Nike has decided to change more than the game with their Mercurial Vapor series. Not resting on the success of the past by completely ditching the SuperFly and pressing boldly forward with new improvements that make the new versions of the Vapor enter into a category all of its own. Where the Vapor VIII broke the mold and ushered in this new look Vapor to compete in the speed boot race, the Vapor IX improves where improvement was needed and retains what made the VIII one of the most revolutionary boots to exist.
The Look- Depending on whether you opt for the Vapor with the speed-control upper or the leather-like upper, both boots look to be completely streamlined. Although major boot companies probably are not putting boots into wind tunnels for testing, these boots look like they are as aerodynamic as possible. The colors and new placement of Nike logos makes sure that the newest version is not mistaken for anything else. Look for Nike to continue releasing the Vapor in colors that are extremely loud and colors that will get you noticed from anywhere on the pitch. Despite initial worries that the speed-control upper looked a little like a goldfish when the first pictures popped up, the dimpling effect actually gives the boot a great (and very unique) look.
The Touch- Despite my inclination to tell you that the Vapor IX is padded a tiny bit more than its predecessor, the feel is still the barefoot touch that all speed boots are seeking. Every touch with the speed-control upper feels as pure as possible and there seems to be a slight post-production finish on the boots that feels tacky and that makes sure that the ball stays glued to your feet. Whether attempting a trick, flick, pass, or just juggling, the boot makes you feel like you are in complete control and it provides the confidence that you can only get from a boot that is this lightweight and this flashy. With a slightly narrower feel than the past Vapor, the fit (which we will touch on later) makes sure that you get great ball control in all the right places. Most notably, the instep and toe-box seem to benefit the most from this slight improvement with the IX. Shooting is also a joy in this boot, which is also very rare in a speed boot. The narrow fit and very low profile allow you to employ any style of shooting or kicking that you have mastered. Hitting shots with the outside of your foot is as simple as possible because of the narrow shape and it is obvious why players like Didier Drogba, Franck Ribery, and Cristiano Ronaldo have chosen this particular model.
The Feel- With most speed boots, the break-in period is filled with ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly.’ The good part is that feeling of wearing such a lightweight boot and the feeling that your feet and your mind get from the 6 oz. “boost.” The bad is the fact that most of these boots are attempting to attain such a light state and such a tight fit that the break-in process is extremely painful. The ugly would have to be the mass of blisters that a speed boot break-in typically brings along with it. Surprisingly, the IX has found the boots changing the name of the game to ‘the good, the good, and the great.’ The break-in time is non-existent. I would never have suggested wearing a speed boot directly into a game, but these are the exception. As soon as they start forming to your feet, it shows how some tiny improvements from the VIII to the IX that did not seem obvious to our first look. It is worth noting that you will definitely feel any and every tackle with these boots, but the comfort is unparalleled in the speed boot world.
The Verdict- In order for a speed boot to win me over, it has to do everything right. Somehow, the IX has checked every box en route to becoming my personal favorite boot within the lightweight realm and a boot that I always make sure is available when game day comes around. The comfort is great, the touch meets the standard required from a lightweight boot, and the look completely matches the personality that you would expect from a Vapor. If given the opportunity or if the F50 series has left you a little bit unsatisfied, the Vapor IX is definitely the new king of speed. Long live the king.
Written by: Andrew McCole, writer, Soccerprose.com