My son is in the market for a pair of cleats. It's such a leap in the level of commitment to sports to have to buy specific footwear. I can remember showing up to the first few Young America Football practices when I was in fourth grade in my Keds. It became apparent very quickly that there was no way I could possibly compete physically or socially with a group of kids who had their own cleats. That meant going to a special store to buy special shoes. In the days before Footlocker and the like. We had to schlep on over to the Sporting Goods store. My parents bought me a pair of football cleats - nothing really fancy, but I remember that they were white and I liked this because it put me in mind of kick returner Billy "White Shoes" Johnson of the Houston Oilers. I was an offensive lineman, and the closest I ever came to a kick return was when I heard a punt go off over my head, but it felt cool to have that association.
In junior high I went out for wrestling, and after my first year of wrestling in my red suede Puma Clydes, I was made to understood by my coach that if I was "serious about wrestling" I needed to get a pair of wrestling shoes. These things were fifty dollars a pair. My parents were politely but supportively skeptical, and in ninth grade I place third in the district on "B" mat at 124 pounds in my Onitsuka Tiger wrestling shoes. I loved those shoes. I was chastised for wearing my "bowling shoes" to a piano lesson. My piano teacher didn't understand.
These days I buy a new pair of running shoes about every six months. I tend to buy last year's model so the price doesn't sting quite so bad, but I always love that first run in new shoes, when everything is still bouncy and cushioned. Someday I'll buy my son a pair of wrestling shoes - not because he needs them necessarily - but they're just so darn comfortable.