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The longer that people play baseball, the more picky they become about their cleats. This is especially true for catchers, due to the rigorous demands placed on the spikes while squatting and making all those moves that catchers make.
A question we see often from young parents or beginning catchers is, simply, What are the best cleats for catchers to grow with? We wanted to take a moment to dig into this question and provide as much information as possible for those who need it.
We will begin with the basics ~ what to look for and why each detail is important ~ and then provide a bit more insight before getting into our top recommended cleats for catchers to succeed in the game of baseball.
- We are quite confident with our choice for the best cleats you can find for the catcher position: the New Balance FuelCell 4040 V6.
- Look at the exterior design for the Mizuno Epic Baseball Metal Cleats, and their hard-synthetic coverings excellent for catcher play.
- The budget-conscious should be sure not to miss the Under Armour Men’s Leadoff Baseball Shoe with all its features for a nice price.
- Those who appreciate the most-advanced features in their cleats should look at the New Balances 3000 v5 Metal Cleats.
- We think some catchers will appreciate the flat bottoms of the Adidas Men’s Icon 7 Turf Baseball Shoe, avoiding the pressure points of spikes.
- Believe it or not, podiatrists support the Mizuno 9 Spike Franchise 6 Mid Baseball Cleat for the feet!
Who Needs Cleats for Playing Catcher in Baseball?
Baseball cleats are a vital piece of equipment for any baseball player, increasing in importance with every age level of play. The reasons are evident for the following reasons, among many:
- Baseball is played on dirt and grass, which are not solid surfaces, meaning they give way to the pressures of feet and bodies pressing upon their surface.
- To ensure quick and detailed play, a player’s feet must not slip even a little during action. The physical moves of baseball involve a lot of planting of a foot, stepping hard with the other foot, and twisting on the ball of the feet or on the heels.
- The battle between baseball players and the turf they play on has been ongoing since the beginning of the game in the late 18th century. Latching cleats onto shoes was introduced in the late 19th century, when fields were rough with holes and rocks, and players were prone to slipping on dirt or wet grass.
- Being secure of foot is especially vital for pitching and hitting, in which a rear foot is planted solidly on the ground, while the other foot steps in a hard fashion forward. Any slippage during these motions could negatively impact the outcome of the play, or even injure the player.
- Other baseball players field positions with different demands, and not just forward or backward as in running. Players also are asked to move laterally, side to side, on an instant to make plays. Slippage at any point in this process, and especially at the start, is very detrimental for success.
- Baseball is the only major team sport where long, deep, metal spikes are attached to the bottom of the shoe to ensure the required grippage into the turf or dirt.
Why Catcher’s Cleats are Different
The position of catcher is the most difficult to play of the 9 defensive positions of baseball. It involves squatting down low so the preponderance of the body’s weight is on the feet, in unnatural places.
Whereas other players spend most of their time with the entire soul of the cleat touching earth, catchers spend a lot of time where only the front part of the feet touch the dirt. There is a ton of pressure on the toes and balls of the feet; and tremendous torque on everything that holds ankles together.
From this position, with the heels slightly elevated, catchers are then required to move on a moment’s notice in any direction, to catch a pitch, block a fast-moving ball, step to throw to a base, and more.
This has to be done about 140 times per game, sometimes more, depending on how many innings are played, how many balls the pitcher threw, and the number of foul balls.
All the while living with the danger of a ball traveling at 90 mph or faster could hit parts of his body that are not protected by protective gear like a helmet and shin guards.
That includes the cleats, namely, the toes. The feet of catchers can take a beating in any number of directions.
Because the catcher depends on fast movement in any direction on nearly every play, and the need for some layer of protection from errant pitches or foul balls, he or she needs cleats that perform and protect well.
In short, catchers need cleats that are durable; but also cleats that are comfortable, and grip the dirt firmly. Not all cleats can promise all that. This article will outline a few that can.
What to Look for to Buy Cleats for Catching
All baseball players want comfort and execution from their cleats. Comfort because they spend a lot of time standing during games, some of which involves running (or, in the case of catchers, squatting). Execution means, do the cleats do what that player needs in terms of hitting, running, and fielding?
The “must haves” for each position are different. Most outfielders prefer the lightest cleats due to all the full-out sprints they have to do on the grass to catch balls. Infielders might prefer thick leather, to protect the feet against spikes of sliding players at bases; and pitchers often think about how a cleat’s very front toe tips will hold up, especially on the foot on the throwing-arm side (which drags in the dirt on every pitch).
