Football boot review: Nike Mercurial Vapor SuperFly III

Posted on May 16, 2011 by

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The football season may be drawing to a close (gutting, we know) but do not despair readers.

Because the seventh generation of the original speed boot is here – the Nike Mercurial Vapor SuperFly III!

And as promised, SportLocker have got our hands on a pair!

Back in November last year, Sam Van Gelder reviewed the previous edition, Cristiano Ronaldo’s unique Safari CR7 from the SuperFly II series.

So we thought it was only right that our ‘Soon-to-be-unemployed-when-the-football-season-is-over’ boot reviewer put the newest incarnations through their paces.

And, after trying them out at his local pitches (not quite Wembley or Old Trafford but hey), here is what he thought of Nike’s recent version of the quintessential speed boot:

The Boot: Nike Mercurial Vapor SuperFly III
Colour Tested: Red Plum/Windchill/Volt
Category: Speed Boot
Price (RRP): £274.99
Weight: 210 grams
Who wears them: Cristiano Ronaldo, Alexandre Pato, Didier Drogba, Mesut Ozil, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Franck Ribery, Luka Modric, Theo Walcott (and many, many more!)

As per usual, we’ll have a glance over the technology that is packed into the boot first:

  • Seamless Traction – Adaptive traction technology and pressure-activated studs in the forefoot extend up to 3 mm when needed to allow players to speed up or slow down and make rapid changes of direction in adverse pitch conditions.
  • Flywire Technology – 2nd Generation innovative Flywire technology in a streamlined upper ensures ultra-light support. The highly engineered cabling structure provides a dynamic fit that holds the foot in place for a better feel and fit.
  • Carbon-Fibre Chassis – Provides a lightweight flexible platform, allowing players to stay close to the ground and traction elements. The contoured design mirrors the shape of the foot for enhanced fit and feel, and the lightweight, perforated sockliner provides low-profile cushioning and support while reducing boot pressure.
  • Streamlined Upper – Refined composite upper with fewer layers and Teijin synthetic leather maintains durability and improves the boot’s fit, comfort and performance on all pitch conditions.
  • Traction On Demand – With a focus on toe-off, first step traction to reduce slippage, tri-blade configuration means directionally positioned blades maximise cutting and direction changing speed in all pitch conditions. Central traction arms enhance acceleration and breaking.
  • Enhanced Configuration – For the ultimate fit for athletes the boot features denser spread at the forefoot for lateral and cutting stability. Midfoot separation increases range of motion with enhanced lateral lock from heel to toe.
  • Colour Schematic – To match the blinding speed of the new Mercurial Vapor SuperFly III a striking colour combination and graphic treatment around the heel and in-step increase visibility and presence on the pitch.

Wowza, that really was a technology marathon!

In case you couldn’t digest all that, in a nutshell, and I’m sure many of you football boot lovers have already realised that, not much has changed from the last series.

The aim is still the same: to provide players with cutting edge innovation that delivers incredibly lightweight, fast and responsive performance on the pitch.

About the boot

The Mercurial Vapor Series have long been the kings of the speed boot world. Goalscoring greats like Thierry Henry, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo (the fat one) and many more have graced the beautiful game with their skills and goals whilst wearing Nike’s most revolutionary boot.

But with the adidas adiZero seemingly knocking the Vapors of their perch in recent times, Nike have hit back with the SuperFly III.

Every time a new Vapor is released, the footballing world takes note. And these are no different. Cue Nike ‘hype-it-up’ talk:

“The Nike design team created a boot that enables rapid acceleration and multi-directional traction at game-changing moments.

“Today’s highly technical and physical game is about exploiting the slightest gap, capitalising on a momentary lap of concentration and keeping the opposition on the back foot.

“Testing with elite players in some of Europe’s top league revealed that speed around a defender and the ability to make quick changes in direction were critical, with toe-off traction and minimising slippage top priorities.

“The new Mercurial Vapor SuperFly III gives players the traction, fit and control to make that one chance count.”

Many changes?

So Nike clearly feel they have a winning formula, as there are not many changes from the last SuperFly II. And this is down to responses received from professional players, apparently.

The general shape seems the same, the weight is the same (210g) but there are some important improvements, so read on!

Initial Impression

As with every Vapor release, opening the box to reveal the boot is a highly-anticipated event!

And as I took them out the box, they still feel lightweight. Not quite in the same bracket of lightness as an adiZero PRIME, but still impressive nonetheless.

These are the lead colourway from the new release and they certainly stand out on first inspection! The new fluorescent lightning bolt replaces the old pattern on the SuperFly II, aiming to put players in the spotlight.

It definitely seems to be a case of a visual rather than a technological upgrade on these.

The major observation that I noticed was the change in the Flywire incorporated in the boot. It extends further towards the heel with the aim to strengthen the boot. The addition of an extra lace hole also plays a part in this.

I was still slightly wary of the feeling of the upper, despite Nike claiming it had been improved, as it felt rigid and fairly non-flexible. But there was only one way of putting these fears to bed – getting them on my feet!

On they go!

But as soon as I put them on, my worries were realised. The boot feels really restrictive and not natural – there’s certainly no ‘out-of-box’ glove like fit, like with the CTR IIs, with these people.

