In a modern era of laceless design, PUMA's Future 18.1 NetFit boot provokes a theory; were laces ever the problem? Or were we just doing them wrong the whole time? One boot. Unlimited possibilities.

PUMA are preparing to hit up the World Cup with a dynamic duo of the ONE 18.1 and the Future 18.1. It's the latter we focus on here. Featuring EvoKnit turned into an ankle-cut collar, and a thin upper covered in an odd honeycomb pattern, the Future 18.1 series is instantly intriguing. While the obvious USP for this boot is all the numerous different ways that you can lace it up, it’s practically everything else that really steals the show. Is the Future bright? Or will we be looking for a time machine? We laced up to see what it's all about.


Lacing the NetFit system

The big focus on this boot is the versatility to customise the lacing system and craft the fit completely to how you want it. That’s where the netted honeycomb structure drops in. At first glance there appears to be hundreds of these hexagons covering the boot’s upper, but there’s only a few dozen that are actually usable. Still, it means you can lace this boot up however you want.

PUMA recommend that there are three or four different lacing techniques, but it's very much trial and error. You won't get it right first time. Each player will prefer a different fit depending on their foot shape, but if it doesn't feel tight enough, or feels too tight, simply take the laces out and re-adjust accordingly. It does make a difference.


Laces done. How does it fit?

The evoKnit is still one of the softest knitted materials from all of the brands. It sits around your ankle without feeling restrictive or rubbing during play. Where the Nike collars might have felt thick and the adidas collars a bit too close to synthetic at times, the evoKnit strikes a wondrous balance.

The upper is fairly soft out of the box, but softens up each time that you wear the boots. It is all supposed to combine with the NetFit system to let you get the perfect fit for your foot. Being able to lace up the boot to your preference is a nice addition, and it works, but it's not something you need on every boot going forward. It’s part of the imagination station that makes PUMA stand out.

Ironically, it's the impressive NetFit lacing system that is potentially the biggest concern. Not because of its durability or anything, more that you find yourself constantly questioning whether you’ve finally found the perfect set-up for your feet. In time though, you'll find the most beneficial set up. It's actually pretty fun playing around with the laces. When they're clean anyway.

The soleplate gets a bit of a knockback here in the comfort department. Because of how the soleplate is built in the midfoot, the boot is quite stiff out of the box. Considering how focused we were on the lacing and upper (and how flexible/comfortable PUMA’s past soleplate creations have been), we were a bit surprised when our first run-out was disrupted by the soleplate being stiff.  It does soften up after a wear or two, but players looking to the Future should be aware.


Stepping into the FUTURE

Despite there being an abundance of stuff going on with the upper of the Future, we were actually quite surprised to find that the touch on the ball is smooth and doesn’t feel like there’s much between you and the ball. The NetFit actually provides a nice bit of added friction, but don’t expect it to create much padding on top of the upper.

It’s not playing with the evoSpeed SL, but there’s a clean touch in the Future. Keeping the ball at your feet never feels disconnected or hampered by the NetFit, and this is a boot built for players that loved the thin nature of the evoPOWER Vigor but wanted it in a speedier package.


The verdict

We’re not quite ready to declare that the entirety of the future will belong to the Future, but we’re damn ready to proclaim that the Future deserves a spot here in the present. The entirety of the NetFit idea almost distracts from the simple fact that this is a top-notch boot with a quality upper and great comfort/feel. The dynamic lacing system is fun, works well and looks totally unique to anything else on the market.

Away from the NetFit it kind of feels like the Future 18.1 is everything the second generation Nike Hypervenom should have been. Is it a speed boot? Kind of. Is it a comfort boot? Kind of. It's actually hard to categorise PUMA boots these days, but that's a credit to the brand for breaking the norm and delivering two boots that fit the needs of any player, in any position.

Pick up the PUMA Future 18.1 NetFit football boots from