Which cleats are best to use on a synthetic turf field has been a long debated and scrutinized part of the transition from natural to synthetic. Early variations of artificial sports fields were often short and hard and cleats needed to perform on a surface with these characteristics. As synthetic sports fields become more and more realistic the gap between cleats for natural turf and synthetic turf is slowly closing; however, three cleat styles remain for use on synthetic sports fields.
Firm-ground cleats utilize a higher number of short spikes. They are able to gain traction in the turf without any contact with the sub base of synthetic turf fields. That contact is often a large complaint for players new to playing on these surfaces. Advancements in yarn fibers and infill have eliminated a lot of this contact but using a cleat designed for firm ground will help provide the most grip and comfort while playing on a synthetic surface.
Synthetic Turf Specific Cleats
This seems like an obvious answer, but how many athletes play solely on synthetic sports fields? These cleats feature wide, short and often rubberized spikes. Designed specifically with the original artificial playing surfaces in mind, they are slowly losing popularity. After all, the closer synthetic turfs get to real grass the more appropriate a firm-ground cleat becomes as it can be interchanged between artificial and natural sports fields. Synthetic turf cleats are also heavier than traditional cleats due to the additional and rubberized spikes which can be a negative to many players.
Hybrid Firm Ground/Synthetic
This cleat style is a blend of a firm-ground and synthetic turf cleat. They usually feature 20 to 25 studs and the upper design of a firm-ground cleat. Spikes are short but not as wide as a synthetic turf specific cleat. Although a great alternative to the other two cleat styles they are only now being developed so the market for them is small, especially in women and youth styles.
So the magic answer to which cleats to use on synthetic sports fields is still very much a personal preference. Whether you choose firm-ground cleats, synthetic turf cleats, or hybrid cleats each has positives and negatives. The important things to consider when making a cleat purchase for use on both synthetic and natural fields is how often you will play on the artificial field and how old the turf is. Newer turfs perform much more like natural fields and as they get closer to a natural playing surface the need for specific cleats may be a thing of the past.