Flag football is a modification of American football.
The aim of the game is for the defensive team to remove a flag or belt from the ball carrier - rather than tackling - to end a down. No contact is permitted between players, making it a popular alternative to football or a safer version for young players.
It’s a game that requires speed, coordination, and agility, but it definitely helps if you have the right shoes to play with too.
You might presume that football cleats are best suited to playing flag football, but you may be surprised to hear that soccer cleats can actually work just as well, if not better.
Many flag football players choose soccer cleats over football cleats because they’re lighter and more responsive.
Think about it: soccer cleats are designed to combine speed and traction so players can move quickly and maintain their balance and grip.
A lot of the qualities associated with a successful soccer player translate to those of a good flag football player, too.
But what gives soccer cleats the edge over football cleats when it comes to flag football?
Football cleats vs. Soccer cleats
There are three main ways in which football cleats and soccer cleats are different:
- Football cleats have a toe stud, also known as a spike
- Soccer cleats tend to be low-cut as they have less ankle support
- Football cleats are heavier than soccer cleats due to extra padding
Like we said, football cleats differ to soccer cleats in that they have an extra spike.
This spike is located under the big toe of the shoe and is designed to enable football players to maintain traction and grip while using their strength to block and push.
However, while this extra spike is a great asset in regular football, it’s less useful in flag football as the latter is more concerned with speed than it is power.
Soccer cleats are also far more lightweight than football cleats, and lightweight footwear is favored for flag football as it allows players to move at a faster speed and broadens their range of movement.
The player can then move around the field at a faster pace and use less energy as they won’t have a pair of bulky cleats holding them back.
The one drawback of soccer cleats is that they provide less ankle support than football cleats do. However, this isn’t as much of an issue as ankle support is more important in regular football than in flag football.
Football cleats are equipped with extra padding to protect and support a player’s ankle during tackles and contact, whereas this isn’t as necessary in flag football where no contact is made between players.
On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to attempt wearing soccer cleats for a regular football game, as they won’t provide adequate protection, support, and padding - plus they’ll be missing that vital toe spike.
Flag football is far more focused on speed than on power and traction, so ankle support is of lesser importance, and reducing the amount of padding affords a lighter alternative that’s better suited to speed-orientated games such as soccer and flag football.
However, there are still some soccer cleats that offer the best of both worlds as they come with ankle support for those who desire extra protection or support.
There is a wide range of soccer cleats on the market that are ideal for flag football, here are our top picks…
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
The predator is a highly-esteemed soccer cleat and it’s easy to see why. The uppers of these boots are made from a foot-hugging knit textile for secure lockdown.
They have a lightweight feel and a sock-like fit that gives added ankle support. They’re designed with a firm ground outsole and hybrid stud tips for optimal traction at all times on multiple surfaces.
Needless to say, they look just as good as they perform.
The Vapor 13 is designed with a lightweight sock liner that cushions your feet without weighing the boot down.
The internal lining wraps around your feet for support while the synthetic uppers provide responsiveness and comfort.
The multiground plates feature the Nike Aerow Trac zone in the forefoot for ultimate traction that allows you to build speed but maintain grip.
These sleek Nike Legend 8 cleats not only look the part but feel the part too.
The soft synthetic leather is as thin as possible for a natural feel that allows you to run at high speed. The great thing about these cleats is that they’re versatile and can be used on different types of ground.
The multi-ground plate provides traction on both natural grass and artificial surfaces - so there’s no need to have different cleats for playing on different surfaces.
The lightness of these cleats minimizes energy use so you can achieve high speeds and remain agile and responsive at all times.
Adidas’ Copa Mundial is considered one of the most popular soccer boots of all time, which is no surprise considering it features a rich leather upper for an incredible feel and fit.
The dual-density outsole on these cleats provides excellent traction on firm ground allowing you to accelerate in speed without worrying about the excess bulk of heavier cleats.
Are you allowed to wear soccer cleats for flag football?
Most games have specific rules around what players can and can’t wear.
You might be wondering what the rules are when it comes to wearing soccer cleats for a flag football game.
Flag football is slightly different from regular football not only in the way it is played but also because there is no universally followed set of rules for the game.
That said, the American Flag Football League (AFFL) is the leading professional flag football league in the United States, and teams within the AFFL do follow specific rules.
So, what about footwear?
Well according to the American Flag Football League (AFFL) rule book, there are no restrictions on what footwear a player can or cannot wear. So flag football players can wear any shoes of their choice, including soccer cleats.
That said, at an amateur or recreational level, rules around footwear are a decision for the specific league or club to make, though I’ve never heard of any banning soccer cleats.
Most flag football leagues are pretty relaxed around footwear, as long as it’s safe and comfortable, you should be good to go.
If you’re unsure, however, there’s no harm in checking with the match officials.
Things to consider when buying soccer cleats for flag football
When looking for an ideal soccer cleat for flag football, consider the level of traction the boot offers. While traction is important in flag football, too much traction could result in injury, so it’s all about striking a balance.
Flag football requires quick feet and agile movements as players work to pull or defend a flag. As defenders approach a ball carrier, they need speed and short, sharp movements, while ball carriers need to pivot, change direction quickly, or side-step a defender.
In order to do these things effectively, short cleats are required to provide traction and grip without digging so deep into the turf that the player sustains ankle or knee injuries.
When it comes to soccer cleats, you’ve got a choice of high-top, midcut, or low-cut styles.
Like we said, high-top cleats are usually reserved for football players who need that extra support and padding, so they’re not really neccessary for soccer or flag football where you’re not being pushed and tackled to the ground, and doing the same to others.
On the other hand, midcut and low-cut varities provide greater maneuverability and a broader range of movement, which is ideal for flag football where speed and agility trumps power.
You should also bear in mind the material; leather shoes are more expensive but they’ll also last longer.
Synthetics are cheaper and more readily available, but won’t be as durable, whereas materials like mesh - usually used for the upper - are great for breathability and comfort.
A recent addition to the market are knit cleats, which offer a sock-like fit that clings to the foot and ankle. These are a good option for anyone looking for a lightweight soccer cleat which also offers ankle support.
You also need to select your cleats based on the type of ground you’ll be playing flag football on.
The game is usually played outdoors, and for this you’ll need firm ground cleats, which are the most common type and are made with rubber studs to provide traction.
You can also get soft ground cleats for playing in muddy, wet conditions, and these usually come in the form of firm ground cleats with customizable studs.
Then there’s turf cleats: these are equipped with short spikes on the soles that are designed to provide grip and traction on slippery artificial grass.
Some cleats have a versatile design which allows you to switch plates between firm ground and turf, which is a more economical option than purchasing two separate types of shoe.
You might have been suprised to hear soccer cleats are better suited to flag football than football cleats are, but this is because flag football makes use of similar components to soccer: a good flag football player needs to be quick on their feet, have a fast response time and fluid, agile movements.
They also need speed rather than power, seen as the game is non-contact, unlike football.
Soccer cleats are lighter than football cleats as they don’t have the extra padding and ankle support, which means the reduced weight allows you to achieve greater speeds.
They don’t have a toe spike either, which works well for flag football as you need to pivot and turn quickly, so you don’t want to run the risk of having too much traction which could cause you to strain a knee or ankle.
Flag football is pretty flexible, and there are rarely rules limiting players on what they can or can’t wear on the feet. With this in mind, it’s completely up to you what shoes you opt for, but we hope this article helps explain why soccer cleats are an ideal choice for flag football.
Remember, you can wear football cleats playing soccer or flag football, but it’s not a good idea to wear soccer cleats for full-contact football as they’ll lack the padding and support your feet and ankles require.