Catchers? Here’s our read on what a catcher would want most out of his cleats:
- Comfort. A no-doubter, since the catcher’s feet flex at the midpoint with every squat for every pitch. Do that 140 times on cleats that hurt from the metal spikes below, or somehow pinch at the sides, and the game may not seem very fun. Look for models with high-quality leather, which is usually softer yet more pliable than cheaper alternatives; and special padding all around especially in the very front and rear.
- Durability. It’s surprising when a catcher can use a pair of cleats for more than a single season, even for the youngest of backstops (another word for catcher). They will get scratched, twisted, spiked, soiled, moistened, and more during play. Tack onto that hitting and running bases in the very same shoes, and a catcher’s cleats take a severe beating. In this area, it helps to read user reviews to get first-hand reports on how well they lasted.
- Flexibility. If cleats are stiff on the bottom or in the middle, it can irritate nearby joints, tendons, and cartilage that normally bend and give with the squatting action. Additionally, some cleats have bulbous fronts over the toes, which might be fine elsewhere, but it can make catching awkward at times.
- Toes. Reinforced is best. For catchers cleats it is smart to look closely at the toe area and what covers it.
- Lightness. Most catchers would prefer a lighter cleat, to protect stamina. Even a single half-ounce more in weight could mean a lot in terms of sweat and energy over the course of 3 hours (or more) of catching.
- Metal or molded. Historically baseball cleats have had metal spikes on the bottom; but rubber or plastic spikes are becoming more commonplace. Most younger players use molded versions, though some pros do also (approaching a 3rd of MLB players now).
- Ankle height. Low is preferred, and mid is acceptable. High-topped cleats went out of style a long time ago.
- Air flow. Pay attention to application of exterior mesh or perforations to allow air into and out of the shoe, essential for keeping catchers’ feet cool under fire, and controlling perspiration inside.
- Special features. Some cleats come with an added feature to protect the toes, others don’t. Some build in extra padding on the top of the foot near the ankle, for protection at a weak point of the body. Other cleats feature very padded and/or comfortable midsoles. Pay attention to these seemingly little things.
Best Cleats for Catchers: Our Choices
1. Best Cleats for Catchers Overall ~ New Balance FuelCell 4040 V6
In reality, a number of New Balance cleat models could occupy our top spot here. Since we had to pick just 1, we lean toward the New Balance FuelCell 4040 V6, for its super-light overall weight, along with a price a little lighter than other NB models.
Anyone who’s played the catcher position will marvel at the hard covering over much of the toes, then the blend between synthetic and mesh, which would provide flexibility in exactly the right place for catchers ~ plus added ventilation (to go along with patches of mesh on the sides).
The 4040 V6 almost looks like it was designed specifically for the catcher position. There’s a lot more to like with this model, too, like the special foam inside (FuelCell) that New Balance found so exceptional that they included it in the model’s name. This shoe maker is known as the top producer of comfort, and all catchers should applaud them for it.
Note: this review is of the molded sole version, as we believe molded spikes (or “rubber spikes) are a better option for catchers than the long-used metal spikes models.
- Weight: 10 oz.
- Material(s): Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) and mesh
- Style: Low-cut TPU-cleated
- Options: Large selection of colors and color combos
- Special Feature: FuelCell foam in the midsole for cushion and propulsion
What We Like
- Almost the lightest catchers’ cleats on our list
- Superior flexibility in the upper part of the cleats, a big plus for catching
- 10-spiked sole for solid grip
2. Best Cleats for Catchers for Toe & Heel Protection ~ Mizuno Epic Baseball Metal Cleats
We would be remiss if we failed to give the Mizuno Epic Baseball Metal Cleats high marks for its exterior design and construction. For catchers in particular, these shoes are covered in hard synthetic well over the toes ~ which as we stated above is imperative to protect for backstops ~ as well as along the sides and well up the heel.
It kind of looks like a Robocleat, if there was such a thing. It has a sleek, futuristic look, that should match quite well with the robotic appearance of most pieces of catchers gear these days. Even though this is the model with metal cleats, this model weighs in as the lightest of all the baseball cleats on our list.
What might set these cleats apart is what Mizuno calls “Booty Construction” ~ a separately designed inside geared for soft yet secure fits. Which is an interesting contrast, the hard outer shell to fight off the elements, coupled with a padded interior to protect the feet. Hard to argue with that strategy.
- Weight: 9.5 oz.
- Material(s): Synthetic, metal cleats
- Style: Low-top with metal cleats
- Options: Black or white
- Special Feature: Booty Construction interior
What We Like
- Superior fit aimed at maximizing quickness in the first step
- Extra protection as well as more padding in all the right places for catchers
- Mid-range pricing, good for the quality
3. Best Cleats for Catchers on a Budget ~ Under Armour Leadoff Low RM Baseball Cleats
For very solid reviews from a whole lot of users, it’s hard not to marvel at the Under Armour Men’s Leadoff Baseball Shoe. The Leadoff is a cool baseball cleat for a number of reasons, which you get a glimpse of in the details.
