material to determine which works best for you.
Table of Contents
Synthetic vs. leather soccer cleats overview
Synthetic and leather soccer cleats both have their pros and cons. Deciding which to buy depends on your personal preferences.
In general, synthetic cleats are lighter and offer a close-to-the-ball feel; there is less material between you and the ball as it makes contact with your foot. At the same time, the synthetic material offers less protection.
Leather soccer cleats offer a more cushioned feel inside and outside the shoe. Although they’re softer, you don’t feel as close to the ball when it touches your foot. A huge benefit of leather compared to synthetic, however, is comfortability.
|Good for narrow feet
|Good for wide feet
|Thin material gives a close feel to the ball
|Thick material makes it difficult to feel the ball with your foot
|Artificial; nylon or polyurethane
What is the difference between synthetic and leather cleats?
We see a few key factors when looking at the differences between synthetic and leather soccer cleats.
The primary differences between synthetic and leather cleats are:
- Comfort, feel, and weight
Most people have a preference for either leather or synthetic soccer cleats. Three of the most critical considerations to make are the weight, comfort, and feel of both types of cleat.
Other contributors like price and the amount of protection the material offers are something to keep in mind. At the end of the day, finding a style you feel comfortable playing in is ideal.
I will cover the differences between synthetic and leather soccer cleats and highlight the pros and cons of both styles. Then, I’ll answer some common questions about both materials.
By the end of this article, you will understand the differences between leather and synthetic cleats and be able to choose one or the other based on your personal preferences.
Synthetic soccer cleats
Synthetic soccer cleats are designed to be form-fitting and generally have a lot of visual flair to them. I have always preferred synthetic cleats because they give a close feel to the ball.
Although you might not be one for style and flashy colors, keep reading to find out more about synthetic soccer cleats.
Comfort, feel, and weight
Synthetic cleats offer a unique fit that might not be too comfortable for some people.
Synthetic cleats are best for soccer players with narrow feet. The material doesn’t stretch and can feel too tight for people with wide feet. However, anyone can wear them. Because synthetic cleats wrap your foot, you feel closer to the soccer ball on contact. Synthetic cleats are significantly lighter than leather but take longer to break in.
Although synthetic cleats don’t stretch, that could be an added pro if you don’t want your cleat to widen over time.
Synthetic cleats are fantastic because they’re lightweight and thin, so you feel closer to the ball as you dribble or shoot it.
Synthetic cleats offer minimal protection because the outer material is thin and lightweight. If you get stepped on while wearing synthetic cleats, it will hurt. Patented technology like Nike’s Flyknit offers little to no protection for your foot.
These days, synthetic soccer cleats are made from many different materials, with many manufacturers developing patented materials used explicitly for their cleats.
Synthetic cleats are generally made from nylon, polyurethane, or a combination. The benefit of synthetic soccer cleats is that they’re lightweight and provide a natural feel of the ball against your foot. Nike Flyknit’s synthetic upper and Adidas Primenit’s synthetic lining were created to emphasize that feeling.
|Patented synthetic material
Synthetic cleats are made from a synthetic, manufactured material, resulting in decreased durability.
Synthetic soccer cleats can last 1-2 seasons with proper care. However, because the material doesn’t stretch, they’re susceptible to sudden tears or rips. This material is designed to enhance performance while sacrificing some durability.
You can read my article explaining how long soccer cleats last with tips to make them last longer.
Synthetic soccer cleat costs vary across brands, models, and tiers.
Synthetic soccer cleats can cost anywhere from $60 to $300, depending on the brand and model of the shoe. Added features like a laceless upper and ankle sock can increase the price. Lower-quality cleats cost less than higher-quality cleats.
Brands like Adidas and Nike typically carry three tiers of each cleat, priced accordingly.
Here’s a table for reference:
|Tier 1 cost ($)
|Tier 2 cost ($)
|Tier 3 cost ($)
The pros and cons of synthetic soccer cleats
Synthetic soccer cleats have their pros and cons.
Let’s review what makes and breaks a pair of these cleats.
|Form-fitting to reduce excess space inside the shoe
|Can be too tight for wide feet
|Thin material that brings your foot closer to the ball
|Don’t expand to fit your foot
|Lightweight and aerodynamic
|Less protection compared to alternative materials
|Affordable price ranges
|Susceptible to sudden tears
|A lot of options from many brands
|Can take a long time to break in
Leather soccer cleats
Though I don’t fancy leather over synthetic, I must admit that the stretchy and soft material has many perks.
