What is TPU?
TPU stands for thermoplastic polyurethane, or more commonly, thermal plastic unit. It is a high-performance elastomer that has become the standard for plastic cleat manufacture, as well as for the construction of the hard plastic outsoles that house the studs. Compared with other plastics, TPU boasts superior abrasion resistance, impact resistance, and cold temperature flexibility. TPU is lighter, more shock absorbent, and more dent resistant than metal. TPU is also recyclable.
Molded cleats are the type in which the entire outsole of the shoe, studs included, is molded as one piece. Consequently, these studs cannot be replaced individually. When they do become worn to the extent that they are ineffective, the entire shoe must be replaced. The shoe is inexpensive, which is one reason molded cleats with TPU studs are the most common worn by youth athletes in all field sports. The main reason is safety; most youth athletic leagues forbid the wearing of metal cleats.
Cleats with removable studs are known as interchangeable cleats. Unlike molded cleats, the studs on this type can be removed from the outsole via a small screw and replaced individually. TPU studs can be replaced with metal studs for better traction on harder playing surfaces if league rules allow, or with longer studs for soggy dirt and grass.
Turf shoes are designed specifically for use on artificial playing surfaces, and are available in both molded and interchangeable configurations. Turf studs are shorter and more tightly grouped since they don't have to dig into loose dirt, clay or mud.
While turf shoes are commonly outfitted with TPU outsoles and studs, they are often available with rubber studs. Furthermore, some turf shoes don't have studs at all, but instead sport raised patterns on the outsoles similar to those on running shoes.
Choosing a TPU Cleat
Cleats for different sports are constructed differently. A pair of football cleats, with their rounded plastic studs, would not provide adequate traction on the hard clay of a baseball diamond. Turf shoes would be insufficient in sloppy, wet grass. Interchangeable cleats are often more expensive than molded cleats.