“Purespeed goes laceless.” That was one of the immediate takeaways when the adidas X18+ hit market a few weeks back. Released as a centerpiece boot for the World Cup, the weaved Solar Blue colorway has been easy to spot in all games, and has already producing some spectacular moments.
Built for speed, adidas has gone with a very interesting low-cut CLAW COLLAR construction, giving them a very sleek and aerodynamic look. But as we know, creating laceless boots is not easy to do and can be problematic if the fit is not defined correctly. adidas has plenty of experience over the past few years with knit collars, so the question here is how does this TechFit compression material function on foot? And does it provide the same type of fit? Lots of key questions, all answered below.
Find the X18+ Purespeed available at soccer.com.
Right out of the box, there is a lot to digest with the X18+. The upper design is intense, with Skeletalweave providing a look we haven’t seen before, ready to zap you into another dimension. The collar also has an elastic feel and stretch, leaving you to wonder what the entire fit will be like in play. Through the creation process of the X18 series, adidas looked at ways to integrate key features of the old F50 with previous X models to create a new modern marvel; a speed boot that takes speed to a whole new level. Visually, they seem to have it all going on.
Of all the adidas laceless releases to date, this is the one that took most guts to create in my opinion. It is bold. We are talking about a 6.7oz speed boot that uses an elastic type material as the only support to keep you locked into the boot. Added to that is the actual cut around the ankle, which is very similar to a standard low-cut laced release. How can a boot like that stay on foot and provide a natural fit in-game?
The material adidas use is called TechFit. It is a compression material used in many of their products that provides a snug tight feel without being overly restrictive through movement. That is obviously very, very important here. It is basically the blue portion that runs through the traditional lacing area and back around the higher cut heel region. When you pull the material laterally, there is a definite elastic feel that automatically springs back into place as you release it. So, it does its job effectively.
Slipping your feet into the boots is actually pretty easy. Recently, I featured an Instagram story where I slipped them on using one hand without too much of a problem. My trick is to slip my foot in sideways before readjusting and turning back to a natural position. This allows the forefoot to slide down through the tight opening.
Breaking In and Comfort
Ok, so I know from speaking with others in the industry that there is a much-needed break-in period with these boots, and that might include some blisters along the way. The warning I initially received about them was to tape my toes and not wear them too long first time. Well, of course I’m going to go against all that advice since my job is to test the boots. Immediate regret! Within 20 minutes, I had a blister on my little toe and on my heel. There are not many boots that have caused me to blister in recent times, so I’m giving you all a warning right here. If you go X18+, take some time to break them in properly. I’m talking a 10 minute run to start, maybe the jogging portion of your training warm-up. Then switch to something more reliable. Maybe even try to wear them around the house at home.
What causes the blisters? This is a speed boot that uses a compression material around the collar to keep you locked in place. Your foot is not going to be used to that (unless you are switching from the Lotto Zhero Gravity Ultra) and you need to get a feel for the motions through quick changes in direction and moments of acceleration where your foot moves inside the boot. Another note here; through the heel, there is some additional memory foam style padding that helps give you a padded feel. In a normal laced boot, it would feel fantastic. But its purpose here is to enhance the snug feel as you slip them on. Added cushioning envelopes the heel while keeping you locked in place.
After some “recovery” time in other boots, I slipped back into the X18+ and slowly adjusted to the feel with much better results. Again, the key is patience and familiarizing yourself with the fit and feel in play.
vs Lotto Zhero Gravity Ultra
Since I just brought them up above, there is a definite visual similarity between the Lotto Zhero Gravity Ultra and the X18+. They are built pretty similarly, with a regular style ankle cut and a collar in place to keep you locked in. Let me tell you right now, the X18+ is night and day ahead of where the Zhero Gravity was performance wise. It is not even worth comparing them, simply because of the more advanced materials adidas use right through the boot.
Another of those advanced materials is Skeletalweave. This is the wavy pattern you see through the upper, with the design intended to provide additional support on what is a very lightweight upper. It also has a textured feel, providing additional friction when you come in contact with the ball. We will talk about that more below.
What you need to know about it is this: to the touch, the upper is not nearly as pliable as you might think. Looking at the forefoot from a side angle, it sits a little higher than all other adidas boots currently on the market. This shape holds right throughout wear, so there is always a little gap between the top of your toes and the surface of the upper. For those that normally wear leather boots, you will be more adjusted to the material cupping the surface of your foot. Here, you need the extra room as the Skeletalweave acts as a support for the upper, ensuring it keeps its shape through wear. This is the not the type of boot that will stretch over time.
The real bonus is the fact it adds to the durability of the boot. Through wear, I had no issues with the upper and deem it be one of the better lasting boots you will find on the market.
