Possibly one of the most highly anticipated Play Tests we've done, the SoccerBible got our hands on the new Nike Superfly III football boots, to see how the boots perform and find out what Nike have changed from the previous versions.
First impression of the new Superfly III's are that they're a brightly coloured boot, with great visual impact on the pitch! Peripheral vision and split-second reaction times is something we'll leave for the scientists, but there's no denying the boots stand-out on pitch, even on a sunny day your team-mate's feet catch your eye.
In hand the boots are lightweight, not quite in the adizero Prime weight, but still impressively light, although there are initial concerns over how supple the boots will be as they don't seem to flex much.
When first pulling the boots on, our initial fears over the upper are realised as it's quite restrictive and feels quite unnatural. But to be fair to the Superfly, it delivers it's best performance when formed to the the wearer's foot. It doesn't claim to have an 'out of the box' glove-like fit, and many pro's including Cristiano Ronaldo and Theo Walcott have suggested techniques to initially mould the boot to the foot, mostly involving bath tubs and hot water!
Once we started a gentle warm-up with basic ball work and jogs, we were pleasantly surprised at how responsive the boots are. It's easy to say it, but we genuinely soon forgot about issues over a rigid upper. The ball feel and touch was great, and the boots were delivering the intended amount of ball power and direction, you feel in complete control of the ball.
Wearing a boot like the Nike Superfly, it's impossible to stay static for any length of time, when the ball arrives at your feet you instantly feel compelled to dribble the ball. The upper of this Superfly is thinner than the previous incarnation, and you feel the benefit of this when dribbling through slight ball touches and close control.
This is an area where the Superfly has an advantage over the adizero, due to the central lacing system and the print application strategically placed as the Nike Swoosh, the fore of the boot is designed with dribbling in mind.
It was during our sprinting and turning drills that we expected the Superfly III to excel. Nike have retorted the lightweight adizero, by stating that traction is equally if not more important than being lightweight. From a standing start, you feel the toe of the boot dig in and deliver the necessary traction, thanks to the shape and angles of the studs.
The Superfly sole-plate is uniquely configured, and the studs act like anchors and help as you dig your feet in to change direction. However, we were surprised that Nike have retained the NikeSense stud for this new version, as it's not been a huge hit with the pro's and we can understand why. It wasn't long into our session that we noticed the NikeSense studs were clogged with mud, meaning not only is traction lost, but you're carrying around extra weight in the form of a clump of mud.
When it came to passing the ball around, the Superfly III is good performer whether it be short touches or long cross-field balls. There are no worries over traction for the planted foot, which means you can really connect with the ball when crossing. And thanks to cushioning behind the tongue over the metatarsals, you don't feel any pain like with the Prime, it just gives you that extra bit of cushioning and confidence for a slight touch or a long pass.
As the session continued, comfort became an issue and we found ourselves continually loosening the laces. Flywire is a great innovation, which clearly works as the boots hugs your feet, but if you have wide feet you can expect a slight aching pain until the boots have been worn-in.
That said, regards locking the heel in and comfort under the foot through the insole, the Superfly III is very comfortable. And once the issue of shaping the boot to the foot is resolved, we can understand why players like Cristiano describe the Superfly as a second-skin feel.
Our play testers get the most excited when we introduce the shooting practice, and in the Superfly III's there was a definite feeling of everyone attempting to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo! The shots were raining in from all angles and being kicked off all parts of the boots, whether it's off the laces or the instep.
The upper material is unlike a leather, and the friction that comes from the contact of the synthetic upper and the ball means you need to be accurate, as they certainly deliver the ball where it's targeted. Plus with the slight padding under the tongue, you can really put your laces through the ball.
When summarising the Nike Superfly III it's difficult to do it as a stand alone boot, it naturally draws comparisons with the Superfly II and the adizero range. Nike are in a battle with the adizero, and although they've closed the gap on their rival you can't help but feel they could have done a lot more to impress their fans. That said, compared to the previous incarnation the Superfly III is a better boot, the upper is thinner and provides better ball touch and feel, plus you benefit from all the existing technologies.
Looking at the Superfly as a stand alone boot - it's fantastic. It delivers great ball feel and touch from a thin and comfortable upper, yes there's a breaking-in period but once this is over you have a boot that will hug the foot. It's lightweight and has a carbon fibre outsole uniquely designed for traction, one or two of the studs might be slightly dubious, but that doesn't distract from the great traction the Superfly III delivers!