SUPERFLY II: WE MEET THE DESIGNER

One of the joys of going to football boot launches is that you get to meet really interesting people. In the case of the Superfly II, we were lucky enough to spend some time in the company of Nike Design Director, Andy Caine.

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Shortly after he’d appeared on stage to explain his thinking behind the new football boot, we spent around 20 minutes in his company, quizzing him on as many aspects of the Superfly II that we could think of.

The result is a fascinating insight in to what goes in to making a football boot like the Superfly II.

superfly ii andy caine designer

Andy, thanks for talking to us. First off, what are the big improvements on this Mercurial Superfly compared to the last?

The adaptable stud is really the revolution in this boot. The other features are about taking things we’ve done before – like the Flywire and improving it, taking traction on the plate and improving it. The real story is a lot of the traction elements; obviously the extending stud is huge, but equally important is the idea of the toe traction. It’s an area that, in football design, hasn’t really been addressed. You look at track spikes in other sports, a lot of other athletics use tracks on the toes to give you that extra last bit on the toe. So bringing that to football is also very unique.

The other thing that we’ve really evolved is the redesign of the traction pattern. More braking, accelerating – but also – these players are very creative and do a lot of different types of movement. So the traction pad is designed to give these creative, fast players the best traction in every type of movement that they’re going to make.

So, the Mercurial Vapor Superfly II’s extending stud extends 3mm – that sounds like nothing! Tell us more on why it can make such a difference?

Well, on boot like this – for a fast player, we know that the biomechanics of a player are going to make them really focused on the forefoot. If you speak to most fast players, like Pato, they will literally tell you I use [part of the foot] when I’m standing still. So, the position of these two studs is where they’re going to have the most impact, biomechanically. So as you’re ‘toeing’ off on that first step acceleration they’re positioned around there.

We measured [athlete’s feet when] accelerating, and most of the force on the boot is put on there. So – if you’re going to slip that’s when you’re going to do it. The studs are located in areas where slippage might happen, and stop it happening. 3mm is a big difference on a football boot, it’s not a small size when it comes to football.

nike superfly ii soleplate

How does the stud work – does it interact with the surface?

It’s one-on-one with the player, and surface interaction reacts instantly. If it really requires a hard surface, it’s just a normal boot; but this is soft [points to the forefoot of the sole of the boot] and you put your foot in it and press it, it has the ability to extend.

Are you a footballer yourself?

Not as good as any of these players!

But did you try the Superfly II out?

Yeah, one of the things about being a designer is you’re naturally very curious about how it feels and how it fits. It’s part of your job to know how it feels on your foot. The new traction system also makes this the most comfortable Mercurial Vapor we’ve ever made – the pressure distribution is very equal across the bottom.

Go on, you can be honest with us; was the Colour choice anything to do with Cristiano Ronaldo?

No! The colour really comes from a little bit of science: the idea was we talked about this visual acuity idea, and purple we know from the balls, works with yellow – obviously the high-vis balls are yellow and purple. So we took that, as well as with a dark colour. So when you’re running you get this effect [‘runs’ the boots across each other, demonstrating the colour change from one foot light purple to the other foot being dark purple] and with that ‘bounced’ off the grass, you get what we call a ‘flicker’ which really engages accurate vision. So there’s a lot more science behind it that just picking a colour!

superfly ii colourway

A lot of people are saying the Superfly I & II are very similar. If you blindfolded a player and asked him to try them both out, what differences would they feel?

They’d be surprised – as these [professional] players step in these boots a lot, maybe 4 to 5 hours a day training and such – everything you do in them you will feel, as these boots are much more fine-tuned than normal Mercurials. They spend so much time in these boots they would definitely feel the difference.

Were there any developments from the Superfly II from the I that were lead by a specific player?

Yeah, a lot of them were. We work with a lot of players and as said there were some very common themes that come out. The colour thing really came from Didier Drogba – his team mates were really noticing it. We brought it up with a lot of other players who’d worn that boot, and they backed up what he was saying. Drogba has a real affinity for understanding all the little things about football boots, and I think also Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] also have this approach to looking at boots that’s like ‘Hey – what if…’ that’s like they’re almost challenging us to say ‘If we could do something here – what would it be?’.

There are similarities between what players say, but there are also specifics, and Drogba comes to mind the most. Or you look at [Alexandre] Pato, who’s young and eager to try anything to be better, and so very demanding of what a boot can offer him to make him better.

