Gather a group of soccer players from any level, age or gender and they can all find one common topic to discuss/debate: What cleats do you wear?
After all, shoes -- or boots -- are the most important piece of technology a soccer player can bring to the field. Leather or synthetic? Nike or Adidas? Or Puma? Or Diadora? Black and white or purple and "electricity"?
Over the past few weeks, I grabbed a couple of Sporting Kansas City players -- Davy Arnaud, Matt Besler, Michael Harrington and Roger Espinoza -- to discuss this very topic.
The midfielder and captain is Sporting's longest-tenured player. Currently, he's sidelined for at least 6 weeks due to sports hernia surgery.
The Full 90: Are you the pickiest player on the team when it comes to shoes?
I don’t like the new plastic [shoes] they [Adidas] try to get you to wear. I prefer a good, old leather shoe.
The Full 90: I saw you were wearing the (electric blue) Predators a few games.
It’s a leather shoe with just a little bit of plastic. Where it matters, they’re leather. I would prefer to wear an older shoe.
Plastic is kind of a waste of time in my opinion.
The Full 90: What does the leather give you?
A better feel. I feel like with the plastic, you can’t feel the ball as well. And if it’s wet, the ball slides off. Some guys like it. Some guys like the flashy purple and red and pink. Not me.
At first, you know how it was always black at first and when someone wore white it was like ‘Woah.’ Those [flashy] colors are now normal.
The Full 90: What size shoe do you wear and what size boot do you wear?
When I first came into the league, I wore an 11, 11 ½. But I moved down to a 10 ½. Now I’m wearing a 10. It seems like its getting smaller and smaller.
The Full 90: How do you crunch your foot into a smaller boot?
It’ll be tight the first couple of days, but it will stretch out. It’s just, you don’t want your foot moving around at all. When you play with it tight, you get used to it. You can’t play with it a different way.
Look at guys who come from college -- and I was the same way -- for some reason their shoes are way bigger. When Mikey [Harrington] first came into the league, his shoes were like flippers. I was like, “How do you play like that?” I think his shoes are smaller now.
[Mikey] likes all those colors. You saw those shoes he was wearing [he was practicing in purple and orange adidas F-50s]? I don’t know how he wears those shoes.
The Full 90: What were your first pair of boots?
My first real pair, the first pair I remember having, I was 14 and I got a pair from a guy on my team. They were Puma Kings. I’ll never forget them. They were like what the pros wear, my first real shoes. The first couple of nights I had them, I slept with them on. I swear, people say it, but I really did. I loved them. I loved them so much. I’ll never forget those shoes. Old Puma Kings.
The Full 90: How many boots to do you go through in a season?
You have your pairs that you wear in training ... I’ll have a couple of pairs that I’ll just use for games. Maybe two or three pairs for games. In training, it might be three or four pairs. Some guys go through a lot of shoes. I don’t really.
The Full 90: What do you like to wear for training?
I like to wear what I wear in the game. Sometimes I’ll switch off and wear last year’s leather [adidas] F-50s and the new Predators.
Wear it like a Pro
Davy Arnaud has a shoe contract with Adidas, who provides him with shoes to wear for the season. For games this year, he wears the new "sharp blue" and yellow adiPower Predator. The retail price for these light-weight bad boys is about $200.
There's a reason the predator line have been linked with David Beckham -- the primary feature of these boots is a silicon rubber feature on the instep that Adidas claims adds "un-rivaled power and swerve" to a shot.
These shoes are all over most MLS video-boards right now. They are also the base shoe for a player who doesn't have an individual shoe contract. (Adidas is the official supplier of gear for the players.)
Read more about them from the Adidas store.