Well…not what was expected
This might surprise some people but I have quite an extensive history with the Mercurial Vapor series. I only had the Talaria for the first model but after that I had the Vapor K, two pairs of the Vapor II, almost every colour of the Vapor III, the Berry Vapor IV, the launch colour of the Vapor V, launch colour of the Vapor 7, two pairs of Vapor 8s, playtested the Vapor 9, 10 and 11 as well as a couple of playtests in the Superfly 4 and 5. So there is a lot of history between me and the Vapor, and it was my go-to boot for some time. I had always been tempted to try the Vapor 13 because so many people said it was some good and many others calling it the best Vapor ever. There was even more temptation because of the two k leather models that had been released. Intrigued and excited, I eventually gave in a picked up a pair of the AG-Pro.
Fit and Feel
Straight of the box the fit was…decent but not anything like I was expecting. The upper was stiffer than I imagined it to be. It was a bit snug at first but more accommodating than the X Ghosted was out of the box. Putting the boot on for the first time was a bit annoying since the tongue was so tight, and I could immediately tell where hotspots and possible blisters would form. The first session in this confirmed my fears as I could very quickly feel blisters forming on my heel and the bottom of my toes. I think in terms of the toes at least, Nike made the tip of the toe box tougher for durability reasons but the comfort suffers as a result. The lockdown is excellent through the midfoot and one of the best on the market. The knit weave that Nike uses is very effective in this area.
One of the most annoying things for me though was the break-in period. I expected it to take a couple of sessions but was surprised that it was only during the 5th session that the upper felt like it had broken in. That was a similar amount of time that it took the X Ghosted.1. This was one of the first big red flags for me. Given people’s praise of the boot and how soft and comfortable it was for most people, I expected them to break in much quicker. As a comparison, here’s a list of synthetic boots I had an easier time breaking in from what I can recall: Lotto Zhero Gravity (2006), Vapor 8, Vapor 9, Vapor 10, adidas X 15.1, adidas X 16+ Purechaos, adidas Messi 16+ Pureagility, ASICS DS Light Acros.
The dumbest thing is that we are now almost 10 years on from the Vapor 8 and Nike still hasn’t made a boot that has a quicker break-in time, in spite of all of the new added tech. Even after the 5th session, there was still pressure on the heel and I ended up taping my heels to avoid blistering and my second-to-last session in the boots gave me blistering on the bottom of my toes. Yes, you’re locked-in, but it comes at a cost.
For sizing I went down half a size, though true to size is probably the best fit for most people. It should be noted that even though I went down half a size, there was still some heel slippage. It made me think that that the boots were designed to be worn with grip socks.
Touch and Dribbling
The touch is very barefoot and has a quite sharp feel. It really does feel like there is nothing between you and the ball and it made for a nice sensation when receiving the ball or dribbling at speed. Unlike the X Ghosted, the Flyknit almost disappears on your foot, if it weren’t for the noticeable issues with the tip of the toe box and the heel. But again, that thin, Flyknit upper means that when dribbling there is (mostly) nothing to distract you.
Another plus for the Flyknit upper is the fact that there is some grip added to the upper, which means you feel a bit more in control of the ball than you would in something like the adidas X. I never found it to be overly grippy either, and it felt quite good on the ball. Again, I do wish there was at least a little bit of padding since that’s a personal preference of mine, but I also feel that it would’ve helped with the break-in process.
Passing and Shooting
It’s a Vapor, and few boots on the market can replicate that special pinging feeling you get from using a Vapor for long passes or shots. There’s really not much between you and the ball, so you get a nice, clean connection with the ball. Plus, since there is a bit of grip to the upper, it again gives that feeling of being in control of what you are doing with the ball (as long as the conditions are good).
