Every so often, we get customers in the shop who are new to buying boots. They’ll pick up the Mercurial Vapor and the Victory, look at the huge price difference and say, “I don’t get it. What’s the difference between these?” It’s not a foolish question. To the untrained eye, both boots appear to be very similar. Yes, they have the same general shape and colorway, but that’s about where the similarities end. The most basic explanation that we give to this question is that there are differences in the fit of the boots and the quality of materials used in the uppers and soleplates. Higher price points are consistent with higher quality materials.
The upper construction of a boot is one of the key factors for comfort, touch and durability. Nike and Adidas both have a variety of “premium” uppers and lower priced variants that usually look similar, but have very different levels of comfort, fit and texture. For Nike, the premium upper that they utilize the most is Flyknit. This material can be found in top-tier boots that have a Dynamic Fit Collar: Mercurial Superfly, Magista Obra, and Hypervenom Phantom. This very soft material can easily mold to the foot, enhancing comfort right out of the box. Adidas uses a similar knit called Primeknit (Ace 17+ and 17.1) or Agilityknit (Messi 16+ and 16.1). Lower-tier boots are normally constructed of synthetic materials that mimic the appearance of Flyknit.
If you’ve ever worn a knitted running shoe, you know that one step in a puddle and your foot is soaked. However, Nike and Adidas have taken steps to prevent this for soccer players. All premium knitted boots have a protective coating over them to prevent weather conditions from taking a toll on the performance of a boot. In Nike’s case this is referred to as ACC (All Conditions Control) and NikeSkin which provides extra protection and durability. The Tiempo Legend, a premium leather boot, also includes a layer of ACC. Adidas covers the Ace Purecontrol and Primeknit with a layer of Controlskin. Lower-tier boots do not have this coating.
Fit of Boots:
The purpose of a knitted upper is to improve the fit of boots. The knit mimics a sock, which is designed to completely hug the foot. Other features in these boots also enhance fit, including hidden cables that wrap around the laces and extend to the soleplate to lock down the mid-foot. Perhaps the most noticeable “premium” feature is the Dynamic Fit Collar. Contrary to popular belief, the DF collar does nothing to support the ankle. It’s purpose is to create an extension of the boot into the ankle and leg to maximize the total lockdown fit of the boot. In previous generations, Nike did not include lower-tier versions of boots with a Dynamic Fit Collar, but they have recently started to incorporate this feature at the $170 and $90 price points. The $90 version is not made of Flyknit, but a general, stretchy knit instead.
Knitted uppers are referred to as “synthetic” materials. Lower-tier boots in these silos lose the knit factor as price decreases, and they utilize more plastic/rubberized materials. The unique thing about Nike’s Tiempo silo is that the dominant upper material is leather throughout the entire silo, just variations on the type of leather. The Tiempo Legend is the only Nike boot that uses Kangaroo Leather, and this is the major reason that this boot carries a $210 price point. Kangaroo is a premium leather which has been a long-standing material used in soccer cleats due to its durability. Kangaroo Leather also breaks in incredibly well by molding to the foot, and becomes much softer over time. Lower-tier boots in the Tiempo silo use premium calf leather (Tiempo Legacy) or full grain leather (Tiempo Mystic & Genio Leather).
As prices decrease in a silo, stud patterns don’t change, but the material and composition of the soleplates is different. The most apparent example of this is the top-tier Mercurial Superfly and Vapor solepates which feature anatomical designs made from extremely lightweight compressed nylon, which is a stronger and lighter upgrade from than the previously used carbon fiber. Lower-tier boots don’t contain any of these premium features, although they look similar.
Best value for a lower-tier boot: Nike Tiempo Legacy – leather is very soft and close to kangaroo leather but $100 cheaper.
Best value for lower-tier Dynamic Fit Collar boot: Nike Hypervenom Phatal DF 3 – still contains knitted material unlike the same tier boot in the Mercurial silo.
All images courtesy of Nike Soccer.