With so much soccer in the US currently taking place on Artificial grass, it only makes sense for companies to release stud configurations that match the requirements of the surface – and that is exactly the stance Nike has taken! Their latest AG soleplate is the most advanced we have seen and it has one of the unique profiles ever seen on a soleplate.
First off, lets tackle an important question: “Does playing on Artificial surfaces ruins my boots?” A decade ago, the answer would probably have been a resounding yes – but companies have come a long way over the past few years alone and the artificial grass now being installed offers a more realistic surface that continues to close the gap on the real thing. As long as you work on keeping your boots in top condition (by cleaning and allowing them to air dry) they will last a sufficient amount of time. Some older turf surfaces will break down the upper quicker – if you spot areas where the upper is wearing thin, it is time for a different style of boot.
With that out of the way, lets focus on Nike’s AG soleplate….
What Did I Test With an AG Soleplate?
Over the past 2 months, I have been lucky enough to test out a pair of personalized Tiempo IV and a pair of T90 Strike IV, both with the AG soleplate. My goal here was to see if there was a difference between a premium and economical boot that featured the unique artificial ground soleplate.
The first thing you will notice is how different the profile of the studs are to other boots on the market. There are 3 different sized studs, with each being hollowed out. The concept behind the design is that each stud has enough area to capture the surface without creating too much drag. Turf pellets infiltrate the hollowed out studs and allow the boot to since in without getting lodged in.
What is with the Configuration?
Obviously Nike has done a lot of research in developing the actual configuration, and we don’t have a great deal of insight into what makes it effective. But, I have noticed that under the forefoot flex, the studs are longer and drop in profile on either side. On the heel region, there is a mid of large and small studs. The larger studs seem to form an x shape, creating an added level of stability through the region.
How do they Feel on Turf?
They feel great on turf and add an enormous amount of stability on the surface. I have always found that you get a slightly more bouncy feel on artificial surfaces, due to those black (or sometimes green) rubber pellets. FG works effectively as it breaks the surface, but AG molds into the shape of the surface, producing less drag and more control.
AG or FG – Which is Better?
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t label a section “which is better”, but I am preparing myself for what I know will be a top question! Different players are going to view the performance of each soleplate differently and for valid reasons. The AG soleplate is the more natural choice and not only do they feel effective on the surface, but they also provide a higher level of stability, which reduces the opportunity of injury. For that reason, I recommend players use the AG configuration. But realistically, I haven’t ever encountered any obvious problem with FG configurations on modern artificial surfaces and a lot of players can’t afford two pairs of boots. You get a quite different level of stability as FG is designed to penetrate a surface rather than mold into it like the AG does.
Can I use AG on Firm Ground?
If you do, you will be losing out in terms of performance. Anyone will tell you that you can get away with using an FG configuration on SG and AG – but you really can’t get away with using SG or AG on FG surfaces.
Having now had the opportunity to test the AG configuration, it is something I will be highly recommending for players going forward. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into testing, but I am definitely glad that I did test it. There is a lot of contention surrounding FG soleplates and their use on AG surfaces, but if you are an FG fan who finds that particular configuration to be effective – stick with it. But for players who want the real deal and a design that has been specifically researched for artificial surfaces, Nike has a soleplate that performs at the highest level! Is this the perfect AG design? Probably not, and I am sure that Nike will tweak it over time – but for now it is an effective solution that is pretty darn close.
Selection of AG boots to check out:
On a side note, artificial grass is not only easy to maintain, but it works out to be more cost efficient in the long run and can be used by teams year round. The companies that produce these surfaces continue to research and release even more realistic imitations of grass, and I can only see the number of fields being installed increased!