Let’s start with the shock-absorbing that catchers absolutely need. Under Armour’s response? Full-length midsole made of EVA, among the very best at lessening the impact of shock in shoes. Additionally, “Very flexible sole” is a comment from a user ~ a huge thing for catchers. These couple of details alone make this model a winner for catchers.
Add to that the hard overlay on the toe cap for added durability and protection. For more protection there is a thickly padded collar; and the rubber molded cleats add even more cushion to the overall package compared with plastic or metal cleats. The traction here should be fine on any surface.
- Weight: 12.7 oz.
- Material(s): Synthetic, rubber cleats
- Style: Low with molded cleats
- Options: 3 colors to pair with white in 2-tone scheme
- Special Feature: Full-length ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) midsole for great shock absorption
What We Like
- Superbly low-priced
- Very flexible sole and mesh top to check off 2 important areas for catchers
- Very solid user reviews for a model not in the upper echelon of pricing
4. Best Cleats for Catchers for the Features ~ New Balance 3000 V5 Metal Cleats
There are baseball and sports equipment sites out there that place the New Balances 3000 v5 Metal Cleats atop their own lists for baseball catchers. And we can’t blame them. As we said before, this is another of the NB models easily included in our “best of” list.
New Balance is always performing research and development, and this model includes whatever is the most-recent advances. A key for catchers is the balance in comfort: these cleats stay perfectly firm yet soft in all the right places on each foot.
In fact, some say the 3000 V5 cleats feel like wearing a regular pair of NB running shoes. They are super comfortable as we just stated, with the company’s own Fresh Foam in the midsole. The synthetic mesh upper part provides great flexibility as well as ventilation.
- Weight: 13.4 oz.
- Material(s): Synthetic and TPU/Poly combo mesh, metal cleats
- Style: Low-cut with 8-spike metal plate
- Options: Lots of colors patterns
- Special Feature: Design driven by data
What We Like
- Soft collar at top to allow ankle flexibility for any catcher movement
- Plenty of cushioning and ventilation
- Designed particularly well for the catcher position
5. Best Turf Cleats for Catchers ~ Adidas Men’s Icon 7 Turf Baseball Shoe
Nowadays, any review of baseball cleats must include at least 1 turf cleat, because so many fields these days are made of fake grass, even at the lowest levels. This one, we rank the Adidas Men’s Icon 7 Turf Baseball Shoe quite high, mainly because we think many catchers will appreciate bottoms without spikes.
That’s not to say all catchers will, because some fields have very soft dirt behind home plate and the spikes are needed. But this model has a well-designed bottom pattern that we think will do just fine in most situations. And imagine not having to swap out cleats for games!
This is just a light and comfy cleat, with a textile upper mesh for breathability along with extra flexibility. Aside from all that, the light EVA midsole throughout the length might be the best feature of all.
- Weight: 11 oz.
- Material(s): Synthetic, molded rubber outsole
- Style: Mid-cut, flat rubber sole
- Options: Several colors
- Special Feature: Lightstrike EVA midsole for cushioning without adding weight
What We Like
- Comfortable sneaker-like fit
- Very lightweight
- Well-designed outsole of molded rubber to provide grip on any surface
6. Best Cleats for the Feet Health of Catchers ~ Mizuno 9 Spike Franchise 6 Mid Baseball Cleat
Some Mizuno enthusiasts may wonder why this Mizuno 9 Spike Franchise 6 Mid Baseball Cleat is ranked so low ~ including below the Epic mentioned above. We just felt the other Mizuno offering was better designed just for catching. Plus, there are a lot of good catchers’ cleats out there!
That this model is endorsed by some podiatrists says volumes about how it treats the feet. The company’s own Parallel Wave midsole is designed to disperse energy evenly throughout the length of the cleat ~ biomechanically engineered to further relieve stress to the ankles and knees.
The exterior dynamic synthetic leather includes lateral stiffening overlays in the construction to boost support. Any catcher, as well as other defenders out on the field for that matter, will like Mizuno’s patented 9 Spike sole configuration which boosts lateral stability and traction.
- Weight: 14 oz.
- Material(s): Synthetic leather, molded sole
- Style: Mid
- Special Feature: Parallel Wave midsole
What We Like
- Solid traction with 9-spike sole design
- Very strong toe box with plenty of space inside for toe movement
- EVA footbed to absorb shock