The next boot to step onto the SoccerBible Play Test ground is the new Under Armour HydraStrike Pro II. It's starting to look as if the 2012/13 season will be the year where Under Armour mount a serious charge to establish themselves amongst the Premier League's top brands. Having already provided Tottenham Hotspur with one of the most impressive replica collections in the league, it's time to see what their new boots have to offer...
Over 35% lighter than the 2011 model, the Hydrastrike Pro returns for a second generation weighing in at 223 grams. Under Armour have once again packed the boots with a host of technologies, including 4D Foam, Micro G, Corespeed and H2Oi Water Intelligence.
Whenever we play test a lesser-recognised football brand we're always on the lookout for that something special that can persuade players to leave your Nike's, adidas and Puma's in the changing rooms. The Under Armour HydraStrike Pro II makes a strong first impression, you can't go wrong with a black and white boot and the splash of red on the logo and sole create a neutral colourway that will please the traditionalists.
The HydraStrike Pro II boots come with black laces but Under Armour throw in an extra pair of white laces giving the player a choice, which is always a nice touch. The Under Armour logo features on both the in and out-step out the boot as well as a subtle detail on the heel.
Putting the HydraStrike Pro II on for the first time we noticed the toe box is quite large, there is excess space above the toes which may put off players who prefer a snug and more harnessed fit; obviously each player's feet are different and this issue may not arise for others. The HydraStrike is a true fit so if you're normally a size 8 then go for size 8's.
The upper is comprised of K-leather towards the front of the boot and you can recognise this when controlling the ball. The HydraStrike Pro II produces that typical leather feel when dribbling with the ball. Under Armour have incorporated their MicroG and 4D foam insole, which basically provides a foot-bed that forms to the boot in the same way a memory foam mattress would. The improved comfort is instantly noticeable and stud pressure issues become a thing of the past.
We were testing the boots on a firm but wet on top surface, typical slippery conditions, but the HydraStrike Pro II offered traction and stability that allowed us to complete the slalom challenge without hitting the deck. The one problem with leather boots is that when they get wet, they get heavy and you feel sluggish when trying to accelerate but Under Armour's new H2Oi Water Intelligence technology prevents the boot consuming water, which avoids damp socks and keeps the boot lightweight.
Onto the controlling and passing exercise. The HydraStrike Pro II doesn't follow in the foot steps of the Predator LZ and CTR360 in the sense that Under Armour haven't added control enhancing technology to the boot, as they feel the leather upper provides the perfect platform for first touch and executing a pass.
Opinions are split regarding how much difference control enhancing technology makes when receiving a ball at pace and although we respect the fact Under Armour have kept a heritage feel to the HydraStrike, we can't help but feel the pass pads on other top control boots help take the sting out of a pass compared to the HydraStrike and minimally increase accuracy when weighting a tricky through-ball.
We have to mention that the HydraStrike Pro II football boots feel immensely durable, Under Armour have clearly cut no corners in terms of quality and have created a boot that may weigh a few grams heavier but will certainly last a lot longer than some of the more flimsy lightweight boots that sacrifice quality to lead the way in terms of lesser weight.
Time to smash a few balls into the back of the net... as well as sending a few into orbit! Striking the ball in the Under Armour HydraStrike Pro II is enhanced by a padded tongue that moulds to the top of your foot combined with the asymmetrical lace system and hidden lace loops which maximise the striking area.
Under Armour haven't packed the HydraStrike Pro II with an technologies that aid shooting as the HydraStrike is primarily the brand's control silo. But the leather upper generates a powerful and clean connection in typical leather fashion.
The Under Armour HydraStrike Pro II is a strong all-round football boot. A tough and durable boot that feels as if it will last a fair few seasons. We were impressed with the new H20i Water Intelligence technology which keeps the boot light in wet conditions and for less than £100 we reckon it's money well spent.