Basketball Shoes

To Cleat, or Not to Cleat

Shopping can be bewildering these days. Let's say you've made the eventful decision to buy yourself a brand new pair of baseball shoes, and you've decided not to go with what you had before. Danger, Will Robinson! You'll find yourself faced with a bewildering array of styles, designs, colors, types, and brands to choose from, all designed with baseball in mind, in prices ranging from ultra-reasonable to astronomical. Even worse, the prices on the same models will vary from store to store. Spend more than a few minutes looking, and you'll soon be longing for the days when you just slapped on your sneakers and went to play in the sandlot with the other neighborhood kids.

First, you'll have to steel yourself to the reality that you're going to have to do some shopping if you want to get the best value. Second, you'll have to decide what kind of baseball shoes you want. The number one factor to keep in mind is traction. You can pick up a good pair of running shoes or cross-trainers if you like, but cleats are better: the pointy bits on the soles dig into the ground and provide good traction in all situations. Metal cleats are best, though molded plastic cleats are getting better every day. If you're buying baseball shoes for your Little Leaguer and you're eyeing cleats, remember that, for safety reasons, metal cleats won't be allowed.

Baseball shoe basics

By now, you've cut down the field a bit, and the primary criteria remaining are price, brand and comfort. The latter is probably the most important. Like all shoes, baseball shoes need to be comfortable; otherwise, you'll suffer from poor stability and foot pain, probably in the form of nasty blisters. Like all athletic shoes, good arch support is a must. The shoe should fit comfortably without stretching, particularly across the mid-sole, and you'll need to be able to wiggle your toes freely. The heel should fit snugly, to avoid the kind of rubbing that causes blisters. Don't be afraid to try a pair on and walk around in them; don't just go for a specific size because you've worn that size before. As many of us have found out to our dismay, sizes vary somewhat between manufacturers. Your new Nikes may not be quite the same as your old Reeboks, even though both claim to be Size 10.

If you plan to play on artificial turf, metal cleats are right out. Limit yourself to molded cleats, or hunt up the special baseball shoes designed for artificial surfaces. In the 1980s, shoe manufacturers began producing shoes with small rubber nubbins on the soles to help players keep their feet. These shoes are still available today, and they're not all that expensive.

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