It's the third SoccerBible Play Test using our new video format, where we actually show you the boots in action. The next football boot to be put through our play test arena is the Puma King SL, a boot with the potential to topple the leather adizero for lightweight leather performance...
The SoccerBible Play Test sees our very own football version of The Stig, who has not only completed the Crossbar Challenge on Soccer AM but has also played against Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford, complete a series of drills. We take the boots to our private play testing arena to run the boots through speed, passing and shooting drills. We don't give the boots a total score, as you can't directly compare a control boot with a speed boot or a heritage boot with a power boot, but instead we score the boots in a variety of categories out of 100.
The Puma King SL football boots sound like a winning combination, you take 40 years of crafting a quality leather upper and combine that with modern lightweight performance. So what can you expect when you take the boots out of the box?
The King SL is certainly an impressive boot and in-hand they are unbelievably light, not quite adizero weight but quite significantly less than a Legend Elite. But what distinguishes the King SL most with it's reduced weight is the quality of the leather, which is complimented by the craftsmanship and stitching. The leather is extremely soft, and just crinkles when you give it a little squeeze just to demonstrate how soft and malleable it is.
Putting the boots on and you are not disappointed. There is still a reasonable insole for comfort and the leather instantly forms to the shape of your foot, there is no stiffness or resistance from the leather as it's an upper that's soft and just wraps around your feet. For this reason we wouldn't say a breaking-in period is needed, and would feel confident wearing these straight out of the box in a game.
For Puma sizing we'd say you're looking about the same as a Nike boot, which is about a half-size smaller than adidas. Puma's fit isn't narrow like an adidas boot, so again we'd say similar to Nike. Of course, if you're already a Puma wearer the King Finale SL is a standard fitting Puma boot.
On the pitch, our 'Slalom' course enables us to test the boots on a number of areas including acceleration, traction, ball touch and dribbling. The outsole of the King SL isn't designed specifically for acceleration, so you're not going to rival a Mercurial or an F50 in that department. But it's a standard conical stud shape sole-plate, which flexes under the fore area of the foot for acceleration and retains strength and rigidity towards the heel, a proven reliable formula that won't let you down.
The Puma King SL does instantly makes you feel confident on the ball from the first touch and under close control. The fit and subsequent shaping of the leather provides a very natural feel and ball touch, which gives confidence for small touches and control when dribbling at higher speeds.
When we spoke to Mikel Arteta to get his opinion on the King SL, he told us what impresses him most is how soft and comfortable the leather is, and we'd have to say we agree. When controlling and passing the ball around, the boots feel really comfortable and give a great feel for the ball. This is thanks to the soft leather, but also because the upper material is thinner than on a standard King Finale.
Striking the ball is a case of making the right connection, and ball strike feels true and clean thanks to the King SL's natural fit. The upper is a thin one though with a very thin tongue, so be prepared to to take the full force and impact on your feet, with no rebound properties to generate additional power. But the integrated heel counter and rigid heel studs do provide a stable platform for the supporting foot when striking the long ball or shooting.
Although it might sound like we have nothing but praise for the King SL, the boots do have a clear down-side. As we eluded to in shooting, the upper is a thin one and the tongue even thinner, so be prepared if an opposing player stamps on your feet at force to have a bruised or damaged Metatarsal area. But this is of course the sacrifice you make to wear lightweight football boots.
The Puma King Finale SL football boots really have revolutionised the King range. Is it going too far to say they are to the King range what the jet engine was to the aeroplane? Well probably, but we can't imagine a King wearer going back to the standard versions once they've tried the SL. In terms of the lightweight leather market, the King SL has a higher grade leather upper than the likes of the adizero, and a more solid construction than the Morelia Neo. You sacrifice power, strength and protection, but gain comfort, ball feel and lightweight with the new Puma King SL football boots.