Nike knows that the soccer world currently rotates around limited edition boot releases. We all have a keen eye turned towards whether we might be one of the lucky few who are quick enough to add a pair to our online shopping carts. However, in terms of what Nike has now given us with the Mercurial Vapor FlyKnit Ultra, it seems like there’s quite a bit more to the story than just sending something out into the world that stands alone.
With Nike’s world and success seeming to revolve around sticking as close as possible to FlyKnit and with the present question of how far the American brand will be able to push their favored material and technology, the FlyKnit Ultra might be the best example that Nike is far from finished in pushing their boots forward with FlyKnit at the helm. If we’re being completely honest, it felt like it would be tough for Nike to continue to utilize the material beyond the first iteration of FlyKnit boots but, here we stand, with what could possibly be the best boot to come out of the Nike stable in quite some time.
Let’s get ULTRA!
The initial two colorways we got from the FlyKnit Ultra were gorgeous and these next two are equally outstanding. There was an absolutely incredible blackout that was released, with the soleplate getting an incredible matte black shine and a second colorway that was a black boot with a laser orange Swoosh and a soleplate that sat close to being copper. Now we have these ‘Fire in Your Heart’ and ‘Ice in Your Veins’ colors that are equally brilliant albeit in a different way from the launch colors. Both of them are incredible, perhaps the oddest aspect of both boots is, despite being limited releases, is that there is no numbering anywhere on the boot to commemorate which boot you were able to snag. For someone that usually is on the outside looking in on limited releases, it seems like that numbering would be nice to have but that is a minor quibble.
One of the craziest aspects of the boot is that, despite sharing a general build and the Vapor name with the Mercurial Vapor XI, it is a truly unique boot. The heel and tongue around where the tongue would normally sit reminds us more of the HyperVenom Phantom III (low-cut) than the Vapor XI, and even close examination of the speed ribs shows that the similarity to the XI is merely in looks and silhouette not in material and feel. It feels like something we could see from Nike in the future but we’re not upset that we’re getting to experience it now.
We’re going to jump the shark right at the beginning and tell you that the FlyKnit Ultra is the best thing that Nike has on the market and will be in the conversation for Boot of The Year – BOTY – once December comes to a close. It takes all the best parts of what FlyKnit has to offer and combines it with all the winning ideals that the Vapor XI has. In fact I think the XI might very well be the most underrated star on Nike’s current line-up.
The first few seconds juggling and addressing a ball are pure bliss. The FlyKnit that makes up most of the boot is covered by a thin NikeSkin that combines to give the boot a nice thin and soft feel. Even with the speed ribs, the boot offers a uniform touch across the entirety of the upper. While we expected the boots to offer a barefoot feel like the Vapor XI, utilizing FlyKnit on the upper means that there’s always going to be padding, even on the thinnest portion of the boot. We love that there’s a responsiveness that you wouldn’t expect from FlyKnit, but also a feel for the ball that FlyKnit has never been able to provide before.
When you finally are getting yelled at by your teammates and force yourself to pass the ball, the FlyKnit Ultra is a great boot to ping the ball with. Whether trying to rip through a quick shot before the defense can pounce or zipping a ball in to your teammate’s feet, the boot feels like it slices through the ball like butter. In my last day of testing, I was able to toss the boot into one of the more competitive games that I have access to. On defense, it took the sting out of challenges and felt great when making a clearance while in the midfield, quick passes mixed with shifting and moving into space was a dream. In attacking mode, you want to try that fancy flick and then finish with aplomb.
The raised speed ribs are made out of exposed FlyKnit that has been covered by some form of plastic sealant, and they provide an intriguing amount of grip when dribbling and also feel like the really let you wrap your foot around any type of ball that you’re trying to get spin/curl on. It will take a minute for you to get used to the extra grip with the ball at your feet. The grip does decrease after you get some use into the Ultra, but it’s still a bit stickier on the ball than the average boot option on the market. When shooting, you really feel like you are getting that bit of extra whip that you love to feel as you try to get some serious whip on the ball.
The FlyKnit Ultra’s soleplate is completely identical to the options we see on the SuperFly V and the Vapor XI. It’s shaped so that your foot can actually sit down in the soleplate instead of sitting on top. There is a nice bit of flex on the soleplate, and we find the chevron style studs are great for gripping in and trying to zip around the field. One thing we’d definitely like to point out with this soleplate is that it is way too aggressive for artificial grass and should only be used on firm grass surfaces.
The Ultra is comfortable out of the box and it only seems to feel better with each successive wear. The FlyKnit is already soft, so every moment after you lace them up for the first time involves the boot actually shaping to the exact shape of your foot. The great feel of the low cut of the FlyKnit around the collar continues to show that the mid-cut collar is certainly not the way forward (*in the writer’s opinion). It’s incredible that something that’s meant to fit so closely can offer such a high level of comfort, but the Ultra has been one of the more comfortable options we’ve tested this year.
The insole is pleasantly padded, and shows that Nike wasn’t trying to shave off any extra ounces in order to make this boot super lightweight. It combines with padding that wraps around the heel that benefits the overall fit of the boot, avoids any crazy blisters, and also is ridiculously comfortable. It also feels like it would be more accommodating than a Vapor XI and most foot types could enjoy the boot, and we also found that the boot fit true to size.
Bang for your Buck
It’s odd to feel like a boot above $200 would ever be considered a steal, but we absolutely loved our time in the Ultra. The worst part about loving them is that, as a limited release, we can’t line every empty spot in our closet with multiple pairs. We hope that Nike finds it within their hearts to release more, and we’ll be one of the first people standing in line. Perhaps Nike has given us a bit of a precursor to what we can expect from the Nike Mercurial once 2018 rolls around and the World Cup is knocking because if this is what will be on show, sign us up for multiple pairs!
There’s really no bar to judge limited edition boots on. If they’re awful, you can’t complain because most folks just want to appreciate them and put them on a mantlepiece instead of wear them. If they’re fantastic, then it’s almost a throwaway from the brand that just happens to strike gold (but they can yell “on purpose” at the last second). The FlyKnit Ultra is a really remarkable boot that has us hoping that this is the future of Nike boots. If Nike can take their mojo into 2018 using whatever they were enjoying when the FlyKnit Ultra was crafted, then you better buckle in and buy some serious stock in the Swoosh. Doesn’t matter that it’s limited edition and it doesn’t matter what brand is on the side, the FlyKnit Ultra is incredible (and we all deserve to have one).