As we bid adieu to 2016, The Instep couldn’t let the calendar year turn over without running through our picks for Boot of the Year. For each new release this year, we’ve poked and prodded and play tested to see which boots will come out on top. As with each Boot-ies award, we will give out a few honorable mentions and then dive into our top 3 boots from 2016. Pull up a chair and put on those reading glasses, because it’s time for our Boots of the Year.
Hunter York: Under Armour Clutchfit Force 2.0
Starting off the list for me is two boots that have flown under the radar and it is a real shame that they have. Starting with the ClutchFit Force 2.0, Under Armour created near perfect blend of comfort and touch to a boot that, in my opinion, should rival the likes of a Magista Opus for a midfield boot option.
The Umbro Medusae brings two things together any attacking player wants, a soft leather upper and a light weight construction to stay as light as possible. The solid construction, flexible soleplate, and leather upper help make the Medusae one of the boots of the year for me.
Andrew McCole: Nike Mercurial Vapor XI
Ever since Nike headed down the FlyKnit road, I’ve been a fan. The newest SuperFly V only continues that tradition of being a winner in the McCole household, but it’s the Vapor XI that actually won my heart OVER the Superfly this time around. An incredible fit, ridiculously lightweight, and a level of comfort that belies the build and style of the boot. If you’re at a crossroads about getting a Vapor because you’ve been away from the silo for quite a time or trying to decide on the SuperFly or Vapor, there hasn’t been a better time to embrace Nike’s speed silo.
Puma K-Leather Pack
Asking me to narrow this down to one would be impossible. The new evoSPEED SL II K-leather somehow improved on the original, and the K-leather evoPOWER 1.3 is the pinnacle of the evoPOWER. As I feel I’ve said countless times in 2016, Puma is dominating any boot that involves leather. It was a crime to wear the all-white leather SL II and ruin the look of the upper, but it ended up being worth it. If you missed out on these boots, you missed out on one of the best packs of 2016.
While the Volt is the pick of the bunch, Concave did some fantastic stuff in 2016 to set themselves up for a great future. By making the shooting element look like it blends with the boot instead of being a massive piece of plastic that doesn’t seem to meld with anything, Concave has created a boot is finally being given a chance. The Volt has one of the best stud set-ups on the market, an incredible synthetic, and somehow gives a speed boot feel while housing a ton of tech. Look out for more from Concave in 2016…our seat on the bandwagon is already taken…find your own.
York: Puma evoSPEED SL-K
Puma have been pushing the limit in terms of how light the German brand can make a boot. The evoSPEED SL line has been not only been pushing towards a mass-produced boot that is less than 100 grams, but has been innovating on the uppers that can be improved for a light weight speed boot. The buttery soft and paper thin K-leather upper on top of the ultra light SpeedFrame outsole is a perfect combination for a speed boot. I was already fan of the SL line and adding a premium leather upper puts the cherry on top for a speed boot.
McCole: adidas X 16+ PureChaos
The crown jewel of the adidas revolution to this point. While the PureControl might be given the headlines, everyone that has given the adidas toys a run-out comes away singing the praises of the PureChaos. The fit is great, the feel for the ball is incredible, and adidas has given this boot the perfect level of padding to make this boot a winner. The revolution is gaining serious momentum as it heads into 2017, and this boot shows that the minds over at adidas HQ are very capable of challenging Nike while giving us a great boot. If you’ve been considering wading into the PURE waters from the three stripes, this is the best boot to choose.
York: Nike Tiempo Legend VI
This boot was included on my list for last years Boot-ies since it was released late last year. However, now that I have had nearly a year to play in the Legend VI, I have fallen more in love with the latest Tiempo boot. The internal support skeleton adds much needed stability in the Legend and not to mention that famously soft leather upper puts it on another level. The comfort, durability, and leather upper will always help propel the Tiempo Legend VI up the charts for any boot lover.
McCole: Puma evoTOUCH Pro
How has the Puma evoTOUCH not taken the world by absolute storm? A remarkable kangaroo leather upper that gets the first collared treatment from Puma, and the result couldn’t have been more impressive. EvoKnit might be the softest knit that we’ve seen from brands in soccer equipment, and the collar feels like the perfect height. The only negative might be that the studs were just a slight bit long, but Puma needs to try and get this boot a lot more time in the spotlight as the year turns. It wouldn’t hurt for Puma to also give us some great colorways in the next few months, but this boot would be great in any color.
York: Nike Hypervenom Phinish II
Dear Nike, thank you. When the first generation Nike Hypervenom Phantom came out, I was a fan from day one. The NikeSkin upper and comfort found in a boot made for strikers was a dream come true for me. The only thing missing was more lock down. But when Nike gave the Phantom a thicker upper to give us more lockdown in sacrifice of touch, I was disappointed. But this year, Nike gave us the original upper back with cables on the inside of the boot for more lockdown, and I could not be happier at the move from Nike. With the revamped NikeSkin upper, same soleplate, and more lockdown, what is there not to love about the Hypervenom Phinish II? It is the updated Phantom 2 we all wanted last year. It may have taken awhile, but I am thankful Nike finally brought back the better upper.
McCole: Nike Magista Obra II
I can’t disagree with Hunter’s desire to shout the praises of the updated Hypervenom from the rooftops (I find myself using the Phantom II and Phinish II with the new upper on a regular basis), but I don’t think it’s fair to separate it from the standard upper…until it’s given a new name or full update, it’s still the same boot. For me, the title has to go to the Magista Obra II. The biggest FlyKnit accomplishment so far, it’s amazing that a boot that feels so odd in hand and looks so odd in pictures ended up being such a winner. The comfort is impressive, the fit is on another level, and there’s a reason that I quickly snagged the FG, TF, AG, and Anti-Clog versions. When it felt like the FlyKnit train was slowing down, this boot proved that we’ve still got some room to cover before Nike’s prized possession hits a dead end.