Is it possible for the biggest sports brand in the world to release something under the radar? Is it possible for a boot adorned with the Swoosh to be seen as underrated or lacking in media coverage? Somehow, despite being the boot that is beloved by a generation, the Mercurial Vapor XI might fit that billing. Is it an emperor of a dead dynasty? Or merely the unlucky benefactor the the Superfly’s resurgence?
Look at iconic strikers within the last 18 years, it might be the safest bet possible to say that they probably hit the highest of highs while wearing the Vapor. However, in today’s world, it’s no longer the Vapor that gets Nike’s top billing. When it comes to launch events and huge ‘Spark Brilliance’ marketing campaigns the Vapor is shifted to the side in favour of the much-mentioned Superfly. The Vapor XI might be functioning from the shadows of Nike, but the Vapor rarely lets life slip by without stealing a huge chunk of the limelight. Given how the Vapor X performed and was received, we were anxious to get the XI in our hands, on our feet and onto the pitch.
With a whole host of Nike athletes opting for the previous Vapor X, and even a few Superfly IV players trading the collar for the warm waters of the X, has the storied history of the Vapor been furthered with the Vapor XI, or is it probably for the best that it stays hidden under the Superfly’s shadow? We laced it up, and got to work.
he Vapor has always been a very hot and cold boot in terms of comfort. Nike has been using the Vapor as their main weapon in the speed boot world for over a decade, but that doesn’t mean that the fit and the comfort is always going to be top-notch. If anything, we should expect a company continually turning towards the promise of their knitted material to see their other boots falter… right? Or not…
The standout feature for anybody trying the Vapor X and for anybody who will see the XI as their first Vapor (or, first Vapor in a long time) is the tongueless design. In order to give ourselves the best fit, it’s always just felt like adjusting the tongue to how we would want would be a big part of the equation. The tongue area on the XI is able to bend up the right above the second lace hole. This helps make it a lot easier to slip your foot into the boot. Once you finally have the boot on, the synthetic tongue-area is extremely stretchy and quickly gives way to your foot. While it might be stretchy, it’s not the type of material that is going to overstretch… it’s been built to provide a quick 1-to-1 fit and feel, and it accomplishes that. However, not having a tongue means that if you have a larger foot, it might be slightly difficult to slip on the Vapor XI.
The first big addition to the Mercurial Vapor XI has to be the speed rib texture that covers the bulk of the upper. An interesting addition to feel in your hands, the technology does seem to perform well when you actually begin addressing the ball. Composed by Nike by having a small area of the boot raised a few millimetres (every black line on the boot sits on the back of one of these raised areas), it is meant to provide added friction between the boot and the ball when you are playing at top speed.