The Battle for Speed

Which is the better speed boot? The Nike Mercurial or the adidas X18?

Since the first Nike Mercurial launched over 15 years ago, the football boot industry has been locked in competition to produce a boot that is made for the fast attacking player.

Inspired by a sprinter’s spiked track shoes, the “speed boot” is usually designed to be as fast as can be. This means that brands build them to look and feel light on feet. Comfort, however, usually isn’t high on the list of priorities but that’s the trade off one gets with a high performance speed boot.

We decided to pit both the Nike Mercurial Superfly 360 and the adidas X18.1 against one another to see which of these two titans of industry comes out on top.


The Nike Mercurial is a pure thoroughbred in the speed boot game. They practically popularized the “speed boots” with an emphasis on lightweight materials, a tighter fit and aggressive traction.

Speed v Speed

The adidas X18.1 is a unique one. Previously branded as the F50, adidas used to go toe-to-toe with the Mercurial line and matched them in every aspect of the design from looks to technology and weight. However, they were revamped into the X line a few years back which prioritized comfort over the previously mentioned traditional “speed” properties. The X18.1 actually merges the best of both worlds in carrying key speed boot properties (light weight, sleek design) with other refreshing elements like comfort.

Fit on Feet

The Nike Mercurial sticks true to its roots and remains a relatively slim boot. A big complaint by many have been that the Mercurial line were made only for those with slim feet. The latest Mercurial however has taken on customer feedback and is a little more forgiving to those with an average width feet.

The adidas X18.1 is a breath of fresh air in this respect. For the first time in years, a wide footed player can actually don a speed boot comfortably. This opens up the possibility of many who were denied the opportunity to wear speed boots all their life due to their foot’s shape. #allfeetarebeautiful #bopo #bodypositive

The Upper

It’s Nike’s Flyknit versus adidas’ Speedmesh upper and it’s another fascinating battle here. Just a few years ago, both brands invested in synthetic uppers on their top grade boots before ditching them for the now fashionable knitted materials.

Up close with Flyknit

The Flyknit upper looks super premium and soft but is actually stiffer than it looks. It is by no means uncomfortable but expect it to soften up after 3-4 games in them.

adidas’ engineers should be applauded for the development of the Speedmesh. No speed boot has a knitted upper this soft (and light too) that breaks in 10 minutes into a game. The upper is a dream come true and is easily among the best knitted material out there in the market.

The adidas Speedmesh is a breakthrough in knitted uppers.

How do they perform?

In pure speed boot terms, the Nike Mercurial is unbeatable. The snug fit and the anatomical soleplate makes me feel planted and locked in to the boot – to chase the ball down like a cheetah. The arrowhead shaped studs make for an aggressive bite and razor sharp response when making those sprints and quick change in movements.

I never enjoyed sprinting more than when I’m in the Mercurials. However, if there was one flaw, it’s that the Mercurial FG soleplates are strictly for firm natural grass and are not suitable for artificial turf unless you’re ready to bear with some painful stud pressure.

The adidas X18.1 carries a pretty snug fit though it’s a notch below the response of the Mercurial. This isn’t at all a bad thing as the boot still provides an excellent response and lockdown when making those quick cut and movements while ensuring you do so in absolute comfort. Those 2 large cushions padding the Achilles area are a godsent and I’m surprised brands don’t do this enough for their other boot lines.

These cushions pods in the adidas X18.1 are game changers.

The X18.1’s triangular bladed studs also provide great traction on pitches, like a speed boot should. A major plus would be its compatibility on AG and FG pitches making this great value for money.

Aggressive soleplates are a norm with speed boots.
Above: Nike Mercurial, Below: adidas X18.1

So, Who Wins?

Both boots look sleek and modern and are deserving of the mantle of the “best speed boot” in the market. The margins are fine and much is down to a player’s preference in how they want their boot to feel.

Both are excellent boots for purveyors of speed.

Traditionalists looking for a razor sharp performance will always have the Nike Mercurial boots as their go-to choice. The adidas X18.1 however, is a major game changer in the industry – merging top level speed performance with unparalleled comfort.

For me, it’s the adidas X18.1 that gets the nod for my preferred speed boot. They have evolved the “speed DNA” to show that it’s possible to have such a boot be light, form fitting and comfortable at the same time. Coupled with its compatibility with AG surfaces, the X is a boot that I am more than happy to wear in every game.

Winner winner chicken dinner: adidas X18.1

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