The Italian-made boot Par Excellence
Its almost a bit of a stereotype now. Classic leather boot in black, handmade in Italy with a classic soleplate. It’s a formula that is becoming more common as more and more smaller brands become more well known and bigger brands try to capture that unique selling point. One might be forgiven for thinking that there’s not a whole lot separating each brand. After all, they essentially use the same blueprint. This means that brands try to think outside the box to differentiate themselves. But it does make one wonder who the standard bearers for this blueprint. Some would easily and rightly point to Pantofola D’Oro being the go-to for this. But Ryal offers an alternative that is the standard for others to follow.
Fit and Feel
Going to start this section with the most important thing – the size. I went a full size down and the fit is a little snug but stretched to fit my feet within a couple of sessions in the boots. If you don’t feel comfortable going down a full size, go down a half size at the very least.
Moving onto the how the boots are on feet. They’re wonderful. The leather is so stupidly soft out of the box that it gives Pantofola a run for its money. Applying the slightest bit of pressure to the upper really reinforces how soft the boot is. Its not quite as soft as a Morelia II MiJ, but its up there. The lacing system is good and gives a little bit more lockdown than you might expect. The fact that the tongue isn’t overly padded is also appreciated since this is one of my biggest issues with some of the other Italian brands, like Akuna Cinquestella. Unfortunately, I didn’t much care for the laces themselves. They’re not too thick but are the stretchy kind that while good when it comes adjusting for fit, tend to have a bit too much give for my liking during play. A simple fix though so not too big of an issue.
The boot doesn’t feel as bulky as one might at expect as well. Part of this is down to how well the boots fit on feet but its also helped by the design itself, which doesn’t have the same sort of volume that normally comes with a boot of this type. Its understandable why smaller boot companies do this, since they want to fit as many foot types as possible, but the design on the Artisan still seems to be able to fit various foot types without sacrificing the fit. The bit of stitching that is found on the outside of the forefoot near the logo is also a nice touch because it helps decrease the feeling of the boot being too voluminous. This means that the Artisan is probably one of my favourite fitting classic Italian boots and I’d even go as far as to say I prefer the fit of these over the Diadora Brasil.
Which brings us to the most disappointing aspect of the boot. If you’ve read a lot of my reviews, you’ll know what I’m going to say next. It’s the heel. There is a larger point to be made about how poorly many brands’ approach to heel cup design is, but let’s save that for another day. For now, this is another handmade boot that gets the heel section wrong. Again, its understandable why Ryal didn’t add much padding to the heel because it’ll likely fit a lot, especially wide, heel types. The issue is that by not having much padding in the heel, it takes away from how soft and comfortable the rest of the boot is. There doesn’t even need to be that much padding added, just a bit more would make a world of difference. The Artisan deserves to have a better heel and I think it can be done.
Touch, Dribbling, Passing and Shooting
Well, it’s a leather boot so its going to perform like you would expect from a leather boot. The lack of complication to the upper and the improved fit over other Italian boots means that it does a good job of placing itself above all of them. Its very natural and while it isn’t uniform like the Lazzarini is, I’d argue that this is better since it feels more on your foot. The leather upper is also slightly thicker than the Lazzarini, but again, this is in the Artisan’s favour since it leads to closer, more natural touch on the ball.
In fact, instead of being compared to other Italian leather boots, the Artisan is somewhat reminiscent of the Morelia II MiJ. Again, its not as soft and the fit isn’t as good, but that natural touch on the ball means that its getting up there in terms of touch. The stitching on the forefoot also seems to lend itself to the touch since the rows of stitches are located closer together which means that the leather is more consistent on the forefoot.
Since the leather is so soft this also means that shooting and passing are going to be taken care with the minimal of fuss by the boot. Its not breaking the mold, nor does it have to. Its solid performance say-in and day-out. Like a lot of leather boots, this means that it isn’t pigeon-holed for any one type of player. It’s the people’s boot, made for everyone. Its not breaking in molds, its not setting any records, that’s not the point of this boot. The point is you put it on, you play, you feel comfortable and the boot doesn’t get in your way.
When using more classical-styled boots, its very common to come across over-stretching and the boots losing shape over time. I didn’t have the chance to play my normal amount of sessions in these (because of snowmaggedon) but the boots seems to have stop stretching already. Again, this is probably down to the stitching the forefoot which helps prevent that. This will help with touch overtime since that means the boots won’t feel sloppy on feet and since having broken in the Artisan, I have to have any issues with this aspect so far. The fit has been brilliant every time and the touch excellent.
If you’ve even paid a little bit of attention to classical boots and especially the handmade variants, you’ll have seen this soleplate everywhere. Everyone from Pantofola D’Oro to UnoZero currently use this soleplate. This isn’t a knock against these brands for using a common soleplate – its understandable since creating your own soleplate every time is super expensive. Like those brands the Ryal Artisan has the upper stitched and riveted to the soleplate, which tends to mean that the boots will last bloody forever.
It’s a good soleplate too. Its not spectacular, it won’t blow you away, but it works on various surfaces with ease and little fuss. As this blog has mentioned before, things can be just good. There is no need to constantly re-invent the wheel and since using a common soleplate allows these brands to do more with the uppers, I’m all for it. It works and that’s all it needs to do.
During the whole time testing these I kept trying to compare them to other handmade Italian boots I’ve worn over the years and I personally found these to be the best out of all of them. Maybe its recency bias but I’m convinced they really do stand out from the crowd. The Artisan did so to the point that I was more reminded of the Morelia II Japan, which is the gold standard for leather boots. They Ryal Artisan is a great boot and the brand has definitely upped its game in recent years. If you’ve been looking at Ryal, or any other Italian handmade boots, get these. They’re just better than everything else that field.
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