The Big Three’s lack of innovation is startling
This summer has seen a lot of big drops from each brand, from Mizuno’s Neo 3, Neo 3 Beta and Rebula Cup releases to the Big Three’s massive launches in the form of Nike’s Phantom GT, adidas’ X Ghosted to Puma’s Ultra 1.1. It has been a busy and exciting summer because of these products with the hype going overboard in some respects. It is nice to see each of the brands dropping new boots so close to each other and it feels like a Battle Royale for who will be top dog. Each new boot brings to the table its own new tech and ideas (some more than others) to compete with the others.
This also means that in Japan and other parts of Asia there are new HG models of each boot for people here to pore over and decide what will work best on the hard ground and artificial pitches that dominate the football landscape here. Unfortunately, in the case of the Big Three there is nothing really new going on. All three brands have decided to re-use soleplates that have already been offered on other boots, which are lacking in any kind of innovation or original ideas.
For Nike, the Phantom GT HG is using the same soleplate that has been used on boots in every other silo in Nike lineup. This soleplate has been used on the Tiempo Legend Pro and down, the PhantomVSN Elite and below, the PhantomVNM and down as well the Mercurial Vapor Pro and lower with the Elite models not releasing in HG plates but AG only. It isn’t the worse soleplate to have since it performs quite well. But at the same time this means that aside from the uppers there is nothing much separating the boots from each other. The studs from this soleplate also tends to wear down quicker than other ones from other brands and even some of Nike’s older HG plates.
That innovation that Nike is proud of and boasts about is held back once this soleplate is slapped on to their newest boots. All of the tech and work that Nike put into the Phantom GT’s Hyper Quick System just disappears. When someone’s buys the Phantom GT Elite, they are getting the same soleplate as the much cheaper Pro and Academy models. It makes the market here seem like an afterthought and given the great HG plates Nike has made in the past, it’s even more egregious.
Adidas have been doing this too. The HG/AG plate that is on the new X 20.1 is the same soleplate that is used on the Copa 20.1 HG and the Nemeziz 19.1 HG. Again, the CARBITEX SPEEDFRAME completely disappears on the HG model, with none of the advancements being carried over to the HG soleplate. That means that the snapback from the carbon fibre is gone and the grip you’d expect from a speed boot is nowhere to be found as well. This soleplate has also had a few durability issues at times, so it does need some re-working as it is.
Puma has also dropped the ball with the release of the Ultra. The HG stud pattern looks different at first, until you realise it is the same recycled soleplate they’ve been using on both the Future HG models and the One HG models for several years now. This is especially weird since Puma always seemed to be in tune with the demands of the Asian market.
One of the reason’s I think that this is important is that most boots have the soleplate and upper designed in unison and to work together. It creates a sort of balance to the boot that allows all of the materials and tech to work together for better performance. When a standard sole that is not for any specific boot is slapped on the bottom, that balance is gone.
A little benefit of the doubt can be given to the brands since soleplates and lasts the most expensive parts of a boot to develop which means that it makes sense that they would want to cut costs when producing an HG model. This is more difficult to accept when you look at how much money these brands have been making in the past few years with Nike continuing to dominate the global sportswear market, so you’d expect more from them.
At the same time though, given that the AG models produced for the international market seem to work decently well on AG pitches, why not drop the HG boots all together. Or in my view, they should be releasing HG models for the international market as a whole since there are many places and markets that would benefit from having HG boots and it would help the brands recoup the costs of developing better and newer HG plates.
A lot of people here were just expecting the brands to do more with the soleplates in these newest launches. A speed boot having the same soleplate as the modern leather boot seems bizarre at best and outright lazy at worst. People who stick to (and often need to use) HG plates deserve better and and they absolutely can be done better.
What do you think of the “newest” HG soleplates from the Big Three? Please share this with your friends and make sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!