Nike PhantomVSN Elite
adidas is ditching laces as fast as they can, Puma is finding special and unique ways to lace up as quickly as the brand can, but Nike has decided to grace us with a boot that allows you to have a standard lacing system and actually hide everything involved with the process. The name is a bit wonky, lets see if everything else holds up.
With all-new Ghost laces, a new collar, a new stud pattern, and the tall billing of, at the very least, living up to the Magista silo, it’s an interesting life for the outset of the Nike PhantomVSN, to say the least. Add in that such a major release has already enjoyed a major tournament and is now making splashes in a fresh-faced European league season, and you have a boot that faces some obstacles to success, but has been given a great basis for a start. With every recent release from Nike, we certainly haven’t been disappointed so will the VSN strike through and give Nike a clear vision of success? Or, will it falter out of the gate and quickly fall to the bottom of Nike’s charts? Let’s find out.
The Phantom VSN didn’t launch with just a single colorway, as Nike wanted to make sure that their newest creation had a multitude of options available right out of the gate. Launching in a blackout colorway, a grey/bright red colorway, and a deep maroon/silver colorway, Nike has ensured that there’s a color way for everyone. In fact, as far as initial launches go, most of these colorways are actually fairly calm. The grey/bright red combo is actually my least favorite as it feels like we’ve seen this combo many times before, especially in reference to the women’s colorway of the HyperVenom Phantom III. Plus in my opinion, the dark grey collar on this colorway clashes in a fairly harsh manner with the rest of the boot.
The blackout is (of course) gorgeous, and the deep maroon option will be hard pressed to find a player that isn’t a fan. While other brands have started doing some wild stuff with their top-end soleplates, the VSN has a soleplate that is so plain (despite some texturing) that it almost sits in contrast with such an intriguing new release from Nike. They might have hidden the laces, but they certainly didn’t have to hide the soleplate.
The most intriguing aspect of the VSN, in terms of looks, is probably one of the most intriguing pieces of technology involved with the VSN: the Ghost Laces. The lacing system you’re used to is still present but hidden, and if you tuck the top of the laces, it is completely hidden by the second layer of the upper, which creates an incredible silhouette. I’ve seen some professionals have the laces wrap around the tall part of where the tongue would be, but I am not a fan of this look. I am also still aren’t completely sold on the instep Swoosh logo location/angle, and, despite three colorways already, I still don’t really feel like I know how Nike is going to block their future colorways with this boot.
The replaced Magista offered a uniquely padded feel for the ball and we are at the point in the boot world where a top-tier boot has to offer something truly special while still giving us an unhindered experience during our play. The Phantom VSN doesn’t appear to have much more than slight texturing on the instep of the boot, so I was quite anxious to see what this boot might have on offer. If you’re going to ditch your control silo, surely you’ve got a replacement boot that will give you the feeling of ultimate control on the ball.
The first experience with a ball in these boots makes you wonder how in the world this boot has two layers that cover the entirety of the boot and yet still have the touch on the ball feel so clean and crisp. The Magista somehow made what appeared to be thick texturing not feel bulky on the ball, but the VSN takes multiple layers and somehow makes the thin nature of how the boot looks (the upper looks like it should be thin) actually ring true. Think about what you would get if this is a few steps above barefoot feel, but a few notches under what we get from a nicely weighted leather. It truly might be the first time that we’ve described a boot as feeling like you’re using a plush sock that’s been built to also be responsive, and it ACTUALLY IS a plush sock that’s been tinked with for responsiveness. Ever dribble around in some of the match level soccer socks? Add in some features that keep you from having nasty rollover when you plant, and BOOM you’ve got the Phantom VSN. Each side of this boot has seen Nike give it a bit of stiffness to the outer synthetic to make sure that your quick cuts don’t see you rolling over the side of the boot, it all combines well with the laces to continue to show that the lack of laces from the competition still hasn’t quite perfected this level of performance.
Because of all that build, dribbling is delightful. That’s right: delightful. The VSN is soft on the inside and smooth and thin on the outside, allowing every slow turn or movement with the ball to feel right up against your foot. The low profile of the boot only adds to your desire to keep the ball close as you maneuver to try and execute that last killer pass, beat a defender, or decide to go for glory yourself. The only interesting thing is that the instep does seem to have a bit of texturing, but it appears to be mostly for looks as that texture doesn’t really add any true padding or change the grip.
The shift to passing and shooting with this boot is just as enjoyable as dribbling. A uniform striking surface combines with the soft innards of this boot to make every shot and pass zip off with a satisfying crispness. Whether you’re receiving the ball or dishing it out to your teammates, every interaction with the ball is going to feel smooth and enjoyable. In fact, the only part of the boot where there’s going to be any added thickness when you address the ball is going to be on your heel. The VSN is a great build of giving you a great touch and feel on the ball while making sure that you get all the benefits that Nike has been able to craft with their synthetics. This boot? It’s a winner.
