A boot with more talking points than studs, the 1.4 SL is a triumph of innovation coupled to a wealth of possible shortcomings. Can the SL float above the competition?

With Nike and adidas battling collared boots, the big cat decided to go off the beaten track to seek out notoriety. PUMA has given us the lightest standard production model boot to ever grace a pitch with the newest evoSPEED 1.4 SL. After we saw adidas lift the lid on their extremely limited 99-gram adiZero, the world was fairly certain that the race towards such a lightweight boot was a fair distance off. The 99-gram boot was impressive, but had all those that encountered it keenly aware that the boot was not intended to be anything more than a showpiece. However, Puma decided to add a mere four grams (103 grams total) with the new evoSPEED SL, but with a wealth of improvements that make this boot ready for the pitch.

Some description

Despite all of these tweaks and changes that PUMA placed under the hood to give us something that got all of us amazingly excited, the perception of this boot took its biggest hit long before it got into the hands of the general public. On the sole of each 1.4 SL, we found a sticker that, despite proclaiming the success that PUMA said we would encounter while wearing the boot, said that the boot might last up to ten games. The boot world immediately passed judgement and we were quite anxious to see if the boot could conquer any preconceived notions that we might have had.

Raising the boot out of the box, you instantly notice how thin the boot is simply because of how easy it is to see the inner workings. A criss-crossing pattern of lines can be seen running along the inside of the upper, and the upper is so thin that the white sock-liner makes the boot a bit brighter. Whether you snag the launch colorway or the 'Total Eclipse' version, this boot is a show stopper.

Some description

One of the biggest “wow” moments comes from the second you take the boots into your hand. A ridiculously lightweight boot, we were already going crazy over the weight when we realized that the boot still had paper in the toe box. After taking the paper out (paper that felt as if it weighed more than the boot itself), the excitement only grew. An incredibly thin upper gives way to your slightest touch and it brings back the sense of wonder that we all first experienced when we felt our first sub-6 oz boots several years ago.

With a feel that reminded us a bit of very pliable wax paper, the upper is comprised of a threading and coating that looks very similar to the SprintWeb we saw on the penultimate F50 (minus being as thick or stiff as the adidas material). The criss-cross we saw running throughout the boot gives the boot its shape and is being labeled as the “SpeedFrame” by PUMA. This framework is also an incredibly thin material, yet it does help keep the boot from collapsing in on itself and still keeps the weight ridiculously low.

Some description

The thickest part of the boot is the heel liner (and perhaps some of the laces), with PUMA opting to still give their lightest boot ever a bit of comfort in a key area. It makes us wonder how light the SL could have been if every possible ounce had been shaved down (smaller heel, smaller laces).

Enough with how the boot feels and looks, so let’s slip them on and take them for a spin. The first thing you notice is it feels like you aren’t wearing boots at all. There aren’t any negative pressure points from the extremely lightweight build, and you simply marvel at what you’re wearing for quite some time. Forget how often we’ve heard “barefoot feel” before, because we’ve never truly experienced THAT until these boots. The upper immediately shapes up to your foot because of how thin it is, and you can pick out every crease in between your toes as soon as you stand up. Considering how much PUMA did to create something so light, the comfort is still what we’ve come to expect from PUMA releases. The soleplate is so thin that there was no way that it was going to be stiff, yet the set-up avoided any hot spots or discomfort. After only one wear, the boot felt broken-in and was a joy to slip into.

Once the ball gets put into play, the boot actually has a bit of a learning curve. While the touch and control when the ball was played into or at our feet was everything we hoped it would be, the boot was so thin that kicking anything (pass, shot, cross, etc.) took a bit of getting used to. After under-hitting everything for about five minutes, we got used to the SL and started to really enjoy our time in them. When receiving and controlling the ball, it all comes down to your touch and technique. Where every other boot on the market offers at least a slight bit of padding, the SL has no padding what-so-ever. It was a freeing experience, and certainly something that perfectionists would love to have on their feet. Despite the wax paper feel of the upper in our hands, it felt natural on the ball and provided the exact function that a boot this light is going for: it didn’t get in the way.

Some description

Shooting and really driving through this ball was enjoyable, but provided zero surprises. You. feel. everything. For those of you enjoying top-tier match balls with a nice bit of cushion, life will be great. For those of you who are extremely familiar with footballs that seem to have been a rock in a previous life, the SL might not be enjoyable after a few hard strikes.

The soleplate on the evoSPEED 1.4 SL might be the most under appreciated part of the boot, but we are finding it might be the best part. So thin, quite flexible, and a three stud heel design that might be the best non-four stud/traditional pattern we’ve seen yet. With four conical studs in the forefoot, a bladed central stud, two bladed studs on the outside as we fade into the middle of the boot, two blades on the outside half of the heel, and an intriguing conical stud on the instep side of the heel, the soleplate blends together in impressive fashion. Spread in a manner that avoids stud pressure (something all too common in lightweight boots), the studs still provide an extremely high level of traction. With us all worrying about the set-up of the heel, we actually all really enjoyed our experience and would put this boot up against the best that the market has to offer. The world might be looking at the upper, but the soleplate might be the true treasure trove.

The evoSPEED SL, as if you really need us to tell you, is the worst possible boot for anyone flying into any type of tough tackles. There is nothing to stop any force coming into contact with your foot. and a set of studs into your foot is definitely not going to tickle. The boot is also not nearly as narrow as we expected, but anyone that already finds themselves on the edge of wearing a normal boot and being comfortable should avoid the SL. As with most of the new generation of PUMA boots, it seems as if they have given up having oddly sized boots across the board; the SL fits true to size.

Now, to the biggest question about the evoSPEED 1.4 SL: what is the durability like? For the testing, we used the boot exclusively on FG surfaces. You want to see a boot disintegrate in one use? Then we’d imagine using the SL on AG might accomplish that. Our evoSPEED SL’s are still going strong as we get close to the 10 uses. There is some slight separation starting to show near the toebox, but we actually think our boots might prove the little warning sticker wrong. However, you need to look at this from the totally boring, but plausible company point-of-view. Build a boot that breaks down in ten game days and don’t warn the public about it, and you have a major outcry about the boot AND you have to fulfill a host of warranty claims. Warn buyers that a boot might break down in ten games with a disclaimer? Then buyers know about the possibility of the boot breaking down before they buy, and the warranty is thrown out the window...brilliant from PUMA.

Some description

The evoSPEED 1.4 SL is an absolutely incredible experience and it reminds you of when the first speed boots absolutely fired up our imaginations about what the potential of boots could be. A remarkably lightweight boot with the goods to go along with the billing, and we had fun with every second. While adidas might have broken the 100 gram threshold, PUMA has given us a totally wearable and enjoyable boot at the 103 gram mark.

Has the experience with the boots justified the price tag and the idea that the boot won’t last ten games? That will be up to whoever is thinking about taking the plunge on the SL. We will say that we believe that someone that practices three times or more a week and plays a game in the same week should pass on the boot IF they are unable to compliment the SL with a more durable boot. However, for anyone looking for a game-day only boot, the SL is perfect for that. Ready to see what the speed race’s latest and greatest new toy is? Brace yourself...PUMA’s about to knock your socks off.

The PUMA evoSPEED 1.4 SL is available at selected stockists including Pro-Direct Soccer. First to the byline? Let us know if you'll be donning these ultra light pair of sprinters.