It was once said that shoes are like friends, they can support you, or take you down. The focus of this guide is going to be to make sure that you purchase cleats that will support your young ball player – we’re looking at the best baseball cleats for youth.
There’s nothing worse than finishing game day (especially multiple games) only to experience foot pain because you opted for low-quality cleats. We’re going to look at the different style (high/low tops), different materials (metal, plastic/rubber), and then we’ll look at the different models.
Here’s what’s covered in this guide (use these links to jump to the desired section):
- What are the Best Youth Baseball Cleats on the Market?
- Where Did Cleats Come From?
- What Does a Baseball Cleat Look Like?
- How Should Baseball Cleats Fit?
- What’s the Best Style? High-Top vs. Low-Top vs. Mid-Top
- What are the Different Types of Baseball Cleats?
- What are the Best Cleats for Each Position?
- Who Makes the Best Baseball Cleats?
- Do You Really Need High-End Cleats for Little League?
Where Did Cleats Come From?
The modern cleat has beginnings in the Greek army. Many soldiers would spiked shoes as they marched into battle. The first sports cleat is credited to King Henry VIII in the early 1500’s. It’s been estimated that he first wore a soccer cleat around 1525. Most players were wearing steel-toed work boots to play soccer.
It wasn’t until the 1860’s that baseball started using cleats. As the game grew in post-Civil War America, players continued to look for advantages. The early baseball “spikes” were different from the modern cleat because players literally purchased spikes that were added to the shoe for their game. It wasn’t until the 1880’s that actual cleats.
After solid cleats became a regular part of baseball apparel, things remained pretty consistent. After all, change doesn’t come easy in baseball. The next major change to baseball cleats occurred in the 1960’s when AstroTurf started popping up.
What Does a Baseball Cleat Look Like?
The most obvious indicator that a cleat is made for baseball is that it has something called a ‘toe cleat’. Simply stated, there is a cleat (a knob on the bottom of the shoe) that aligns with your big toe.
This design helps a player push off. Pushing off is more important in baseball than other sports as that toe cleat helps when throwing, hitting, or in the first few steps as a player runs.
Baseball cleats are also fairly light. Football cleats are much heavier than baseball cleats as they need to be used to dig in and ‘fight in the trenches’. Likewise, football cleats are a bit more balanced. The pattern of most baseball cleats appears somewhat scattered.
Understanding How a Baseball Cleat Should Fit
There should be two key things you look at when purchasing cleats. If you’re reading this guide, it’s safe to assume you’re focused on how to find a quality cleat.
The other key focus should be ensuring a cleat that fits properly. A proper fit decreases risk of injury, increases stability, and allows a young player to play with more confidence as they know how their foot will land with each step.
When trying to size a cleat, you should opt for a shoe that is snug but not too tight. That is to say, the cleat shouldn’t be uncomfortable, but it should fit snugly.
Cleats tend to ‘break in’ a bit more than a normal shoe; meaning that the cleat that feels snug will loosen up a bit over time. If your heel is at the back of the shoe, you should aim for about a quarter inch between the player’s toe and the front of the cleat.
A high-top cleat is one that has a higher ankle. The shoe reaches a bit higher to offer more support. If you have any history of ankle issues at all, I’d recommend purchasing high-tops. They are a bit heavier, but the added support is worth it if you need it. High top cleats are a great idea, but they’re just not as popular these days.
Low-tops are the opposite of high-tops. They have a lower profile, so they offer less support. That lower profile also means that they weight a bit less. As a result, they offer a small increase in speed and agility.
Low-top cleats definitely aren’t my favorite because of their lack of support, but they’re all the rage right now. Youth baseball is all about speed and low-top cleats help improve a player’s speed.
If you’re not sold in either direction, you can opt for the hybrid cleat. It’s a middle ground option that balances the others. A middle cleat is a bit taller than a low-top which means it’s heavier, but does offer more stability.