Let’s have a look at what leather soccer cleats have to offer.
Comfort, feel, and weight
Leather cleats feel great on your foot and could even benefit your first touch.
Leather soccer cleats are the most comfortable type of cleat. The material expands over time to form your foot, providing extra comfort. The softness adds cushion during contact with the ball to improve your first touch. Although leather cleats are soft and comfortable, they’re marginally heavier than their synthetic counterparts.
I always feel safer wearing leather cleats because of the added protection that comes with the material.
Although the goal of soccer cleats isn’t to protect your foot, leather cleats will better protect you when you get stepped on or collide with another player. It will still hurt, but not as much as if you were wearing synthetic boots.
Leather cleats are made from a variety of leather materials, including cowhide and, for now, kangaroo leather.
Leather soccer cleat material is malleable and stretchy; it molds to the shape of your foot the more you break them in. Over time, leather cleats fit better than when you first wear them. The material also lasts longer because it can stretch and is put together with high-quality stitching that does not easily tear.
In January 2023, the Oregon legislature introduced a bill that could ban the manufacturing of kangaroo leather soccer cleats. The bill would force Oregon-based Nike to stop making cleats using K-leather.
Leather cleats are known for their durability and longevity.
In general, leather soccer cleats are more durable than synthetic ones and can last 2-3 seasons. The material is built to last longer than synthetic cleats. A leather up will stretch before it tears, whereas synthetic cleats can rip more suddenly.
Cleats made from leather vary in price depending on the authenticity of the material, the brand, and the cleat tier.
Leather cleats can cost between $80 and $280 depending on the style, model, stud pattern, and if they’re laceless or not. Most brands offer three tiers of each cleat model with incremental price and quality increases.
Here’s a table for reference:
|Tier 1 cost ($)
|Tier 2 cost ($)
|Tier 3 cost ($)
|Tiempo Legend 9
The pros and cons of leather soccer cleats
Leather cleats have their fair share of good and bad.
The following table showcases the pros and cons of the material.
|Comfort; expands to fit your foot; good for wide feet
|Durable; can last a long time
|Thickness; can’t feel the ball as well
|Added protection from other players’ cleats
|Can expand too much to where they don’t fit
|Cushioned touch on the ball for added control
|Not inherently water-resistant
|Don’t take long to break in
|Not as many options compared to other materials
What is the best material for soccer cleats?
The age-old question remains: are leather or synthetic cleats better? The answer comes down to preference.
The best material for soccer cleats depends on the person wearing them. Leather is the best material for a person with wide feet because it stretches and adds comfort. Synthetic is the best material for a person with narrow feet because the cleats won’t stretch to the point where they no longer fit.
It’s ultimately best to wear whichever cleats are more comfortable for you. At the end of the day, everyone is different. Try on cleats of different materials to see what works for you.
Personally, I typically opt for synthetic cleats. Although I have a wide foot, I’m willing to sacrifice some comfort in exchange for a light cleat and streamlined touch on the ball.
I see the pros of wearing leather cleats–comfort, better fit, durability–but synthetic checks more boxes for me.
Does it matter what soccer cleats you wear?
At the end of the day, the soccer cleats you wear won’t make you a better player.
It does not matter what soccer cleats you wear. Players in all positions can wear any material, synthetic or leather. For example, a striker can wear leather cleats, and a goalie or defender can wear synthetic ones. What matters is that the cleat is comfortable and legal.
What does matter is that you wear the correct type of soccer cleats.
Make sure you wear cleats with the proper stud pattern (firm ground, artificial grass, or indoor).
You can buy a pair of soft ground cleats for rainy or muddy match days if your league allows them.
Summary of Synthetic vs. Leather Cleats: which should you buy?
Synthetic cleats are lightweight and offer a closer touch to the ball than leather cleats. However, synthetic cleats are less protective than leather, and leather cleats can expand to fit your foot better. Synthetics are often considerably lighter than leather boots.
Each cleat material has pros and cons, so the decision is entirely personal. Choose whichever cleat material works best for you.
Do synthetic cleats stretch or break in?
Synthetic cleats will stretch or break a tiny amount to fit your foot better. If they stretch too much, they will rip.
Is synthetic or leather more durable?
Leather is generally more durable than synthetic when it comes to soccer cleats.
Do synthetic or leather cleats last longer?
Synthetic and leather cleats can last the same time (1-3 seasons) if adequately cared for.