Since 2017, What Pros Wear has been tracking the cleats worn by all MLB starters, and the 2021 results are in. This Rawlings sponsored report (like the bat and glove reports) focuses entirely on the starting position players, excluding pitchers, noted on Baseball-Reference.com’s 2021 team pages with a few additions. We focus on starters because they play the most, and the efficiency of the research is greatly improved by focusing on the most consistently active players. In 2021, there was some shuffling among the runners-up, while the king remains.
Below we’ll review the cleat brands and models that were most popular among baseball’s best in 2021, but lets first take a quick look at our 2019 cleat data.
2019 Cleats Worn by MLB Starters
In 2019, Nike led the way, while adidas overtook New Balance as the #2 and Under Armour continued to fade out as a widely used cleat among MLB starters.
What Cleats Do You Wear?
I’m very interested to know what you wear on the field. If you’re wondering what the WPW guy wears, I wore New Balance in 2021. Shop NB at Academy Sports.
What Cleats Do MLB Players Wear?
2021 Cleats Worn by MLB Starters
Since 2017, Nike has added 9 percentage points to their already-distant lead in the MLB cleat race. From 38% in 2017, they now control 47% of the starters market in Major League Baseball.
Baseball cleats, unlike bats and gloves, are very limited as far as options that can handle the rigors of an MLB schedule. Its a six horse race and the entrants are Nike (+4% from 2019), New Balance (+3%), adidas (-6%), UA (-5%), Jordan (+4%), and Mizuno (unchanged).
Here’s the top 6 cleats among MLB starters:
Nike | 47% of Cleats Worn by MLB Starters (+4% from 2019)
Best Nike Baseball Cleats w/ Links to Purchase from Retailer with Best Inventory
- Alpha Huarache Elite 3 | Shop at Academy
- Vapor Ultrafly Elite 3 | Shop at Academy
- Trout 7 | Shop at Eastbay
See all our featured Nike cleats here.
Nike’s top cleat, once again, was the league’s top cleat, the Alpha Huarache Elite 3 (shop at Academy Sports). The Alpha Huarache has been the top cleat in baseball since it arrived, and it continues to be worn by the game’s best players.
Here’s a few stars who wore the Alpha Huarache Elite 3 (available at Academy Sports):
Nike’s low-profile speed cleat is the Vapor Ultrafly 3, which is used very lightly in MLB but with a lot of star power. You can get both the 3 and the new 4 at this link. Here’s a few guys who wore those:
Can’t forget about the Trout 7, one of the most sought after products on WPW. While there’s an ego factor that keeps the Trout off many Big Leaguers’ feet who refuse to wear an opponent’s shoe, its a hugely popular cleat in the amateur circuits. Get the Trout 7 at Eastbay.
New Balance | 22% of Cleats Worn by MLB Starters (+3%)
Best New Balance Baseball Cleats w/ Links to Purchase from Retailer with Best Inventory
- 4040v6 | Shop at Academy
- 4040v5 | Shop at Academy
- 3000v5 | Shop at Eastbay
- 3000v4 | Shop at eBay
- COMPv2 | Shop at eBay
- Lindor 1 | Shop at Dick’s
New Balance reclaimed its role as the #2 cleat in Major League baseball in 2021 with an array of cleat models including the 4040v6 (above), 4040v5, 3000v5, 3000v4, COMPv2 and Lindor’s signature, the Lindor 1.
While Ronald Acuna Jr. got the NB 4040v6 ahead of everybody else (Shop at Academy), he also rocked the 3000v5. (Get the 3000v5 at Eastbay.) Aaron Judge, on the other hand, made WPW headlines when he dropped adidas in favor of some painted-over New Balance 3000v4s, which must be an exceptionally comfortable cleat if it motivated Judge to abandon his big endorsement deal with adidas. (Get the 3000v4 on eBay.)
Francisco Lindor rocked his first, and NB’s first, signature baseball cleat, the Lindor 1. (Barely available at Dick’s.)
