Soft Ground Vs Firm Ground Boots

What is the difference between soft ground and hard ground boots? This guide explains it all.

The Difference Between Soft Ground And Hard Ground Boots

They say variety is the spice of life, and choosing football boots involves more variety than an all-you-can-eat Indian restaurant. You’ve got your plate and you’re ready to tuck in, but where do you start?

Gone are the days when your dad would march you down to the nearest retail park, crush your feet into the cheapest black leather football boots and tell you to make them last because you aren’t getting another pair until you move out, get a job and buy your own. And in a way we kind of miss those days. You knew exactly what you were getting with those boots. It doesn’t matter if you were a dogged defender, midfield maestro or a silent-assassin striker, pretty much everyone had the same black leather boots, equipped with 6 studs crafted from iron - 5 once the game had finished and one had inevitably been lost in the mud.

Things are a little trickier these days. Now there are firm ground boots, soft ground boots, artificial grass boots, turf trainers and indoor shoes, all with varying elements that make them perfect for different surfaces and conditions.

We’re going to take a look at the two main studded types of football boots you’ll find today: soft ground and firm ground boots. Mainly, what is the difference between the two? What surfaces are each suited to? And, most importantly, which ones do you choose?

If you place soft ground and firm ground boots together, they don’t appear to have much difference between them at all - and we don’t mean like the man down the market telling you there’s no difference between Ronaldo’s ‘Nike Mercurials’ and his £14 pair of ‘Nick Mercurys’ – there is literally no difference, until you take a look underneath!

It is on the sole plate where the different types of boot make the biggest difference. Regardless of whether you’re wearing soft ground or firm ground boots, the uppers remain the same because you aren’t going to be striking the ball any differently. You still want the same boot tech that companies spend millions researching each year, only you need a little something different under the hood to tackle the different surfaces you will be playing on. As you change from firm dry turf to soft muddy pitches, your underfoot requirements need different alterations.

Soft Ground Football Boots

Soft ground boots are perfectly designed for those wet, muddy pitches with either long or short grass, depending on how much your groundskeeper gets paid, if at all. These are the pitches where you can put in 30-yard slide tackles rather than screamers, and everyone’s celebration is to slide headfirst into the most waterlogged section of the pitch.

Traction is vital when the pitches are wet and the ground is soft. To achieve this, soft ground boots are equipped with the more traditional 6-stud configuration. The studs are usually conical and can be screwed and unscrewed into the soleplate. The studs need to have a bit of length about them to avoid you feeling like Bambi on ice every time you want to change direction and are usually made of metal, but other materials are available.

Some modern designs tend to opt for a mixture of removable and built-in studs. The moulded studs add extra traction and are positioned to avoid the player’s foot getting trapped in the ground when turning: this was the main cause for ACL injuries in older boots as players would turn, only to find their foot had remained in place.

Firm Ground Football Boots

If you’re one of those lucky devils that gets to play on those fancy pitches where they cut the grass and water does drain away, then you’ll want to get your firm boots out. Firm ground boots are designed for natural grass pitches and although they can handle a little bit of moisture, they are best in dry conditions. If the grass is too wet then you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your pants seat rather than your feet.

Modern firm ground boots are also perfect to use on 4G or 3G pitches, but for the more old-school sand-based AstroTurf pitches you’re best steering clear and getting yourself a pair of turf trainers. These older pitches are a touch too firm for these boots and you’ll just kick yourself for wearing down a perfectly good and expensive pair of boots in record time. Don’t even go anywhere near an indoor football surface with these, we’ve seen it done and honestly, you’d be better off wearing stilettos.

Unlike soft ground boots, all the studs on firm boots are pre-moulded into the sole plate so you can’t remove them (lose them). They are usually plastic or hard rubber like the rest of the sole plate, and there will be many different shapes and size variations across each boot. The studs will be specially designed to create the perfect weight distribution to add to traction, balance and speed.

We can roughly summarise firm ground and soft ground boots into summer (firm) and winter (soft). When you’re playing football, look down at your feet. If you are seeing anything other than wet and muddy grass, go for the firm ground boots. 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.

I'm a huge Manchester United fan who's always up for a quick game of FIFA. It's just a shame I'm not any good.