Explosive speed is a trait that has always been naturally built into the Nike Mercurial silo. And the latest edition – Vapor 13 Elite – continues to carry that tried and trusted tradition for the swoosh. It is almost expected to be a key focus of any new release at this stage. But there is also a lot different about these, and plenty of important talking points that really need to be broken down. Thankfully, we have had several weeks to test and experience all the thirteenth generation speed boot has to offer.
What made this an even more fun review to piece together is the fact we were using the “Under The Radar” version, a boot that hides all its intricate secrets under its stealth appearance. The key is playing to unlock those secrets!
Find all the latest Vapor 13 colorways at soccer.com.
Talk about a speed on speed design! The Vapor 13 is incredibly sleek from head to toe, especially in this blackout colorway. When it comes to performance, the introduction of an upgraded and slightly thicker Flyknit upper is an interesting move. How does touch and control on the ball compare to the Vapor 12?
Breaking In and Comfort
The Vapor is a silo geared toward explosive speed and an attacking mindset. With that in mind, you have to understand the design is compact, slightly rigid and snug on foot. So, I wouldn’t rate them as being the most natural feeling boot out of the box. You need to ease into them, slowly allowing the materials to adjust and adopt to your foot shape. This includes the Flyknit upper and collar that boot support the foot shape, as well as the soleplate that holds solidly in place thanks to a stiff chassis. Basically, the spine of the boot doesn’t bend like other more pliable plates do, which in theory is supposed to help increase the spring-back (and explosive energy) as you accelerate off the surface.
Over the first few wears, I felt pressure on my heel since they are so snug. This didn’t cause any blisters, but it was enough to initially effect my performance, thus I took a lot more time testing them out compared to other boots. I spent time wearing them around my office (on carpet) as well as in warm-ups before games. A lot more time than I would have liked. Once they felt adequately broken in, I was able to wear them in games but they never felt as natural on foot as I would have liked. That is more related to my fit and the fit of the boots than the actual performance of the boot. More about fit below, but I’m pretty sure anyone with a narrow to medium fit will have a lot more success with them comfort wise.
One other comment related to the comfort of the boots. I’m mentioned this about Mercurial releases in the past, Nike has created an unusually undulated footbed that feels slightly odd underfoot. You definitely need to adjust to the feel over a couple of wears, with the most noticeable area sitting under the big toe socket, where there is a dip down toward the tip of our toe. Even though the shape seems out of the place, it serves the intended purpose of allowing for supercharged traction as you push off the surface.
Touch, Control and Shooting
In terms of materials around the foot, you are getting a 360-degree Flyknit construction that is finished with a new ultra-thin NIKESKIN overlay for closer control on the ball. And an All Conditions Control (ACC) finish means you get reliable touch in wet and dry conditions.
Given that these are a more attacking style shoe, how does that play out for strikers that rely on shooting? Well, the material does feature a lot of texturing thanks to how the Flyknit is “melted” onto the Flyknit upper. Ok, so I can’t confirm that the manufacturing process actually involves melting one material onto the other, but that is the best way I can describe it in layman’s terms. Think of it like a crisscross pattern that has little dips inside each layer of the pattern. This is not necessarily an added shooting element, like we would be familiar with. But, it does allow for an enhanced feel on the ball as you dribble and take quick touches. As a winger, this is something I definitely appreciated and enjoyed.
When it comes to the all important striking element, they perform very efficiently. You are not getting a power boot, but you are getting a quality finishers boot. Think of them as the boot that allows you to make the most out of tight situations in the box. I’d actually label them as an “agile” boot, ready for you to pounce on any open opportunity in or around the box.
Traction and Soleplate
One of the most important pieces to the Mercurial Vapor 13 is the soleplate. These boots are designed for speed, after all, and that means they need to provide optimum traction in play. And I can concur that they definitely do! Underfoot, Nike use a lightweight, Aerotrax split plate with micro grooves. By split plate, I mean there is a separation between the forefoot and heel portion of the actual plate. Both pieces are secured to the actual footbed, so they act individually to your needs through quick turns and changes in direction. The angular stud configuration combines with a new stiffer chassis for explosive acceleration whether you play on AG or FG surfaces. I had the opportunity to wear them on both, and they played out very well. My only issue was wearing them on a hot AG surface, where they are definitely not suited. They soak up every inch of heat with no where for that heat to then escape the boot, so your foot heats up extremely quickly. Thankfully for most players out there summer is behind us, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
How do they Fit?
There is no doubt about it, the Vapor 13 is a boot that fits perfectly into its role as a Nike Mercurial silo. Its shape mimics previous Mercurial releases, providing that narrow, ultra sleek design players will be familiar with. Everything is geared toward explosive speed, with the boot hugging right around every angle of the foot.
So, you won’t be surprised to hear me say they are a better fit for players with a narrow to medium fit. I’m more on the medium to wide fit spectrum, and they worked out ok during testing. But as a season long option, I’d avoid them as there are better fitting boots available. During my time with them, they were decently comfortable, but I always felt trapped inside with little to no breathing room. If you are ok with an ultra snug fit, then they might be an ok option for you. But overall, again I’d label them as a more efficient narrow to medium option.
There are a few things about the Mercurial Vapor that don’t appeal to me. First, they are intended to be a very snug fitting boot. If you are ok with snug, then they will probably be a good option for you. But I felt too restricted in them. Second, if you are wearing them on hot turf fields, they are not a very good option. The stiff chassis and locked in collar reduce the opportunity for heat to release from the shoe. Outside of that, I thought they were a nice performing boot.
Tech Craft Version?
Did you know there is actually a limited edition K-leather version of the Mercurial Vapor available right now? If not, then let me introduce you to the Vapor 13 Tech Craft, featuring a supple k-leather upper that has been crafted from the DNA of previous releases. As you’d expect, Nike has taken performance to the next level, insuring the k-leather upper provides the type of quality feel on the ball you’d expect from a boot designed for explosive speed.
Personally, I’m all about this stealth black colorway. They are ultra sleek and have the potential to look newer longer since they don’t show dirt or scuff marks. The “Under The Radar” colorway retails for $249.99. There are other colorways you can consider, including the Dream Speed version just released for CR7, they drop in a little higher priced at $269.99.
You can find all current available colorways at soccer.com.
The Skinny Summary
Highlight: The latest in explosive speed from Nike, features a knit collar and 360-degree Flyknit construction that is finished with a new ultra-thin NIKESKIN overlay.
Category: Designed for speed but I’d also classify them as an agility boot.
Would I Buy Them: They weren’t right for me, primarily because they fit so snug. But I do see there appeal and rate them as a quality attacking option.
Player Position: As per above, I see them more as an option for attacking players, but I’d also direct that toward players that move at speed and require something that gives them an explosive edge through quick cuts and turns.