With the current round of excitement over the development of the new T90 Laser, and the continuing success of the adidas Predator adiPower, we thought it would be worth acknowledging the pioneers of performance vamps, who were developing the technology as far back as 1960!
Long before Craig Johnston and adidas began developing the Predator vamp, and Nike incorporated their ShotShield technology, one brand was ahead of the field and applying toe grip vamps to football boots...that brand was Puma and the year was 1960! So check our next venture into the SoccerBible Boot Vault, because we think we might have unearthed an absolute gem that could shake the foundations of the football boot establishment...
In 1960, the Puma designers had a realisation and belief that a material could be used in order to increase grip on the ball, in turn increasing both control and the application of swerve. To achieve this they needed to radically alter the traditional football boots surface, to maximise overall contact with the ball. It's quite scary to consider how close to Craig Johnston's eureka moment of applying the rubber from a table tennis bat to a football boot, that Puma actually were.
So how does this technology work? Well, by combining boot structure and strategic positioning over the toe and strike area of the boot, the teeth-like dimples increase overall surface and generate the desired grip and feel. The potential to have material moulded to protrude from the boot, realised that the ball could have the largest area possible in contact with the foot, which quite simply a leather cannot offer.
It was the development of synthetic materials during the 1950's that allowed for a range of design possibilities. After unifying their brand under the iconic 'form stripe' trademark in 1958, it was Puma who were the first to realise the potential of incorporating synthetics materials into the upper. However, for some unknown reason this design innovation never took-off and was confined to football boot folklore, which looking back is a surprise when you consider the pedigree of athletes on their books at the time.
Instead though, Puma focused their attention on leather football boots, which clearly wasn't time wasted as they developed the world famous Puma King, an instant hit with the likes of Eusebio and Pele. Although we do like to harbour dreams of these great footballers play testing Puma's pioneering Toe Grip football boots in a lab or a pitch somewhere.
Innovative technology aside, this Puma football boot clearly had genuine performance to offer. We can see the leather upper and tongue, combined with a solid heel counter and traditional stud configuration. However, time hasn't been too kind to the synthetic vamp after being around for over 50 years. We held the boots in our hands, and can confirm you won't be getting much touch and feel from the synthetic which has hardened over time.
But this is a great look into the archives of football history, because as football products develop to suit the current game, it seems that Puma were just too far ahead of themselves for the era. All the 1960's player needed from their football boots was comfort, ball feel and traction, hence the success of the Puma King.
It is a shame for Puma that someone didn't remember these football boots in the early 90's, before the development of both the Predator and Total 90 ranges. Because before any other manufacturer, it was Puma who realised you can't engineer a boot that makes someone a better player, but you can offer a player what they want; more grip, more swerve, more of a sweet-spot feeling when you strike the ball. But perhaps over all of these performance attributes Puma have something even more important - bragging rights for creating the first production boot with grip toe vamp.
Stay tuned to the SoccerBible as we reveal even more soccer cleats from the Boot Vault, showcasing the best retro, classic and once forgotten boots and bringing them back to life! As always we'd love to hear your opinions by joining the conversations with the SoccerBible community online, on Twitter and on Facebook.