After you have your firm ground shoes, the other styles are really nice to have in certain situations. Here’s when the other styles really come in handy:
Soft Ground (SG) (aka “Studs” or “Screw-ins”)
Soft ground shoes are for when it’s wet. Soft ground shoes have removable studs for cleats, and you can get different length cleats to swap out based on how wet the field is. The wetter the field, the longer the studs you’ll need.
If you live in an area with a lot of rain and you play outside most of the time, soft ground cleats are probably worth the investment . Goalkeepers, too, often prefer studs to firm ground cleats. Some keepers find the added traction helps them grip the ground when they push off to dive or make the other extreme changes in direction peculiar to their position. Check best soccer goalie gloves
Artificial Grass (AG)
If you play a lot on modern field-turf style artificial surfaces (the kind with the fake green “grass” and rubber-pellet infill), then an artificial ground shoe is a good addition to your equipment bag.
Nike leads the way here with their distinctive AG soleplate. The little hollowed out conical cleats grab and mold to the rubber infill pellets you’ll be playing on better than any other AG shoes out there right now. That said, the other manufacturers have some nice options too. In most of those configurations, the soleplate has more, somewhat smaller cleats than their firm ground counterparts.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the Nike AG shoes. It’s a subtle difference, but I’ve found I do feel a little more balanced in these shoes at my indoor complex, which installed artificial grass a few years ago.
Artificial Turf (AT) or Hard Ground (HG) (aka “Turfs)
Turfs are a versatile design that can work well on either hard natural surfaces or a variety of artificial surfaces.
The defining feature of turfs are the little short rubber “knobs” on the bottom of the shoe. They tend to be a little lower profile than either artificial grass or firm ground shoes, since they don’t have traditional cleat plates.
For outdoor play, turfs can make an amazing difference for those who regularly train on sun-baked, hard as a rock surfaces. On artificial surfaces, they work really well if the turf is relatively flat. That is, if the little nylon “grass blades” are really short, or if they’re all trampled down, then turfs might be the perfect choice.
Indoor Shoes (IN or IS) (aka “Flats”)
Flats are specifically designed for flat carpet surfaces. If your field looks like it’s a reincarnation of the Astrodome surface from 1976, then make sure you bring your flats. You’re going to need them.
One huge thing to watch out for. The shoes are labeled “indoor,” but that doesn’t mean their right for all indoor surfaces. Many indoor facilities have now switched from flat carpet surfaces to modern artificial grass. And indoor shoes on artificial grass is about as effective as indoor shoes on natural grass. Just be sure to check with your facility to see which surface you’ll be playing on before you go out and buy something new.
Futsal shoes are for use on anything resembling a basketball court. Often this means a hardwood or hardened rubber surface. Either way, it’ll be flat and fast.
The key feature here is to make sure they say “non-marking” sole. There’s no quicker way to get kicked out of a league than to wear shoes that scuff up the playing surface.