Getting the Right Type of Cleat
It’s important to understand the differences between each type of cleat that you can purchase. There are some pretty significant changes when you look at metal cleats compared to molded (rubber or plastic) cleats. There are also turf/trainer cleats which are a bit of a different conversation.
Many leagues outlawed metal cleats for a long time because they were too sharp. In fact, metal cleats were completely banned in high school play during the late 80’s.
They’ve dulled down over the years, making them safe than they used to be. The metal still offers some safety risk as they’re much more likely to cut a fielder’s hand or wrist on a slide than molded cleats.
Modern metal cleats aren’t as sharp as they used to be, but they still offer great traction anywhere on the field. That traction is what helps players get a great jump, whether that jump is on the base paths or trying to track down a fly ball.
Molded cleats are safer than metal cleats as they’re significantly less likely to cut a fielder’s hand on a sliding play because the individual cleats are made from plastic or rubber. These cleats also offer a lot more durability than metal cleats do. They’re likely to last much longer.
Molded cleats work best on softer ground. They can’t dig into firm dirt quite as well as metal cleats do. Molded cleats are also, frequently, less expensive.
We didn’t mention hybrid cleats earlier because they are such a small portion of the market. A quick search on one sporting goods store brought back two results and both were rated as three stars out of five.
Hybrid cleats are cleats that allow you to change out whether you want metal or plastic on the bottom of our shoe. It’s a good idea in theory, but not one that seems to be well executed.
I’d avoid hybrid cleats all together. Because there are so few options and they don’t have great reviews, I’d avoid hybrids all together.
Turf and Training Cleats
As stated before, these cleats are an entirely different world from molded and metal cleats. They should only be used on turf. The spikes on a turf cleat are significantly smaller than those on any other cleat. As a result, a turf cleat will not offer much traction on a normal field.
For more information, make sure to check out our guide to the best turf shoes for baseball.
As an important note, turf cleats are important when playing indoors. A molded cleat won’t effectively grip indoor turf. Likewise, while a metal cleat will handle indoor turf, there is a very good chance that metal cleats would tear the turf apart.
The Early Verdict: I typically prefer molded cleats to metal cleats. On some fields, you’ll find that metal cleats work better. Overall, I don’t think there is enough of a difference to push me towards metal. I also prefer the safety of molded cleats.
Knowing the Right Cleat for Your Position
With younger players, it’s entirely possible that you won’t see a set position. If that’s the case, I’d recommend using a molded cleat. If your player is at a point that they have a set position, there are some considerations for cleats.
Best Cleats for Pitchers, Catchers and Infielders
Pitchers, catchers, and infielders tend to prefer metal cleats. They dig into the dirt better and they’re less likely to hold any dirt or grass on the bottom of the shoe. The metal cleat helps them dig in, make quick moves, and maintain good balance.
Best Cleats for Outfielders
Outfielders typically prefer metal cleats because they’re doing most of their work in the grass. Being in the grass means that you need to trust that your cleat won’t dig in too far. If you’re using a molded cleat, you know that you’ll be able to grip but not dig into the ground.
Best Baseball Cleats Brands
Cleats are unique in that they don’t use all of the same brands that you would normally associate with baseball. When you think of baseball, you think about Rawlings, Easton, and Franklin. When it comes to the best cleats in baseball, none of those companies are really competitive.
Here are the best brands of baseball cleats:
When you’re looking at cleats, Nike is the brand to beat. They offer a solid variety of top-of-the-line shoes. Their cleats are worn by some of the biggest names in baseball including Mike Trout who has his own model.
Under Armour offers another great set of options. They aren’t a big player in baseball, but they provide elite options in footwear and Bryce Harper has his own model.
adidas is another big name. Because of their soccer background, adidas tends to focus on low-top shoes that are light weight.
Finally, New Balance is a company that surprises a lot of people. They offer good quality, but they’re known for their designs. A number of models from New Balance are considered ‘the cool shoes’.
