Nike Mercurial Vapor Elite

mercurial vapor 13 elite

There are only a handful of boots that have remained a favorite for boot enthusiasts long after they’ve been replaced by a newer model or a silo. Some of us still hunt for certain models of Preds, even decades after and a host of models since. If someone offered me a Mercurial Vapor 8, a Tiempo Legend Elite 4, an adiPure SL, an EvoPower 1, a T90 Laser IV (after the switch to better Kanga-Lite), or a handful of other models, I’d quickly consider trading most of my worldly possessions to enjoy another pair. With the newest Mercurial Vapor, we’re wondering whether we’ve been given something that could stand the test of time and become a fan favorite, or will it merely fade into that happy-sad boot bag in the sky with all the ACE PureControls, HyperVenom IIs, and evoSpeeds?

The images for the newest Mercurial Vapor didn’t do a lot to stoke the fires of boot passion that we keep constantly roaring over here, but we’ve never shied away from trying a knitted option from any brand. It would be interesting to see if Nike did anything to make this boot feel like something that could actually rival the Teijin synthetics of past Mercurial glories, which is something that the Vapor 12 didn’t quite pull off. However, we did love how closely the Vapor 12 modeled the FlyKnit Ultra that regularly occupies our dreams so perhaps the 13th iteration of one of the most hallowed boots on the planet would give us all the we wanted and more.

Let’s make like a Vapor soleplate and split.


vapor 13 elite side view

We’ve already mentioned how, at least in the looks department, there isn’t much to really have us jumping out of our seats at first glance. With several colorways already available, there’s going to be something for everyone within the confines of Nike’s newest toy. For the purist, a straight blackout (Under the Radar pack) is the easy winner in the early releases, but that’s just our opinion. Stealthy-looking with all of the Nike branding/logos giving the boots that effect of oil on water so that light makes these boots boast a rainbow of colors (but only when they’re up close). If you’re wanting to stand out, a Blue/White (New Lights pack) combo will make sure that everyone sees you as you try and blast past them en route to a deadly attack. This model shows all the craziness that Nike has added towards the heel and back end of the boot. Several “NIKE” callouts, the Swoosh on the outside of the boot, multiple languages of “NIKE FOOTBALL,” and even an oversized “JUST DO IT,” along the instep. Add in a “MERC” branding near the heel of the Instep and you’ve got the Vapor 13.

Nike has also hidden a slight message in all the craziness going on with the boot: “Born Mercurial: Engineered for speed; Fast by nature.” It’s something that your opponents won’t get to see, but a neat little addition for when we’re simply marveling at the boot in our hands. When we first got the boots, we were convinced that the soleplate was completely unchanged. However, there has been a slight addition to four of the studs in the forefoot (a slight point added to the front of the chevron), and Nike has said that they’ve added 1mm to these studs based on player feedback. We’d be lying if we said we noticed that difference, but it’s an interesting factoid for any boot nerd.

Also, despite being technically a second tier boot ‘below’ the SuperFly, the new Vapor 13 comes with a string bag to keep your newest purchase safe and warm in between tearing up local pitches. Is there any boot fan out there that would prefer that their boots didn’t come with a bag?


outsole nike mercurial vapor 13 elite

People don’t buy a Vapor because they want to look fast. People don’t buy a Vapor hoping that they can get a decent level of traction during a pivotal game-time moment. People don’t buy a Vapor because it’s name feels like it has a slight connection to water. People don’t buy a Vapor because they wanted to get just any old boot to merely drag them through their next season.

People buy Mercurial Vapors because they want their time on the ball to be met with an unmatched feel and a clean surface for striking, passing, and making defenders look like a FIFA19 glitch.

