We have been long awaiting the arrival of a second generation PhantomVSN, and finally it is here. It is a boot created for those quick passes and unanticipated moves that are required to be successful on the pitch. Lets be honest for a second; if there was a boot in the Nike line-up that needed a little help, it was the PhantomVSN. They haven’t exactly lit up the market since their original release in July of 2018. Maybe that has more to do with longevity and the fact the design had become a little stagnant, but this latest version is designed to take the silo to another level.
We’ve had the introductory Future Lab colorway in testing over the past few weeks, even taking an opportunity to test them alongside the original version to see exactly what they on offer. Here is our take on the Nike PhantomVSN 2 Elite.
Find all available colorways at soccer.com.
Just from reading the initial press release details on the PhantomVSN 2, I’m left pretty excited. All of the modifications seem like they will upgrade the silo. Plus, the release colorway is very slick, offering up an simple introductory look on a boot that could take on a more complex appearance wpending color choices. I’m definitely excited to see what the lower cut collar has on offer, and how it feels to play in.
Breaking In and Comfort
For a boot built on the ideals of comfort, I felt like they took a little longer than I would have expected to break it. That proved to be a challenge through the first few wears, as I eased into them. With the original PhantomVSN release, the snug fit never seemed to wear out of the boots, instead I labelled them as more of a medium fit than a wide fit. On this second generation, the mix of materials and design Nike has gone with allows for some upper stretch, and they really do turn into a dream comfort boot over time. If you have a pair and are encountering comfort issues starting out, I’d highly recommend continuing to ease your way into them. Over time, I’m pretty confident it will be something that pays off.
Inside the boot, you will again find Quadfit, which is designed to contain the foot without constricting it. It also helps retain the shape of the upper over time without overstretch. This layer has been made thinner than the previous generation, creating a closer feel to the ball with more control, and I think that has a lot to do with how much better these feel over time the original did.
Quadfit performs well because it doesn’t have the stretch bias typically seen in woven materials. The four axes of fibers conform to the player’s foot and provide support in all directions. It works because of the unique fiber orientation as well as the separation between fibers; the gaps distribute the load of the foot and mitigate friction. The result is an incredible fit across a very broad spectrum of unique foot structures.
Ankle Cut + Pull Tab
Around the ankle, you will notice two significant changes that are definite upgrades. First, is the lower ankle cut, with Nike choosing to move away from the higher dynamic fit collar. This provides a more dynamic and sleeker silhouette, with the cuff lowered under the medial malleolus bone to maximize ankle mobility versus containment. Personally, I’m a huge fan of this move as it allows for a much more fluid movement through quick cuts and turns. If you wore the original, it is definitely you will notice a significant difference in. In terms of fit – something discussed in more detail below – they still prove to be challenging to slip on first time out. But over time, they become a lot easier to slip in and out of.
The second important addition is pull tabs for ease of entry and exit. You will find this one at the front of the ankle, sitting just underneath the Ghost lacing System. It comes in very helpful when you are trying to pull the boots on, giving you an area of support. This tab also features a small numeral graphic calling out the GPS coordinates of Nike Football’s design space.
Ghost Lacing System
Something that hasn’t changed is the Ghost Lacing System. Again, I’m loving its inclusion and implementation as it allows you to easily tuck the laces out of sight after tying them up. People often ask if they are laceless when they see them, just because the laces are so well hidden out of sight. Personally, I love the fact you get a laceless look, but have the laces in place to be able to create a truly customized fit.
Touch, Control, Shooting
Players want some slip on the outside of their foot (so when they are dribbling they don’t get stuck on the ball), but they also need containment on the side, where most of the balls are received and passed. To keep touch at the forefront, the PhantomVSN 2 texture is significantly reengineered and informed by four different quadrants — medial trap zone, strike zone, knuckle zone and dribble zone. Although this feels like it is headed in the “Lethal Zones” direction, it is a lot less complex.
As the ball travels through each one, the volume of the texture is adjusted up and down to accommodate these movements. You can feel the difference in the material by running your fingers across the surface, but it is very minimal overall. Additionally, a 20 percent thinning of materials across the touch zones helps increase ball control.
Personally, I found these to be an absolutely quality boot in play thanks to how the upper acts on the ball. You get tackiness without having the ball stick, and they turn out to be an excellent option for striking shots in. They won’t turn you into a power shooter, but they provide a level of confidence in part due to how much control and manipulation they play as you connect with the surface of the ball. I’d rate them as one of the best attacking boot options on the market right now.
