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Flyknit Battle: Nike Mercurial Superfly v PhantomVSN

Speed v Touch. Are they really any different on feet?

Flyknit has taken over the sporting world and it was only as recently as 2014 when Nike first incorporated their proprietary tech into their football boots. These ain’t your grandma’s knitted sweater but a highly durable and tactile material that has changed the landscape of football boots since its introduction.

However, Flyknit has been implemented very differently from boot to boot. The Nike Hypervenom Phantom 3 saw the inclusion of “pods” that help cushion the ball and stiffened the boot when it came to striking hard. Save for the elastic tongue, Flyknit felt more like a gimmick on the Tiempo Legend 7.

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Enter the two latest boots in the Nike lineup – the Mercurial Superfly 3 and the PhantomVSN.  One has been marketed for “speed” and the other, “touch. Can Flyknit help you go faster or improve your ball control? We compare both boots to see if they were any different. For a detailed review of either boot, you can click here for the Mercurial Superfly 360 and here for the PhantomVSN.

Upper

Both boots are made from Flyknit uppers but the treatment of the Flyknit on each boot is as similar as chalk and cheese.

The PhantomVSN features the softest knitted upper within the football industry, with a texture alike to any of Nike’s running shoes. Forget about breaking it in, the upper is ready to go from the moment it leaves the box. That it manages to stay durable despite the absolute beating it takes in every football match is a testament to Nike’s R&D with Flyknit.

The PhantomVSN also has advantage of a grippy, sandpaper-like texture all over the boot to assist with controlling a pass from any direction. Last but never the least, the “Ghost Lace” technology acts as a blanket to the laces, providing a cleaner surface area for passing and striking while reducing instances of your laces coming untied.

Flyknit Battle: Nike Mercurial Superfly v PhantomVSN
Both have textured uppers but it’s the softer feel of the PhantomVSN that stands out.

The upper on the Mercurial Superfly feels thinner than the PhantomVSN’s but it requires a bit of playtime before it can feel truly comfortable and broken into. It is made up of a one-piece construction which reduces the chance of overstretching and water absorption and features subtle embossed strips across the upper to help with grip while dribbling at pace.

BOOTHYPE Choice: Nike PhantomVSN. You just can’t beat that softness and the grip elements on the PhantomVSN.

Fit 

This is a tough pick. The PhantomVSN incorporates Nike’s latest Quadfit mesh which forms the inner sock layer of the boot – a technology that will roll out across Nike footwear in the near future. It adapts to every curve on your feet and hugs them snugly without being uncomfortable. The stretchy Quadfit sock also accommodates wider feet sizes which makes this a must have for those with larger feet sizes.

Flyknit Battle: Nike Mercurial Superfly v PhantomVSN
The PhantomVSN fits wider feet sizes while the Mercurial Superfly skews towards slim and moderate width feet.

With the Mercurial Superfly, it’s all about being locked in. Notorious for its slim fit, the current Superfly model is slightly more accommodating for moderately wide feet. The biggest feature of the Superfly would be its anatomical soleplate which has the insole curve to support your arc of your feet and plant your foot deep into the boot. It is quite a unique sensation and does its job effectively to ensure minimal slippage when cutting and sprinting in them.

BOOTHYPE choice: Nike Mercurial Superfly. The anatomical soleplate clinches it for me.

Soleplate 

The PhantomVSN is surprisingly quite big on traction for a “control” boot. It features a mix of rounded and angular shaped studs for a combination of maneuverability and traction. Its soleplate is also extremely flexible around the midfoot so do not expect a responsive spring with every stride but a more natural feel to every step.

It goes without saying that the boot crafted for speed would have the most aggressive traction on its sole. The Mercurial Superfly’s arrow shaped blades dig deep into the ground to help propel you when making those high intensity runs. The stiffer soleplate makes every sprint feel responsive and a joy to run in.

Flyknit Battle: Nike Mercurial Superfly v PhantomVSN
Left: Nike Mercurial Superfly
Right: Nike PhantomVSN

Both of these soleplates are meant for FG and expect stud pressure when playing on AG. However, possibly due to the placements of the two studs closest to the midfoot, the PhantomVSN is a big no-no on AG for me as I struggled to walk properly after a game in them.

BOOTHYPE choice: Nike Mercurial Superfly for its responsive feel and (slightly) better suitability on AG surfaces.

Feel on Feet

I love how the Quadfit mesh wraps around your feet without any constriction and conforms to any shape that fits within it. All movements with the PhantomVSN are pure comfort which also does not compromise a close touch on the ball.

The Mercurial Superfly feels more locked in and tight without the feeling of freedom and comfort. It’s not uncomfortable by any measure but it’s typical of what you get with a speed boot – a tight, barefoot feel and a lightweight sensation.

Flyknit Battle: Nike Mercurial Superfly v PhantomVSN
Upclose with the boots.

On rare days where I feel like a wing wizard, the Superfly would be a go-to boot for me but I play in a more measured manner. I’m built like a marathon runner as opposed to a sprinter and I’d take the PhantomVSN’s Quadfit any day to keep my feet comfortable.

BOOTHYPE choice: Nike PhantomVSN for its all round comfort and adaptability to all feet shapes.

Tie-breaker: Looks

The PhantomVSN looks really unique as a boot with a “laceless” upper. The Flyknit material also has the boot looking more like a pair of running shoes rather than a football boot. I’m on the fence on the triangle design on the instep as it makes the boot look a wee bit bulky. What I’m definitely not keen on would be the “sock” that is attached to the Quadfit mesh. It’s meant to guide your feet into the Quadfit mesh easily but it messes up a sleek silhouette.

The Mercurial series has always been at the apex of, not just tech, but design. The Mercurial Superfly 360 is an upgrade on the last generation of Superfly and remains the best looking boot in the Nike catalogue. A streamlined body, split sole and a shortened collar makes the Superfly one of the best looking boots in the market.

BOOTHYPE choice: Nike Mercurial Superfly, all day long.

It was a narrow win for the Nike Mercurial Superfly but both boots are excellent in their own right.The PhantomVSN is an elite choice for those who prioritize comfort and a textured touch while the Mercurial Superfly remains the poster boy for Nike with its good looks and speed-centric design. Which boot would you choose for your game? Let us know in the comments below.

Purchase the Nike PhantomVSN or Mercurial Superfly at 10% off at Ultrafootball.com with voucher code “BOOTHYPE10“.

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