Top 5 Best Soccer Cleats For Defenders

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This is our review of the best soccer cleats for defenders. 

These cleats have all of the features that defenders need to play their best game.

Defenders play a versatile position, switching from offense to defense throughout the game. They are some of the hardest workers on the field. 

I’ve played at the highest levels in the American soccer system. I currently play collegiate soccer.

I have researched and tested the best cleats for defenders. 

I found that the Nike Tiempo Legend 9 is the best overall soccer cleat for defenders.

Center-backs have different needs than full-backs. The cleats mentioned below account for the different features that defenders are looking for.

Let’s dive into it!

Key Features

Positions in soccer are unique in nature and are played differently. Certain positions in soccer have distinct requirements for cleats. For example, defenders make a lot of tackles throughout the game, so to protect their foot they may look for a cleat that is tougher.


The weight of a cleat can greatly affect a player’s game. For defenders, having the lightest cleat on the market is not the biggest priority. Defenders still don’t want a heavy-duty and bulky shoe.

The perfect cleat for a defender requires a balance between weight and thickness. If you are an outside back who is constantly attacking up the field, you might consider a lighter cleat than a center back would need.


A cleat’s durability is an important feature. Unless you are a professional soccer player, you aren’t getting new cleats every few weeks and don’t have the budget to do so. 

Turf fields can speed up your cleat’s wear and tear. Grass fields can expose your cleats to moisture. Defenders need a cleat that can withstand many games on turf and grass.


Weather can play a big part in a player’s performance. The last thing a defender wants is to be sloshing around in soggy cleats. Soccer cleat companies like Adidas and Nike have made big strides in creating weatherproof cleats. 

The outer layer of a cleat is what repels or absorbs water. Leather cleats are more water-absorbent than other cleats. If you need a weatherproof cleat, consider cleats with synthetic material that is water resistant. Nike uses ACC (All Conditions Control) technology to prevent water absorption. 


Every player needs a cleat they can feel comfortable in. After all, soccer players are running for 60-90 min in practice or at games. Blisters and discomfort can be a game-changer for defenders. 

Most defenders are slide tackling, playing long balls, sprinting back, and jumping for headers. Comfort is necessary to execute at the highest level.


For defenders, the texture of a cleat should be a feature worth consideration. Texture affects how much spin you can put on a ball and how cushioned your first touch is.

This feature is mainly up to personal preference. Some prefer extra padding to protect their foot when they go in for challenges and tackles. Others like a rigid, harder texture to curve their passes and have better accuracy.


A slip-up in the defensive third can lead to getting scored on. Cleats have different stud patterns and traction that may help you on slippery surfaces like wet grass. 

5 Best Soccer Cleats For Defenders

All of the cleats listed below are Nike or Adidas. That’s not to say other brands don’t make good cleats for defenders. Based on hours of research and testing, we have determined these 5 to be the best to elevate your game as a defender. 

Nike Tiempo Legend 9

  • Weight: 7.7 oz
  • Material/Texture: Kangaroo leather
  • Fit: Slightly wide and to your size
  • Best for: Overall

The Nike Tiempo Legend 9 is the last Tiempo cleat to have a leather material. The newly released Tiempo Legend 10s switch to a synthetic material. The Tiempo Legend 9s upper material holds up nicely for long periods without damage. 

This cleat features kangaroo leather and soft foam pads built into it. This doesn’t make it ideal for harsh conditions but does much better than most leather cleats. Our tested pair has lasted well over a year. It has endured both turf and grass surfaces 3-4 times a week in the spring and fall. 

With this cleat, you are getting the benefits that leather material offers such as great comfort. The cleat also has a soft touch resulting in amazing ball control and extra padding when striking and passing the ball. All while maintaining a lightweight fit of a synthetic cleat which is crucial for defenders. The extra padding will improve a defender’s touch and passing. On the defensive side, it offers extra protection for sliding and standing tackles. 

Adidas Copa Pure.1

  • Weight: 7.8 oz
  • Material/Texture: Calf Leather
  • Fit: To your size
  • Best for: Comfort

The Adidas Copa Pure.1 is the reincarnation of the Adidas Copa Mundial in a more modern form. Made from calf leather, the Copa Pure.1 is a durable cleat. Playing on turf excessively may result in minimal separation between the upper leather material and the sole. 

