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Goal! A Junior Soccer Primer

Goal! A Junior Soccer Primer

The A–Z on Soccer shoes (cleats), shin guards and uniforms.

Shoes (Cleats)

The right shoes (cleats) are the most essential piece of equipment for any soccer player. The type of shoe your child needs completely depends on the type of field on which he or she will be playing. It’s a good idea to check with the coach or league before purchasing your child's soccer shoes, as certain facilities will only allow play with certain shoes.

Here are the basics:

Natural turf fields require cleats with molded plastic soles dotted with studs that give the players traction. The shape and size of the studs varies from blade-like to conical, depending on the firmness of the field.

Artificial turf fields require a special type of cleat called a turf shoe. Turf shoes have hard rubber soles with a pattern of small studs. They can also be used for hard outdoor surfaces.

Indoor soccer fields require shoes with flat, rubber soles. They are designed to be non-marking, so they don't damage the court surface. (Bonus: they also double as very fashionable street wear!)

Shin Guards

Shin guards protect the lower leg from injury with a hard outer casing over a soft interior. The guard that covers at least 75% of your child’s shin. Guards come in three styles:

  • Shin socks are soccer socks with built in guards. They're perfect for younger players who don't need a lot of protection, and their all-in-one design means fewer pieces of equipment to misplace.
  • Slip-in shin guards are comprised of a compression sleeve that holds the guards in place on the leg. They are a good, lightweight, basic guard.
  • Ankle shin guards are highly recommended for younger players. They feature padded support on each side of the foot to protect the ankle, and are held in place with a stirrup.

Shin guards are made from different materials, which vary in protection and comfort:
  • Foam rubber guards are lightweight, flexible and mold comfortably to the player's leg. They are less durable but suitable for younger players.
  • Plastic: Plastic shin guards are lightweight, inexpensive and provide great protection. However, they're often the least comfortable.
  • Polyurethane: Polyurethane shin guards are heavier, sturdier and provide excellent protection but they’re not as comfortable.
  • Ethylene Vinyl Acetate shin guards are best for advanced players. They provide the most shock absorption and protection and are very comfortable.


A typical soccer uniform consists of a jersey, shorts and socks. The cost of a uniform is included in many league fees. If you're buying a uniform on your own, be sure to check with your coach or league regarding styles, colors or other requirements.

  • Jersey — A soccer jersey can be either long or short sleeved. Choose one made from a wicking fabric to keep your child extra dry and comfortable.
  • Shorts — Comfort and freedom of movement are key. The shorts should hit just above or at the knee.
  • Socks — Soccer socks should fit snugly to hold shin guards in place. They should reach to just below the knee and completely cover your child's shin guards.

Got gear? Show us! Parents, post a picture of your child in their soccer gear on! While you're there, like our page for discounts on your next in-store purchase.

For a wide selection of junior soccer gear, visit your local Big 5. Use our Store Locator to find the store nearest you.

Source: San Francisco Gate, a Hearst Publication