Cleats aren’t required in flag football, but the right ones can definitely help
Iva Marie Palmer
| 4 min read
Dan Snow, a dad in Burbank, California, approached buying flag football cleats for his son Fletcher’s first season as a straightforward mission. “I thought, Football needs traction and support,”Snow says. So he chose high tops, figuring they would give Fletcher the hold he needed.
“We quickly realized that those are really only for bigger kids who play on the line all the time,” he says. “Fletch was clomping around in them like he was wearing Doc Martens.”
Snow didn’t necessarily choose a bad cleat; the pair he picked up just happened to be wrong for his particular player.
There are several different styles of cleats and the one that will work for your kid depends a lot on what they’ll do on-field.
Low-cut cleats that stop before the ankle are the most lightweight and designed for the most maneuverability. If your child is in a position that requires a lot of running and quickness — running back, receiver and defensive back — these are probably the best option.
A mid-cut cleat will extend to the ankle. This style provides support without too much restriction of movement. They can work for kids playing a variety of positions, including quarterback, wide receiver and running back.
High-cut cleats offer the most ankle support as they lace up above the ankle bone. These are a good option for kids who primarily play defense. But take note: The higher boot, while bolstering support, limits mobility for other roles on the field.
“Once we saw Fletch running in high-cut cleats we realized they were way too heavy — and the only kids wearing the high-top cleats were the bigger kids who mainly played on the offensive and defensive lines,” Snow says. “Fletch was playing wide receiver and safety — so he needed to be as fast as possible. So when we switched to low top lighter shoes it made all the difference.”
For a first-time player, molded cleats are probably the way to go. This type has the cleat built directly into the sole of the shoe and is more durable and generally more versatile on different playing surfaces. They are also easier to clean.
Detachable cleats come with studs that you screw into the bottom of the shoe. You can change out the cleats based on field conditions. (Short for dry conditions; longer for wet or muddy fields.) However, for a first-time player, this may be both unnecessary and unwieldy.
Before you buy any cleats, find out what your child’s team requires, and also if any types are prohibited. Your league may require plastic cleats, while some call for rubber. Metal is typically a no-no.
First off, check resale shops or even Facebook groups in your area for people selling their child’s outgrown cleats. Kids don’t usually wear cleats for more than a season before growing out of them, so often used pairs are in good condition. (If you know a parent with an older child who’s played, you can also see if they’re willing to lend or sell you their cleats.)
In general, brand new kids football cleats should run between $30 and $60 for molded cleats, from brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.
In positions with a lot of running, you may also be able to have your child wear soccer cleats, a great option if your athlete plays both sports.
The most important thing for any athletic shoe is fit. Don’t buy a pair of cleats a size too big for your child, figuring they’ll be able to wear them longer, as young athletes need ample support to avoid injury.
Your best bet is to visit a sporting goods store instead of buying a pair of cleats online. (Though you can read other buyers’ reviews online for information on fit and durability.) That way, your child can try on several. After his experience with Fletcher’s cleats, Snow recommends parents try on a few pairs and “really try to picture what position your kid will be playing.”
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