US company Just Play Cleats are a recent addition to the boot market landscape, as of current they offer two pairs of boots the ‘Free’ and the ‘Laser’. The start-up market’s their boots as being just as good quality wise as the top tier releases from companies like Adidas, Nike, Puma, etc. but are available at a much lower cost. The reason for this price disparity is three-fold according to their website at http://www.justplaycleats.com , the first being the small number of staff over at JPC keeping operating costs down. The second reason is that JPC doesn’t market in the same manner as other companies, by signing players to wear and endorse their brand, they rely on word of mouth. Finally, the company believes that players shouldn’t be held back from having a top tier boot just because of cost.
Just Play Cleats sent over a pair of their ‘Free’ model boots which retail at $95 (the Laser also retails at $95), and I had a look to see if Just Play Cleats’ boot did indeed compare to the top boots the major producers are making.
The above image gives you an idea of the boots that Just Play want to take on, and they’re setting their sights high. I grabbed a scale and found out that the Free weighs in at a little over 9oz – certainly not earth shattering and a full ounce heavier than the Nike Mercurial Vapor VII, which is over three years old….and they’re 33% heavier than the 2012 spec Adidas F50’s.
The boot definitely gives off an air of durability which you often don’t find in the top spec boots from other brands. The synthetic upper has a high gloss sheen and is definitely slick to the touch. I think that Bryan’s wording in the preview of the boot is quite apt when he described them as tank like. Even the laces are thick in comparison to what you’d be used to on boots today.
The sole plate seems to take a bit of inspiration from the Adidas F50 series with triangular studs under the forefoot, which are then paired with four bladed studs on the heel. I’m a fan of triangular studs when conical studs aren’t available as they transfer over to turf a whole lot better than a boot with an entirely bladed soleplate.
How do they fit?
The Just Play Cleats website is quick to let customers know that their boots run a half size longer than true to size, so customers are advised to purchase a half size down. Having received a US 9 I can indeed confirm that they definitely do fit more like a US 9.5, so definitely order a half size down. Also from my experiences the ‘Free’ also tends to run a little bit on the wider side of things, so would be a comfortable fit for those players who often are left trying to shoehorn their feet into the narrower fitting boots. If your wondering about a long break in time, you needn’t, they definitely do fit in with the company’s mantra of ‘just play’, they can go from the box to the pitch or turf without any worries.
I went into the review in the frame of mind that this boot had been designed to compete with the top end boots, however, this notion was quickly quashed. The heel cup has a semi-slick synthetic which seemed to never let my heel lock properly, there were several instances where my heel felt as though it was sliding out of the boot while on the run. While I don’t have the widest feet around, it didn’t matter how tight I had the boots, my heel would still slip about in the boot.
The synthetic upper used provides a distant touch when dribbling the ball and receiving a pass, there’s just far too much material between your foot and the ball; in matches I often found myself looking down to make sure the ball was still at my feet. As someone who wants to feel the ball at my feet it was certainly a difficult situation.
While the upper doesn’t lend itself to control, it doesn’t in any way affect striking the ball, the ball flew true when I hit it. Also the stud layout performed quite well, having only used the boots on turf the triangular studs dug into the turf nicely, with no catching.
Would I buy them?
At $95 they’re entirely too much money for what you get, when you consider you’re getting a boot which is closer to an Adidas F10 or Nike Mercurial Victory than it is to the top tier boots. That’s doubly so when you compare pricing and notice you can find the Mercurial Victory’s for nearly half the price of what Just Play Cleats are selling their boots for.
If you’re a very recreational player looking to stay away from major brands and don’t mind paying money extra to support the small independent start up then give them a look, at the very least you’ll get a boot which seems quite durable. But if you have any kind of aspirations in soccer, you’ll be best off giving these boots a pass.
I’ve struggled with trying to word this piece because I never want to come across as trashing a small independent brand, but I have to be honest. Is there a place in the boot landscape for Just Play Cleats? I’d like to think so, their “be your own brand” mantra is fun and strikes a chord with me, but they need to be honest with themselves about where their boots sit. The big companies spend big money researching microscopic improvements to their boots, and that is why they’re pricing them at the levels they are, they aren’t buying boots wholesale out of factories which is what Just Play has to do. Not to mention the big brands offer some class mid-tier releases, which also take advantage of the research and development the top tier releases get.
Personally, I could see Just Play Cleats targeting those recreational players, the weekend warriors, who only want to buy one pair of boots and have it last two to three seasons. But for them to do that, they are going to have to focus on getting better terms with their wholesaler so that they can price their boots in and about the $40-50 range which would probably attract the attention of the weekend warriors. Hopefully, the company will be able to decide exactly where they want to be in the market and plan accordingly going forward.