The takedown boot that delivers quality and performance beyond its price point.
Often I get asked what my favourite boot is. While I genuinely rate the Nike PhantomVNM as one of my favourite, my recommendation would always be the Mizuno Morelia Neo 2, albeit with two caveats.
Firstly, it’s price. At SG $300 (and more in other markets) it’s never easy to justify a Morelia Neo 2 over any of the other top end models which carry more bells and whistles. Secondly, the Morelia Neo 2’s narrow forefoot means that wider footed friends would have to prepare themselves for some adjustment period as the boot moulds to their feet.
The Morelia Neo 2 was undoubtedly an excellent boot which became the go-to boot for Japanese high school and college players. However, the Morelia Neo 2 was built for match-day performance and despite the quality craftsmanship, using it regularly in training sessions would put a strain on its durability over time.
Mizuno’s solution was to produce the Monarcida 2 Neo (Made In Japan), a Robin to Morelia Neo 2’s Batman. The Monarcida 2 Neo was meant to withstand heavier usage, whilst delivering a similar level of performance to the Morelia Neo 2 for training purposes. It also carries a wider fit, which conveniently deals with the two previously mentioned caveats.
Above all, you don’t compromise on craftsmanship as this is one of Mizuno’s “Made in Japan” boots – a rarity for a takedown model.
Made in Japan – Dedicated Craftsmanship
For the uninitiated, the magic of a Mizuno Made in Japan boots comes from two factors. One, a 24 hour last (the process of inserting a foot mould into the boot) which gives their boots the perfect shape, structure and fit – as opposed to other brands who only last boots for 20 minutes.
Secondly, Mizuno’s Japanese artisans take utmost care in every step of the boot making process. This includes injecting specialized glue into the nooks and crannies of the sole with a syringe to ensure maximum adhesiveness between the surfaces.
Monarcida v Morelia
As a “takedown” version of the Morelia Neo 2, the Monarcida 2 Neo is also a leather speed boot with an added focus on durability. As such, the Monarcida 2 Neo retains much of the successful Morelia Neo 2 formula, even sharing the same soleplate. The wave-fit system gives you better control over the amount of lockdown you want from your laces, as does that v-shaped cut on the base to prevent bunching. The Dynamic Fit Counter, which varies softness in the heel counter, gives that balance of comfort and locking your heel in, is complemented by the grippy suede material.
The Monarcida 2 Neo does have one visible difference– the rubberized lip. One of the most common weak spots of the boot is the toe area , as players may drag their feet across the ground as they look to hit longer passes. The rubberized lip helps enhance the upper’s ability to withstand these abrasions, especially on harsher surfaces such as artificial turf.
Leather Ain’t Dead
While not quite the top level scotchguard kangaroo leather that’s found on the Morelia Neo 2, the washable kangaroo leather on the Monarcida 2 Neo is still comparable with anything on the market. The touch you get from the leather upper is a natural one with a hint of padded-ness thanks to the new asymmetrical stitching that creates a puffier ‘pad’.
The padded feel doesn’t feel too chunky, which is important for a speed boot. The rubberized lip never got in the way of my touch around the forefoot so no worries on that front.
The only time the boot starts to show its price tag, is on the mid-foot. Unlike modern day speed boots that employ ultra-thin synthetics, the Monarcida 2 Neo uses a beefier synthetic midfoot that feels a little cheap. It doesn’t get in the way of performance, but definitely isn’t as nice or natural as the Neo 2.
Although it’s a speed boot, the beefier leather upper takes the sting out of a well hit shot, which means you don’t quite get that same bone-to-ball feel with a boot like a Mercurial Vapor or even big brother Morelia Neo 2.
The leather upper gives a nice natural sensation when controlling the ball or plucking balls out of the air. There’s a very slight amount of grip imparted by the rubberized lip on the toe area, but don’t count on that to save you from a bad touch. Strangely though, even at a lightweight 200g in a US 8, the boot doesn’t give you that feeling of being light on your feet, possibly due to the thicker synthetic midfoot which lends a slightly more protective feel.
Same High Performing Sole
Performance with the soleplate is similar to the more expensive Morelia Neo 2. It’s flexible in the forefoot and rigid in the midfoot resulting in a natural ride once broken in. The conical studs provide natural maneuverability but sacrifice the ultra-aggressive bite that you get from the Nike PhantomVNM or the Nike Mercurial Superfly. They are however, long enough to provide good traction on both FG and AG surfaces without causing any stud pressure. The soleplate is also riveted for better durability over a longer lifespan.
Mizuno really outdid themselves with the insole. If Nike’s NikeGrip insole is a gimmick, Mizuno’s Zeroglide insole is the real deal. Despite not having a grippy texture, its lockdown against your sock is second to none. It’s so grippy that I’d dissuade you from using aggressive grip socks such as the Trusox or H3 Superb Socks.
I do wish Mizuno had also blessed the Monarcida 2 Neo with the same heel padding on the Morelia Neo 2 because the lockdown is just not as secure as it was in the Morelia Neo 2, which was a huge part of its appeal.
Takedown Model In Name, Not In Performance
Let’s get one thing straight, the Monarcida 2 Neo is an excellent boot in its own right. A lot of its flaws are noticeable only if you’ve worn big brother Morelia Neo 2. The lockdown is great, just not as secure or aggressive as the Morelia Neo 2. So is the touch on the ball, but of course the Morelia Neo 2 is just that bit better.
At the end of the day, I have come to accept that it is a “takedown model”, which means it’s not going to feel as premium or perform at the lofty heights that the Morelia Neo 2 does. The Morelia Neo 2 is meant to give you match day performance, while the Monarcida 2 Neo has an eye for durability for heavy training sessions.
That said, the Monarcida 2 Neo works very well and it blows the competition out of the water when you compare it with other takedown models and even comes close to outperforming many top grade boots from other brands.
The boot appeals especially to players who are looking for a boot that is, well built, light yet feels sturdy and protective – all with an affordable price tag. My Sunday League friends often look to me for recommendations for such a boot and I’ve always had to wait for discounts or the occasional sale to recommend them a good boot. With the Mizuno Monarcida 2 Neo, I have just the perfect boot to recommend to them.
Special thanks to the good people of Tokyo Football for providing us with a pair for review. They’re big fans of obscure Japanese boots and they’re the place to go to for your Japanese boot fix.