What a thrilling ride this year was. Football almost Came Home, we were treated to a ton (too many) of releases, some great colourways, some weird colourways, plenty of highs and plenty of lows. We have also seen many collectors begin to leave the market and the continued rise of resellers. Obviously, there’s more to be said on both those topics, but in due time. There is still plenty of chaos with the ongoing thing, with some products flying past their release dates without dropping. This is also might be the most amounts of reviews this blog has done in one year, 11 to be exact, so there is more to choose from when it comes to awards. Let’s dive in!
Disappointment of the Year
Nike Mercurial Vapor XIII
Let’s start with a fairly big one, and one I caught a lot of heat for. It is probably one of the most popular boots of the last few years and the other BootSociety members kept pushing me to try them. Eventually, I gave in but unfortunately, the Mercurial Vapor 13 were just not what I expected. The boot was stiffer than assumed, and the fit out of the box was poor. Even though I purchased the AG-Pro variation, it seemed better suited for firm ground rather than an artificial grass pitch. In wet weather, the touch was inadequate, and the soleplate lost grip easily. It was annoying on a personal level since I buy all of my boots for review myself so a bad review can feel like wasted money. It is possible that the hype around the boot was so high that maybe I was expecting too much. But, at the same time some of the issues I had were repeated by a few other people. Given that I used to wear every model of the Mercurial Vapor that released, it was a letdown.
“Well that didn’t go well”. Of the Year
It does not seem like a lot of people even remember that this was a thing this year. The Gamemode boots were at the same time somewhat cheap and too expensive for what was on offer. Instead of offering something new and an alternative to .3 variations of adidas’ own boots, it just seemed to confuse people about what they were for. This blog has a big soft spot for brands that push to go green, but the Gamemode, like other products before it, just seem half-assed. There are people who do like these boots and some of the colourways have been great and unique, but adidas seemed to stop talking about the boots within a few months of release. The thing is that the Gamemode boots are not essentially a bad idea, if the execution and pricing were slightly different and keeping the hype up would help the series a lot.
“Oops, we revealed something terrible with this release” of the Year
Adidas Predator Mutator+ Paul Pogba x Stella McCartney
Many of you who read my blog are probably also viewers of Boot Wizard Boot Reviews. For those who do not know, James, the beforementioned Boot Wizard, is a vegan. Because of this fact, he does not review leather boots. I have a lot of respect for him partially because he is quite passionate about sticking to his vegan lifestyle, as are others I know who are vegan. Imagine his shock when adidas released their first 100% vegan boot with the Pogba x McCartney mashup. Adidas essentially admitted that their other synthetic boots have never been vegan friendly. Instead of being the positive release that adidas probably envisioned, it instead opened to adidas up to a whole slew of questions which includes things like their commitment to going green, their supply chain and whether they care about vegans, or if this was just a buzzword release to try and catch hype. The conclusions from these questions should give us all food for thought.
Surprise Package Boot of the Year
ASICS X Fly Pro
Admittedly, this was not a release that I thought would be that big of a deal. It seemed like it would just be another leather speed boot. However, ASICS’ clever use of tech on the soleplate as well as the overall fit, comfort, and performance meant that the X Fly Pro surpassed all expectations for it. It is a serious option outside of the traditional speed boots one might look at. The soleplate works on multiple surfaces with no issues while still providing great grip. The leather, while not at the level of the Morelia Neo 3 Japan, still performs well and has a great fit for multiple foot types. The soft heel liner and comfortable insole are also bonuses with the X Fly Pro. It is a solid performer, and one of the most enjoyable boots to play in. Shame about ASICS’ other issues, though.
The “Turns out Boot Wizard was Right” Award
adidas Nemeziz.1 FG
In a shocking twist, Boot Wizard was right all along about the Nemeziz.1. I expected it to be decent, but nothing too above the board. To my surprise, I really enjoyed played in the boot and came away impressed with the performance the Nemeziz.1 has on offer. The balance is a bit off, with the soleplate being noticeably heaver than upper, but this works in the Nemeziz’ favour when it comes to implementation. It is also a great boot to dribble in and is clever with some of the pieces included on the boot. For example, the rear studs being supported by an overhanging piece of TPU means that the boot is more stable when shooting and hammering the ball. The upper does not start out the softest but breaks in fairly quickly and the boots have the right amount of grip in the right places to have a great touch. Given that they are now discontinued, they are pretty easy to find for a good price. Worth picking up.
“One step forward, Two steps backward” Boot of the Year
ASICS Ultrezza 2 AI
There was some clamour on this side of the world when ASICS announced the release of the Ultrezza 2 AI. The original is a much-loved boot, so expectations were high for the second release. ASICS even launched a “Sustainable model” that was mostly made from sustainable materials, which is among my preferences. They even added extra support and reworked the boot to be more supportive. All of this was for naught, however, because ASICS put some of the worst leather on a top end model of theirs that I have come across. I can understand why ASICS put the grooves in the forefoot, because if they did not, the leather would feel even stiffer. It is crazy how bad the leather they have used is. Some people thought it was a cheaper synthetic boot when I had them feel them in hand and were shocked to hear that these were a top model. It sucks because the rest of the boot is great. But ASICS really took a massive step backwards with the leather here.