Touch, Control, Shooting
Again, because of the style of the boot you lose some natural feel and touch on the ball. Sounds odd saying that for a speed focused boot. But the upper is a little thicker than you might expect with a pretty rigid feel right throughout. Given the purpose of the boot and the fact it is laceless, the rigid feel is needed and should be expected. The one area where it proves to be a positive is when you are striking the shots. The force of impact is dispersed across the upper material so you can really shoot to your heart’s content in these. In a sense, that makes them more like a speed/power hybrid.
Because of that, I don’t see them being an ideal playmaker boot, where you need that extra sense to get a feel for your pass and play the perfect ball. You don’t get the natural sensation as you take small touches, something that you definitely get from other laceless boots that feature knit uppers.
Final note here, and it doesn’t seem to be a heavily touched upon region of the boot anywhere in PR content. Along the instep, there is a thin blue layer of material added to the outer portion of the boot. It has a more smooth feel to it than skeletalweave, and is similar to the TechFit featured in the collar. But, it is not there for compression purposes. instead, it is intended to provide a different type of control as you take touches through the instep region. I’m always in favor of adding little pieces of tech in this area (like the Nike CTR360 had) to enhance immediate control on the ball. It is an area we all use, so some added grip or a piece that enhances cushion can only prove to be beneficial. I can’t say I noticed this addition too much, but it also didn’t prove detrimental to overall performance.
Traction and Soleplate
This is an area where I am a huge fan, and something that got me super excited when I seen them at first! Welcome back in the SprintFrame, a system you might recall from the days of the F50 adiZero. This version has been slightly modified and updated for the modern game, providing highly effective traction through tight cuts and into quick sprints. It features arrowhead shaped studs on the forefoot for optimal traction during rapid acceleration. I thoroughly enjoyed it through testing, and not just for the wildly imaginative iridescent color effect. Look good, feel good, play good!
Up close, you can see that there are little holes just beneath the surface. This is part of a process called drillium engineered tooling, where strategical pieces have been drilled out of the soleplate to decrease weight without affecting the durability of the design. It helps decrease the weight of the boot, provides more flexibility in the plate out of the box, and doesn’t play any negative impact through play. An absolute win/win in any situation! As I said, i enjoyed the soleplate, how it felt through wear, the flexibility out of the box, stopping and cutting. If I wasn’t able to notice any negatives about drillium, it must be a positive addition.
How do they Fit?
They fit very tight, but that is absolutely needed. If you are a player that hates a tight-fitting boot, or a boot that is snug right around the ankle to midfoot, you might as well move onto the your next option. In order for these to work, your ankle has to be locked down in place just like a racing car driver is buckled down into the bucket seat. The compression collar and added padding through the heel lock you down into place with no reason for them to slip off your feet.
When you slip them on, expect to hear a suction sound as your foot pushes through the density of the collar. It is like a welch type noise that locks your foot in place. In fact, it sounds very similar to when you put your feet into a tight fitting pair of wellington boots. And as you take them off, don’t be surprised to see the forefoot suction downward as you condense the air pressure with your foot out of the boot. It is an interesting experience the first few times you put them on.
Ok, so what is my advice on size? If you are going to wear them, stick to your normal size. Going up in size would prove detrimental as the material needs to be as snug as possible for best performance. If your normal size proves to be too tight, move onto the next boot! This is not a release you are going to want to mess around with.
No problems to report to date, they have help up very nicely. One key piece to this is the complexity of the materials used, with strength and support through the upper needed to consolidated the speed focused design. I’ll update if anything changes, but I see these as a season long boot option.
This is a bold release from adidas and it really takes the concept of modern speed boots to a completely new level. But, it is not the finished article. In fact, the laced version of the boot (X18.1) is going to be a better option for so many players. I get the direction taken from adidas on this one as it is very different to other laced boots on the market. And taking the concept to a speed boot seems pretty wild. Ultimately, they just won’t be an ideal option for a large proportion of players that otherwise might expect them to be. Your best bet; try a pair on before buying them!
The intro solar blue colorway, part of the Energy Mode pack, is your only option in the series to date. It retails for $279.99. Next option on the list is the laced X18.1, which because of their price and laces might be a better option for a lot of players out there!
The Skinny Summary
Highlight: A laceless speed boot that uses a compression collar to keep your foot locked in place. A boot that takes advantage of a lot of modern technology and advanced materials. The return of adidas highly recommended SprintFrame.
Category: Speed, with a little bit of power mixed in.
Would I Buy Them: No. Being honest, I want the laced version over this release. They are fun to wear and I have no doubt that a ton of players will thoroughly enjoy what they have on offer. but for their price and with the style of fit they provide, I’d look elsewhere.
Player Position: Because of the touch and feel provided, they are better suited to players that are not central midfielders who rely on a natural touch in play. In other words, they are not an ideal playmaker boot.