Traction and Soleplate
Underfoot, Nike has created what is a very aggressive traction system with an almost futuristic appearance. It is very different to what we have seen them implement on other recent silo releases. The overall purpose of the traction pattern is to accommodate quick multi-directional cuts and it plays out very well in play. One of the most unusual inclusions is a set of rotational blades right under the big toe region. Each blade is offset with the intent of catching the surface through a movement easing the pressure on your foot and allowing you to focus on quick acceleration. The images below give you a better idea of the design rather than trying to describe what is where.
The all important question is how do they feel in play? I’ve got to admit, I very much enjoyed what they had to offer in all situations. There wasn’t any discomfort, with the overall pressure distributed very evenly. And the pattern seemed to grab the surface and release easily without any noticeable sticking. A quality system that I’m confident a wide variety of players will enjoy.
Final note here, the studs are housed on a lightweight, responsive plate with enhanced zonal support for the foot.
PhantomVSN vs PhantomVSN 2
Looking at both boots side by side, it might be a little more difficult to spot each individual update. So, we wanted to run through some of the key modifications that take the performance of the PhantomVSN 2 to the next level.
- Lower Ankle Cut – To bring a more dynamic and sleeker silhouette, the cuff has been lowered under the medial malleolus bone to maximize ankle mobility versus containment.
- Front Pull Tab – Pull tabs were added for ease of entry and exit, featuring a small numeral graphic calling out the GPS coordinates of the Nike Football’s design space.
- Flyknit Update – For exquisite fit, the boot upper is constructed with a symmetrical Flyknit external layer.
- Upper Texture + Touch – To keep touch at the forefront, the PhantomVSN 2 texture is significantly reengineered and informed by four different quadrants — medial trap zone, strike zone, knuckle zone and dribble zone. As the ball travels through each one, the volume of the texture is adjusted up and down to accommodate.
- Thinner Upper – A 20 percent thinning of materials across the touch zones helps increase ball control.
- Heel Design – An external heel clip is notched for better lateral containment, as well as adding structure and support to one of the main irritation zones.
How do they Fit?
First off, the PhantomVSN series is built with comfort high on the agenda, Nike has looked to build them from the inside-out. On this second generation release, they reduced the height of the dynamic fit collar for easier foot entry, addressing a key issue with the original. It still takes a little bit of work to slip your foot in, but the process is all easier while still creating a lockdown fit.
Initially, they definitely had a tight, rigid feel and fit that made me slightly nervous. They felt more snug on foot than I would have wanted, which meant I jumped out of them and into a back-up pair the first few times. After some additional break-in time, everything began to change and the overall fit of the boot began to feel a lot more natural. And then last Thursday night, during a game, I encountered that ah-ha moment when they became “as one” with my foot, creating an incredibly perfect fit. So much so that they have now jumped above a lot of other quality fitting boots to become a future go to option.
I would compare them as offering a true to size fit, with medium/wide width through the forefoot. When I refer to the snug fit starting out, it isn’t as narrow as a Mercurial silo, so overall I wouldn’t compare them as being a good option for narrow fitting players. Once you slip your foot in – which again is a challenge starting out – the initial fit is more medium than wide, but with a little work and a little stretch, they start to cater more efficiently to a sub-wide fit.
The only thing I wished is that they had broken in a little easier, right out of the box. I could have given up on them after the first few wears, but I’m extremely glad I didn’t. Once broken in, they really are a special boot with top quality performance on offer.
Moving down the price scale, the only other option you are going to consider is the PhantomVSN Pro DF version. They retail for $149.99 and are substantially downgraded, although they do carry a similar look and a two layered upper design. They really won’t match performance wise, though. I really wouldn’t recommend looking at the Academy DF version unless you have an extremely tight budget to work with.
The Skinny Summary
Highlight: Second generation release, with many important upgrades that make these one of the best all around performing boots on the market right now.
Category: Control/Agility – designed for a player who has mastered the art of navigating tight spaces with an eye for attack.
Would I Buy Them: I absolutely would. Other than the fact they look longer than I would have liked to break in, they were a lot of fun to wear. My preferred Nike boot on the market right now.
Player Position: They offer a very versatile and well rounded level of performance. So, if you like them, they will probably match your playing style!