Soccer Cleats : The enemies of the anterior cruciate ligament

2021/05/06 Home Education and advice

Soccer Cleats :  The enemies of the anterior cruciate ligament

For nearly ten years, soccer has grown quite a bit in Quebec. There are now a greater number of registrations for soccer teams than for hockey teams in Quebec since about 2014! (1)

With more and more soccer players in Quebec, it is therefore becoming important to share information about injuries related to this activity so that all players can play in complete safety. This text will focus on the importance of shoes in Quebec. Shoes are very important and sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to them. By reading this article, you will learn how to choose the right shoes for playing soccer and why that choice could save your knees.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries

blessure ligament croisé soccer

Certain medical terms frighten athletes. This is certainly the case with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In fact, the ligament is like a non-elastic cord that holds two bones together. In the case of ACL, it holds the femur to the tibia. Its main role is to limit the sliding of the tibia forward when the knee is bent and in motion. It is frequently injured during a change of direction combined with body movement or deceleration. (2-5) Rest assured, it is quite difficult to tear the anterior cruciate ligament.

Long seen as an excruciating career-ending injury, ACL injuries are now very well taken care of and a player can look forward to returning to the game six to twelve months after the injury! It does not end careers!

blessure soccer

Due to our harsh winters, Quebec has a lot of synthetic pitches. Quebec still has a lot of natural turf pitches also, however the synthetic ones are more advantageous because of the cold weather. We can then understand that a soccer athlete in Quebec may have to perform on different playing surfaces throughout his season. An athlete can play on natural turf on Monday and then play on a synthetic surface the day after

souliers soccer

Which shoes should one choose?

To keep it simple, let’s focus on the 2 types of shoes that are available :

  • Cleats for natural turf
  • Shoes for synthetic turf

crampons soccer

Cleats length

The big difference between the two types of shoes is the length of the cleats. Natural turf shoes have longer cleats than synthetic ones to provide more traction. (5) Better traction is beneficial in the majority of cases. In the case of synthetic pitches, it is the excess traction that can cause an injury. (4)

⇒ 63% of ACL injuries occur during a change of direction. (5) An ACL injury can occur during a change of direction if the foot gets stuck on the playing surface. (4) You improve your chances of avoiding injury if your foot can free itself from the surface quickly. In the case of natural turf. The turf can tear off to allow freeing of your foot. With synthetic turf, that won’t happen.

Having a shoe that doesn’t have as much traction might seem counterintuitive and possibly lead to more falls, right? Note that several researchers have looked at the use of a shoe with less traction and they have succeeded in showing that this promotes the activation of the stabilizing muscles of the knee. (5) This natural protection is therefore beneficial for athletes.

Cleats shape

The other important point to look at is the shape of the cleats. Cleats are generally round, but recently shoe manufacturers have started to produce “blade” cleats to once again improve grip. (5) Blade-shaped cleats are bound to gradually disappear since ” they have been identified as being the cause of a higher risk for injury. (5)

crampons soccer

Image taken from the article Gehring, D., Rott, F., Stapelfeldt, B., & Gollhofer, A. (2007). Effect of soccer shoe cleats on knee joint loads. International journal of sports medicine, 28 (12), 1030–1034.


In conclusion, it doesn’t matter whether you plan to play on natural or artificial terrain, it is better to opt for short, round cleats.

Injuries prevention

Now that you know the impact your shoes can have on your knees; how can you avoid injuries that are just as common in soccer, but other than the knee? Such as muscle strains, sprains or periostitis? Consult a physiotherapist or an athletic therapist who can help you prepare for your season and prevent injuries.

Don’t know who to go see? Book your free orientation call and chat with one of our experts.

Have a good 2021 season!


** The use of the masculine gender has been adopted for ease of reading and has no discriminatory intent. **

About Tristan Castonguay, CAT(C)

⇒ Certified sports therapist for the Mont-Royal and Outremont Soccer Club (CSMRO) and Saint-Laurent Soccer Club (CSSL) teams

⇒ With Kinatex Sports Physio since 2011

⇒ Doctorate student (PhD)

Find a clinic

Click on your region

See all clinics on a map See all clinics on a map