It’s been about two months now, since Bryan gave us his review of Umbro’s new concept boot the UX-1. Now it’s a boot which really piqued my interest, and not just because it marks the English brands first true foray into the boot market (the GeoFlare saw a limited release, and little marketing) since they were sold by Nike to the Iconix Group; but, also because the first proper pair of boots I had growing up were a pair of Umbro’s so there’s a bit of nostalgia for me when the Double Diamond does something big!
Given my reverence for the Umbro brand, you can imagine I was pretty excited when Bryan asked me if I would want to take another look at the UX-1 Concept, after his review. I was literally as happy as a kid a Christmas, so as you can imagine I snapped at the chance to offer my take. Also as I had just re-upped with a local men’s league team playing central defense, I might be able to get better use of UX-1’s robust build, than our wing wizard would.
The UX-1 Concept in the incredibly named Blackberry Cordial/Safety Yellow/Grape colourway arrived in a size 9, with a note from Bryan that they fit a little long. Aesthetically, I found the boots to be very fetching, even more so once I’d switched the laces from the Safety Yellow that Bryan used to the Blackberry Cordial ones.
The boot has an interesting feel to it, the Armor-tex upper has an almost corduroy feel to it when you rub your fingers over it. The upper is also unexpectedly malleable considering the strength of Armor-Tex (40% stronger than Kevlar) . This combined with the rubber webbing gives the boot a feeling which is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. Given the properties on the upper this boot comes across as being one marketed towards central defenders like to get onto the ball, or a regista type player who’s at home throwing in a tough tackle.
If I was to describe the break in process of the UX-1 in a word the word would be, comfortable. Umbro have pulled out all the stops to ensure that the UX-1 is a top tier release which can go from the box to the pitch with no step in between. You’re dealing with a soleplate which is extremely flexible, and an upper which despite its strength wraps around your foot with unexpected comfort. I would rank the UX-1 among the top end in terms of comfort of boots I’ve had the opportunity to wear.
Moving on to the fit of the UX-1, and it follows my previous experiences with Umbro, in that it runs a tad long. Bryan has speculated that the length in the UX-1 could be down to the material of the upper, as the toe box does have a unique appearance on this release. The size 9 US boot fit me fine, but I am closer in size to a 9.5 than I am a 9, so I’d advise that you consider going down a half size, unless you’re the type of player who likes a little more length in your boot.
The UX-1 is a boot which has embraced a whole slew of technology. The Armor-Tex upper, rubber webbing, dual density heel counter, it’s unlike anything which is currently on the market. It also makes it so radically different from anything I’ve ever played in or reviewed. I mean for starters the upper is used in things like bulletproof vests, which is still difficult to wrap my head around.
On the ball you’re in for a different experience, as there’s no natural ‘footballing flex’ in the upper, dribbling the ball will be a bit of a different experience. There were a couple of times early on where I misplayed a dribble because the touch just wasn’t the same as say the Puma evoPOWER 2 which I last reviewed, it was at times slightly more distant. But it’s important to remember that this isn’t a boot designed to be worn by the type of player who’s going to dribble themselves into and out of tight situations.
The UX-1 Concept is a boot which is designed for the player who likes to get stuck into the challenge or who likes to hit powerful efforts from distance. It is here where the boot excels! I could lie to you and tell you that the UX-1 is the kind of boot where if you get stepped on you won’t feel it, but I won’t because you will. However, instead of feeling the full force of another players studs and the pain which comes along with it, it’s more of a dull ache when it occurs, which is definitely an improvement on the norm, and I believe the biggest advance on safety since the says of the Concave PT. The UX-1 is definitely a boot where you won’t find yourself wondering if there’s enough protection when you go hurtling into a tackle
Striking with the UX-1 is a pleasant experience. The rubber webbing system has been designed to give some added pop to your shot, which is does. The webbing system also gains more definition the closer to the midfoot you move on the medial side, this is designed with a view to aid in passing. It’s an interesting system which I am curious to see how Umbro run with it in future releases. Also designed to help with striking is the poron insert in the tongue, it is a nice addition but one that I didn’t see too much use out of as no matter how tight I had the boots the tongue tended to slip off to the lateral side of the boot.
