Restrictive in more ways than one
The majority of the boots by the bigger brands these days all have one thing in common: one-piece uppers. It makes sense why they have decided to do this. A one-piece upper, or one with an attached tongue provides a more “on the foot” fit and it is supposed to provide better lockdown since the attached tongue acts as part of that lockdown. However, it is not always a benefit for every boot it is included with and at times seems unnecessary.
The first issue with boots that have a one-piece upper is that they tend to force a certain type of fit. For example, if you have a taller midfoot, these newer type of boots will be overly constrictive on the top part of your foot. And while there is still adjustability with attached tongues, there is not as much available as there would be with a separated tongue. In some cases, no matter what you do, there is a limit to how much adjustability is available.
This reminds me a lot of the trend of having an off-centered lacing system that existed previously. In that case as well, the fit of the forefoot was largely pre-determined fit, and your foot did not fit the forefoot you were out of luck. And so it goes with the current one-piece upper craze. You have to have a certain shape to your foot otherwise you are excluded from several of the current models on the market.
We can also make the cases that one-piece uppers do not make sense for some boot series. The current Predator is a good example of this. While it is understandable that this is a carry over of the Ace series and the fact that there is a laceless model, the fit of the Predator Mutator and the Predator Feak means that having more adjustability would do a world of good for the boots considering all the complaints about the fit of these boots. People would be able to tighten and loosen up the boots wherever they needed.
It is especially true because of the fact that for a long time the Predator was popular with wide-footed players as well. But a one-piece upper limits that capacity for adjustability. Along with this is the fact that historically, Predators almost always had a floating tongue, the exception being the Predator X, which had a burrito-style tongue. Maybe I am in the minority with this one, but I feel that I am not the only one who would prefer to have a more traditional style Predator with a separated tongue so that I can achieve the fit I desire.
Another boot that does not seem to make sense with a one-piece upper is the Tiempo Legend series. While the Tiempo series has had a variation of an attached tongue since the Tiempo Legend 6, one wonders if a modern leather boot really needs a tongue that was designed for speed boots more than anything else. Even as much-maligned as the current Copa Sense.1 is, it at the very least has a detached tongue, which allows for a great variation in fit. And leather boots are normally seen as the go-to boots when everything else seems like a worse option.
At least for many of the people I know who wear leather boots, they prefer to have a floating tongue and have the greater ability to change the fit of the boot to their preference. After all, leather boots are supposed to be the most utilitarian boots available on the market. It is not very flexible if your leather boot is constricted by the forced fit of an attached tongue.
Puma has gone down this path as well. While the first model of the King Platinum threaded the needle well on making the boot still somewhat adjustable even though it was a one-piece upper, it is quite revealing that many people likened it to a leather speed boot, which somewhat confirms that a leather boot of that nature seems to be more focused on being speed-like, rather than delivering what is generally expected, and wished-for from a modern leather boot.
Lastly, boots with an attached tongue, one-piece upper are limited in their design. It does seem as if many of the designers from the bigger brands start from the idea that the boot will be a one-piece upper. Which means that it already limits what designs the tongue and the boot will take on as a whole. The tongue will be some kind of stretchy knit, with the same knit being used on the upper somewhere, so that the tongue can stay attached to the upper. This is turn means that what is done to the upper or whatever material is used for the upper starts from the base fact that the materials have to work with knit or be knit based, which seems very close-minded and limiting. And the boot industry needs more variance in design, not less.
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Header Image Credit: Unisportstore