And after putting the new Puma King Finale through its paces last week, Sam Van Gelder is keeping it old school with his latest edition to the playtest series.
Once again, it’s a boot that has a supreme heritage with unparalleled style in terms of comfort and feel.
Behold the new Umbro Speciali Elite people!
The Boot: Umbro Speciali Elite
Colour Tested: Black/White/Silver
Price (RRP): £120
Who wears them: Andy Carroll, Michael Owen, Darren Bent, Diego Capel
We normally begin the review with some technological information. So why break the habit of a lifetime:
– A-Frame cradle which offers vital support in the middle of the foot for superior stability.
– Covered lacing which provides a flat surface for total ball control and sweet strikes.
– Pre-formed, contoured external heel counter with a moulded collar supporting the base for better balance.
– Newly engineered toe box offers more room and feel than ever before.
– Flex grooves in the midsole for fantastic freedom of movement and quicker acceleration so you get to the ball faster.
The Umbro Speciali is one of the most iconic football boots in history, especially here in Britain.
Striking greats such as Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, followed more recently by Darren Bent and Andy Carroll, have all worn and endorsed the classical leather boot.
But it’s not necessarily a striker’s boot. England skipper John Terry, Real Madrid’s Pepe and many more currently don Specialis – Umbro’s best selling boot – on match days.
It is chosen by those players who favour simple elegance over modern designs.
And the newest edition to the series, the Umbro Speciali Elite, embodies everything this traditional heritage boot stands for: class, elegance and quality.
The Umbro Speciali R was released earlier this year, which experimented with a synthetic upper similar to ‘Kanga Lite’ on Nike’s CTR II called ‘Kanga Touch’. But the Elite is made with the highest grade of 100% original Italian K leather.
So it’s a traditional boot but there is still more than just a hint of state of the art technology.
In the current market it’s hard for a traditional boot to stand out. Every release seems to be the ‘lightest’ or most ‘powerful’ boot ever, so I was just excited to see if the Speciali can still cut it with the very best!
Simple, classic, cool. The Umbro Speciali Elite oozes class as soon as you catch the first glance of them inside the box.
And finally, a simple black and white leather football boot to try out!
What’s more, I was feeling extremely lucky to even put them through their paces, as there are only a limited run of them available!
The K-Leather upper is super soft to touch but you still get the feeling that the boots are nice and sturdy.
The tongue is neat and small, and doesn’t get in the way at all which is a massive plus. A bit of Velcro helps it stay in place.
In a nutshell, it’s the type of boot you associate with a 90s footballer when everyone wore black leather football boots. ‘Solid’, ‘no fuss’ and ‘proper’ are a few words that spring to mind.
On they go!
What’s immediately obvious is how bloody comfortable they are! Straight out of the box, your feet feel right at home in these bad boys. So a massive tick already.
Having reviewed the Puma King Finale only a week before, I could sense a couple of similarities in terms of comfort out of the box.
However, the Umbro Speciali Elite is certainly less sleek and much more robust and sturdy – they feel like a boot that could last for years.
The heel collar is particularly comfortable, and I was raring to get going.
Running / Warming-up
So the leather and the general comfort were proving massive plusses out of the box, but how would they react to running, quick turns and pressure?
Umbro’s unique ‘A’ frames are on both sides of the boots and wrap around the foot to lock the solid heel counter into position. This definitely gave a sense of stability and I felt really ‘safe’ and well protected in them.
The benefits of the flex grooves in the mid-sole were also apparent. They offer more flexibility throughout the sole for added comfort and stability.
So as I was running, my foot felt really comfortable yet locked into a rigid and secure position when changing direction at speed. This was a big shock; as the studs are conical and so do not offer perhaps the optimum traction – further testament to the Speciali Elites.
With the ball
As soon as the balls were introduced into the session, it was abundantly clear just how amazing the leather upper was on the Speciali Elite.
The K-leather is the most superior natural leather due to the fact that it’s fibres are densely packed, meaning that not only is the material soft and supple but also extremely durable.
And you definitely get the sense of the above when controlling and passing a football. The feel for the ball is excellent, and the boots began to mould to my feet as the session wore on. This is also due to the original stitching patterns, which keep the leather in the same shape.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect was how confident they made me feel when going into challenges. You feel supported when going into 50-50 tackles and to the extent where a stud to the toe would cause minimal damage – something extremely rare in new boots these days.
Another plus is the new toe box area which offers more room and feel than its predecessors.
Normally this is the part of the review where you see me spanking shots at goal. However, always keen to keep things ‘fresh’, there’s a photo of Andy Carroll with the boots on instead for you enjoy!
But this doesn’t mean that I can’t report back on the performance of the Speciali Elite in terms of its shooting prowess.
Very much like the Puma King Finale, there is no specific ‘shooting’ technology within the boot. However, this wasn’t really an issue for me.
Just like in previous sections, the boots were comfortable and I enjoyed a solid strike of the ball. Nothing mind blowing, but a clean, true strike can be enjoyed.
The latest incarnation of the Speciali boot has certainly been well received amongst the pros and that’s always a good gauge as to how good a new boot ‘actually’ is.
Take Darren Bent for example. He was the leading man in the promotion of the Umbro GT (a boot which I am a big fan by the way). Yet after a couple of games in the speedsters, he ditched them for the Umbro Specialis and has been wearing them ever since.
But the biggest coup for the Umbro Speciali Elite is getting Mr Carroll on board. The £35million man was hot property in the boot market, having previously worn an array of leather boots including Puma Kings and adidas adiZeros earlier in the season.
And just like Liverpool, Umbro have done superbly to get the big man on board and it really is good news for the brand that they have got such a player to don the Speciali Elite.
The boot has such a heritage with powerful, aggressive, strong, bullying (‘elbowing’) English strikers (well, Alan Shearer) so Carroll seems a perfect fit for these classic boots. A throw back some would say.
Our survey says…
Yet again, Umbro have developed a top notch incarnation to the Speciali family. The Umbro Speciali Elite is certainly one to be proud of: a no-fuss, simple yet stylish football boot. There are no real surprises but then I didn’t expect there to be.
They do exactly what they say on the tin (if they came in a tin that is, I mean what they have been doing for so many years really.) If you want a quality, solid pair of leather football boots, then you won’t get much better than the Umbro Speciali Elite.