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Firm ground vs. soft ground boots: differences explained

What are the key differences between soft ground and firm ground football boots? This guide explains it all.

firm ground vs soft ground boots differences explained

Wearing the wrong type of football boots is never a good idea. In fact, it’s often just downright dangerous, and doing so can quickly result in a fairly nasty injury. Ouch.

This means you need to make absolutely sure you’re buying the right pair, and that they’re suitable for whichever surface you’re playing on. Unfortunately, due to the wide range of boots these days, it can get a little complicated. Especially if you’re a new player or just trying to buy something for your kids.

While picking out astro turf or indoor boots is fairly self-explanatory, the real confusion starts when looking at the differences between firm ground and soft ground boots. So, we’ve put together this quick guide to show you exactly what to look for, and to make sure you’re equally prepared for dry turf and muddy pitches.

READ | Our complete guide on all other types of football boots.

Firm ground vs soft ground boots: the main differences

firm ground versus soft ground football boots showing differences in soleplates
Images from Nike.

The only difference between firm and soft ground boots is the soleplate. On the surface, these boots will look very much the same, but the studs underneath will be designed a little differently to improve grip and traction on each surface.

Firm ground boots feature plastic studs or moulds in all shapes and sizes, whereas modern soft ground soleplates feature a mixed stud configuration and interchangeable metal studs. Your choice of which one to go for depends entirely on the playing surface you use most - whether it’s a dry, hard pitch or a muddy swamp.

Soft ground boots are custom-built for those harsh conditions where you need a lot of extra traction just to stay on your feet, whilst firm ground football boots are a much better all-rounder and are better suited to a wider range of surfaces and conditions.

It’s worth noting that the differences here really are restricted to the soleplates. Whether you’re buying the FG or SG version, the upper, materials and technology included will be exactly the same. So, you don’t need to worry about missing out on a fancy new feature by opting for one over the other.

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What are firm ground football boots?

Images from Unisport.

Currently the most common type of football boot, firm ground boots (often shortened to “FG”) typically feature conical or bladed studs, which are usually made of either plastic or hard rubber. While they’re certainly capable of handling a little moisture, these boots are at their best when gliding across dry, hard natural grass surfaces. If you regularly play on grass, then these are the boots you’ll be wearing more often than not.

The stud configuration is designed to improve traction, balance and speed while out on the pitch, featuring strategically-placed studs and evenly distributing weight across the foot. Whether you opt for conical, bladed or any other shape, they’re designed to perfectly penetrate firm ground surfaces and are typically non-removable - which is great, since you won’t have to worry about losing any during a match.

Suitable for: Dry, hard or slightly wet natural grass pitches. Most modern designs can also be worn on 3G and 4G artificial grass pitches (although we don't recommend it) - just look out for “FG/AG” in the product description.

Unsuitable for: Wet or muddy natural grass pitches, traditional sand-based astro turf and indoor playing courts.

When to buy: You’re probably most likely to wear firm ground boots during the summer months, when the sun’s made the pitch dry and hard. However, you could also make use of these in other months, as they're still usable in damp seasons.

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What are soft ground football boots?

Images from Unisport.

When playing on grass, firm ground boots will be absolutely fine most of the time. However, when the pitch is particularly wet or muddy, you’ll need to make sure you’re equipped with a pair of soft ground boots instead.

This soleplate features much longer studs, which will bite into the softer turf and make sure you’ve got plenty of grip. More traditional boots (such as the adidas World Cup, for example), utilise a classic 6-stud configuration, but modern designs are instead opting for a mixed-stud pattern, which is almost identical to the layout of a firm ground boot and distributes pressure much more evenly.

Aside from their larger size, the main difference here comes from the use of metal studs, which are usually interchangeable and unscrewable. The metal basically provides the traction and stability you’ll need while playing, allowing you to make quick turns and darting runs even when you’re playing in a sticky, slippery swamp.

Unless you’re really unlucky with the weather or have the worst groundsman in history, most of the time you won’t be playing on this kind of surface. However, having the best pairs of soft ground boots in your locker is essential, since a firm ground soleplate will completely clog up with mud in such conditions, and you could quickly do yourself a nasty injury.

Ideal for: Wet, muddy or soft natural grass surfaces.

Unsuitable for: Every other type of playing surface. These boots are made solely for softer pitches, and we wouldn’t recommend wearing them on anything else.

When to buy: Soft ground boots are mainly used in the winter, when the weather’s even wetter than usual and every pitch looks like a proper mud bath.

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What if you play on both surfaces?

nike mercurial dream speed 5 FG on foot in long grass
Image from Nike.

Don’t worry - we hear what you’re saying. Football boots can be very expensive, especially if you’re going for a high-end pair. The last thing you want is to fork out a load of cash for the new Nike Mercurials or adidas Predators, only to then open your wallet again when the pitch gets waterlogged.

For serious players, sadly there isn’t a way around this, you really should have a pair of both types to maximise your performance. However, for those out there hoping to save a little money, we’d advise simply going for a pair of firm ground boots. FG boots offer much better value and you’ll get much more use out of them, especially if you tend to play on artificial grass surfaces, too.

Although it does happen, playing on a muddy, swampy pitch is actually quite rare, and firm ground boots will usually do the job. Of course, it’s up to you to make a judgement on whether a pitch is too muddy to play on without metal studs, but the choice is either slipping over regularly a few times a season or invest in both types of boots!

READ | Our complete guide on how to choose the perfect football boots for you.

Where can you buy these boots?

nike phantom gt2 FG football boots on feet on short grass
Image from Nike.

The prospect of buying two pairs of football boots is about to become a little less painful, because FOOTY.COM lets you compare prices to find the best deals on boots. So, although you might still be wincing at your bank balance, you can at least save as much money as possible by browsing the discounts we’ve found for you.

Basically, we find all the best deals and bargains from the biggest online retailers (such as Pro:Direct, Lovell Soccer, Amazon and Sports Direct), and make it easier to find the lowest prices. Simply browse our selection, find a boot you love, then click through to see who’s got the best deal going!

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Kevan Thorpe

Quintessential grassroots journeyman. I've had more "you look like Gareth Barry" comments than I have career goals.