Here’s some MLB studs who wear New Balance cleats:
- Ronald Acuna | 4040v6, 3000v5
- Jose Altuve | COMPv2
- Francisco Lindor (above) | Lindor 1
- Salvador Perez | 3000v5
- Aaron Judge | 3000v4
Adidas | 16% of Cleats Worn by MLB Starters (-6%)
Best adidas Baseball Cleats w/ Links to Purchase from Retailer with Best Inventory
- Afterburner 7 | Shop at Academy
- Afterburner 8 | Shop at Academy
- Icon 6 | Shop at Dick’s
- Icon 7 | Shop at Academy
adidas dropped to #3 in 2021 after a brief stint as the #2 cleat in Major League Baseball.
Despite separating from posterboys Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa, the Icon and Afterburner cleat lines remain popular among adidas ballplayers. The Icon 6 (Dick’s) and 7 (Academy) were worn most often among MLB starters in 2021, as well as the Afterburner 7 (Academy) and 8 (Academy).
Most famously, Fernando Tatis Jr. carries the adidas stripes on his spring-loaded feet. Here’s a few more MLB stars wearing adidas in 2021:
- Fernando Tatis Jr. | Afterburner 7
- Kris Bryant | Icon 7
- Luis Robert | Afterburner 7
- Justin Turner | Icon 7
- Trea Turner | Afterburner 8
- Kike Hernandez | Afterburner 7
- Xander Bogaerts | Afterburner V
Under Armour | 7% of Cleats Worn by MLB Starters (-5%)
Best Under Armour Baseball Cleats w/ Links to Purchase from Retailer with Best Inventory
Under Armour has become a niche brand in MLB, with Bryce Harper, Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman now the main torchbearers for the UA brand. Ever since UA boisterously announced it would be the uniform supplier for MLB in 2016 (and was subsequently replaced by Nike), the number of Under Armour baseball athletes have shrunk, and they even went so far as to delete their @uabaseball Instagram page.
Still, UA has a footprint in baseball cleats thanks to some superstar power. The Harper 6, signature cleat of 2021 NL MVP Bryce Harper, remains a top seller among young ballplayers. You can get it at Eastbay and it scored well in our recent review.
Here’s a few stars who wear UA:
- Bryce Harper | Harper 6
- Juan Soto | Player Exclusive based off the Yard
- Freddie Freeman | Yard
- Wander Franco | Harper 6
Jordan | 6% of MLB Starters (+4%)
Jordan, with its religious following among athletes globally, continues to grow its influence in baseball. In 2021, we tracked 16 players regularly wearing Jordan cleats, and many of them aren’t even “official” endorsers. Some might even be PAYING for the cleats, which is very rare for pro athletes.
While some very good players like Josh Donaldson, Eduardo Escobar and Wil Myers are so eager to wear Jordan that they may be buying them off the rack, Jordan brand is officially represented by some of the best players of this generation. Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, and Yadier Molina are all Jordan brand members, and recently added young stars Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Kyle Lewis will thrive in Jumpman footwear for years to come.
The Jordan 10 was the featured silhouette of 2021, though we’ve seen nothing new for 2022. You’ll have to hunt eBay for now and hope that Jordan brand doesn’t leave us baseball players hanging in 2022.
The remaining brands were as follows:
Ohtani Wears ASICS Cleats
The modern day Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani, is the sole MLB starter in ASICS. There are a couple of other pitchers, but we didn’t count them in this data. ASICS offers baseball products in Asia, but not in the USA, though you can find some ASICS / Ohtani gear on eBay.
Plastic (Molded) Cleats vs Metal
As we’ve said many times before, molded cleats offer more support for Major League starters who play every day and need to take strain off their feet. In 2021, 31% of MLB starting position players wore molded cleats as a way to alleviate foot fatigue. A lot of people get tripped up about MLB players wearing plastic, thinking that those are for kids—but the truth is, they’re a real asset to the best players in the world and anybody playing a heavy schedule should consider plastic (molded) cleats.
What do you think about our 2021 MLB cleat report? Please comment below.