A small brand with underrated boots
In the middle of last year, Athleta Japan released their second version of their all-k leather football boots, the O-Rei A002. Following the quiet success of its predecessor, the O-Rei (the king in Portuguese, referring to Pele) A001, Athleta sought to make some slight changes to the formula that had worked so well for them since the initial launch of their boots back in 2016. Ahtleta isn’t the most popular brand here but when you make comfortable and quality boots, you always have a chance to succeed. This is especially essential since Athleta doesn’t even have the budget as some of the other brands making big waves in Japan, like the national powerhouses Mizuno and Asics. Again though, sometimes word of mouth can go a long way towards making a product successful.
What makes the Athleta O-Rei so special is the fit, comfort and leather. The entire boot is full kangaroo leather, including the tongue. It has a suede liner in the heel to provide grip and softness on the heel and everything has been done in order for the leather to feel quite plush and is stitched in a way to stop the boot from over-stretching. The stitch pattern continues on the tongue as well, which is something that isn’t that common, even on traditional leather boots. At the same time, Athleta has made sure to provide ample padding on the tongue in order to prevent lace bite. Another part of the upper that we don’t see on many boots is the tip of the forefoot has a durable rubber coating in order to give more durability to the leather on any surface.
Another thing that I love about these boots are all of the little details. There is a tunnel for the bottom of the laces for the laces to run through. The O-Rei A002 has that classic little tab located on the middle of the heel that harks back to the 1950s to 1970s era of football boots. The leather upper logo found on next to the top of the laces is another nice touch, while the O-Rei logo itself has a crown above it signifying the fact that Athleta believes these boots to be among football boot royalty, which is fitting because of the name. The newest “Japan” colourway echoes the “Rising Sun” flag with a little red sun located on the quarter of the instep.
Since its more of a classic boot rather than a modern leather boot (though Athleta does have the O-Rei T006 for this category) there are a few things on the boot that provide more performance than one would assume this kind of boot has. First off, there is anti-slip insole included. While not as aggressive as Mizuno’s Zero Glide insole it is nice to have some grip rather than a plan insole. There is also the fact that like other Japan-only boots (the DS Light Acros for example) it also has a second lace hole which allows you to do a runner’s knot. There is also the split tongue, which reduces pressure on the front of the ankle.
The midsole has some tweaks done to it as well with a harder resin being used for the heel and the midfoot while a softer resin is used for the forefoot to allow for flexibility. There are even some flex lines in the soleplate to allow for that flexibility to continue to the boot of the boot. The stud layout is what almost anyone would describe as classic, however the studs designed in a way that allows the boot to be used on firm ground, hard ground and even artificial grass pitches.
In Japan, Athleta is still more well-known for its training wear and futsal shoes rather than its football boots. Slowly but surely the brand is beginning to make waves here. If they can keep on building on these small successes, then hopefully one day we can start seeing their boots becoming available outside of Japan as well. The marketplace can always use more companies like Athleta’s Japanese arm.
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All photos Athleta.jp unless stated