Creative: Pro:Direct / Photography: Pro:Direct / Words: Pro:Direct

Nike’s 9th generation of Mercurial Superfly speed is revving its engine on the 22/23 start line and you’ve no doubt read all the hype about it using Zoom Air technology. But what does that mean? And more importantly what does that feel like? When boots reach a 9th generation you’d be forgiven for wondering how they can possibly keep making them better. So, have they? We’ve been test driving them for a couple of weeks to deliver our verdict.


It’s a boot that’ll be worn in the Women’s EURO 22, all domestic competitions throughout 22/23 and of course the 2022 World Cup. It’s Nike’s headline product in one of the biggest footballing years this millennium. No pressure then. Let’s get to it.



Fresh out the box


Flip that lid open and straight away it feels like you’ve bought one of the best (and most expensive) boots on the market. Everything about it looks and feels elite. From that shimmering soleplate to the textures in your fingertips – this feels every bit like a boot curated for speed. They truly are stunning to the point where we’d advise buying them a week before your first session just to admire them in their brand new form for a bit. Is that weird? Probably.


Naturally the new ‘AIR’ branding is going to hit you, and do you know what? We’re into it. It looks statement, it looks daring, and it matches the mentality of the players tasked with unleashing it on the elite stage. But, that ‘AIR’ branding will only feature on this release, expect it to be subbed out for Swooshes when later colourways roll out.



Putting them on


Wiggle your way in and you’ll experience one of our favourite sensations about this boot. That moment your heel hits the bottom of the boot and the Dynamic Fit Collar wraps around the ankle while all air is pushed out of the boot to create most satisfying and harnessed airtight feel. You’re locked in and the boot genuinely feels like an extension of the foot, rather then something the foot just sits inside. You can feel (and hear) it kind of shrink-wrap around your foot.


There’s still something about the Superfly collar that makes you feel even faster. That air tight suction when your foot goes in, psychologically you feel faster.



Laced up, let’s go…


The Superfly IX is a few grams lighter than the previous generation. Will you feel that when you’re moving around the pitch? No, you won’t. And to be honest, that’s probably a good thing; the previous generation was light enough, if this new generation felt lighter it would probably feel flimsy and too light, so it’s credit to Nike that they’ve shaved a bit of weight off without compromising the comfort and fell.. if anything they’ve enhanced it, we’ll explain more later.


The obsession with weight is one we probably left in the last decade. All boots are light now, and the Superfly IX feels it, it’s the other assets we need to concentrate on now – the responsiveness, flexibility, durability etc


The new Speed Cage eliminates empty space inside the boot but still allows the material to be flexible. Nike have focused on the parts of the foot where you exert the most force – so the toes, mid-foot and heel, places where you push down to change direction at top speed – this has allowed them to keep weight at a minimum by streamlining with cut outs in the places where you don’t need extra support.



It makes sense and it does feel better locked in that previous generation. Each part of the boot is built specifically for each part of the foot, which is why it feels in tune with your movement, the boot is working with the movement of your foot rather than being stiff and fighting against it. When your foot bends, the boot bends with it.


When you’re running or sprinting the boot just makes you feel light on your toes and agile. Yeah, that might be in your head, but we’re talking fine lines here. Do I feel faster and lighter on my feet than in previous generations? Yeah, a bit. Can I explain why? Not really. It’s just a bit more responsive.



The Air Zoom element… Can you notice it?


This is Nike’s big story isn’t it? The introduction of their famous Air Zoom pocket into three-quarters of the length of the soleplate. Essentially a pocket/bubble of air to give you a bit more energy return. Can I feel it? Well, not really. But then you wouldn’t expect to. If it’s making you notice you’re running faster or jumping higher, then it’s no longer a football boot. But… it’s there.


This innovative air pod that’s integrated into the soleplate is backed by science. It’s 4.8mm thick and Nike reckon it gives you more spring in your step, that little bit of extra energy return when jumping, sprinting from a starting position or when tired legs kick in at the end of the game. We’re talking the finest of lines here that potentially settle elite level sport. Look, if you’re hungover on Sunday morning and the pitch is a cow field, these aren’t gonna turn you into CR7. It’s a technology that will complement your natural attributes.


What we will say is you can feel little bit of cushioning, which is a nice additional to a speed market where the soleplates can feel hard, especially on hard pitches. It’s a nice feeling, a little bit squishy, bit of bounce.


Away from the Air Zoom element, you’ve got a soleplate that is just the right amount of flexible and feels really responsive when pushing off from your toes.



Balls out


Grow up, you're better than that. This is when we examine that new Vaporosite+ material on the upper. It’s flexible upon first feel but it will soften and mould to your foot even more after a couple of weeks. In short, it’s comfortable, then it gets even more comfortable. For a light boot, the Nike Zoom Air Mercurial Superfly IX is strong. There’s no empty feeling when you strike a ball, it feels like you’ve got added comfort and power and there’s no danger of that stinging feeling of kicking a ball in socks, or other super lightweight boots. It feels plush.


Inside the boot there’s a mesh layer that takes away that pain of repetitive shooting at top power, but it also adds a bit of cushioning to zap the speed out of a firm pass or caress a ball out of the sky. All the more impressive when you remember the weight has been reduced – we were expecting a more tinny feeling, almost like it would be too thin, but no danger here.


The upper is ridged, it’s not smooth, and this does help give a little bit more grip to the boot. On a couple of recent Mercurial generations we’ve found the upper to be almost too grippy but the Superfly IX has got it spot on, the ball doesn’t stick to the boot, the boot just glides across the ball.



Traction


This is a new stud pattern from Nike but trust it. So much science goes into Nike soleplates and this new set-up is designed for changing direction at top speed as well as straight line running. It works, the length is perfect and you’re in and out of the pitch sharply. No complaints. No slipping. No danger of feeling too stuck.


Sizing?


Sizing wise we went true to size and it was spot on. The days of speed boots only being for the narrowest of feet are gone. Unless your feet are abnormally wide or flat then you’ll be fine here, the upper technologies have advanced to accommodate different types of feet.



Verdict

 

There’s just no restrictive feeling to this boot, it feels perfectly natural on your foot, no pressure points or uncomfortable movements at all. That sounds simple but it’s a really impressive feat to pull off. Quite often boots can feel like they’re restricting the movement of your foot, but the Zoom Air Mercurial Superfly IX works with it. It’s an upgrade on the previous Mercurial.

 

If you’ve worn any previous Superfly boots then this boot will feel familiar, Nike haven’t ripped up the rule book, they’ve just spell checked it. It feels like a better version. It’s built for locked-in comfort, for players who want to feel secure when at top speeds or changing direction at pace.

 

Yes, the Air Zoom Unit is an impressive inclusion. Taking one of Nike’s iconic technologies and applying it to football, it could be the start of something special, but will it’s inclusion be the main reason you buy it? Not really, to be honest. It’s everything else that you should be buying it for, the Air Zoom Unit is just a welcomed bonus.

 

Shop the full Nike Zoom Air Mercurial collection at Pro:Direct Soccer from July 1.