Boots that had that special something.
The past fifteen years have seen a deluge of boot releases and it only seems to increase with each passing year. As a consequence of this, releases tend to get “buried” over time and forgotten about. Sometimes they just didn’t have the performance people wanted, other times because they burned brightly, but fizzled out too quickly.
Whatever the case is, there are always football boots that stick in the memory and become personal favourites. Here are a few forgotten boots that I felt, for various reasons have stuck with me years after they were gone.
Puma evoSpeed 1.3 Graphic “Dragon”
Originally released in mid-2015, this release of Puma’s Graphic series was based on an old Japanese tale of a fish that swam up the river to the mountain and became a Dragon. The evoSpeed model in this series differed from the other 1.3 evoSpeed models that had been released up to that point.
Whereas on the normal evoSpeed 1.3 there was a microfibre along with a midfoot “EverFitCage” added for support, the Dragon edition dropped the midfoot cage and changed the upper to a textured material designed to look like Dragon scales.
The detailing of this boot is excellent. Just look at them. The “Sea Pine” coloured heel had fantastic fish scales on it. On the instep on the boot, the Japanese character for “Dragon” is stamped in red. A dragon is seemingly weaving its way all around the boot, from the mid-foot to the sole.It should also be pointed out that the Dragon’s face and fangs seem to be baring at the spot of the boot where one would strike shots. A very nice touch.
One thing that many people may not realize is that this is an actual Japanese dragon on the boot. The way to tell is to look at how many toes the dragon has on each claw. Three-toed dragons always represent Japan in classical East Asian art. Four-toed dragons represent the Okinawa Island chain, or the Ryukyu Kingdom as it used to be known. Five-toed dragons means that they are a Chinese dragon.
It is little touches like this that shows Puma was paying attention to the cultural backgrounds when creating these boots.
Originally released all the way back in 2004 as part of Hummel’s Vault Series, the Hummel Professional was one of the first boots to retail for US$400. While the price was astounding, especially for the time when they were released, the quality of the boot points to the reasons why it so was so expensive.
These forgotten boots were handmade in Japan with a full kangaroo leather upper and a unique “HGL” soleplate which had a beehive-like air insert in the heel. It also featured hollow studs to help decrease the weight, a feature that wasn’t popular at the time, and a stud layout that was designed to alleviate stress on the bottom of the foot and heel.
These boots were made by the Hummel licensee in Japan, SSK Corp. and were released in Japan under the name Hummel Legenda.
I loved the quality and timelessness of the design. While not the lightest of boots (9.4 ounces, 266 grams), the upper and build quality is everything you would expect of a boot that is handmade in Japan. Even now, some 16 years down the line, these boots can still perform and be counted on as a classic leather boot in the modern game. The durability is excellent since I have still not encountered any issues with the boot in match play.
The stud layout isn’t the most aggressive but is comfortable and can be used on a variety of surfaces with no issues to speak of. In fact, the HGL soleplate was so popular in Japan that Hummel boots were still using this soleplate five years on, across 6 different models. The kangaroo leather is still in exceptional shape and the boots still show no sign of slowing down.
Considering how many issues boots from that era have issues when being played with today, the build quality of the Hummel Professional continues to make it stand out from the crowd.
Adidas Messi 15.1 (Second version)
Adidas shocked the boot industry when they killed off their entire line and released the X, Ace and Messi series in summer of 2015. While the original Messi 15.1 didn’t gain the popularity or attention adidas expected, it was swiftly replaced in November of that year with a newer version of the 15.1. The brand with the three stripes made sure that everyone knew that this was a Messi boot.
A messiTOUCH upper was introduced which was made to mimic the softness of a leather with a 3D textured upper for better control. The messiFRAME was a support frame that stimmed from the heel of the boot in order to provide lockdown while the messiGAMBETRAX soleplate was designed for excellent grip on a multitude of surfaces. Adidas even so far as to make the stud in the middle of forefoot shaped like Messi’s logo so that he literally left his mark on the pitch when playing.
Although this model was only around for around six months, it was a significant upgrade in terms of performance versus the previous model and we might argue it performed better than the X 15.1 as well. Though the naming conventions were a bit bizarre and maligned, everything came together in a neat package.
The upper was very soft for a synthetic material and provided a great touch on the ball. The frame provided good lockdown and made sure the heel and foot didn’t float within the boot. The soleplate was excellent and is a decent shout for being one of the best FG/AG soleplates produced in recent years, with the stud shapes being kept by adidas until they decided to do away with Messi colourways for the Nemeziz in 2018.
The performance, fit and short lifespan of the boot means that though it burned out quickly, it still shone brightly while it lasted.
Nike Tiempo Super Ligera
Regarded as some to be the definitive Nike leather boot, the Tiempo Super Ligera made a splash on the scene when it first released in 2008, especially in East Asia. The boot was focused on providing a soft leather upper with a HG soleplate while still being on the lighter side than a normal Tiempo Legend. To improve the durability of the leather, Nike used a rubber coating on the front of the forefoot in order enhance the boot’s anti-abrasion qualities.
It is a boot that had a lot of input from players in East Asia as Nike and the boot’s designer, Doug Wilkens, found that their pre-conceived notions of what players wanted – that is a boot that was robust and chunky – was mistaken and the set about making a light, soft and durable kangaroo leather upper boot.
The boot was so popular in Japan that it went through two more generations before eventually being taken off the market entirely in 2015. Even today, it remains a highly sought-after boot in the re-sell market.
They’re a much-wanted boot for a few reasons. The forefoot was a bit wider than one might expect from a Nike boot and considering the price they were available for (around US$125 at the time of release) means that they were a top boot available for a decent price.
The leather was excellent and soft. The suede heel had good amount of cushioning without being too much. They were light and flexible and could be used on the worst of pitches with no issues at all.
The Super Ligera was a workhorse boot that was disguised as something much more elegant. The soleplate proved to be so popular that Nike still uses that same plate and layout for a lot of current HG Tiempo models in Japan.
Even though Nike now has the Nike Premier II, a similar boot, the Super Ligera still remains one of the definitive low-cost boot options ever to be offered.
Umbro Speciali Statement
Umbro’s long-running Speciali series used to be one of the most popular choices for professionals, especially in the UK. Though they slowly lost their popularity down the years, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t excellent boots – far from it.
This forgotten boot, the Umbro Speciali Statement, made some waves when it was first released back in 2009 and famously found themselves on the feet on then-England international, Darren Bent. What was noteworthy of Bent’s boots is that they feature his Twitter handle on the tongue which was slowly gaining popularity as a social media platform at the time.
The Speciali Statement had soft and subtle kangaroo leather with a good amount of structure to the boot. It featured one of the best uses of Umbro’s A-Frame tech which helped provide structure, support and lockdown through the midfoot of the boots. The soleplate had a flex grove in the middle of the forefoot for flexibility (duh!) and was not only riveted, but also stitched to the upper for added durability.
The leather was so soft from out of the box it was out of this world. Added to that was the fit that seemed suited for everybody and surprisingly gave a lot of lockdown for a boot that was mostly leather.
At a time when boots were synthetic boots were getting sleeker and leather boots seemed to be becoming bulkier, the Speciali stood out by being very sleek and slimmed down without sacrificing comfort. Add in its durability factor and a fantastic launch colourway of black and British Racing Green and you’ve got a pair of boots I’d be happy to pull out of my bag for matchdays.
Even now, the small foldover tongue and unique design makes it stand out in my memory.
Got a forgotten boot you loved from back then that no one remembers today? Share it with us in the comments below.
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