This cleat is similar to other leather cleats in the sense that it isn’t fully water-resistant. Where this cleat lacks in being 100% weatherproof it makes up for it in comfort. This cleat is extremely comfortable. This cleat molds to your foot nicely and is a relatively simple design.

Defenders are some of the hardest workers on the field and need maximum comfort. The leather material is comfortable while still providing the defender with light cleats for speed. The Copa Pure.1 has great traction on surfaces which is a must for defenders. One slip-up could lead to a goal. 

Nike Phantom GT2 Elite

  • Weight: 7.51 oz
  • Material/Texture: Synthetic upper with rigid texture
  • Fit: Runs slightly narrow
  • Best for: Speed

Out of the 5 cleats listed, this one is perhaps an outlier in its design. The cleat offers many unique features that can equip defenders with a cleat that adds some flare to the game.

The Phantom GT2 Elite is the first non-leather cleat. They take some time to break in due to their firm sole. The cleat utilizes Nike’s ACC technology to prevent water absorption and is great for harsh conditions. Defenders will be able to increase their long-range passing abilities with this cleat. The synthetic upper material has a rigid texture allowing the defender to create more spin on the ball. 

The fit is tight to the foot and is the lightest cleat on the list. The tight and light fit paired with the synthetic material benefits full-backs. The texture of the material puts a spin on the ball when crossing or taking free kicks. The lightweight cleat is great for fullbacks making runs down the line.

Adidas Copa Mundial

  • Weight: 11.7 oz
  • Material/Texture: Kangaroo leather
  • Fit: Wide fit that runs slightly large
  • Best for: Durability

A traditional cleat that stands the test of time. There’s a reason that so many defenders love the Adidas Copa Mundial. It features conical studs, a sturdy sole, and unmatched kangaroo leather. 

The old-fashioned design makes it extremely durable. So durable in fact, after their release in 1979, they remain a top cleat in the modern game. Obviously, it’s not weatherproof, but the wear and tear on the leather from wet conditions is minimal over an extended period.

Defenders love this cleat because of its reliability. It’s a great balance between being strong and comfortable. This allows defenders to perform the basics of the game to the best of their ability. They don’t need to worry about traction as the conical studs dig into the surface and provide stability for the defender.

The downside? The weight is overbearing for some. 11.7 oz is higher than all the other cleats on this list by at least 3 oz. 

Adidas Predator Accuracy

  • Weight: 8.7 oz
  • Material/Texture: Synthetic upper with bumpy texture
  • Fit: Run wide and to your size
  • Best for: Passing

Lastly, the Adidas Predator Accuracy. It features a padded heel and extra padding on the interior of the cleat. On the outside, it is a synthetic, waterproof material. The Predator Accuracy features a bumpy texture on a portion of the surface.

This cleat has a heavier build which helps with durability. The synthetic material is weatherproof and makes it great for wet conditions. It is extremely comfortable while allowing the defender to feel mobile when wearing these cleats. 

Defenders need a cleat that provides that sock-like feeling while being protective and comfortable. This cleat has almost everything we talked about earlier, except for the leather. It helps defenders pass with precision because of its textured material and protects their feet when they tackle. To top it all off, they’re surprisingly comfortable. 

What do defenders look for in good cleats?

Defenders look for a cleat with durability, traction, comfort, protection, and light-weight.

What is FG vs AG vs SG?

FG stands for firm ground, AG stands for artificial ground, and SG stands for soft ground. You will see the same cleat modified to these three options. The main difference is the stud pattern and the traction on the bottom of each cleat. 

What cleats do professional defenders use?

Virgil Van Dijk, one of the world’s greatest defenders, is a big advocate for Nike Tiempos. 

What cleat feature is most important?

Comfort is the most important feature because it has the greatest effect on the player’s performance. Discomfort can cause blisters and foot pain. 

Our Verdict

Defenders have a lot to consider when selecting a cleat. The cleat needs to have good traction and protection. A lightweight and comfortable cleat is crucial so the defender can keep up with quick forwards. 

Good defenders are vital to a team’s success. The Nike Tiempo Legend 9 is a great cleat for defenders that helps them perform at the highest level. 

The leather upper material, extra foam padding, lightweight, durability, comfort, and traction are what make it the best overall cleat for defenders. 

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Ethan is the owner of Skillful Soccer and has over 20 years of playing experience. He is currently a collegiate soccer player and is thrilled to share his insights for all things related to soccer.