The Vapor’s uniform upper also lends it well to consistently to that clean feeling on the ball. This does come with its drawbacks though. A little bit of padding on the midfoot wouldn’t go amiss and I did find myself wanting more from the upper. The upper gave good performance but I was expecting far more, especially given the praise surrounding the boot. It could be that all of the hype elevated my expectations to be much higher, but I couldn’t stop thinking “Is this it?”. It didn’t really seem anything above what I had experienced in something like the Morelia Neo Beta. These two have different approaches to speed boots and while the Vapor is more pliable through the midfoot, I never felt like that made the performance any better.
Another issue began to pop up as well. During normal to heavier rain, I found the upper’s grip elements begin to fail. Yes, most boots will struggle to replicate the performance they have in dry conditions but considering Nike’s constant big push of their control elements and ACC, I was surprised at how quickly the upper seemed overwhelmed by poorer conditions. And part of this was also down to the soleplate.
One of the most popular parts of the Vapor 13 is its soleplate. In both the FG and AG-Pro stud patterns, there has been much praise for the performance and springback that the Aerotrack soleplate provides. In normal conditions, the soleplate performed well on firm ground surfaces and decent on AG surfaces. In wet conditions, the plate was still great on firm ground but was somewhat poor on AG.
When I first started this review, someone pointed out to me on Instagram how well the AG-Pro plate performed on firm ground. Which I took to be a positive. Unfortunately, the caveat of that seems to be that on AG surfaces the soleplate was never anything better than decent. As I was one of the louder critics when Nike changed the AG plate on the Vapor 14, but after testing the Vapor 13, I can now understand why they did it.
The soleplate simply couldn’t keep up with me or the conditions if they weren’t perfect. Worse still, the soleplate gave a lot of stud pressure that I wasn’t expecting, and the thin (and somewhat cheap) insole didn’t help matters either. AG plates like the Vapors normally have a hollow middle so that the rubber pellets get in there in order to help with stud pressure but I could barely tell in the Vapors. I’m also a player who likes to control and roll the ball with the bottom of my foot and in wet conditions I was constantly having issues with using the soleplate in this manner. It ended up being the part of the boot I was most disappointed with. It seems like the soleplate was designed to be useful on multiple surfaces, but because of this, Nike forgot that its primary purpose is for AG pitches.
Be careful with hype
There is something to the hype for the Vapors being so big that it could’ve coloured my expectations. But despite that, I still expected more from the boots. JayMike said something on The Boot Nerds podcast about people giving different reviews on boots just to stand out. And some of you may feel that way but I honestly wanted to the review to be more positive. Not just because I was excited but also because I have to use my own money to buy my boots to review so I am actually inclined to try and be more positive on my negative reviews because I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted my money.
But it isn’t unreasonable to expect more from our boots, especially when they’ve been hyped up by the community as a whole. Let me also say that this isn’t me saying other people’s reviews are wrong in any way, but that my personal expectations and review is much different front others.
Again, the fact that upper took so long to break in and the soleplate performed worse than expected on the surface it was created for means the boot overall performed at a much lower level than anticipated.
A quick word about the quality, its both good and bad. Good in that the knit upper does feel premium. Bad in that the previously-mentioned insole feels cheap and loose threads appeared all over the the inside of the boot even after the first wear.
Lastly, like I have repeated over and over again, nothing exists in a bubble. In my opinion, there is no reason for me to recommend these over the Mizuno Morelia Neo III or the Morelia Neo Beta. The price differences aren’t too big, and you get a more comfortable and higher quality product. In fact, in Japan the Morelia Neo III is about $50 US cheaper than the Vapor and the Beta are the same price as the Vapor.
This isn’t what I was foreseeing when I decided to review the Vapor 13. There is a base for a solid boot here but unfortunately it is let down by some of its biggest components. The upper needing such a long break in period was a large drawback. I am not confident with the Vapor 14 considering the upper seems to have become even more stiff.
Also, it is a good idea to not get overhyped about boots, because it can colour our expectations and make us expect magic where none exists. Still, I am glad I reviewed the Vapor 13. Sometimes you need to experience things for yourself, even if they do not turn out to be positive.
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