FOOTBALL BOOT INNOVATIONS – WHAT WORKS & WHAT DOESN’T

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.

Lace Covers

Lace covers have taken many forms over the past few generations, from the distinctive Predator tongue to the dedicated elastic pouch that covers the laces on the Vapor.

Nike Mercurial Vapor V lace cover
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

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.

Puma v1.08 synthetic upper
Puma v1.08

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.

Adidas F50.8 football boot kyle elliot
Adidas f50.8

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!


21 Comments

  • I’d like to see some empirical evidence showing that a lace cover actually improves ball contact, of course such evidence is non-existent as a lace cover is yet another pointless gimmick.

  • I’ve often wondered why screw in studs don’t all come with a rubber tip.

    When the ground is firm and I can wear my mouldies, I can control the ball so much better with the sole of my foot as the studs grip the ball.

    When I wear screw ins with plastic studs, especially in the wet, my foot slips on the ball.

  • Nice article Kyle,

    I agree with regards to the lace covers. I do not think they necessarily aid the striking of a football, that is surely down to the technical quality of the individual player. You could give Alonso or Gerrard a pair of Timberlands and they will still strike it sweeter than most Vapor/Tunit players.

    I think there is definately a fine line between a gimmick and an innovation that truly adds a new dimension to a boot. Where that fine line is right now, I dont know?!

    Omar

  • Good article.

    Although I was a little surprised that you didn’t mention the adidas Predators PowerSwerves with the Predator elements and the Tungsten powder-filled element, they are full of technological advances or purely marketing gimmicks — your call. However, I do remember seeing somewhere that adidas has actually done research that shows that these advances actually help a player but I can’t remember where I saw it…

    • I agree with you that Kyle should have written about the Adidas Predator Powerswerves. If you log onto youtube, there are a few videos about how the world cup ball is made, along with one of the videos is a part where they show you the mechanical leg that tests the balls to hit the top right hand corner with precision every time. Type in World cup 2006 ball and hopefully you can find it mate.

  • Afternoon all, thanks for the feedback as usual! Scottymac8, it’s a great idea – I was thinking of putting together something like that when I was writing it but time wasn’t on my side this week!

    Sion, yeah that’s an interesting point, surely the studs are rigid enough to penetrate any soft groud, so why not add rubber tips for better grip.

    Thanks Omar, yeah you look at a pro striking a ball you can see that the ball actually gives a little when they make contact, so it wouldn’t matter what the surface area is like.

    Good to hear from you again VB, I haven’t had a pair of Preds since the Precisions (All White Champs League Edition. Beautiful!) so I didn’t think I could really judge them, but I’d love to have investigated the Power, Swerves, Controls & Fantasies further as I honestly don’t think they’d make a blind bit of difference!

  • I have F50.9s and the first time I played in the wet I got soaked but you have to use pliers to do the studs tight enough because the adidas tool thingy breaks. Try yours out after doing them really tight with pliers and you will be fine and you can still change them after the game!!
    Does anyone have an idea of how much a second hand pair of white and red F50.9s could sell for??? It would helpful if anyone could give me a price that I should be looking for if I do sell mine.

    I really liked the article and I have to say that my F50 lace cover really does help me shoot and the cover is quite thick so I do get a bit more power on my shots but the MV IV’s have such a thin lace cover that I don’t think they really help at all, especially when I have used vapors. Again though nice article!!!!

  • Note:The new Mercurial Superfly’s, whats up with that bridge like structure and carbon fibor design, dose it really help (*no, all that the new boots bring are the weight of them and expensive ness, come on nike bring out boots that actully look apaling and are more innovative

  • Hmmm… All this talk about lace covers and if they work remind me of the Concaves. Sure I don’t know what to call it but as the site wrote articles on them, the “shield” appears to work. I think the Concaves are great boots but it just needs a bit of a boost with some player endorsements maybe? LOL Omar.. Nice comment

  • jajaajajajaja, timberlands, nice one omar saleem, and i agree with you, depend on the technic of each player the good kick of the ball

  • Actually i have a pair of Adidas f50.8 and i play in water all the time! i never experienced water coming up; i dont think you tightened the studs enough! Players like Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Lionel messi(f30), Diego Forlan, Downing, Tucay all these players didnt have a problem with the shoe!

    • I think Kyle is referring to King Henry VIII’s boots which were listed in the ‘Great Wardrobe’ of 1526.

      Apparently, he played a few games in between getting married!!!!

      Indeed, he divorced Anne of Cleves because she wanted him to play 4-4-2 and he preferred 3-5-2.

  • workout planet, that’s funny man haha

    i’m not sure that lace covers do that much really. also, the cover on the current (soon to be old) vapors has too much material so it kind of rolls up at the sides (does that make sense?) and it looks a bit bad

    oh and sorry for being pinickity but surely babel wears talarias rather than cutting the cover off a pair of vapors?

  • he probably wears vapors but had nike not construct a cover for the boot. because its just a piece of synthetic stitched to the upper. Also defoe somehow has the cover on his f50s taken off (???).
    and messi has finally started to use f50s (i think with the launch of those adidas videos last summer)

  • That’s why I love the adiPURE. No gimmicks, just pure class and elegance. The only thing you might judge as a gimmick is the k-leather and the off- centered lacing but, for the boot to not have a lace cover, which in my opinion would take the elegance out of the whole thing. And the k-leather really helps. This boot looks absolutely nostalgic, the old predators, so beautiful. The Predator Absolute marks the start of the gimmick age (and thus,for me, the shitening)of the football boots. Wires? Come on people, we’re talking about football, not bridges (which Nike claims was the inspiration for their designers).

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