As we’ve already mentioned, this boot had us convinced from press releases that not much had changed since the Vapor 12. Once we laced up and got on the ball, that proved to be the true beginning of seeing that Nike has seriously upgraded this boot. The FlyKnit build on the upper has a super thin NikeSkin layer on the outside (perhaps the thinnest Nikeskin we’ve seen yet) and you immediately feel like you are right on the ball. The inner lining of the upper is merely a slight coating between you and FlyKnit, meaning you feel everything that is happening on the outside of this boot. Dare we say, “barefoot,”…yeah, we dare. There’s not a coating that makes the boot feel grippy, the texture of the FlyKnit doesn’t see the boot getting lost underneath your feet, and it’s crazy once you realize that the thickest part of the boot is anything covered by laces (and it’s only thicker because of the laces).

As a player that rarely does anything other than rollovers and the occasional stepover, I definitely found myself trying to make much more intricate moves when trying to get myself into space or out of trouble. Boots don’t make you better, but certain types of boots almost demand that you enjoy them a certain way – the Vapor 13 is the type of boot that demands you be smooth during your time on the ball. Flicks and tricks will roll off these boots like melted butter (and not just because of ACC) and you’ll find it tough to part with the ball once you’ve started caressing with the Vapor 13.

As with past Vapors, the 13 offers a uniform feel across every single millimeter of the boot. Receiving a pass into your Instep feels the exact same as bringing a ball out of the air with your forefoot. Dribbling at speed with the outside part of your forefoot feels the same as curling a shot past the keeper. The FlyKnit used on the 13 makes it all feel as clean as you could possibly want. Considering the slight thickness was one of our only knocks on the Vapor 12, this was a big improvement for Nike to make on the newest model.

Once you beat that last defender and look to blast the ball beyond the keeper, the Vapor 13 keeps everything super clean. No matter where you strike the ball, you’re going to get that super thin sensation that fans of this boot style love. Shots and crossfield passes absolutely pop off the upper and leave you feeling every bit of the half-volley that you just sent goal-ward. Nike and others might not present this boot as anything other than a product for the pure attacker, but this feels like the type of build that makes perfect sense for midfielders like Luka Modric who are always one moment away from pulling the perfect pass to create something out of nothing. The only possible negative from how crisp the boot feels is how this build ensures that you’re going to feel that nasty tackle in all its ferocity if you make the defenders look too ridiculous. Maybe go easy after your hat-trick, pal, nobody likes a show-off in a rec league.

There really isn’t a lot of room for improvement on how we could enjoy this boot during play. Nike maybe could shave this boot down to be a bit lighter for those players that really find their sweet spot in the sub 6 ounce world, but that’s really trying to split hairs. The Vapor 13 weighs in right around the 7 ounce mark, and that will be incredibly light for almost anyone that makes the decision to add this to their new season’s arsenal. We love the weight and still feel light on our toes when making attacking runs or moving without the ball. It’s always a great test of a boot’s comfort and feel that you can still enjoy them when you are merely making moves without the ball, and the Vapor certainly fits that bill.

After being so surprised by the upper on the 13, we were expecting to be able to copy/paste our assessment on the soleplate for the Vapor 12 in this section. However once again, surprise galore. Nike has added some flex to the forefoot in the form of what they’re calling “Aerowtrac.” It makes sure that the flex in the forefoot feels more natural and gives a better feel when you’re pushing off from your toes before a solid run. Outside of that, the traction remains top notch. We’ve mentioned how this is one of our favorite stud set-ups on the market because of how great it is on firm ground fields, and the 13 continues that tradition of excellence. Nike has added some slight points to the four outside chevrons on the forefoot, but we didn’t notice them mainly because the soleplate was already very high performing.
We get the addition will add a bit more bite when planting, but to claim it as a miracle addition would be more hyperbole than we’re allowed for one boot.


front of nike mercurial vapor 13 elite boots

Comfort for a Mercurial Vapor has always depended on how far into the silo’s lifespan we’re talking. Early on with the Vapors, comfort certainly wasn’t a given. They were worn more for the glory of showcasing your fandom for the original Ronaldo or seeing what Nike was offering with their lightweight offering (it’s almost laughable what was once considered “lightweight,” and “barefoot,” but that’s technology for ya). Later models had incredible touch but they weren’t something that would have you throwing away your house shoes and using a Vapor instead. Even the Vapor VIII, that bastion of comfort, made that sacrifice by being one of the least durable boots to ever exist (we still miss them though. Anybody want to lend a fella the white/sail launch colorway?).