But then, to be honest, I didn’t expect them to. SuperFlys always perform best when moulded to your feet – but this takes time.

So there is a breaking in period. Or you could always just get in a hot bath with them on!

Breaking in talk aside, the most noticeable modification is the fine-tuning of the toe box area. It is lower at the front of the boot, making for a better boot to ball contact, which has to be seen as a major plus point. This is not only because it should be better for those players that like to take lots of touches in a game, but also because it should mean it is a more durable boot, as tearing at the toe box should be eradicated.

The upper also felt noticeably different so I was interested to see how they reacted when the balls were introduced into the session.

Running / Warming up

For me, the biggest success of the SuperFly II was the NikeSENSE stud technology – it definitely sets the boot apart from all its speed rivals.

It proved that traction is just as important if not more important than the boot actually weighing very little. And the SuperFly III is all about using the technology in the boot to accelerate and get to top speed ASAP.

To that end, Nike have kept exactly the same stud technology from the SuperFly II – meaning that the toe-off traction pattern, T-bar stud configuration, directionally positioned blades and the adaptive studs, as well as the carbon fibre chassis, are all included to enhance your acceleration and speed.

And it really is noticeable. Every time you plant your feet, you can feel the studs anchoring into the ground, enabling you to change direction at high speeds to great effect.  The feeling is like no other I have felt in any other boot.

It may be a surprise to some that Nike have used the pressure-activated studs again, as almost all of the pros who wear the boots have this element removed. Personally, I feel they are brilliant, but what do I know!

The Nike Research Lab claim that Nike found that players slipping in leading competitions like world championship finals – 845 slipping events over 63 games, or roughly 14 per game at one major tournament – created a renewed focus on boot performance, traction and fit.

That’s why so much thought has gone into the stud technology. So Nike are clearly in the ‘If it’s not broke, why fix it?’ frame of mind.

With the ball

So with the studs staying the same (and rightly so in my opinion) it was time to turn the attention onto the upper.

Despite feeling that the SuperFly II had good ball feel, there was definitely room for improvement in this department. And I’m pleased to report back that Nike have come up trumps on this one.

The upper is massively improved. The 3-layer upper construction (Teijin synthetic fibre skin, Teijin microfiber substrate engineered for flywire, Polyurethane lining) is a lot thinner than that on the SuperFly II.

This makes for a much improved performance. When dribbling, the boot reacts much better with slight ball touches and you generally feel in control with the ball at your feet.

Because the upper is softer, it is noticeable that there is a shorter breaking in period than its previous edition. Furthermore, the Flywire was beginning to kick in at this stage, and the boots were already starting to mould to my feet – another big improvement.

However, for those of you with wider feet, beware a little, as it might take a bit longer.

Pro Perspective

As touched upon in my previous SuperFly review, for many years, the Mercurial Vapor series has been associated with pacy wingers or strikers.

However, the SuperFly II changed this trend, and the SuperFly IIIs look set to continue doing the same. Far more technically minded players are wearing them – the likes of Luka Modric and Mesut Ozil to name just a few.

This shows that the Vapor series are now far beyond just a speed boot. Despite being marketed as exactly that, pros that base their game around guile, close control and creativity are now backing the boot.

However, I’m yet to find a player who didn’t wear the SuperFly II that is now donning the newer SuperFly III. Could this suggest that perhaps not much has changed at all?

Didier Drogba doesn’t seem to think so. He has continued to change out of the SuperFly III in favour for his SuperFly IIs at half-time in recent weeks.

Nor does Manchester United’s flying winger Nani. He’s changed brand altogether, disregarding his SuperFlys and opting for adidas’ adiZero and more recently the new adiPower Predator on the weekend.

Shooting

That said, many of the world’s best players still stick with the SuperFly III including Cristiano Ronaldo.

And it was then time to try and emulate the goalscoring machine, by hitting some balls at goal using his technique. Some advice: it’s not happening, leave it to the master!

The addition of the padding behind the tongue is a definite development as it helps a great deal when spanking shot after shot at goal. There is no aching feel, a problem reportedly felt with the adiZero PRIME.

I also felt a good reaction when striking through the ball with the synthetic upper, and there’s no problem with anchoring the foot thanks to the effective studs which help to plant your non-kicking foot.

However, there isn’t much room for error, as it’s fairly easy to send an effort high and wide. Well that’s my excuse anyway! Still, the photos show that a good connection is achievable (they flew into the top bin, honest!)

The Result

Wary of waffling on any longer, it’s time to wrap up this review.

In short, it’s definitely a case of evolution rather than revolution.

Perhaps there aren’t as many tweaks as you would expect with a new boot release, but the slight developments make for a superior boot to the SuperFly II.

The upper is much thinner, meaning a greater feel for the ball, and the updated and improved Flywire technology means the boot moulds to your feet quicker and more effectively.

Some may feel that more could have been done to close the gap on the adidas adiZero.

But when fully broken in, combined with the fact that it offers the best traction ever felt in a football boot, I feel the Nike Mercurial Vapor SuperFly III is a seriously good speed boot.

Click here to view a photo slideshow of SportLocker’s exclusive play test of the Nike Mercurial Vapor SuperFly III

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