One of the things that Mizuno has not done in some time was make an out and out speed boot. The brand always pointed to the Morelia Neo 3 and the Neo 3 Beta as it’s speed boot options, but they are not as outright focused on performance as other speed boots on the market. The same goes for a high-end synthetic boot with the last such boot being the Basara, which was more marketed like an agility boot rather than a speed boot. So, with so much time out of the game, it would be understandable if a new Mizuno speed boot was considered fine and nothing too outrageous, performance-wise. But the Mizuno Alpha Japan has come in a smashed all of those expectations.
Fit and Feel
Interestingly, the first time the boots are pulled out of the box it immediately becomes clear that Mizuno have not only put a lot of work on the main areas expect of a speed boot, like springback, but also smaller details, like making sure that the whole of the boot grips nicely on the sock. The upper is not as soft as something like the adidas Speedflow, but after around a session or so, it feels completely ready to go. In fact, the boots went straight into a match situation after only one session in them and there were no issues to speak of.
One of the things that a lot of brands are figuring out is that speed boots should be made to fit all types of feet rather than just the narrow-footed players. In spite of this, many speed boots still stick to the one-piece upper design, which at times can restrict the adjustability of the laces and the overall fit of the boot. It is pleasing then that Mizuno have gone with a floating tongue since this means that there is a lot of alterations that can be made to the fit and overall feel of the boot. There are some who might worry that a floating tongue means it will move around during play, but Mizuno have solved this issue with the addition of a ZeroGlide material on the underside of the tongue that stops it from moving around during play.
Speaking of ZeroGlide, the insoles of the boots also have been coated with the same, which means that that bottom of the sock sticks very well to the insole and there is no sliding around to speak of, at least during my time using the boots. Mizuno also deserves credit for making the insole a bit more padded than other speed boot insoles and on surfaces like hard ground and artificial ground there is no stud pressure.
The heel area also has been coated in ZeroGlide and it gives a great locked in sensation. There was a hot spot on the top of the right heel where the tab comes up but that only lasted for a session. In addition to the grippiness of the heel, it is also very well padded, and it can be argued that that this is one of the most comfortable heel fits in Mizuno boots outside of the Morelia II. This is pleasing because this is one of the things that often causes issues in other speed boots. The heel feels like it was properly thought out, rather than being an afterthought.
A quick word about the Mizuno Enerzy cushion in the heel. It’s not noticeable in the fact that it does its job with no issues at all. I have sensitive heels and the Alpha felt excellent there. It is nice having that extra cushioning even if it is not something that you would think about during play, but the fact that the heel area won’t feel sore after playing is a huge plus.
The internal Engineered Fit Frame does an excellent job of keeping the foot locked in during play and there has not been a point in which it like the foot would roll over. This is one of the best things that Mizuno could carry over the Rebula series, since it worked so well on boots like the Rebula 3. It is also appreciated that this frame is even in the forefoot, which makes the fit better as well and stopping the boot from feeling sloppy.
Going back to the floating tongue and the overall fit of the boot, the Mizuno Alpha Japan will fit a majority of foot types but if your feet are very wide, another boot like the Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 (not the Beta) will be a better option since it is leather. But outside of those cases, the Alpha seems tailored made to fit a majority of foot types. Oh, and the laces are decent as well, better than what is on the Morelia Neo series.
As far as sizing, the Mizuno Alpha Japan fits similar to the Morelia Neo 3, which makes sense because it is built on the same Engineered Fit last. Because of this, I went a half size down from my normal size like I did in the Neo 3. If your normal size has space at the end of the toe, I recommend half a size down. However, if your normal size is tight, go true to size. The upper will form to the feet but does not really have much stretch to it.
Touch and Dribbling
There is something to be said for how well the upper adjusts to different playing conditions. There is a slight stickiness that can be felt when the boots are in hand. And it is noticeable when on the ball but surprisingly does not take much time to get used to. It is not as grippy as some modern control boots, but it is enough to make a noticeable difference. The weather here has been poor recently because of winter coming and even in the rain, the grippiness is still there. Even better is that the knit has not been completely flattened out on the upper which means that in rain the boot is does not become slick with water easily. It is enjoyable to bring the ball down in the boots and there is a certain confidence that the upper provides the player.
