Could the X18.1 be the most comfortable speed boot ever made?
“Casemiro to Marcelo on the left. The full back swings an in-swinging corner and my word! Gareth Bale with a spectacular overhead kick to put Real Madrid infront in the Champions League Final!” And kids, that is the story of how the adidas X18.1 was introduced to the world – through one of the most memorable goals in a European final. However, does the boot feel as good on feet as watching that goal on repeat? You bet.
What is an adidas X boot?
The X line is a relatively new line of boots which was only introduced in 2015 to replace the F50 silo. Like the Predator, the popular F50 line was involved in the big purge of 2015 when adidas scrapped their popular boot lines to start afresh. The F50 was a typical speed boot with its ultra lightweight synthetic upper, a rigid and responsive soleplate and a stud pattern for aggressive traction. Its replacement, the X15, was a boot marketed as a boot for attackers who “create chaos”. The only chaotic thing we saw was the design of the boot.
While speed boots are known to be narrow, thin and slightly uncomfortable, the X15 felt nothing like a conventional speed boot. The boot’s upper would be the first version of what we know now as the Primeknit upper and it contained a techfit sock – all in the name of comfort. The boots also weighed more and had a thicker, pillowey sensation on touch. Over the years, adidas managed to improve on this concept with certain additions like the Purecut Sock System which was not only soft but had the sock curve out at the Achilles area to reduce abrasion.
This time away from the F50’s speed heritage allowed adidas to experiment new concepts for a speed boot without being constraint to customers’ expectations. The 3 year long experiment has borne fruit.
X18.1 – A marriage of 2 concepts
What we see with the X18.1 is a throwback to an actual speedboot. In principle, this is more likely a predecessor to the F50 than the X17.1 and we’re loving its return to its speed roots. The X18.1 is the sleekest the X has ever been and is also lightweight at only 200g on a size US9.5. It features a one piece upper with a compressive (and not very stretchy) tongue made of mesh to help with lockdown in the boot. Gone are the lace loops from the X17.1, which we were not a fan of, in place of traditional lace holes.
The X DNA is also present in this with large foam pods that support and cushion your Achilles area. A synthetic suede material lines the inside of the boot and the upper is now made from a lightweight Speedmesh material. This knitted material helps to keep the upper soft, unlike the most plasticky sensations of the older F50s.
How the adidas X18.1 feels on feet
For a low cut boot, the X18.1 isn’t the easiest to put on due to the one piece construction form. But once you get it in, it fits like a dream. Speed boots are usually tight, constrictive and take a while to break-in. After an hour in them, it felt like I have worn the boots for weeks. A speed boot with no break in time? This is the stuff of dreams considering that the Nike Tiempo Legend 7, known for its comfort, took me a few weeks to feel fully comfortable in them. The upper softened up really quickly and I liked that the width also accommodated my moderately wide feet.
The F50 was known to have an almost barefoot sensation on the ball and were always in competition with the Nike Mercurial Vapor to be thinner, lighter and more… barefooty with its touch. The X18.1 is may be the thinnest of the X lines but still has a slightly padded sensation without losing the close connection with the ball thanks to the knitted Speedmesh upper. Touches felt crisp and responsive.
It feels quite novel and brilliant though it may be a turn off for speed boot purists who want the “ball to knuckle” sensation with every touch. It still hurts when you get stepped on so you still gotta be fast and nimble in these.
The X18.1 feels extremely light on feet and makes sprinting and dribbling feel second nature to me. Off-centre laces usually are shifted to the outer side of the boot to ensure your striking zone on your inner foot has a cleaner surface area. The X has their laces moved closer to the inner foot, leaving more space on the outer side for a cleaner touch in dribbles. Is it a coincidence that the goal of the World Cup was an outer foot volley by Pavard in the X18.1s? Probably, but the extra space on the outer foot is a very nice element designed for this boot. I’m not much of a dribbler but the X got me feeling like I could weave through defenses like Angel Di Maria or Gareth Bale.
One stain on the X18.1s almost impeccable design has been the claw collar. It looks hella cool with the raised material on the tongue and back of heel. However, do be vary that raised area just above your Achilles can cause abrasions and cuts to your skin if there’s prolonged contact. The material is quite thin and has a risk of cutting into your leg so do wear a higher pair of socks to avoid discomfort. This is the one feature that its predecessor did better in – with the X17.1’s soft sock curving out to avoid this very issue.
adidas carries the same stud pattern for all their top grade FG boots with the main difference being the stud shape. The X carries the most aggressive shape for traction, with bladed studs in the forefoot area. The previous iterations of this FG boots have also been marketed as AG friendly. That said, if you have injury concerns or history, I would not recommend to use these on FG as you might damage your joints or aggravate a past problem. The Nemeziz and Copa 18.1 might be a better bet with their rounded studs.
The best X so far
Is this better than the laceless X18+?
Arguably, the biggest difference is the laces and we’ve got to say that we’re a fan of the improved lockdown in the X18.1. Lockdown is crucial if you’re going to be making sprints past players and are consistently caressing a moving ball. The X18.1 comes at a much cheaper price point as well (approximately S$100 cheaper than the X18+). It comes with less bling on the soleplate but more bang for your buck for its performance.
A quick shout out to the three stripes on the featured colourway. I’ve loved many of their recent launches (Skystalker and Energy Mode to name a few) but they’ve got to do better with the Team Mode pack. Individually, they’re all great looking boots but the colours with each boot silo have no resemblance to one another. It’s the colourway for the start of the season and they could have had a bigger impact if all their players donned the same colour theme for the first match onwards.
The electric yellow and black, and dark blue heel counter is still an amazing combination for this high voltage boot. We just wished the other boots got the memo.
I’m really glad that adidas has made steps towards a purer speed boot but took the effort to implement the best learnings from experimenting with the X line. They took the best elements of a speed boot and added in some plush layers of comfort in there.
As previously mentioned, purists may not be fond of this but the comfort makes the X an extremely sensible choice for the mazy dribbler. Sure, this may weigh approximately 10-15g heavier than other speed boots out there but could you really tell the difference of 15g on feet? I reckon you couldn’t, which makes adidas’ triumphant evolution in the speed line an extremely innovative one that combines light weight, sleek looks and comfort – a trifecta that not many brands have achieved.
Score: 9/10. If you’re looking to get a speed boot, you can’t go wrong with the X18.1.