The different Soccer surfaces and the relative Footwear

The different Soccer surfaces and the relative Footwear

Nike Ground Types

Footwear Surface & Soleplate Definitions

This entire topic should begin with a clear definition of what each surface is so that distinguishing them is easier for everyone to understand. Natural grass is purely referred to as green natural earth-grown surfaces, simple as that. If it’s not grown naturally in soil or in earth, it is not natural grass. Natural grass is usually categorized as either Hard-Ground (HG), Firm-Ground (FG), or Soft-Ground (SG). Synthetic grass is completely man-made and is not grown, rather it is made/manufactured by humans. Synthetic surfaces are generally Artificial-Ground (AG), Turf (TF), or Carpet surfaces. Futsal surfaces are any that are flat, whether it be hard cement for street soccer or wooden indoor gym surfaces (IC).

To summarize:

Natural Grass

  • Hard-Ground

  • Firm-Ground

  • Soft-Ground

Synthetic Grass

  • Artificial-Ground

  • Turf/Carpet


  • Street/Court
  • Indoor/Gym

    Firm Ground Cleats (FG)

    Nike Mercurial FG

    Firm ground is a category of Natural Grass, it is generally short in height and the soil itself is neither too wet & soft nor too dry & hard. Firm Ground stud patterns are made specifically for this type of surface. FG layouts usually consist of moulded plastic, non-removable variations of triangular/bladed studs or circular/conical studs. Multi-Ground (MG, FG/MG, FG/AG) stud patterns may also be accepted on this surface as they are typically hybrids between FG and AG boots.

    Soft-Ground (SG)

    Adidas World Cup SG

    Soft-Ground is also a category of Natural Grass, it is mostly wet and soft surfaces that might also be muddy. Soft-Ground cleats tend to have long metal studs, often removable & can be screwed in. The most classic SG cleats consist of 6 studs, 2 longer ones in the heel and 4 in the forefoot. Modern SG cleats however now offer a mixed configuration, taking a regular FG stud pattern and replacing 6 of the bladed/triangular studs with screw in metal SG studs. This gives you a hybrid between traditional FG & classic SG boots.

    Hard-Ground (HG)

    Adidas Copa 20.1 HG

    The last Natural grass category is Hard-Ground. Generally consisting of dry, hard soil with very little moisture (such as sand), it is rough and common in dry & hot weather climates. Hard-ground cleats alter from brand to brand, they are generally made of a conical/round studs which are similar to a regular FG stud pattern but usually are shorter and often have 1-2 more studs per shoe.

    Artificial-Ground (AG)

    Nike Mercurial AG

    Synthetic surfaces are becoming more common due to their low maintenance costs. Typically made up plastic blades to replicate grass, it is filled in with rubber pellets and sometimes a combination of sand to make it more similar to soil. AG specific boots generally have a greater amount of studs (all conical/round) and are shorter in length. There often is extra layers of glue or fabric around the toe area to increase durability from the extra amount of abrasion on these surfaces. AG patterns can be utilized on Firm Grass, however depending on the softness of the soil performance can be limited. Multi-Ground (MG, FG/MG, FG/AG) stud patterns may also be accepted on this surface as they are typically hybrids between FG and AG boots.

    Turf (TF)

    Nike Premier TF

    Astro Turf is another category of Synthetic grass, one of the first variations it is very rough and generally very old. Similar to the construction of a carpet, it is short , often filled with sand and is laid on top of concrete. Turf (TF) boots are diverse from cleats and are more similar to indoor or futsal/street shoes. The soleplate is usually thicker and padded, with small dimpled patterns throughout the bottom for very minimal grip/penetration into the surface. When playing on these tough surfaces, Cleats are very much not recommended as they would either penetrate too deep and get stuck or not penetrate enough and cause roll over leading to injury. This is sole surface type where its specific outsole is the only one strongly accepted.


    Nike ReactGato Indoor

    The final surface is a simple flat playing area, whether that is an outdoor street or an indoor gymnasium. These Indoor boots (IC) are clearly flat-soled but have different purposes and builds.  Those made for street/court use will have added reinforcement & structure for greater durability. This can be in the form of a thicker outsole or in a thicker material around the upper seam. Those made for the gym & wooden floors may be lower to the ground with thinner outsoles and emphasis on agility rather than durability. It has been seen and accepted to use very minimal Turf boots on gym floors, however it isn’t entirely recommended.