Is there any reason that jumps out at you why traction has become so important?

If you look at the stats or just watch a football game – if someone slips if you’re a defender or attacker it’s a big thing. If you’re a defender and you slip then the attacker can get in. If you’re an attacker who slips then you lose your chance. So I think that’s really important – when you look at Ronaldo or Pato type players, they’re extremely fast and dynamic and get a lot of game-changing moments and you don’t want them to lose any of those moments.

Traction for them is super-critical. And part of the traction is the upper – it’s got to lock you in otherwise you’ll lose your efficiency, and that’s no good either.

superfly ii traction

What’s the strangest request you’ve had from a player that you haven’t been able to incorporate?

I don’t think we’ve had many strange requests. They’re actually pretty serious about the boots, the players, for them it’s part of their job. So they’re actually more serious than you may expect. A better boot makes them better players, and the better boot we can make for the better it is for them, so the relationship with us and the players is actually very good.


And that’s why I spent 65 days last year travelling to meet these type of players, and they’re very busy people, so they respect that by working with us they can get a better product and become better players.

How many players were involved in your 65 day trip?

A lot of the big ones, Drogba, Ronaldo, Zlatan, Pato, Eduardo, Theo, Bendtner, Ryan Babel – there’s a lot!

We’d never just go to one player, that doesn’t give you the breadth. We prefer to go to many players, see where the commonalities are, see what’s unique and if that’s something we can explore and see if that works out. You look for the things that are the most common, because if you improve that you help everyone.

As a designer, which of the new innovations are you most proud of?

The stud – if you understand industrial design and producing something that actually moves on a football boot – is beyond complex. We actually spent a lot of time and energy to make it work and to me; it is the be-all and end-all. I’m pretty stoked about that – but there is a lot more just on this boot in itself! The colour’s pretty cool, so I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out – it is a good evolution from the last model, pretty much a revolution from the last boot.

superfly ii the design

How has safety been considered on the Superfly II?

We’ve increased the durability of the boot, this composite upper construction is literally multiple layers and we’ve actually re-engineered it from the ground up, so the combination of the elements on the boot are more durable than we’ve ever had. But, interestingly, it’s actually less layers and lighter than we produced on the last Superfly.

We’ve done a lot of work in last few years on increasing durability, so protection is a key factor.

How long is a boot like this in development?

Depends on the silo, there’s different lengths to different products from Nike – it ranges from 18 months to around 4 years. It really depends on the market.

How about this incarnation of the Superfly?

We started developing it 2 and a half to 3 years ago.

How many prototypes have you seen in the development cycle?

A lot! Just as an example – on the upper alone -we made around 43 different versions of the upper to get the right one. Every one goes through the Nike Sports Research Lab (as mentioned in our Laser III coverage) so we slow motion film the testing of every boot – to ensure the foot is staying in the right place.

The studs, however, are made in 5 big steps – and there’s been a lot of changes to those steps! To create a football boot like this is very complicated – it takes a lot of time and a lot of testing, around 2 years of testing went into this boot.

superfly ii design process

Tell us more about the testing

We do all sorts of testing, like the lab testing,'  for durability; we’ll test how strong the boots are with puncture tests, pressure tests, we’ll to internal pressure tests and slow-motion filming, we’ll do traction testing and also on-pitch real life testing around the globe to get different perspectives, and we do that a lot.

I’m a designer, but we have a facility in Poland, which is really amazing and working with those guys and also biomechanical specialists looking at what we’re doing. So when you get the specialists saying they’re perfect, we’ll take them back again to see if we can get it even better. That’s why there were 43 prototypes – experts were saying they were good to go on around 35, but we took it back in to see if we could get it even better.

There’s a lot of testing that goes in. Football boots have to be worn, at the end of the day. Athletes are wearing them 3, 4, 5 hours a day 7 days a week – they have to be right.

When designing a new boot – what do you do on Day 1 of the process?

A lot of the start of the process is sort of having that vision, an idea of what you want to produce. So in this boot the vision was we wanted to create the fastest boot possible, but also take speed into the next generation. The idea of adaptability came from the first part of that brief.

Can you quantify how fast this boot makes a player in comparison to older models?

No, what we do is we have Ronaldo doing the speed challenge (part of the included Nike Football+ training) and time him across the challenge using electronic gating.

So what you’re saying is, you could have Ronaldo do the test in the old model, then have him switch to the new Mercurial Superfly II and he would be faster?

