“We designed this boot holistically to ensure it was a true speed system, where all of the materials interlock to produce the most efficient package possible.” – Nike Football Design Lead Jeongwoo Lee
We should be thankful that Nike takes performance as seriously as they do. Every time it seems they have perfected the modern soccer cleat, they return with another improbable innovation.
For example, the Mercurial Superfly IV was a jaw-dropping creation, both in terms of quality of performance and its sense of style. If you were fortunate enough to play in them, you knew it and felt it. Even if you were just fortunate enough to hold a pair in your hands, the level of care and attention to detail was self-evident.
So when the Swoosh announces they have made considerable updates to their already-futuristic Superfly, it tends to turn some heads. With the Dynamic Fit Collar and the Flyknit-Flywire-Nikeskin upper combination as the most significant improvements on the Superfly IV, what could they possibly change on the V that would be as impressive?
This time they have migrated to the soleplate to make the most large-scale alterations. As Nike discusses a speed boot that is “holistic” and “efficient”, it only makes sense that the classic Mercurial carbon fiber soleplate see an update that might revolutionize how other manufacturers build their outsoles. At this point in time, Nike doesn’t see any reason to tinker too heavily with the upper and collar materials, so naturally their attention turns to the bottom.
“We had been working with a flat sole plate, but the human foot is not flat.” – Lee
It seems simple, right? To make a boot more comfortable, and thus, a better performer on field, you craft the bottom to more closely resemble the shape of an actual foot. To enhance speed on the Mercurial, Nike says the gap that existed between the bottom of your foot and the soleplate has been eliminated. This more natural, anatomical fit allows your foot to snuggle right in to the Superfly V.
They didn’t stop with just the shape, however. Considering the carbon fiber soleplate’s remarkable lightness, you’d think they wouldn’t feel the need to reduce the weight any more. But this is Nike we’re talking about here, so they hollowed out the soleplate to make the Superfly V’s plate 40% lighter than its predecessor.
“Having the confidence to stop on a dime is a critical component of speed” – Lee
When it comes to crafting speed boots, Nike and the rest have usually focused solely on bringing the weight down in order to make for the lightest possible hindrance to your movement. In the Superfly V’s R&D process, they decided to spend some time working on enhancing the braking capacity of the new cleats. To figure this out, Nike went all Mark Watney by conducting numerous tests and “science-y” methods that would probably go over my head. Through this, they found out which stud pattern was best for speedy players that need to brake really quick. Although the studs are all the same shape, they are angled in various directions to assist braking and accelerating.
“We analyzed how speed-orientated players tend to dribble with the lateral side as they sprint, switching to the instep of the medial side for shooting, and adjusted the speed ribs accordingly.” – Lee
While the outsole may be the most noteworthy update to the Superfly V, the most noticeable will probably be those ridges all over the upper. Nike is calling this the Flyknit “speed rib” 3D texture.
Of course, the Superfly IV had a fairly smooth Flyknit upper. This was meant to leave as little material as possible between your foot and the ball. This time, though, Nike has installed a ribbed texture to create friction between the upper and the ball, and they are raised even higher in the forefoot. Plus, they are promising this should make for some interesting colorways. Stay tuned for that, I guess.
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” – Gandhi
With all due respect, Mahatma, the Mercurial Superfly V disagrees. Nike’s Mercurial silo has always stood for enhancing speed as much as current day technology will allow. The Superfly V only confirms this.
With these impressive new strides in boot technology, the only question now is how they actually perform. Will the revamped outsole make for a more natural feel? Will the Flyknit ridges on the upper really help with ball control? We shall see on June 2nd when they go on sale.