JayC (@nosajpersonlah) channels his inner hipster to explore boots that are sold exclusively in Japan.
Featured photo credit: Enjoyz.com
I’ve always felt that if you’re a boot nerd, Japan is one of those places you HAVE to visit, because of how unique the market is. For starters, it is one of the few countries where the top selling brand isn’t Nike or adidas. You’ve also got brands that only sell football boots in the Japan and others like Umbro and Under Armour that produce bespoke boots exclusive to Japan.
The Japanese market is large enough for these brands to produce and sell football boots with Japan without ever having to export them overseas. Interestingly enough, the Japanese prefer leather uppers because it conforms to the feet better and gives a better touch. as opposed to synthetics that are seen as ‘inferior’ as they’re not natural materials.
There’s an added focus on durability, which explains the production of the rubberised lip to prevent wear and tear, as well as rivets on most HG outsoles. In a world where having a boot that lasts a full season is considered ‘durable’, the Japanese build them to last.
The Japanese market is still dominated by homegrown brands, Mizuno and Asics. These are brands that are slower to try new radical ideas but that’s also a reflection of the Japanese consumer who love what they already have. The “Big 3” also produce boots unique to Japan like the Puma Para Mexico (which was recently re-released to the general market by Puma), the Nike Tiempo Super Ligera and a stitched leather upper Copa 18.1.
As such, we have stumbled upon a whole new world of boots that are only appreciated and understood in the land of the rising sun. Here are 5 football boots that caught my eye in Japan.
1) Umbro Accerator Pro
A quick look at the Umbro Accerator Pro (yes, I’m not misspelling it) and you’ll get vibes of the Mizuno Morelia Neo 2. Like the Morelia Neo 2, the Accerator Pro also comes equipped with a kangaroo leather forefoot upper and a lightweight outsole featuring a mix of conical and bladed studs.
Under the hood though, the Accerator Pro comes with a KaRVO midsole. KaRVO is a super light but strong material that gives you a nice snappy feeling during acceleration, kind of like the carbon fiber outsoles in the Nike Mercurial Superfly 4. Add in the suede heel liner for extra lockdown and you have a serious contender within the speed boot category.
2) Under Armour Freely Pro
Under Armour is a brand with well performing boots which constantly succumbs to poor marketing.
However, they’ve always had an ace up their sleeve – their insole cushioning technology. Both the 4D and Charged Cushioning insole have made Under Armour boots one of the most comfortable to run in. This perfectly complements the lightweight Under Armour Freely Pro, which (again) has your k-leather forefoot, light weight outsole, suede heel liner and external heel counter.
Think Mizuno Morelia Neo 2, but with the comfort of a running shoe in every step. Seriously Under Armour, you’ve got an elite speed boot in your hands, drop that ridiculous zipper boot and bring this to your non-Japanese consumers.
3) Hummel Vorart Pro
You know the drill by now– riveted lightweight outsole, suede heel liner, k-leather forefoot. Where the Hummel Vorart Pro has tried to differentiate themselves is in their insole which features not 1 but 2 poron inserts for extra comfort.
The boot also contains a thin layer of EVA foam in the heel for added shock absorption. I still prefer Under Armour’s Charged Cushioning but this is definitely one of the more comfortable boots to run in. Coming in at $120 USD, it’s also one of the most value for money boots around.
4) Gavic ‘Tien’
The Gavic Tien was one of the boots that I wished I’d had the chance to try out when I visited Tokyo. On top of the usual checkboxes of a Japan speed boot, it also had a more padded leather forefoot, through the innovative use of stitching patterns.
Poron pods are also incorporated in the midfoot to help with ‘control’ although they felt more like Nike Hypervenom Phantom 3 Strikezone pods, than CTR Maestri 3 Dampening control pods. They also had a decently cushioned anti-slip insole that came with a poron insert for extra comfort. Did I also mention that they come in at a lightweight USD $100?
5) Puma One J1 HG
Saving the best for last, we have the Puma One J1 HG which I feel should be Puma’s answer to the Tiempo Legend 7 and Copa 19.1. The Puma One J1 comes with a full kangaroo leather upper, an ‘EverFit’ cage from the Puma King II, as well as a compression tongue. Worn by Japan legend Kazuyoshi Miura, who recently extended his contract with J2 club Yokohama FC at the tender age of 51 years young, the boot also uses traditional lateral stitching for maximum comfort.
Whisper it quietly though, I personally think that it’s a better performing boot than the Mizuno Morelia 2 because the EverFit Cage and suede heel liner eliminates the sloppiness that you typically find in full -kangaroo leather boots. Their takedown models are also made in Japan and feature pretty much the same tech apart from a full k-leather upper.
A Football Heaven for the Leather Connoisseur
By now, you’d be forgiven if you’re wondering how brands differentiate themselves if their boots are so similar. A lot of that comes down to personal preference, price and word-of-mouth recommendations.
If you’re into lightweight yet comfortable boots, the Japanese market is definitely made for you as every boot performs well. Visiting Japan soon? Don’t forget to pop your head into a store to experience a while new world of football boots.
Special thanks to Andrew Lockhart (@derbyyank13) for sharing his insights on Japanese football market to make this article possible.