The ideal material for your football boots will depend on personal preference. Each of the leading soccer shoe manufacturers (including Nike, adidas, and Puma) offers cleats in synthetic and leather styles, and there are plenty of high-level professional footballers who utilize each type. However, while there is no universally perfect boot material, each type comes with its share of advantages and disadvantages, often making them better suited for certain positions or playstyles. 

What Are the Main Materials Used for Football Boots?

The predominant styles of football cleats are synthetic and leather. Leather cleats are often made with K-leather, a special type of high-performance Kangaroo leather, though they may also be made with calfskin. 

Synthetic cleats are made with synthetic materials such as polyurethane or nylon; they are also available in a variant called knit boots, which are similarly made with synthetic materials but in a different style. Some high-level cleats include more expensive materials like carbon fiber. 

Benefits of Leather Cleats

Kangaroo leather is used in soccer cleats because of a molecular peculiarity: the fibers of kangaroo skin run in a woven pattern, enhancing its strength, durability, and strength-to-weight ratio. Since kangaroo leather is unusually light and strong, it is a natural choice for football boots.

With less material required for a resilient boot, players will also notice that they have more of a connection to the ball, with a greater ability to “feel” it on their foot. It is this characteristic that draws many players to this style of soccer cleat, including Virgil Van Dijk and Thiago Silva.

And while boots made with K-leather are often not quite as light as some ultra-lightweight synthetic styles, there are plenty of models that are engineered with both speed and feel in mind. For example, there are Nike football cleats – like the Tiempo – that utilize a combination of synthetic materials and leather, cutting down on the shoe’s weight while providing the enhanced feel of the K-leather. However, players will also need to perform more maintenance on leather boots than they would with synthetic cleats. 

Benefits of Synthetic Cleats

Synthetic cleats have rapidly risen in popularity since their introduction in the 2000s. Produced using a variety of (often proprietary) synthesized fibers, these cleats are typically significantly lighter than leather boots and offer a high level of water and sweat resistance.

Their synthetic nature also lends them well to customization. For leather boots to be customized, the natural leather material must be painted over; however, synthetic fibers are produced in every color imaginable, making it relatively simple to personalize your boots. 

While the ability to easily customize your boot is surely desirable, the primary benefit of using synthetic materials is decreased weight. Lighter cleats allow players to run faster and facilitate agile footwork, attracting players like Ronaldo and Christian Pulisic. Most models, such as the adidas  X Speedportal, weigh around 200 grams.

Beyond traditional synthetic boots, there are also knit boots that are made with synthetic materials. While these boots fall under the synthetic umbrella, they are functionally quite different. Knit boots are made in a woven style, which drastically decreases the weight of the shoe. Most models fall between 150 and 180 grams in weight, making them the lightest option. 

However, knit shoes offer little in the way of support. As a result, many players prefer high-top knit boots, which rise above the ankle and provide additional support while remaining lightweight and flexible.

With so many options, choosing the right football cleat can be a difficult decision – that’s where The Instep comes in. Our in-depth blog posts are designed to help footballers find the perfect gear, while our SoccerPro store offers the best prices and turnaround times on a huge range of equipment, including cleats. Shop today and take your play to the next level.