Words like “technology,” “science,” and “progress” have always produced mixed feelings in me because I have never been able to pin down just why I’m okay with some things but not with others. On the one hand, I’d be lost without my iPod. It goes everywhere with me- to work, in the car, on vacation, while I exercise, you name it. On the other hand, unless I know that I’m going to need it, my cellphone spends 99% of it’s life on a bookshelf in my apartment. There are also items that make me uneasy all by themselves- I love the convenience of my Kindle, but, well, it’s not a book, and I’m not sure I’m okay with that. Which brings us to today’s topic: football boots.
In the 35+ years that I’ve played the game I’ve owned studs, turf shoes, indoor flats, and firm ground boots. I’ve owned Nike, Adidas, Lanzera, Lotto, Puma, Kelme, Valsport, Patrick (remember those?!), Asics, Joma, Diadora, Umbro, and now, Pantofola d’Oro (WOOO!!). I’ve owned leather, calfskin, kangaroo, mesh, synthetic, and combinations of all of the above. I’ve owned boots with blades, off-set lacing, fins, a fold-over tongue, no tongue, etc.. In all of this I’ve only become certain of a very few things:
Which, I suppose, is why I fell in love with Pantofola d’Oro. The pair I received as a gift a week ago could have, with the exception of the rubber outsole, been produced in 1813 rather than 2013. I say all of this so that it will be clear where I stand and why, not as a judgment on what follows…
…this week Nike and Adidas unveiled their latest “wonder boots” and I thought I’d share them with you. Nike first-
This is the Nike Hypervenom Pro, which was unveiled two days ago in Rio de Janeiro. It was developed with the input super-douche and recent Barcelona signing Neymar (as well as Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic). According to Nike,
These players specified the need for a boot that could help them create space quickly in and around the penalty area, and get their shot off from any angle. They discussed the increased agility of opponents, referencing today’s defenders who are now as quick, agile and skillful as many of the world’s best forwards.
Nike responded to this request all the science one could ever hope for. First they created NIKESKIN, a mesh upper bound together with a thin polyurethane film and then coated with something called “All Condition Control” technology, which allows players to have the same touch in dry and wet conditions. Nike believe they have created an upper which feels as close to playing barefoot as is possible.
The Hypervenom also features a new last which removes excess materials to place the foot close to the ground as possible. And then…
Nike worked with some of the world’s top podiatrists to create a decoupled outsole that increases the player’s ability to make that important first step away from the defender. A groove in the forefoot helps to quickly activate the first metatarsal, the bone that defines reaction time of the foot’s first movement.
The chassis of the outsole features compressed nylon for a high-response plate that helps deliver strength while being incredibly light. The stud configuration and length is designed to allow for faster penetration of the surface, and ultimately a quicker release – all innovations designed to help players create space faster than ever before.
Sounds good to me.
Neymar and Wayne Rooney will debut the boot when Brazil an England meet for a friendly this Sunday.
Nike is also dipping it’s corporate toes into using 3D printing to create new boots.
Meanwhile, in London…
Adidas unveiled the new adiZero. The new adiZero will be the first football boot to weigh less than 100g (3.5oz), coming in at just 99g, down from 165g (5.8oz) in the last model (which was already the lightest on the market). Much like the Hypervenom, the new adiZero will also have an upper made of a mesh and polyurethane sandwich. The sole plate of the adiZero will be only 1mm thick. Debuted along with the new boot was a new adiZero kit (to go into production in 2015) which weighs less than half (1.3lbs) of what a current full kit weighs (2.8lbs).
So, what is the “take away” for all of this. I think it comes down to two issues. First, even if one takes all of Nike and Adidas’ claims a face value, the only players who will benefit from the technology in these new boots are those at the elite, professional/international level. Or, and this is the important part for these companies, those players who want to be/think they are at that level. Think “every high school player with more money than brains.” The Hypervenoms retail for $225, last year’s adiZeros retailed at $220, this year’s will likely be a bit more.
Second, and again taking all of the manufacturer’s claims at face value, these boots are for players who get them for free. They are, for the most part, disposable. They are so fragilely built that they are unlikely to last more than a handful of matches. If you doubt this, cast your mind back to the first generation of Nike’s Flywire boots, which players like Didier Drogba were destroying at the pace of a pair or more per match. For the elite player, however, this is a non-issue. Are your new adiZeros junk after one match? No problem, hand them to a fan on your way off the pitch and grab a new box off the stack next to your locker.
Call me a Luddite, but if I’m spending my own money and I want a sweet boot that will last, I’m looking at the Nike Tiempo Legend IV or the Adidas Copa Mundial. Or absolutely anything made by Pantofola d’Oro.