Remake of the Year
Mizuno Morelia Wave Japan
Not only the remake of the year, but one of the best leather boots to come out this year. It is ridiculous how soft the leather is. The boot is also almost an exact remake, with the only difference being that the Morelia Wave Japan remake is built on the newest Morelia II Japan last. With the only drawback being that the studs are a little too tall for AG pitches. However, the support in the heel as well as the fit of the boot overall makes it difficult to look past these. The break-in process is very quick, and the Morelia Wave Japan takes no time to become ridiculously soft. I am sure most other people would probably take the Predator Pulse remake over these, but the Morelia Wave Japan is such an absurdly comfortable boot that it is difficult to look past them for this category. Not only do the boots have that crazy made in Japan quality, but there is an ample amount of brushed material on the inside of the boot to make every part feel excellent.
“Ah, we’re still doing this?” Award
Boots prices rising
I get that with everything going on and the impact that this has had on sales brands are trying to recoup any extra outlay they have, but prices are too damn high. If brands want to raise sales and cut costs, they should probably stop making so much product. There are so many stores that have been having massive clearance sales and a lot of product is going unsold. This was already becoming a major problem before everything went nuts, but the problem is now exacerbated. Which makes the fact that prices are still being raised even more silly. Puma deserves a bit of credit for keeping their high-end boots around $200 US/200EUR/20000 Yen, which seems more appropriate for the times we are in.
Baffling release of the Year
Lotto Zhero Gravity
Which brings us to this mess. It is worth repeating that these boots released at a price point that was 50 EUR more expensive than the Messi Speedflow “El Retorno”. Lotto massively over-estimated the hype around a remake of the Zhero Gravity. A fancy cardboard box does not make the boots worth that much more. There is also the fact that some resellers have the originals (which has a better soleplate IMO), for around half the price of the remakes. It is a release that makes very little sense. This is before we even look at the fact that the remake is using the current Solista Gravity soleplate, which saves a ton on cost. I get that they are limited edition, but surely someone at Lotto should have though about the price a bit more.
Limited Edition Boot of the Year
adidas X Speedflow.1 Messi El Retorno
Speaking of limited editions, did adidas ever smash this release. A gorgeous colourway harking back to one Messi wore when he scored that brilliant goal against Getafe in 2007, it even said F50 on the left boot and F30 on the right, in reference to the fact that Messi wore a modified F30 at the time. Plenty of details on the boot, like the black lines that followed the look of that 2007 TuniT, and the Messi logo that replicated that TuniT logo, made it stand apart from everything else. And that massive case with that information booklet was some nice extras also set it apart. Of course, Messi winning the Copa America in the boots helped them fly off the shelves and gave the El Retorno boots their own piece of history.
Best Performing Boot of the Year
adidas X Speedflow.1
What an incredible boot. The CarbiTex soleplate was the standout piece of tech last year but was let down by the upper it was attached to. It felt like adidas knew they needed to improve but few expected them to improve to this extent. A reworked and much softer upper helps the rest of the boot feel like the soleplate has an upper it is worthy of. While it could use a bit more grip, that Primeknit/textile works excellently when dribbling, passing or shooting. The touch on the ball in the X Speedflow.1 feels great and adidas really put a lot of work into the boot. The Speedflow.1 is one of the best speed boots I have ever played in, and I agree with JayMike when he said that these boots will be highly sought after in the years to come. It is a shame I did not have the time to review the X Speedflow+ (which will come next year) so that I could get a proper comparison. But yeah, if you love speed boots, get a Speedflow.
Boot of the Year
Mizuno Morelia DNA Japan
If you have read this blog for long enough, you probably knew this was coming. It is nearly impossible to look past what Mizuno has done here. The brilliant Morelia II Japan upper slapped on the Neo 3 soleplate seems simple enough, but the execution is so much more. The boot wraps the foot better than the regular Morelia II Japan, the lockdown is better, the response is better, almost everything seems like an upgrade. Which is a difficult feat to pull off given how good the Morelia II Japan is. The introduction of a brushed heel liner in the Morelia DNA Japan is a dream and helps keep the heel locked into the back of the boot better. Even the leather feels just that little bit softer than the “regular” Morelia. The Morelia DNA Japan a spectacular boot that has almost completely knocked the Mizuno Wave Cup off the top of my favourite of all time perch. Any person who wants a leather speed boot should be trying these. Heck, any leather boot fans should try these. What a fantastic release and that second white/silver colourway is a site to behold. Brilliant work, Mizuno.
What was your boot of the year? Did anything else stand out to you this year? Please share this with your friends and make sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!
Header Image Credit: SoccerBible