If you are looking for a classic boot that feature some performance upgrades, the Umbro Speciali R could be right down your alley. There is something about the Speciali range that evokes a unique emotion – maybe it is the old school, very simple design, or maybe it is the related to the fact I wore them quiet often through my early years! One thing is for sure, this design looks good and has received positive attention throughout the market.
For review, I received a pair of size 9US in the White/Red colorway, but since then, they seem to have vanished off the market! Last week I spotted two new Pro colorways (a Black/Tendershoot and a Pearlized White/Vivid Blue) that are probably your best options if you want a pair.
Out of the box, I actually found that the Kanga-Lite upper was slightly tough. They seemed like they were dried out and almost rigid. I ended up wearing them in a jogging session before breaking them into a full training – no problems to report there. After the first full training session, the upper was noticeably softer and with some game time, they got even softer. I haven’t experienced this type of reaction with Kanga-Lite before, but thankfully they break in pretty well over time.
In terms of fit, they are true to size, although they seem slightly narrow at the front of the boot. Right through the arch they fit comfortably for anyone needing some extra space in that region. Having spent a few weeks testing them, I would compare the Speciali R to a fine wine: they improve with age, and currently they are a much better boot than they were starting out!
Umbro has stuck with the ever classic look we expect from the Speciali range, although there are some unique finer touches that make ths Speciali R stand out. For example, on either side of the boot, there is an added section of material (the A frame cradle) that is used as part of the lacing system. It basically allows you to really tighten the boot right around your foot, creating a snug fit. It is very noticeable and is almost a little odd to look at. Yet in use it is effective. There is also a change with the tongue, with the fold over design replaced by an ankle cut-off design. This makes the tongue lighter and more breathable.
Other pretty sweet additions include the Speciali R name printed on the side, tongue and sole of the boot in posh writing. It is effective in adding a more expensive look to a modestly priced boot! I like this White/Red colorway that I had the opportunity to test, but as stated above it seems to be sold out.
If you are fond of wearing the Speciali range, then you are going to be equally excited to wear the Speciali R. They are an ever classic boot, so rather than play around with performance, Umbro stick to what they know works. In game, I found that they offer great touch and control on the ball, primarily because of the Kanga-Lite upper that mimics real leather with additional waterproof properties. The cross stitching on the front of the boot also allows for plenty of flexibility and an upper that easily molds to the shape of your foot as you run. Of course, this is all after the initial break in period when the Kanga-lite loosens up.
Suitable for HG
Important to remember is that these boots are designed primarily for Hard Ground surfaces. I had the opportunity to wear them on a natural grass and an artificial turf with positive results. The studs are more narrow than you the conical studs you find on other boots, giving these the ability to disperses pressure while providing appropriate traction on solid ground. If you play mostly on turf, they are effective, but ultimately a better boot for natural HG.
The Kanga Lite upper was a slight disappointment to me. I was expecting an upper similar to the CTR360 Maestri when they arrived. But on the Speciali R, it seems like the material is thicker and it took a few sessions to really get them loosened up. I also found that through testing the upper scuffed quiet a bit. There were no durability problems per-se, but you will need to spend time keeping them clean in order to get the most out of them (that is if you go with a light colored upper.)
As comparison, the Umbro Speciali R is a boot that falls into the same category as the Adidas adiPure IV and Nike Tiempo. The primary benefit is that you are paying less money for a pair these. I like the positive steps Umbro are making to get a hold of the market right now, you only have to look at the new Geometra release to see that progress is being made. And considering players of the caliber of Michael Owen and John Terry have sported this specific release, you know that they are designed to suit players at the highest level. Overall, I think they are a top quality, value for money option. They won’t give you the advanced technology that you find on the likes of Adidas or Nike releases, but they will give you consistent performance over an extended period of time. Player wise, they are ideal for most positions on the field as Umbro have not targeted them towards any specific player – instead they are a suitable choice for any players who values reliability!
(*boots supplied for review by WeGotSoccer)