These are the best youth baseball cleats in 2022:
- Under Armour Leadoff RM Jr.
- Under Armour Harper RM Jr.
- Nike Lunar Vapor Ultrafly
- Mizuno Advanced Franchise 9
- Nike Alpha Huarache
- New Balance 4040v5
- New Balance 3000v4
- adidas Adizero Afterburner V
1. Under Armour Leadoff RM Jr.
What we like (and don’t like) about the UA Leadoff RM Jr.:
- Synthetic sole for comfort.
- Low-top or mid-top.
- Mesh tongue for breathability.
- These cleats are cut narrow meaning kids with wider feet may not be able to wear them.
These are easily my top-rated youth baseball cleats on the market. These are a molded style. The cleats seem comfortable to every player that I’ve talked to. They’re lightweight, flexible, and make movement easy.
The Leadoffs are among the highest-rated shoes on the market. One caution I would offer is that these cleats seem to be cut a bit thin. If you have wide feet, you’ll struggle to wear these comfortably.
2. Under Armour Harper RM Jr.
What we like (and don’t like) about the Harper RM Jr.:
- Best ankle support on the market.
- Great design.
- Kids will love the Harper name-sake.
- Padding and cushioning makes for a comfortable shoe.
- Great balance of support and weight.
- Velcro strap wears out over time.
These cleats have solid designs and come in many different colors. Most young players will believe they’re the coolest kid on the field when they walk out with Bryce Harper cleats.
Additionally, these are probably the best high-top youth cleats on the market. Adding a Velcro strap around the ankle makes them even better. You can’t go wrong when your equipment makes you feel good and increases your safety.
Despite having a high-top, these cleats only weigh about 9 ounces, meaning they shouldn’t take away from your player’s speed. They also have lots of cushioning around the ankle and in the midsole for comfort. The Harper 2 RM Jr. is my top-rated high-top youth cleat on the market.
3. Nike Lunar Vapor Ultrafly
What we like (and don’t like) about the Lunar Vapor Ultrafly:
- Minimal construction for lightweight design.
- Leather material offers high-end durability.
- Flywire cables offer a great fit for any player.
- You’ll also find a phylon midsole improves cushioning and offers good arch support.
- Standard design limits customer’s options.
- Only low-top cleats.
- High price.
Overall, the Ultrafly is among the highest-quality youth baseball cleats on the market. I wish they offered a mid-top or high-top option to give the player a bit more stability. Ultimately, that’s what dropped the Ultrafly to second on our records.
If you purchase these, you’ll be happy with them. They’re on of the best baseball cleats for youth on the market, but you’re going to pay up for them.
4. Mizuno Advanced Franchise 9
What we like (and don’t like) about the Advanced Franchise 9:
- Comfortable fit.
- Lightweight design.
- Reasonable pricing.
- Padded tongue for additional comfort.
- Low-top options only.
- Standardized design limits customer’s options.
Mizuno has been making cleats for over 90 years now. They started in track and field in 1928. They were the first company to develop 9-point baseball cleats in 1996.
The 9-spike is a great shoe that offers a comfortable fit for the player. You’ll find that there is a full-length midsole and a padded tongue. With the placement of the cleats, it is suitable for any position on the field.
Mizuno isn’t revolutionizing the game like the original 9-spike cleat did, but they’re definitely keeping up.
5. Nike Alpha Huarache
What we like (and don’t like) about the Alpha Huarache:
- One of the most stylish designs you’ll find.
- 3/4 height for added ankle support.
- Full-length midsole adds padding and support.
- Considered fairly heavy by normal standards.
- Fairly expensive.
I’m a big fan of these cleats because of the balanced 12 molded cleats. Even with all of the weight that they carry, they offer surprising flexibility. The ¾ ankle offers significantly more support than most of the other models we’re reviewing.
