If there had been someone in the soccer gear world that would have even thought about suggesting that the current market would be dominated by boots crafted from predominantly knitted materials, I imagine that I would have laughed in their face. However, that is the world that we currently find ourselves in, and a world that has no signs of changing in the near future. Nike’s FlyKnit now dominates two of their boot silos and plays a major role in a third, with every use of FlyKnit getting a serious thumbs up from reviewers everywhere. For adidas, their PrimeKnit is used on two of their elite tier boot models, with every PrimeKnit incarnation getting very high praise.
But, in true Instep fashion, one of them has to be better…right? So…which one takes the top spot?
The first thing that you have to realize about the knitted gear is how different each brand has translated the PrimeKnit/FlyKnit on standard footwear. With FlyKnit, Nike doesn’t seem to get enough. From basketball shoes to running gear, FlyKnit is everywhere for the Swoosh. For PrimeKnit, adidas is slowly beginning to do the same. On the Nike and adidas gear, the knitted material is incredibly light and breathable with a natural stretch and movement that truly is incredible. The biggest difference on these types of shoes is that adidas leaves bigger spaces between their knit while Nike has much smaller space between each knitted loop. It’s not something that translates much into the true feel or comfort, but definitely something you notice when you take a closer look at the shoes. The only thing that gives either brand a bit of a lead in this department is experience and options on the market…with Nike taking a slight edge simply from offering more options.
When we finally get in on soccer-related footwear, the brands go in fairly different directions. Nike’s FlyKnit boots let the knitted material do most of the heavy lifting with only slight additions to aid in durability and necessary structure. Adidas mostly layers their PrimeKnit and its functions on their boots, and tends to let the knitted material function within the confines of a soft synthetic.
Nike’s boots have FlyKnit flowing from the tip of the collar all the way to edge of the toe-box. This gives the Mercurial SuperFly and Magista Obra the ability to offer a high level of comfort and fit right out of the box, and also gives players a much better idea of the broken-in product after you place the boot on for the first time. It also removes a major need for a tongue and gives the boots an incredibly seamless look and build. Nothing is really hidden inside the boot, and the FlyKnit only changes function and feel based on the last Nike used for the boot or the thickness of the FlyKnit across the boot. The HyperVenom Phantom II does offer a bit of a difference from the other FlyKnit creations, but the boot makes FlyKnit feel more like an addition than something that dominates the build. Nike has definitely found success with anything they’ve placed FlyKnit on and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Swoosh’s favorite new toy.
Only recently has adidas had their PrimeKnit boots at the forefront of their game. In the ACE PURECONTROL, we see the closest resemblance between FlyKnit and PrimeKnit that we may ever see. The area where the laces would sit on the PURECONTROL feels very similar to what you’d feel on a Magista or SuperFly, but that’s about where the similarities end. Every other aspect of the boot sits under a fairly stiff synthetic, which keeps the PURECONTROL’s knitted material from ever reaching the heights of Nike’s efforts. As for the PrimeKnit ACE and X, the material is layered for maximum effect. Inside both boots, there is actually a knitted sleeve that sits around the entire middle of the boot to hug your foot and keep you locked in. However, there is a layer of thin synthetic and PrimeKnit on top of that for when you address the ball. The upper needs a little more time to soften than the Magista or SuperFly, but it reaches an impressive level and is a joy to play in.
While the honest final thought on both brands would be a bit of a cop out as both brands are giving us some great new weapons using their knitted wares, a decision has to be made. If we were forced into a corner, we would have to lean towards FlyKnit on soccer boots and PrimeKnit for other footwear. The Ultra Boost by adidas might be our favorite running shoe currently on the market, but it still feels like the Obra and SuperFly still retain a bit of an edge over their PrimeKnit counterparts. No matter which one you think stands above the other, the future for boots and these two materials is a fantastic thing to ponder upon…maybe we should start learning how to knit…