"Do my children really need special shoes for soccer?" That was the first question I asked when I signed my twins up for fall soccer several years ago. I'd never played the sport, so I really didn't know why five-year-olds would need cleats. After all, they ran around all over the playground in their tennis shoes with no problems, and buying special shoes for a single season of little league soccer seemed like a questionable expense.
The league director informed me that the shoes were one of the most important things I would buy, and that they couldn't play without them. They would need shin guards, too. I had no idea how to choose those, but thankfully a nice young man at the sporting goods store helped me with that. Here are a few tips to help you choose athletic gear for your kids if they are playing youth soccer for the first time.
Besides your child's uniform, they will likely need a pair of cleats. Cleats give them traction on the field and help prevent them from sliding on the grass. These special shoes can help prevent injuries, which is why they are so important.
When choosing cleats, make sure you get soccer cleats and not football or baseball cleats. Soccer cleats are lighter and don't have a toe cleat at the front of the shoe. You can ask for help at the shoe store if needed. Also make sure and take your child's uniform socks with you. Soccer socks are usually really thick compared to everyday socks, and that can affect the size.
When buying shin guards, make sure to get the size right. A shin guard that covers more than ¾ of your child's shin is too big. The shin runs from the bottom of the kneecap to the top of the foot. If you can't find the right size, check another store.
One other question you might have is whether your child needs shin guards with the attached ankle protectors. On one hand, the ankle protectors can help prevent ankle injuries in young players. On the other hand, they can make it harder for more experienced players to control the ball, and they can pull on the shin guards making them uncomfortable to wear.
I bought my kids the more expensive guards with the ankle protectors, because I wanted them to be as safe as possible. Unfortunately, the ankle guards rubbed big blisters on my both my twins' feet, so I ended up having to get them a pair of shin guards without the ankle portion anyway.
When buying a ball, make sure and check first with your child's coach to see what size ball they will need. I did not even know that soccer balls came in so many sizes before my kids started playing the sport. Not every store carries the full range of sizes, but you may be able to find a better selection online. Make sure and shop around, because prices vary widely.
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