A speed boot with shades of control.
The football boot market has greatly changed since the first Morelia Neo was released in 2011. An update in 2016 helped the boot keep pace with rivals but the speed boot category has made massive strides since then. With all of the additions and new pieces of tech that has been added to the Morelia Neo 3 Japan, as a standalone, it makes for an impressive boot.
But it is understandably difficult to try and tell yourself that a leather speed boot can be among the top speed boots overall when you see how impressive knitted boots can be, especially in the form of the Nike Mercurial Vapor 13 and the adidas X 19.1. We almost view it as necessary to have knit on the upper of a speed boot.
Leather boots are now, more than ever, seen as a technology of the past. One would wonder if a leather speed boot should even be part of the conversation when it comes to judging it among the best in the speed category.
Upgrades in the Morelia Neo 3 Japan
The Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan (Made in Japan) has more improvements and makes a bigger leap from the previous generation than any other Morelia Neo models before it. While the styling and the look is rather similar, most of the changes are “under the hood”.
The biggest change has been the incorporation of BareFoot (BF) Leather (which is actually synthetic) in the midfoot and BF Knit around the heel. Both are designed to provide improved lockdown without sacrificing comfort or touch on the ball. The deepest lace holes also inch closer to your ankle, providing a tighter lockdown if need be. We also now have an updated heel counter and honeycomb support structure to provide stability in the soleplate and well as more cushioning around the heel area.
The soleplate has also seen some slight tweaks which have made it more durable for those of us who play on artificial grass pitches and the studs have been made to be more stable as well.
And finally, the “Bioguard CG-X” anti-bacterial insoles. The Japanese are big on hygiene and cleanliness and I like how thoughtful they were with the production of these insoles that are meant to keep your feet fresher for longer.
Getting the boots on your feet for the first time is a completely different experience from most other speed boots. They still provide a tighter fit, but the conventional construction of a tongue and laces allow for a lot of adjustability that permits the boot to fit a range of foot shapes.
The Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan fits most feet shapes well because, for all the “Made in Japan” boots, Mizuno leaves a boot on its last for 24 hours which ensures a better fit around your foot while most brands only let the boot sit on the last for 20 minutes.
The BF Leather in the midfoot is a nice improvement over the material used on the Neo 2. While the Neo 2’s midfoot area was tight and stiff, the use BF Leather in this model feels like a cosy hug of your foot instead. For a speed boot, some people might prefer the tighter and rigid fit but I personally prefer how soft the Neo 3 is through the midfoot. It’s a welcome change that gets you to think differently about how a speed boot should feel – you shouldn’t sacrifice comfort for great lockdown.
Weight wise, these are only 200 grams. It is a mere 5 grams heavier than the Neo 2 but if you noticed that weight difference, you’re either splitting hairs or you’re a madman.
A word on the sizing. Go true to size if you have moderate or wide width feet. If you have slim feet, go down half a size. Comparing it to its predecessor, the Morelia Neo 3 Japan has a slightly wider forefoot so expect a bit more room on that front if you are looking to trade up from the Neo 2 to the latest model.
Accurate Touch and Dribbling
The Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan feels… precise. With such a soft and supple upper, you would expect it to feel cushioned like a classic leather boot, but you’d be wrong. The way Mizuno has engineered both the leather and synthetic parts of the upper means that you do get a surprisingly barefoot and an exact touch on the ball feeling very light on feet. It does feel more cushioned than other speed boots but this only aids the Neo 3 instead of harming it.
You get the security of the padding to help you control and cushion the ball when dribbling at pace without compromising on the close-to-the-foot sensation. It’s the best of both worlds for me.
The leather is very soft out of the box but expect the upper to break in even more as you use it across 2-3 games. Every touch on the ball just feels more ludicrously elegant while maintaining the barefoot sensation – giving me the confidence to receive the ball in tough situations such as in a tight penalty box or when I’m running at full pace.
A speed boot with the soul of a control boot
For those who love the barefoot feel of boots like the Mercurial Vapor but worry about your first touch, the Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan’s leather provides a bit of both – a thin upper and a cushioned sensation.
What surprised me the most was the amount of grip on the midfoot due to a sticky sensation on the surface – something Mizuno did not mention in any of their marketing material. This sticky, but soft material, allows you to control, receive and cushion your passes more easily than before.
The Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan improves the pingy sensation of striking and hitting long balls over the the previous generation due to the new materials in the midfoot. Its softness keeps you closer to the ball while, all round, you feel more anchored and stable with each strike.
The Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan isn’t built to be a control boot, yet the combination of materials makes curling the ball feel engaged and easier to execute. It feels almost unfair that the boot fits snugly like a speed boot but would still have elements of a control boot to make it feel more well-rounded – not something you can say about most speed boots on the market.
Upgraded Traction and Stud Performance
One of the sore points I had in the Mizuno Morelia Neo 2 was the traction on the soleplate. The studs were angled outward which made them awkward to run in.
In the Morelia Neo 3 Japan, the studs are less angled and the back four studs have been straightened out. All of which makes traction much better through a less awkward running gait while providing more stability in the heel.
Another change that they have made is making sure they perform well on artificial grass and the studs have been reinforced to be more durable. This reinforcement also means that they don’t flex as easily under pressure. This allows the boots to feel a lot more stable when running and sprinting. It isn’t as aggressive as other speed boots but for a rounded stud soleplate they are far more aggressive than you might think.
There have been calls from some corners to see bladed studs on the Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 and I can understand where those requests are coming from. However, if we take the growing popularity of AG pitches into account, I think the conical studs gives the boot an advantage over the other brands in terms of a lowered risk of injury and reduced stud pressure.
What seals the deal for me is that these conical studs work respectably well even on pitches with softer ground. The traction was still aggressive and more than what you would expect from a speed boot. It is nice for once to have a soleplate that can be worn on multiple surfaces without issues.
Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan: The Multi-Purpose Speed Boot
People often worry about leather over-stretching once it’s broken in but despite it molding perfectly around my foot after a few sessions, it never lost its dynamism and never overstretched. I expect it to keep its shape months and years ahead.
On top of all the benefits of lockdown that contributes to this being an excellent speed boot, the excellent leather also makes passing in the boot like a control boot, albeit with a more barefoot feel. This helps the Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Japan stand out in a crowded speed boot category full of boots that are pretty one dimensional (light, barefoot feel).
Its versatility, not just as a pure speed boot, but one with elements of control marks it as a football boot that deserves to be considered as one of the best, and most unique speed boots available today.