I used to say cleats but found it uncommon for some people, though I had no trouble with soccer shoes. I have always lived in a Spanish-speaking country (Nicaragua) so I find it hard to know why that is. Are cleats only used in some places? Wikipedia also mentions football boots.

  • 3
    My Midwestern upbringing/vocabulary fully understood what "cleats" meant.
    – MrHen
    May 24, 2011 at 17:28
  • For baseball/ golf they are "spikes" Football (U.S.) "cleats" Soccer/ rugby "boots"
    – user81836
    Jun 21, 2014 at 20:38

3 Answers 3


The term "cleat" as a kind of shoe was entirely unknown to me until I encountered the word in Tom Lehrer's Masochism Tango . In the UK they are usually "football boots" (possibly replace "football" by a different sport, but not "soccer", which is a synonym for "football" in the UK). The individual protrusions on the base (which I'm guessing are also called "cleats" in the US) are called "studs" or "spikes".

Edit: I actually supposed for a long time that the "cleats" that Lehrer referred to were some bit of SM equipment, like the "lash" elsewhere in the song. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that this is an ordinary word for spiked shoes in the US. I don't believe the word is widely known in this sense in the UK even now.

  • Yeah i guess i won't be using cleat to refer to a shoe type anymore, thanks!
    – amosrivera
    May 24, 2011 at 17:02
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    +1 for Tom Lehrer! Also: Yes, in the US we do refer to the spikes themselves as "cleats"; the word has a number of other spiky/grippy-sounding meanings as well. The shoes that baseball players wear are called cleats... and sometimes even "spikes"!
    – MT_Head
    May 24, 2011 at 17:45
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    Note also that anything beefy enough to have spikes on is likely to be called a "boot" in the UK, rather than a "shoe".
    – Colin Fine
    May 25, 2011 at 11:23
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    @ColinFine not necessarily - "running shoes" have spikes on, and are shoes rather than boots. Golf shoes also. Football and rugby boots are so-called because they were proper boots (ie above the ankle) in the nineteenth century and the names stuck. Jun 30, 2014 at 12:30

In the USA they are almost always called "cleats". (Note that there are different types for just about any outdoor sport, including what we call "soccer cleats").

I am starting to hear soccer cleats referred to as "boots" by some of my fellow players. I think they picked this up from watching English League soccer, and like to say it that way to show how serious they are about the sport. I could see that term catching on in a few years.


I've used cleats to refer to soccer shoes for a long time, but that's because I don't play any of the other sports that typically require cleats! My dad golfs; when he says "cleats" he means his golfing shoes, which are also cleated, though in a different style.

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