Over the past few weeks, we have been fully introduced to the latest boot specifically “designed for finishers.” The Nike PhantomVNM is a very dynamic boot with a seemingly familiar look to it, one that evokes memories of power themed silhouettes of the past. Yet, they are designed to be so much more.
Nike has taken feedback from some of the world’s best finishers to produce a very attack focused boot. The PhantomVNM features a series of textured zones to facilitate a powerful strike, but with an understanding that all of the power in the world won’t score without the accuracy to keep the shot on goal. This emphasis is most evident along the instep’s Precision PWR strike zone. There is definite T90 DNA on display within these. Under inspection, you will find 13 blades on the instep’s precision PWR strike zone, set at specific angles and ascending heights. Let me strike a ball in them right now!
We have had this release “Black Lux” colorway in testing since they arrived a few weeks back. Here is our take on Nike’s latest attacking boot, with a little extra commentary on why they just might have to be your next boot of choice.
Find all the latest PhantomVNM releases available at soccer.com.
Nike has been very smart with this release, placing them in the “finishers” category rather than “power.” As we have learned over the past few years, brands are looking to distinguish their boots from the power label, a category that has a tendency to make them sound more full-bodied and less dynamic. Yet, there is something very nostalgic about these and the added elements along the strikezone, so I’m keeping them in the power category. It is, however, a little unusual to see the swoosh label this boot alongside the PhantomVSN rather than distinguish them into its own individual brackets. There is obvious reasoning, so we will have to see how that plays out over time.
Breaking In and Comfort
Slipping the PhantomVNM on for the first time, I was a little concerned that they wouldn’t fit properly. In fact, I was a little nervous that they would cause blisters on my toes and heel. They had that type of fit starting out. But, I took a gamble and wore them in a short sided game, knowing I had a reliable back-up pair waiting on the sideline. Thankfully, they actually proved to be very comfortable, providing a responsive fit and feel right across your foot. Nike has done a good job of creating something that can be snug for narrow fitting players, yet gently stretch to compliment medium to wide fitting players. More about the actual fit section below.
But, the important thing to note here is that they are unexpectedly comfortable. Something I really enjoy is the area around the lacing, where Nike use a built-in tongue made of a knit material that stretched beautifully across your foot. This is one of the elements that allows them to fully engage with your shape from first wear. Across this material lies the lacing system, and on top of that is another layer of knit material that enhances a flatter strike area while also adding a layer of extra security, ensuring they don’t over stretch.
Hypervenom or T90?
Ah yes, the all important immediate comparison. They are intended to be the direct replacement for the Hypervenom, yet fans have quickly jumped on the nostalgia of what could be a T90 rebirth! I see how there is a correlation to both and tend to agree that there are similarities on both sides. Ultimately, if the Hypervenom had have been released as a T90, I don’t think I would have thought too much into it. Just just had that similar vibe. What I love about the PhantomVNM is that since the T90 went into retirement, this is the first boot that truly does give you a tingle down your spine, evoking memories of power boots gone by!
Compared to PhantomVSN
We specifically covered this last week, to give fans a visual comparison between both and it is definitely worth checking out. The whole Phantom with an abbreviated set of letters on the end has even proven confusing to me, where I have typed PhantomVSN instead of PhantomVNM (and vice-versa) multiple times this past week.
Touch, Control and Shooting
In terms of materials, Nike use a full Flyknit upper that is covered in a layer of Nike skin for enhanced touch and added durability. You also get a lacing system, some of which is hidden under the surface. This will allow players the opportunity to dictate their natural fit and security in the boot.
As a finishers boot, they are obviously going to be a dream boot for shooting with, right? Yes, that would be absolutely correct. Nike has again created a design that compliments a player’s ability to get the sweetest strike possible. First thing to note here is that if you continually shoot off target, then the PhantomVNM is going to be of no benefit. As you should be aware, a boot alone will not transform you into one of the deadliest strikers around. BUT, if you have the correct form, they can provide you with a little extra, the ability to add a little extra spin or get a shot off with a little extra power. It is all about the Precision PWR strike zone here, 13 blades on the instep, set at specific angles and ascending heights to help keep the ball down if it is miss-hit and to provide bite when you need it most.
Looking at the forefoot, Nike has gone with a pretty prominent honeycomb texture right across the surface. It sort of looks like the surface of a golf ball and creates added structure to the area. So rather than having the feel of a softer leather material like Kanga-Lite, they are more like an older style faux synthetic material, almost like a slightly more toned down version of the upper found on Hypervenom. I personally found that it felt slightly stiff out of the box, not as pliable as I’d expected. But, that helps add a more protected feel on foot and provides a little more durability to the upper over time. Both positives in the right situation!
Performance On Foot
During the entire time I’ve worn them, I have to say I’ve been extremely impressed with that the PhantomVNM has to offer. On foot, they check all the right boxes, feeling very natural on foot and ensuring that you have more time to focus on just playing. Since they fit so well, you are allowed plenty of mobility, with the soleplate allowing you to maximize quick cuts and turns during play. I have to say that I was a little intimidated by the aggressive blade design found on the HyperReactive 2.0 soleplate starting out. I’m more of a conical stud guy, so the use of multi-angled chevron blades is a little daunting. The last thing you want to do is catch the grass to solid and have an angled blade slightly pull your foot in the wrong direction. AS it turns out, I played distraction free without noticing anything significant, exactly as it should be!
In terms of moments on the ball, I felt confident in what the PhantomVNM had to offer. They feel like a boot that you want to strike shots in, especially thanks to the 13 ridges on the Precision PWR strike zone. The entire area is very responsive to the touch, with plenty of flex and a little rebound on shots. Definitely the major highlight in the boot world so far in 2019!
Featuring No Collar!
Something else about them that is extra unique is the fact that they don’t feature a dynamic fit collar. I’m not sure if you are like me, but I was getting a little annoyed by the fact every new release had to feature a higher cut collar to “make the ankle and foot bond as one.” I get the fact it serves a purpose, but we got by for years with a regular cut ankle line and I personally prefer something a little more old school. It allows your ankle to swivel and move more naturally, free of any material that might otherwise limit the motion. Nice play on this one, Nike!
How do they Fit?
It is definitely worth reading the Breaking In and Comfort section above for details on my initial interaction with the PhantomVNM. I have a medium to wide fitting and they proved to be the ideal shape for me personally. They will also prove to be a decent option for narrow fitting players as they start out pretty snug, and the materials in play will mimic and hold a tighter fit across the foot over time. Where they won’t be an ideal option is for players in need of a wider fit. They are just not as accomodating for players that need some additional space through the midfoot or forefoot.
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I don’t have much to give here. They are a solid boot for players in need of something a little more aggressive. Even though they played well on pitch, I’m more inclined to prefer a simplified soleplate with conical studs. So, I wouldn’t have complained if Nike had stuck with the HyperReactive plate found on the last Hypervenom series.
To kick things off, Nike has dropped two very different colorways, this Black/Gold version as part of the Black Lux pack, and a Crimson/Black version released as part of the Game Over pack. Having colorways like this gives players individual options while selecting their first version of the both. Both have an individual retail price of $249.99 and are available at soccer.com.
The Skinny Summary
Highlight: The latest T90 inspired release from Nike, bringing a little extra power for players that like to finish chances.
Would I Buy Them: I’ll keep this part simple. I like them a lot, so a definite yes.
Player Position: Designed to more a more attack focused boot, but you are going to see players all over the pitch wearing them because of their versatility.