After two rounds and heading into the climax of the confrontation, the rightful heir as the “king” of the speed boots has yet to truly emerge. As we have looked at the overall look and the first impressions with round 1, compared the break-in and sizing issues in round 2, the F50 and Vapor move into round three virtually neck-and-neck. Although it might be fun to just watch the extremely opinionated fan-bases for both silos attempt to duke it out, this comparison pulls no punches and claims to previous boot allegiance. Will the Vapor continue to reign supreme while the F50 sacrifices weight for quality? Or, will the boot that changed the game in the adiZero take back the title from Nike and its prized possession?
Anyone that has spent time around the recent F50 or Vapor editions will constantly espouse the phrase “barefoot feel”, as this is the ultimate goal for any boot in the speed category. With the newest versions, this still has not changed. The F50 feels as if there is nothing between your foot and the ball and gives a supreme touch on the ball. The Vapor also gives a stellar touch on the ball, but the teijin synthetic does feel like it has a slightly more padded construction.
There are positives and negatives to both set-ups, with the Vapor feeling better when controlling the ball out of the air or striking through the ball while the F50 performs its best when the ball is close to your feet as you attempt to make any type of quick maneuver. Even with saying that, we are talking in the narrowest of margins when it comes to separating these boots on this level. The last of the boots will also change who enjoys which boot a little more, as the long nature of the Vapor will make shots and certain touches awkward if your feet are not of a certain shape. This is one small area where the F50 might be slightly superior as the fit is more accommodating and forgiving for many different foot types.
With shooting, the Vapor erases any small lead that the F50 may have held. Because of the narrow shape, there is no other boot on the market that lends itself to using the outside of the boot like the Vapor. If you are still learning how to strike a ball properly, the Vapor will see very few shots fly straight as a little movement to either side will see serious spin added to your shots. However, any accomplished player that strikes through their laces will enjoy the feel of the Vapor a bit more than the F50.
After this exchange, the Vapor does still seem to outflank the F50 in overall use, but there is no doubt that the F50 is performing better than previously expected.
There is no doubt that there is some serious excitement surrounding the fact that adidas are attempting to differentiate their stud configurations across all of their silos. The new F50 has a stud pattern that is befitting of a speed boot with small triangular blades allowing for quick traction and release. Add in a few slight changes with the shift of the central stud further forward and a small “claw” towards the edge of your toes and adidas has improved in yet another area.
With the Vapor, Nike has only slightly modified what we saw with the Vapor VIII. Although all of the studs still look the same, a second layer of glass-fibre running the length of the boot instead of just halfway adds some rigidity to the boot and has improved overall performance. Despite some naysayers speaking ill of the two rear studs, the risk taken by Nike in this region has always impressed…and it seems that most with negative feelings toward this move either have not truly used the stud configuration or have attempted to use the boots on turf (DO NOT USE FIRM GROUND BOOTS ON OTHER SURFACES).
Both of these set-ups are not going to let you down and will aid you in the quick movements that a speed boot would have been purchased for. However, the set-up of the Vapor does lend itself a bit better to slightly soggy pitches while the F50 would probably play better on any FG pitch that has really hard or dry ground. Despite improvement from adidas in yet another area, the Vapor does make me feel safer on my feet and it is one of the few boots on the market that you can feel the studs dig in without them getting stuck in the ground.
After three tightly contested rounds and factoring in that the newest F50 adiZero is the best version of the boot to have been released, the Nike Mercurial Vapor still is able to look down on its competitor. The bout did have to go to the judges’ scorecards to be separated as they both performed admirably in every aspect, but there is no doubt after all of the testing we put in on these boots.
For the first time in several years, the future of the F50 does seem to be as bright as the future of the Vapor. While adidas have finally closed the gap, the gulf between the two silos had grown to a point where a minor miracle would have been necessary for the F50 to overtake the speed “king.” Where the Vapor VIII compared to the last adiZero had us thinking that Nike would never have a true challenger, the Vapor IX versus this F50 result means good things for the boot world. Now, Nike will have to make sure to continue to improve their Mercurial line so they can try and recreate the gap between the speed giants and adidas will think that they can continue to improve and place serious pressure on the Vapor.
What did you think of this contest? Do you disagree/agree with the result? Which boot is your speed “king?”