After reading the recent Footy Boots article ‘The Great Mercurial Vapor Debate‘ I was inspired by the way everyone that chipped in had a really strong opinion on what made a particular boot work for them.
Many boot companies spend a massive amount of time and money in making improvements to every new generation of boot, coming up with gimmicks that they believe will make a better product – but what improvements have made a difference? Well, I’ve owned plenty of boots and come across a mass of technology so here’s my views on what has and hasn’t worked.
Nike Mercurial Vapor V
At first I thought this was a no brainer, surely having a large, smooth surface area is far better for contact with the ball than having exposed laces? However, looking at the opinions that people put forward in favour of the MVIII, many don’t seem to mind having the laces showing. Indeed, Liverpool players Youssi Benayoun and Ryan Babel have both been snapped in either older Vapors or Vapor IV’s with the tongue removed so it seems that plenty of people feel that things like this can simply get in the way of a good boot.
My take is this. Of course it’s possible to get a good clean strike on a ball whether your boots laces are in the way or not – look at players like Lampard and Xavi Alonso, both adiPure players (which have the laces on the top) and both notoriously great strikers of a football. Personally, I prefer my laces covered, or better yet off-centered (think the Nike Total 90 II), because I honestly think it gives a smoother contact not just when hitting the ball, but also when controlling the ball from height and dribbling. Definitely a worthwhile innovation.
Synthetic uppers have come along in leaps and bounds over the past few years – I originally dismissed the first f50 TUNiT as something that would be like a pair of wellies to play in – but since then companies have poured in new and exciting thoughts to make an upper that’s both waterproof and enhancing to a players touch on the ball. Leather, however, has always been a reliable substance for boots, (going back to 1526!), after a few games a good pair of leather boots really accommodate your foot and mold to the shape of your forefoot and heel. However, leather can get seriously wet – the boots can get a touch heavier when the surface is moist, as well as mud having a tendency latch onto a leather boot, rather than say, a Vapor IV.
As innovations go, I don’t think we’ve seen the best synthetic uppers have to offer just yet. As well as the slick-looking uppers on some boots, Puma, with the v1.08’s have opted for a more canvas like upper for lightness, and Umbro’s SX Valor II’s have a Michelin rubber upper for more grip and waterproofing. So there’s clearly massive potential for the synthetic upper.
The TUNiT System
Whilst it seems that I’m maybe being a bit unfair by concentrating on the Adidas TUNiT system, instead of saying ‘cutomisable boot brand x’ or something, I single them out because of my sheer personal disappointment.
You see, I love my f50.8’s – I splashed out on having my name and number stitched on them, I thought the features were fantastic; glove-like fit, no rubbing from the first wear and the FG studs were perfect for the summer tournaments. Then winter came. I made the obvious switch to SG studs and by half time of the first rain-sodden game, my boots were like two miniature Titanics, taking on water – fast.
The ‘Alles-Clar’ see-through heel only confirmed my suspicions that water was coming up through the soles. I rooted through my kitbag to find the TUNiT-tool and tightened all the studs and headed back out. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough, and I realised it was a fundamental design flaw – the TUNiT system simply wasn’t designed to cope with water, which is massivley disappointing for a boot designed for a sport where most major leagues play over the winter.
While plenty will disagree with me, I think the TUNiT system was a hugely underdeveloped gimmick. Adidas could have developed some really nifty ‘customisable’ ideas, e.g. player developed insoles, different colour studs etc. and had features on the website with how the pros preferred to set up their boots for matches – but they didn’t really. It had the chance to be a big step forward for boots, but it just went a bit sideways, meandering to nowhere in particular making it particularly hard to overlook its faults.
So those are my opinions on 3 pieces of fairly simple boot tech, leave a comment below on your favourite improvements to previous models, or in contrast, things that you feel have no benefit to you as a player whatsoever!