Underfoot, the studs on this boot are truly different. Four blades in the heel in the pattern that Nike has fallen in love with, a pseudo-360 reminiscent of the old CTR/Magista studs near the forefoot, a central stud modeled after the VSN symbols that cover the instep, and the remaining six studs (bear with the description here) look like the infield of a baseball field with a slight square extension from where home plate would be (makes total sense, right?). As with what we’ve come to expect with modern soleplates, the set-up does its job and lets you not worry about what you have going on underfoot. Because of how these studs are shaped, we would definitely suggest you keep the standard VSN soleplate secluded to FG pitches.
You want to hear about the Ghost laces? Well, it’s going to be a short feature because it’s standard lacing conveniently hidden. It’s quite nice, and gets the job done.
Nike hasn’t dropped a poor effort in the world of comfort for years, so we had very high expectations for the VSN. Much like everything on the market today, it isn’t so much how the boot feels after a few weeks, but how the boot fits right out of the box. Add in that Nike has actually bragged that the new Quadfit tech is supposed to feel like that boot that offers instant comfort out of the box, and we were eager to see if this boot was capable of 90 minutes as soon as it showed up at the doorstep.
The first sensation when you slip on the VSN is that this boot is snug. However, unlike most boots that when they fit snug, leave you running for the band-aids and thinking about only using your boots for a few minutes at a time, the VSN’s snug fit is more like a snug sock instead of a snug shoe that feels rigid and set-up to cause multiple hot-spots. It has give, it has the type of movement with your foot that doesn’t scare you, but it utilizes the inner layer to stay as close to your foot as possible (which we discussed in how the boot plays). Just like a brand new pair of socks, this boot DOES provide an incredible level of out-of-the-box comfort, unless you’ve somehow been buying socks that need breaking in (Don’t!!)
The raised collar is closer to what we would actually expect from a sock than the FlyKnit collars from the past, and it makes the boot feel a bit more uniform and comfortable.
You will notice that the area around the Nike Swoosh on the outside part of the boot and most of the area on the instep is a little bit stiff, but, while it will soften a bit, this feature is meant to aid responsiveness, which is something it accomplishes easily. There’s an extra ring of padding right where your Achilles tendon meets the heel which helps aid a bit in lockdown and comfort, but the uniform level of soft-padding throughout the boot only elevates the comfort. Despite having an impressive comfort out of the box, do expect your VSN to soften up with every wear and only improve as your first wear gives way to a few sessions of enjoyment. There’s also a nice bit of thin padding under the laces to make sure that the laces don’t take away from your new slippers.
The soleplate is that great blend of responsiveness and rigidity that a brand like Nike is fairly familiar with at this point. The blend helps the soleplate from having too great an effect on the comfort, and makes sure that you avoid any major hotspots. Our time in the Vision has us going with a true to size suggestion, and this boot will be able to accommodate just about anybody that wants to give them a try.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Considering you are dealing in the absolute upper echelon of boot pricing, buying this pretty toy is going to completely depend on how flexible your wallet is or how badly you’re wanting to give the VSN a spin. It’s an incredible boot that, somehow, takes a step beyond its Magista predecessor, so it’s certainly a top choice on the market. Is that worth emptying your piggy bank for? This boot is not going to let you down.
As with all of Nike’s top tier releases, you can expect to snag a boot bag that is one of our favorite boot bags we’ve seen recently. Depending on the colorway you get in the VSN, your boot bag is going to match your new toys perfectly. Goodies are always a bonus, right?
WHO’S WEARING IT?
We’re sure that Nike will slowly increase the stable of players, but searching for a headline player right now will lead you to Philippe Coutinho, Kevin De Bruyne, and a host of others enjoying Nike’s newest toys. The interesting aspect of launching a boot that almost immediately boasts three different colorways means that it isn’t quite as easy as it usually is to hunt down everyone switching to the VSN on first glance.
Nike soccer cleats had to be getting close to hitting a wall with impressive releases that involve FlyKnit and collars, or so we thought, but the VSN shows that that wall might still be a bit off. Despite being a huge fan of the last Magista, the VSN feels like a boot that will help most quickly move on from their favored control boot and, if the VSN doesn’t scratch the right itch, the Swoosh has plenty of other quality options to keep their fans happy. The fit is out of this world, the touch is buttery smooth, and Nike continues to show us that while laceless might inspire the imagination, laces still rule the roost. We aren’t totally sold that collars are still the way that boots will continue on forever, but the Phantom VSN shows Nike isn’t done evolving their ever-present calling card. The new season might have just begun over most of Europe, but Nike is looking ready to wrap up this year’s crown before most teams have even found their proper starting 11. Simply put, the VSN is simply a vision…and we want more.