Do Referees Wear Cleats? Football & Soccer

One of the most noticeable and iconic  parts of a football or soccer player’s uniform is their shoes.

They feature spikes on their soles known as cleats which help their performance while out on the field, but is it just the players who wear cleats on their shoes or do the referees wear cleats too? 

Do Referees Wear Cleats Football & Soccer

Here, we are going to be taking a closer look at the footwear of referees in both football and soccer to see if they are also required by the rules of their respective leagues to wear some kind of cleats on their shoes. 

What Are Cleats? 

Cleats are the appropriate name for the studs that are commonly found on the soles of shoes used for athletes and sportspeople. 

They are specifically designed to help an athletes’ performance on soft or slippery surfaces, such as grass pitches. Cleats work by helping players keep their grip by protruding into the ground, providing additional traction.

This can help those who play sports on grass pitches keep their footing when sprinting, pushing and cutting. 

There are two main types of cleated shoes – studs or blades. Both function in very similar ways but while studs are more cone-shaped, blades are better for gripping onto harder grounds.

In recent years, safety concerns surrounding metal bladed boots were raised and although they weren’t outright banned, it is frowned upon to wear them because they can easily cause injuries if they come in contact with another player’s leg or skin. 

So, cleats are definitely super helpful and can improve the performances of both football and soccer players – but is it necessary for their referees to wear them too? 

Let’s find out! 

Do Soccer Referees Wear Cleats? 

According to the rules governed by FIFA, referees can wear any kind of shoes such as running shoes or turf shoes, as long as their shoes are all black or feature black as a primary color with white cleats. 

So, by  FIFA’s rules, a soccer referee can wear cleats if they want to but it’s not a rule that they have to wear cleats.

The only rule in place concerning a referee’s shoes is that they must be sensible and appropriate, and they must suit the uniform for referees by complying with the color code. 

Most referees do wear cleated shoes because, just like with the players, it helps them keep a firmer grip on the turf and they are less likely to slip or skid when running around the field.

Referees have to constantly keep moving to keep their eye on the ball and watch for any fouls committed by players so soccer referees need a great pair of shoes to help them stay on their feet for the entire game – and because of this, many soccer referees choose to wear cleated shoes even though it is not required by FIFA. 

Ultimately, what a soccer referee wears out on the pitch comes down to their personal preference. As long as the shoes comply with the color regulations, they can wear whatever kind of sports shoes they want – cleated or not. 

Do Referees Wear Cleats Football & Soccer

Do American Football Referees Wear Cleats? 

American football referees can also benefit from wearing cleated shoes as it helps them keep their footing while out on the field for the whole football game.

Just like with soccer referees, football referees need to constantly be moving to ensure that all the players are playing correctly and fairly so they can enforce the rules of the game. 

However, an American football referee does not need to wear cleats if they don’t want to. 

According to NFL restrictions, referees can wear any kind of sensible athletic footwear as long as they are primarily black in color to match the uniform. As for style, referees can wear running shoes, turf shoes or cleated shoes – as long as they are black. 

So, just like  with soccer referees, whether or not an American football referee wears cleats on their shoes is all down to personal preference. 

Why A Referee May Choose Not To Wear Cleats?

So, both American football and soccer referees have the option to wear cleated footwear when they are refereeing a game.

There are no rules to enforce them to wear cleats despite the many benefits, but why may a referee choose not to wear cleats if there are so many advantages to wearing them?

One main reason is comfort. Like we said earlier, it all comes down to preference and because referees don’t have a team’s entire success riding on whether or not they slip or lose their grip with their feet, they can afford to be a bit more picky. 

Despite this, many referees do still wear cleated shoes but those who don’t often make that decision because they find cleated shoes uncomfortable due to the irregular distribution of their weight.

Running on studded shoes for a long time can cause discomfort in your feet, so some referees prefer to wear non-cleated shoes. 

Another reason why a referee would ditch the cleats is because they don’t agree with them. Some athletes and sports people don’t like wearing cleats because they can be dangerous and cause injury to other players.

So, some referees may choose not to wear them because they don’t want to be the cause of any injuries to the players. 


So, do referees wear cleated boots? 

Yes, they do! Referees in both soccer and American football wear cleated boots when they are out refereeing a game. This is because cleats are great for helping a referee keep their grip on the ground and stay on their feet while running around. 

However, despite the benefits, it’s not mandatory for them to wear cleats. If a referee chooses to ditch the cleats for a different kind of athletic footwear, then they can.

Neither FIFA or the NFL have any kind of restrictions in place forcing their referees to wear cleats – only that any cleats they do wear comply with their uniform policies.

So, not all football or soccer referees wear cleats because some may find them uncomfortable while others don’t like the risks they pose to other players. 

Steven Anderson