As a former recreational soccer player, there are a few significant differences between soccer and rugby that I’ve come to understand. Specific characteristics of each sport, though, look very similar, such as the terrain and equipment. These similarities might generate questions about the overlap, like whether you can wear soccer cleats to play rugby.
You can’t wear soccer cleats to play rugby. Soccer is a non-contact, feet-only sport, and players should have well-fitted cleats to improve their foot-to-eye coordination. Rugby is a contact, full-body sport, and rugby cleats are designed to better support the sport (and the player!).
There are several other differences between rugby and soccer, such as the number of players on the field and the existence of rugby plays like ruck and maul. Today, I’ll focus on how soccer and rugby equipment differ and what factors to consider when choosing your perfect rugby boot.
Can You Wear Cleats for Rugby?
You can and should wear cleats when playing rugby! Soccer and rugby equipment are mostly the same, both requiring sturdy footwear to participate in the sport.
Both soccer and rugby players wear team outfits, long socks, and cleats (or boots, in rugby terms). They also both use a ball, although the rugby ball is shaped more like a larger football than a circular soccer ball.
In soccer, players wear shin pads to protect their shins from getting kicked or injured. Long, tight socks are worn over the shin pads to help keep them tight against the leg. The pads also have velcro straps around the calf and heel of the foot to keep them in place.
Soccer players don’t require helmets or mouthguards. In fact, the final piece of gear that they need is the cleats, which are designed to be tight-fitting to help the player control the ball.
A typical rugby player would be seen wearing the same gear as soccer players but with a couple of additions.
Because rugby is a contact sport, players may choose to wear shoulder pads beneath their team outfit to protect the body when tackling or being tackled. They must also wear a padded helmet and a mouth guard.
Rugby players don’t have to wear shin pads. This accounts for why one should use soccer cleats for soccer and rugby boots for rugby: rugby boots are bigger and sturdier to support the physicality of the sport.
Differences Between Soccer Cleats and Rugby Boots
Differences between soccer cleats and rugby boots lie in the design of the shoe and the studs on the bottom of the cleat. Soccer cleats are designed to improve foot-to-eye coordination, while rugby boots are made to withstand the impact of contact sports.
I’ll discuss these differences in more detail below:
Since shin guards aren’t a part of a rugby player’s gear, rugby boots are built to provide the player with more ankle support, covering and protecting the ankle bone.
On the other hand, soccer cleats are made to sit lower on the ankle, hugging the foot beneath the ankle bone. This accommodates the shin guard, which has extra padding around the ankles for protection.
At the same time, soccer cleats are generally narrower and are meant to be very tight. Again, the thinner cleat helps soccer players control the ball on the field.
A regular part of my pre-game routine in soccer was for the referee to line each team up and have them raise one foot to show off the bottom of their cleat. The referee’s job was to ensure that no players wore cleats with metal studs, which was understandably illegal in kids’ recreational soccer leagues.
Studs are an essential feature of both soccer cleats and rugby boots because they impact a player’s ability to navigate the terrain they’re playing on – and metal ones are permitted in both sports. The only significant difference between the studs on each cleat is that soccer cleats tend to have more cleats than rugby boots.
The lesser amount of studs on a rugby boot makes the shoe lightweight. Rugby is a contact sport, not exclusive to using the feet (rugby players kick, carry and throw the ball).
Soccer players expertly maneuver the ball by foot without the ability to carry or pick up the ball, so more studs improve stability and technique.
What are the Best Soccer and Rugby Cleats?
The best type of soccer or rugby cleat is subjective. Some enjoy cleats with elasticized ankle coverage in soccer, while others prefer simple footwear. Size, lacing, and the tightness of the shoe should be taken into account when purchasing either soccer or rugby cleats.
Although I’ve established that the footwear for rugby and soccer players is different, there is a solution to using the same shoe regardless of the sport.
Some cleats have detachable studs that can vary in size and shape. If you require footwear for an upcoming rugby match and don’t have the time to purchase a proper pair of boots, cleats with detachable studs (like these Cannon Sports Cleats Spikes) might do the trick.
After you win the match, though, solid rugby boots are an excellent long-term investment. Checking out buyer’s guides is an informative first step to finding the right pair of boots for yourself. Factors to keep in mind would be the following:
- The size of your foot
- The typical terrain you play on
- Your rugby position
The three different positions in rugby all require various movements, so rugby boots are often tailored to what position you play on the field. All positions require fast running, but the back and center positions also involve kicking, while forwards are responsible for scoring.
As a result, forwards benefit from solid and durable boots, while backs and centers need tighter and lighter footwear.
At the same time, terrain type is important when considering the studs of your rugby boots. Longer studs provide much more traction when the ground is soft and easy to slip on because they grip deeper into the ground. On dry and artificial turf, shorter studs don’t weigh the shoe as much as the longer ones.
All in all, there are slight variations in a soccer cleat versus a rugby boot. For the best performance and protection, it’s always best to wear the designated footwear.
If you can’t for whatever reason, cleats with detachable studs would likely work better than regular running shoes. When searching for the right pair of rugby boots, keep in mind the circumstances of your game – terrain, shoe size, and field position. These will help determine which rugby boot is best for you.
- World Rugby Shop: Boots and Boot Studs
- SportsRec: The Difference Between Men’s & Women’s Soccer Shoes
- RugbyWorld: Best Rugby Cleats 2022
- World Rugby: Equipment
- World Rugby: Tackle, ruck and maul
- Asics: BUYER’S GUIDE TO RUGBY BOOTS – WHY EVERY POSITION HAS ITS OWN
- Asics: RUGBY BOOTS FOR DIFFERENT POSITIONS BOOTS FOR FORWARDS, BACKS AND CENTRES
- Gildbert: The Gilbert Rugby Boot Range
- Rugby Dome: Rugby Studs Vs American Football Cleats
- Amazon: Cannon Sports Cleat Spikes