This is balanced with the fact that the upper is slightly less sticky on the Mizuno logos on the boot. This means that the outside of the boot still has some grip when dribbling, but not overly so to the point that it gets in the way, and it provides a slightly smoother surface for dribbling the ball. And again, it must be said that in rain, the boot and the upper itself felt ideal for the conditions.
Looking again at the Engineered Fit Frame, it does provide a slight bit of cushioning when controlling the ball, but it is not really a deadening situation and the upper feels nice and reactive without giving up the locked in situation that the frame provides. This is also means that there is an ever-so-slight dampening feel when dribbling but again, it seems to enhance the feeling of the ball, rather than numbing it.
Passing and Shooting
The boot also excels in this area as well. The slightly grippy and padded upper surprisingly still allows for a slightly pingy sensation when hammering the ball. The boot seems to demand that you always have the ball and hitting short passes is nice but executing a Hollywood pass feels great and any curled passes also give a great feeling because of the slight grip on the upper. The studs actually come into great use here because they do a great job of anchoring the foot into the ground when hitting ball and without giving a feeling like the boot is stuck in the ground, even on artificial surfaces.
Crossing is something else that is enjoyable in the Mizuno Alpha Japan and given that I am a player who likes crossing the ball and taking corners, it is really a lot of fun doing both in the boot. There is just this feel like there is a bit more nuance available to the way the ball is hit in the boots, not too unlike what one might experience in an older boot like the Mizuno Ignitus. This is not to say that they provide the same oomph that the Ignitus, but it does mean that it feels easier to pull off different types of crosses.
This is the same with shooting in the boot as well. It feels like shots can be adjusted more than just hammering the ball. Though the Alpha is perfectly at home with power shots as well. It feels somewhat like the KaRVO has a little bit to do with this since it gives the foot a stable surface to sit on when putting the foot through the ball. In fact, the whole soleplate is solid and does a great job of cradling the foot when hitting the ball with a lot of power. Given that I also like hitting curled power shots, this is a boon for me. And again, the soleplate does such a good job of anchoring foot that it does not feel like there is any power loss when trying to hit the ball hard. Of course, provided the technique is there.
The soleplate is a remarkable piece of tech. The KaRVO helps push the soleplate into the ground and provides excellent springback that is almost arguably on par with soleplates that have carbon fibre. And while the studs themselves are similar to speed boots of the past, their orientation is such that they not only help provide for a lot of straightforward speed but do an excellent job with more agile sprints and making cuts and turns. One might think that the shape of the stud prevents a lot of rotational movement, but quick turns are no issue from the time spent in the boots. This is not to say that everyone will feel the same, but it really has become one of my all-time favourite soleplates.
Another enjoyable part of the soleplate is the face that no matter the surface there has been no issues with grip. The studs give a lot of grip but at the same time never feel like they get stuck in the turf, which is interesting given the shape of the studs. The weather also seems to play no problem to the soleplate either with wet conditions on both grass and artificial surfaces not giving any concerns with grip. Again, it is a remarkable soleplate when it comes to the performance that it provides.
A Quick Word about Price
In Japan, the Mizuno Alpha Japan comes in at 23,650 yen which comes out to 175 US Dollars, 166 EUR and 143 UK Pounds. At the time of writing the retail price in the US is 320 Dollars, in Europe it is 320 EUR and 285 Pounds in the UK. Now, I understand that selling boots overseas is expensive because the boots are made in Japan and there are a lot of import fees, plus shipping, handling, etc. but it does feel as if Mizuno could afford to lower their prices.
Mizuno have smashed all expectations I had for the Mizuno Alpha Japan to the point that I feel they are one of, if not the best, speed boots on the market. But they are not just a one trick pony. The Engineered Fit Frame, the KaRVO forefoot, the generous use of ZeroGlide on the upper all combine to make an excellent package that performs better than one might expect on first glance. The entire boot comes together to become on of the best boots of the year and certainly the best performing one. If you love speed boots, you owe it to yourself to try the Mizuno Alpha Japan. A truly astonishing boot to the point I feel like I should be collecting them.
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