Football boots that deserved an upgrade

We put our engineering hat on to make decent football boots even better.

Ever bought a pair of boots and loved it so much only to be horribly disappointed when its successor turns out to be vastly different? *cough* New Balance Visaro *cough* ?

While professional players get custom fit football boots, us plebeians don’t enjoy the same privilege. Brands can only guess what the mass market will like. With huge amounts of variations in foot size and shape, as well as material preferences, customer feedback may vary upon trial of the finished product.

In defence of the big brands, I think that they have got it right more often than not but they’ve also delivered some decent football boots that could have become great if they had just made one tweak. Here are 5 boots we would improve with one change and upgrade.

Nike Hypervenom Phantom 1 – Quadfit Mesh upgrade

Alright alright, y’all can put your pitch forks down, I’m not saying that the Nike Hypervenom 1 was bad. I’m saying it could be so much better. Widely considered to be the best Nike boot in the past decade, the Nike Hypervenom 1’s NikeSkin mesh upper provided an extremely soft, pliable and barefoot touch. Unfortunately, due to how soft the upper was, overstretching became a huge issue, with the boots becoming extremely sloppy after a few months of wear. Additionally, the mesh wasn’t the most durable upper around, and would often tear.

Nike Hypervenom Phantom - Gold Neymar

My solution is simple – upgrade it with Quadfit mesh that’s found on the Nike Tiempo Legend 8 as well as the Nike PhantomVSN series. Quadfit is perhaps the most amazing technology available when it comes to the fit of boots. It’s got the unique ability to make your boot feel like a sock yet give you that extremely locked in sensation.

For me, the Nike PhantomVSN is the only knitted boot ‘til date that feels like an actual sock with studs on it. Replace the leather on the Nike Tiempo Legend 8 with the Hypervenom 1’s mesh upper and you have what the Hypervenom Phantom 2 was supposed to be – all that barefoot and sock-like feel, without the sloppiness.

Nike PhantomVSN review
Quadfit inner mesh with Ghost Lace system

I’m gonna cheat and include another PhantomVSN innovation as well – I would upgrade the raised lip on the toebox, which helps to prevent tears on the area where the upper and the outsole meets.

adidas X16.1 – Hybridtouch upper

The 2015-2017 era was a wild period for adidas. Having culled its 4 silos, it was free to experiment with its Ace, X and Messi models. It was during this time that adidas were able to take the learnings from those early models which culminated in today’s offerings such as the laceless Plus models.

adidas x16.1
The adidas X16.1 – Photo from Soccer Bible

The X16+ Purespeed however, was one of their better boots from that period. While it looked like little brother X16.1 with a lace cover added, the two boots were actually very different. Instead of the plush and slightly foamy upper on the X16+, the X16.1 had a thin and cardboard-like upper which gave a rather muted feel on the ball.

The Hybridtouch upper on the 2014 F50 adizero had the perfect balance of being padded yet barefoot enough. It’s a huge shame that adidas hasn’t used Hybridtouch in a while, because of it is legitimately one of the best synthetic uppers in the market. An X16.1 with a Hybridtouch upper would have been an upgrade and elevated the boot into the echelons of great speed boots.

football boots upgrade - adidas F50 adizero
I’d preferred to have the Hybridtouch upper from the F50 Adizero

Nike Tiempo Legend 8 – Inner Foam Lining

What most people don’t realise is that most leather uppers aren’t just built with leather. Think of the leather as an outside skin, with a layer of foam sandwiched between it and another layer of backing, such as polyester before stitching them altogether. The backing helps to prevent the leather from overstretching, while the foam helps to provide that classic padded leather touch.

Nike tiempo legend 8

Here at BOOTHYPE, we loved how the Nike Tiempo Legend 8 felt, not as a leather boot per se, but for the locked-in sensation gave us a glimpse into the future of what true lockdown should feel like. While it secured our feet extremely well, bonding to us like a symbiote, it never felt like a leather boot due to all the knitted layers between your foot and the ball.

Perhaps a layer of foam would bring back the plush and elegant sensation to the Nike Tiempo Legend 8 that makes it feel like a traditional leather boot that footballers are more used to.

adidas Nemeziz 19.1 – Messi’s Gambatrax outsole

The adidas Nemeziz 19.1 is an objectively good boot with specific traits which makes it difficult to appeal to its targeted style of players – the agile dribbler. Despite having an extremely thin and barefoot upper that let’s you feel everything, the Nemeziz has a strangely stiff outsole that really takes some time to break in and makes you feel less mobile. It’s also adidas second most heavy boot, alongside the Predator 20.1.  

adidas Nemeziz 19.1

For it to truly morph into an agility boot, I’d drop the split outsole and go with the Messi Gambatrax outsole instead. The Messi Gambatrax outsole has been the Barcelona star’s go to soleplate for some time now, extending all the way back to his adizero days. It’s got a nice mix of conical and triangular studs that gives you good manoeuvrability, yet aggressive enough traction for sprinting away from those crunching tackles.

football boots upgrade - adidas messi Gambatrax soleplate
I’d love to have seen a return to the Messi Gambatrax soleplate for the Nemeziz

In particular, I’d go with the outsole on the Messi Nemeziz 19.1, which was a Sprintframe construction, offering rigidity in the midfoot while being flexible enough in the forefoot. Lovely stuff.

Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Beta – Bladed studs upgrade

Mizuno recently introduced a new silo, the Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Beta, along with the “regular” Mizuno Morelia Neo 3. With its one piece upper and knit tongue, the Beta looked like a direct competitor to mainstream speed boots such as the adidas X19.1 as well as the Nike Mercurial Vapor series.

In that respect, Mizuno may have missed a step here by not equipping the Morelia Neo 3 Beta with a more aggressive outsole for a more universal appeal. It’s no secret that Mizuno elects for traditional conical studs as they’re often more focused on appealing to the Japanese market which regularly play on hard ground surfaces that require rounded studs.

Footbal boots upgrade - Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Beta Japan review football boots soccer cleats
The Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Beta needed bladed studs for a wider appeal.

However, in Europe, the pitches tend to be softer which require a more aggressive bladed stud pattern. With the Mizuno Morelia Neo 3 Beta being Mizuno’s flagship model that is meant to appeal to more European tastes, upgrading the boot with an aggressive outsole would have taken it from a great speed boot, to becoming the best in class.

Were there any other boots that required an upgrade? Let us know in the comments below.

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