Ten years ago, shopping for soccer cleats was simple. You had less than fifty options to choose from and the prices rarely climbed above $100. Shopping for soccer cleats today is like toothpaste shopping. You stand in front of 500 varieties scratching your head and wondering why.
Know your budget. With prices ranging from $15 to $350, you won't have a hard time finding either an inexpensive or bank-breaking set of cleats. A specific brand doesn't necessarily equate to expensive. Even your biggest names like Nike or Adidas make for a very simple and cheap option with a strong reputation behind them. Price doesn't always mean quality either. A $200 price tag doesn't make the soccer cleats invulnerable to ripping or tearing, but the cheapest set of cleats probably won't last you more than a season or two, so choose carefully.
Choose cleats by need. Outdoor cleats typically come in three varieties: Soft Ground, Firm Ground and Hard Ground. Soft Ground cleats were designed for wet or muddy conditions and are fitted with metal studs underneath for better traction. Hard Ground cleats were designed for shorter grass and dry, hard surfaces. Firm Ground cleats are the most popular choice and encompass both hard and soft ground characteristics while giving players good traction in any environment. Having a set of soft ground cleats in your soccer bag wouldn't be a bad idea for those soggy days on the pitch, but it isn't a necessity. Firm Ground will do just fine.
After understanding the first two steps, your options have narrowed, and now you can begin to use a bit of personal judgment with your choice. You'll need to choose what type of material you want your cleats to be made out of. Whether it be leather, kangaroo leather, synthetic leather, calfskin leather, micro-fiber, etc. Also know the width of your foot. A lot of soccer cleats are made with a narrow foot in mind, so if your foot doesn't fit this category, make sure to ask or search for shoes with a wider fit. At this point it will depend on feel. Does it conform to your foot? Is it comfortable? Don't put the cleats on for a few minutes and decide they're the right ones. Walk around the store, jump up and down, move side to side. Don't make sacrifices because you like the way they look. Function over form is a good mantra to follow when choosing soccer cleats.