The newest Vapor has sacrificed nothing and has actually made us linger near the too-frequently-used buzzword of boot reviews in, “barefoot,” but we kept being impressed by how comfortable these boots actually were on our feet. Nike has ditched FlyWire of Vapors gone past and the slightly thicker build of the Vapor 12 in favor of High Tenacity Yarn (HTY). By crafting this directly into the FlyKnit upper, the boot is able to almost mimic what we saw (and loved) with Nike’s Quadfit system on the Phantom VSN and Tiempo 8. The boot squeezes your foot on all sides and gives you a great 1-to-1 fit while not feeling like you’ve forced your foot into a plastic mold. It’s becoming increasingly close to what we think brands could offer with custom molds and lasts that are typically reserved for professionals. The HTY also makes sure that these boots keep that fit and structure throughout wear and don’t overstretch to lose what makes the Vapor so magical.

Nike has also utilized previous lessons learned in order to make the comfort such an impressive feature of the Vapor 13. The flex in the tongue that has long been a beloved feature since Nike’s switch to the knit material, the low cut collar that has evolved from FlyKnit Ultra, to Vapor 12, and now to Vapor 13, and and great level of heel padding that gives the heel some cushion and lockdown, this boot is a well built machine.

The soleplate might have looked like it was unchanged, but Nike actually squeezed a few tricks into what sits underfoot. However, even with those changes, the comfort is still unaffected by one of the most aggressive soleplates on the market. The Aerowtrac addition to the forefoot definitely adds something to when you’re trying to break into a sprint, but it doesn’t add any stiffness that would make the boot ever feel cumbersome. The split sole may scare some in terms of durability and whether there will be hot spots in between the two plastic portions, but we’ve never run into any issues despite testing these for quite some time. While some modern boots might seem capable of switching quickly from turf/AG/FG without any issue, we’d warn against the Vapor 13 in FG form being used on anything other than firm ground pitches.


instep vapor 13 elite


The Vapor 13 currently lists for $250 retail, but our friends over at will get you wearing the latest and greatest from Nike for around $225. While it is always hard to justify dropping this kind of cash on any soccer boot, the Vapor 13 is the best Nike currently has on offer and will definitely not disappoint. If you’re hunting a barefoot feel with an incredible fit and can’t imagine yourself heading down the laceless trail of adidas, then there isn’t going to be a better option available for you. It’s rare that we can confirm that it’s worthwhile to break out the wallet for the $200+ boots, but Nike has given us an outright banger here.


The Vapor is going to be seen all over the world over the next several months as there are a bevy of players showcasing their skills in the Vapor 13. We got to see Tobin Heath rock them at the Women’s World Cup (and, now, with the Portland Thorns). Christian Pulisic is enjoying them as his Chelsea stint begins, and, wherever Neymar ends up once the season kicks off, we will see the Brazilian superstar getting his kicks in the 13.


It truly feels like Nike has crafted a boot that we’ll be referencing for quite some time after we’ve moved deeper into the teens of Vapors. Even though early release images had us imagining that there would be minimal changes between the Vapor 12 to 13, nothing could have been further from the truth once we got them in our hands. The touch is incredibly close to the ball, the comfort somehow exists despite very little thickness or padding in this boot, and it has even made a big believer out of someone (me) that isn’t a huge fan of speed style boots. While the Tiempo 8 might not have been the Legend that we were looking for upon its arrival, the Vapor 13 will be a worthy addition to the moniker of “legend.” Here at The Instep, we rate boots on a scale to 5.0 with the only choices being .5 different from each rating and while I’ll never rate anything perfectly, this is as close as it’s been for a long while for me. Whether you’re upgrading from the Vapor 12 or simply looking for your next set of boots, the search is over, and the Vapor 13 is here to sweep you off your feet.

13 might not be considered the luckiest number, but it’s easily worth the risk with the Vapor. Lucky #13.

4.5 / 5 stars     

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