Nothing escapes criticism
Let’s start with a preface to this article by saying that almost all the boots on this list are great boots. One of them is one of my all time favourite designs. However, nothing exists in a vacuum and nothing should have criticism withheld just because you like the product. With out of the way, here are five boots that hold a sacred place in many boot otaku’s minds and why they shouldn’t.
Nike Mercurial Superfly I
With it’s launch in 2009, the Mercurial Superfly set a new standard in what a top of the line, tech heavy boot should strive for and is fondly remembered for the revolution it started when it came to speed boots. In many ways, it also jump started the hype train when it came to football boots. The problem was that for anyone who actually wore the boots they had to suffer just to enjoy them, with comfort apparently not being important when it came to tech according to Nike’s design. Add that to the fact that even if you broke them in and made them comfortable there was a good chance that the carbon fibre soleplate would snap if too much stress was placed on it.
This is before we even begin to factor in the ridiculous price point ($300 USD) and the fact that even the studs had a tendency to snap meant that you got an overpriced, uncomfortable boot that was great to look at and not much else. People also often forget that Superfly was only the pinnacle for about a year before being massively usurped by the original adiZero which came in 2010 which did everything the Superfly could do but was much cheaper, lighter and more durable. Lastly, the “innovative” flywire was almost the same as what adidas put on the original F50 five years previously so it was only innovative in terms of Nike making a big deal out of tech that didn’t last more than a year and a half previously.
Speaking of the original F50, adidas took a massively popular boot and replaced it with F50+ within a year of launch. Affectionately known as “the Spider Web” or “Spiderman” boots, the F50+ took the original concept and added things like the webbed external support cage, softer leather and a tongue that use Velcro to keep it in place. Even today, it is still a unique looking boot and one that collector’s always make sure to have in their collection. But. It’s normally not a good sign when your signature athletes don’t like many of the changes you’ve made to the boots.
Arjen Robben, Ashley Cole, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and others all had their boots custom made with the tongue from the previous boot and lot of them had stitching on the outside of the boot to make it look like their boots still had the webbed support cage so they looked like the retail model without having the downsides of the retail model. You might be wondering what downsides the boot had. Firstly, that unique webbed support structure looked great and did its job, until you got into too many bad tackles and then the webbing would start to break off.
Velcro on football boots is not always the best idea, especially considering the Velcro on the F50+ had so much grip that the boots laces would always get stuck and shredded by it. If you got it stuck to your sock, it was guaranteed to make a run in them. This isn’t even including the fact that the entire support structure of the midsole was completely dependent on the insoles that came with the boot. If you needed different insoles for orthotics you were out of luck.
Adidas F50 adiZero 2014
While we are on the subject of F50s, the 2014 adiZero is held by many as the pinnacle of adidas’ speed boot lines. The soft HybridTouch upper combined with a soleplate that worked on pretty much every surface while at the same time fitting a majority of foot types led to a boot that was praised at the time and has beginning to get the love it deserves. I say beginning because at the time of launch its release was met with a shrug of the shoulders. No one was breaking down the doors of stores to get the newest colour of the 2014 adiZero and many people were put off by the World Cup colourway and the diamond pattern that was repeated on every colourway after that. As much praise as the boot now receives for the HybridTouch upper, at the time it was released most people were thankful that there was a leather version.
Not a single colourway of this boot had great sell through. Every single one of the colourways that launched had to be marked down several times before selling out. At my old job I had to even return some to adidas because sales were lower than expected. Sure, it’s now getting appreciated but its weird that it took almost 6 years for that to even happen.
Nike Air Zoom Total 90 III
Probably one of the most iconic-looking boots to come out of Nike in the history of their football boots. The AZT90 III and its giant 90 on the side was seemingly everywhere, even years after its launch. It appeared as if almost everyone had a pair at some point or another and the initial launch colourway, which for a time was worn by Ronaldinho, looked like one of the best colourways ever dropped by Nike. Nevertheless, there was nothing really unique about the boot. The previous generation of the AZT90 did the power/control boot thing much better by having a sticky, cushioned upper. The 3s appeared as if Nike spent all of their time on the design and almost none of the actual tech of the boot. The “leather-like” synthetic while decent at the time, was nowhere near what adidas was doing with the Predator. Certain colourways, like the red/white one, had a tendency to get “flakey” after a short time and the colour would peel away from the upper in large chunks.
In addition to this, the boot had a burrito tongue, and not even particular well fitting one because based on your foot type, the tongue would stop you getting the lockdown you needed from the laces since it was too thick to fit under that upper. The soleplate could generously be described as “basic” at best and at worst unimaginative. Nike had the fantastic Versatract sole plate on the previous generation and then decided to release one of the dullest soleplate layouts in modern times.
Nike Hypervenom Phantom I
One of the most iconic and recognizable football boots of all time. The first generation of the Hypervenom Phantom stood apart from the rest of the market with a unique upper and look. It was the boot that everyone had to try. People of all ages became giddy while playing in them because the upper became so soft and yet allowed you to absolutely hammer the ball. Everyone wanted to try them at least once and the NikeSkin found on the HV I remains one of the best synthetics of all time. The thing about the upper was, it never lasted long. Tearing occurred at almost any part for almost any reason.
Bad tackles, going to plant your foot before sprinting, making a cut or even getting stepped on would all cause the upper to tear. There were not an insignificant number of people who couldn’t even get their boots to last a month before needing a new pair. Considering how much heat Puma got for the evoSpeed SL, it just shows how popular the HV I was that in spite of its durability issues it was/is still held in such high regard.
If you were lucky enough to not have the upper tear on you, then you had to deal with the fact that that the upper would overstretch and lose all support after a while, which killed the dynamic nature of the boot. Three years after adidas realised that a boot with a thin and soft upper needed an internal support structure, Nike couldn’t even be bothered to do it with their headline boot. Often forgotten as well is how useless the “tech” on the soleplate was, with Nike saying it had the groove for split toe so that you could a better toe off when going to make a run. The tech was useless because Nike didn’t even bother making the groove deep enough for it to even function. It was part of Nike’s trend of putting “tech” on boots that didn’t actually do anything (ACC).
What boots do you think are overrated and need to be taken down a peg or two? Make sure to share this with your friends and be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!