Umbro’s well known A-Frame is back for another spin too with the UX-1, now this is something that Bryan greatly enjoyed in his time with the boots as the control zone was built into the A-Frame allowing him to take long balls out of the air easier. Personally, the control zone is located a bit too close to the heel for my liking, as I’d be more likely to use it to dampen the impact on a through ball as opposed to try and take down a long ball with it; I’d like to see Umbro perhaps move it a wee bit further up the boot in a future incarnation of the boot.
The final bit of the boot from a performance standpoint I want to talk about is the heel counter. All too often heel counters are either bulky additions to a boot, or non-existent. The UX-1 features a heel counter which is a combination of hardened plastic and a rubberized compound and is actually built into the A-Frame, so as opposed to being just slapped on after the fact, it’s an integral part of the boot, and provides very good protection to the heel of the boot.
The soleplate and stud layout on the UX-1 is another interesting feature. As I said in the off the soleplate is extremely flexible which allows the boot to go from the box to the pitch pretty much instantly. The stud layout in the fore and mid-foot is divided into two groups of 5 studes, with four conical and two blades running lateral to medial on the boot. It’s also important to note that the soleplate and studs are designed to be used on Hard Ground surfaces so they run a bit smaller in size than your traditional firm ground stud.
The traction offered by the soleplate is actually very good and I’ve used them on everything from mildly wet pitches to artificial grass. I do however, have a gripe with the layout, in splitting the mid and fore foot on the soleplate to increase flexibility Umbro has added another stud in the mid-foot on the medial side of the boot, right about where the ball of your foot is. For me it’s an addition which is a bit superfluous and I’d be interested to hear Umbro’s rationale for it, as it does add a bit of unwanted stud pressure in one spot of the foot, this will dissipate as you get used to wearing the boot, but it’s something Umbro can definitely address as they go forward.
While I definitely am a big fan of the UX-1, however, for me there are two major areas where they could improve. I’d like to see the A-Frame moved towards the mid-foot a bit more to bring a bit of a control feeling to the boot to create a true control/power hybrid. Also the extra stud on the soleplate I’d like to see removed, there wouldn’t be any adverse effect traction wise, and you wouldn’t have the pressure on only one part of your foot.
One final thing I’d like to see is the tongue being stitched to the upper with webbing similar to the CTR series to prevent it from sliding around to the side of the boot, it’s not really a performance issue just a cosmetic one which caught the ire of my boot OCD. Other than that I think Umbro have done a dandy job with the UX-1 Concept.
It’s important to note that the UX-1 is a concept boot. Umbro have designed something which they think might change the game, and I’m interested to see how it goes for them. As it’s a concept expect to see changes over time, in the course of writing this piece I’ve actually seen a reputable UK based stockist offering for sale the UX-1 Pro as well as the UX-1 Concept. From the picture above you’ll notice that the UX-1 Pro seems to have eschewed using the Armor-Tex upper in the forefoot in favour of an all rubber look. Is this the future of the UX-1? I personally hope note as I feel there’s definitely a place for the Concept boot on the market and hopefully Umbro will decide to promote both, especially as durability wise Umbro have built a boot which will last a good while with the UX-1 Concept.
Would I Buy Them?
This is the million dollar question, or I suppose the two hundred dollar question. The answer is YES I would! Playing in a mens league which is known for being a hackers paradise, I love what the UX-1 Concept brings to the table in terms of protection. It enables me to play without worry, and not second guess deciding to make a challenge out of the interest of self preservation. If you’re a player looking to protect a bit more off an injury, or a player who has a particularly bombastic tough tackling style, the UX-1 Concept should be up near the top of your list.
For those that want to see more of the UX-1, find them at Soccer.com.
Are you as excited with the UX-1 Concept as I am? Have you had the opportunity to wear the UX-1 Concept? Send us a message in the comments and let us know how you’ve made out with them. Also you can reach us on twitter and facebook.