by Craig Blake
Goooaaalll! You need correct soccer equipment if you love to hear that beautiful sound. As with any other sports equipment, the quality of soccer gear varies greatly from product to product. If you mainly get your soccer fix by playing in pick-up games here and there, there's no reason to splurge, but if you plan on playing competitively, you'll probably want to invest in some quality soccer gear. To help you save money on the right gear for your game, we've created this soccer equipment buying guide.
Soccer balls: There are three different sizes of soccer balls available for children and adult players. Ages 5 to 8 use size three; ages 9 to 12 use size four; and ages 13 and up use size five. Aside from size, soccer balls are made with many different kinds of material.
Rubber: Rubber soccer balls are very durable and cheap. However, they aren't used in league play and will have a different feel than leather or synthetic soccer balls.
Synthetic: Synthetic leather soccer balls are very durable and feel like leather. This is the most popular choice, used in most leagues. Polyurethane (PU) soccer balls are the highest quality synthetic, while Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is slightly lower grade.
Leather: Leather soccer balls were more popular before synthetic balls took center stage. Although their feel is excellent, they aren't very durable and are more expensive.
Soccer shoes: There are two basic types of soccer shoes. For play on natural grass, you'll need soccer cleats. For indoor play, you'll need an indoor soccer shoe. You can also get a combination turf/indoor shoe. The differences are mainly in the soles.
Soccer cleats: Cleats help you have sure-footing for quick direction changes, fast starts and sudden stops. Their shape is ideal for properly kicking a soccer ball. Soccer cleats are available in two basic designs: molded cleats and detachable cleats.
The studs of molded cleats are part of the sole. They are made of hard plastic or rubber and cannot be removed. These soccer cleats are perfect for beginners and children, as they are made for a variety of fields and conditions.
Detachable cleats have removable, replaceable studs. Advanced soccer players often wear these cleats because they can vary the length of their studs depending on the length of the grass and the weather conditions. Studs for these soccer cleats are usually made of hard plastic, sometimes with dull metal tips, and screw onto the bottom of the shoe. Because the studs are often longer and harder than those on molded cleats, many little-league and youth soccer associations ban detachable cleats. Check league rules before you purchase detachable soccer cleats for your child.
Indoor and turf soccer shoes: Indoor soccer shoes are basically low-cut sneakers with flat rubber soles made to grip the hard playing surfaces of indoor courts. The soles on indoor soccer shoes are quite a bit thinner than those on basketball or tennis shoes so you can get under the ball with your feet.
Turf shoes are very similar to indoor shoes, but their soles will usually have more dramatic texturing, almost like mini-cleats, for traction on turf. You may want a hybrid indoor/turf soccer shoe if you play on a variety of surfaces.
Goalkeeper gloves: Every goalie needs goalkeeper gloves. They should have a tacky surface that helps you grip the soccer ball well when a shot is taken. A smooth latex is the best material for soccer goalie gloves. Textured latex may be more durable, but it won't grip as well. Since good latex-grips tend to wear out quickly, it is wise to have a pair of goalie gloves for practice and a pair specifically for games.
To make sure you get the right size soccer goalie gloves, measure around the widest part of your palm (excluding the thumb) with a tape measure. Add 1 inch to this measurement and you have your glove size.
Shin guards: When it comes to team sports gear, you can't overlook the safety equipment. Few things hurt worse than getting kicked in the shins. That's why soccer shin guards are so important. You'll get more protection with shin guards that you pull on over the ankle and strap around the calf. Many of these shin guards have padding around the ankles and provide more coverage over the shin. They may limit your flexibility, however, making it more difficult to control the ball.
Practice makes perfect: If you want to improve your game, practice. If you are a beginner, get yourself a pair of cleats and a soccer ball and kick it around. Once you get some ball control, you'll be on your way.