Yeah.

Big Statement.

That’s the way it works!

Footy Boots was talking to Nike Design Director, Andy Caine.

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19 Comments

  • “Q: So what you’re saying is, you could have Ronaldo do the test in the old model, then have him switch to the new Mercurial Superfly II and he would be faster?

    A: Yeah.”

    big statement it is 🙂

  • This proves how lucky we are to have such dedicated manufacturers. The technology that Nike and no doubt Adidas use when producing top of the range boots is nothing short of phenominal.

  • im not sold on this new stud business, i mean it all sounds good but lets think about the reality…

    ronaldo help design the previous vapor fg soleplate, so you know that that one is good too… but whats this, he wears the sg soleplate…

    will be interesting to see if they even make an sg version of this

  • I think this whole idea and conception is a complete replication of Lotto’s twistNGO idea just with 2 studs instead of one.
    Nike are always first to say that they are pioneers but its all smoke and glass mirrors. a football boot is a football boot is a football boot.
    Nike are able to spend millions on advertising to convince you that this will make you a better player but its all BS.

  • I still want to know how exactly the studs are supposed to retract and extend and in what situations. What is the mechanism being used? And does it obsolete soft ground studs?

    And if Drogba was involved in developing this high visibility colour, how come he stuck with the black superfly since it came out? Surely that shows he prefers the classic look to visibility otherwise he would have changed to the yellow?

  • MARKYMAKR hit the point !!!
    yeah, they make the FG version of this, and they say all the pros test them and is the best soleplate of the world, but the pros will use regular 6 stud find in all the SG boots of any brand in the boot market.
    they say that studs will reduce the slippin on the pitch,i dont thin so that can happen with only 2 studs of only 3mm

    understand HOTMIX, that studs dont swivel !!!

    the last thing, again with the technologically developed color, do they think we will believe them ???
    lot od players will wear that crazy purple color on his feet, so i dont think that will help see a team mate on the other side of the pitch, but let me give an example, brasil and portugal, they will play a world cup game, how many brazilians will wear that boot???, and portuguese players ???

  • markymark, Cristiano does wear the SG soleplate a lot when he plays, but not all of us have the privilege of playing on pre-watered surfaces every time we play. The manufacturers always have their buyers in mind just as much as their professionals. There are definitely times I’ve played on surfaces not soft enough to warrant SG’s but soft enough to make my FG’s slip.

  • @misterbroom12:

    if nike always have their buyers in mind then why do they make the Superfly such a ridiculous price when the adizero will be lighter at a cheaper price? (also a lot of the rumoured prices going around for the “Elite” series are just preposterous.

  • Ronaldo does wear the sg soleplate… but if u look at his recent games he’s been wearing a mixed sole of fg and sg( for added traction ofcaorse). I think this new stud config is to help replicate this affect for all customers instead of trying to make a fg, sg, and a mixed soleplate. This would def cost less even saying so the boot is still very expensive. But this is Nike we’re talking about here… so im pretty sure they know what they’re are doing. “knock on wood”

  • MisterBroom12:

    Im not disputing that us punters sometimes have to play on hard ground thats not pre watered.
    My point is, this new soleplate wont make such a difference to ones acceleration, speed etc, using ronaldo as an example. he’s still blisteringly fast on sg studs. see my point?

    and as for considering their customers, do you really believe this boot is aimed at the avergae park/amateur player?

  • So if im reading correctly the color combination has been chose so the rivals vision finds it hard to focus on the boot kicking the ball? Thus making it hard for the rival to determine when the ball is about to be kicked????? or for that matter the goal keeper:)

  • question, this is nike’s speed boot, why are they not saying anything about the actual weight of the boot? probably because adidas are launching the lightest boot ever produced in a couple of months time at a fraction of the super fly’s price…..

  • although i can see the reasoning behind the colorway, that still dosn’t explain the horrible color choice.

    white can be a high visibility color too if contrasted with a dark color. red is high visibility. yellow and orange are high vis, but blue could work just as well as a contrasting color.

    so i dont buy that explanation for choosing purple and orange. i can buy that explanation for choosing contrasting and/or high-vis colors…but if you ask me they chose purple and orange because they are just riding the trend of kids (the main market/demographic going to buy these boots…who else has that much expendable income and lack of taste?) wanting as flashy and ridiculous colors possible in order to stand out.

    and megan, no they are saying it would be easier to see your feet, my guess for making passes to the feet of a player.

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