Some players will feel like the Huarache weighs them down a bit too much. If you have a stronger player, I don’t think that will be an issue.
All-in-all, these are great shoes. You’ll find that they’re high quality. More than any other cleat on our list, I would recommend trying these on in a store before purchasing.
6. New Balance 4040v5
What we like (and don’t like) about the New Balance 4040v5:
- High end durability.
- Light weight with breathable mesh.
- Available with wide options.
- Lacks ankle support.
I’m a big fan of the New Balance 4040v5 youth cleats. Rather than following trends they just make a quality shoe. These shoes offer breathability, comfort and durability.
What really sets this shoe apart from the others is that you can purchase wide sizes. In my experience, it’s very difficult to find wide sizes, especially for children. The fact that you can find the 4040v5 in every size from 1-7 (including half sizes) with a wide option is impressive.
These shoes simply do everything well. Their durability, quality, comfort and ability to purchase a wide size makes them one of my favorite shoes on the market.
7. New Balance 3000v4
What we like (and don’t like) about the New Balance 3000v4:
- 75% synthetic material for lighter weight.
- Strengthened toe.
- Foam insoles for comfort.
- Higher price point than most shoes.
- Limited size options.
New Balance only offers these cleats in sizes 5 and up. While that limits who can purchase them for youth, we wanted to offer an additional option to the 4040v5.
All of the 3000v4 options are fantastic. Because of the strengthened toe, these are the best cleats for catchers and pitchers. So much of those two positions involves digging into the dirt or putting pressure on the toe of a cleat.
These shoes are comfortable and breathable making them a great option for anyone. These may be a small market when considering youth shoes, but the people who will be looking for wide sized cleats will think they’re worth the money.
8. adidas Adizero Afterburner V
What we like (and don’t like) about the Adizero Afterburner V:
- One of the lightest cleats on the market.
- Eye-catching design.
- Great balance.
- Light-weight and minimal design means they don’t offer the same protection.
- Lacks ankle support because of the low-cut design.
- Some reviews imply that the sizing isn’t accurate.
The Adizero Afterburner will catch everyone’s eye. As the name implies, these cleats are designed for speed. They’re light weight, but do have an abrasion-resistant outer layer that should improve durability.
I’m also a big fan of how well the cleats are spread out. Because of the balance that these cleats offer, they’re great for all fields. While these shoes aren’t listed as being wide, some reviewers have said that they run a bit wider than the usual shoe.
Reading through the usual youth baseball cleat reviews, I did find that a few customers believed that these shoes ran a bit large. That seems to be in line with the idea that they run wide.
I would recommend trying these shoes on in a store before purchasing them to ensure that you have the right size.
Do I Really Need High-End Cleats for Little League?
It’s easy to say that young players don’t need expensive high-end baseball cleats. After all, you’ve read articles on our site saying that some bats are a bit too pricey (the Easton Ghost X tee ball bat being $80 is a good example). But the reality is, cleats aren’t just equipment. They’re a safety feature. Bad cleats can cause a lot of problems for young players.
We won’t recommend that you go out and spend $300 dollars on a pair of cleats for your tee ball player. We’re talking about paying $40 for something that will build confidence, comfort and ensure safety for your children.
If there’s one thing I would ‘spend up’ for with young players, it’s their shoes. Having a high-end glove may not make much difference for a 6-year old, but the quality of their shoe absolutely can.
What Does All of This Mean?
In the end, knowledge is power. We aren’t getting paid by any of these companies for suggesting their products. These suggestions come from our experience, customer reviews, and talking to players about their experience.
You may find that a certain shoe works better for you than we thought. Boys baseball cleats can have a different fit from one person to the next. That’s one reason we pointed out shoes that are available in wide sizes.
That being said, the ultimate purpose of this article is to offer some feedback on durability and the features of each shoe. It’s important to know why there are different heights, materials, and styles. We hope that this article helps you find the right cleat. Good luck this season!