Creative Soccer Culture

Nike Designer Phil Woodman Talks Us Through The PhantomVSN

As the PhantomVSN football boot joins the Swoosh stable, Nike Footwear Product Designer Phil Woodman can now claim to have worked on every Nike silo on the market. We sat down with Woodman to get the lowdown on the newest member of the Swoosh family – from athlete insights to the initial design and development.

Phil, it’s been a little while since you had the opportunity to work on a brand new silo. What does the PhantomVSN represent for Nike?

For Nike Football, the PhantomVSN is a refresh in terms of control and a boot for playmakers. As you know, the PhantomVSN comes in as the Magista is filtered out. The PhantomVSN is still very position orientated, for that central midfielder who collects the ball, turns with it, carries it and distributes it, but the game is getting a lot faster with a stronger attacking emphasis.

The PhantomVSN is an attacking playmaker boot. It’s as much of a mentality as it is position orientated. It’s not just collect the ball and pass it, it’s shooting, attacking, are driving into dangerous areas. Players like Kevin De Bruyne and Philippe Coutinho define the new direction perfectly.

When did you start working on the Nike PhantomVSN?

Just under two years ago. It’s basically an 18 month cycle developing a boot. You have the initial idea, then it takes 18 months to refine, develop, and test. The process is similar to a sports car in that you send it out to the track and bring it back to retune it, and that process is repeated until the product is perfect.

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Where did the PhantomVSN name come from?

The PhantomVSN player can do the unimaginable and you don’t even notice. They bring their influence to the game in a more low-key way than the more showman-like players. Those sort of players can be hidden, but then ghost in and change the game in a split second.

Is it a natural progression from the Magista series, or is the PhantomVSN entirely new?

It takes a lot of the same insights of that ball touch, control and feel, but tunes it into more of a faster-paced, attacking style. We’ve learned a lot from the Magista and the CTR series in terms of their control elements, and we’ve added a more attacking focus to the PhantomVSN. There’s a lot more microfibre on the texture of the PhantomVSN compared to the Magista Obra II, and the traction is far more attacking focused.

The Magista was born in 2014. How much have Nike technologies and innovations developed in that short space of time?

They've changed a lot. We keep saying about how we have to keep up with how the game changes, but in the same way the game's changing so fast that innovations are changing even faster. You can see that we’re still using Flyknit, but introducing new materials like Quadfit. The Quadfit is a material that’s woven in and each fibre within the material can move independently, meaning it can adapt to the foot better than any other material on the market.

It took a lot of development to understand how to utilise it best, but now we’ve got a key innovation that also allows us to use the GhostLace system. Nike still very much believe that laces are fundamental to fit and performance of a boot – whether that’s comfort, lock down or changing direction at speed – but we wanted to hide the laces to give that seamless contact surface on top of the foot.

When we initially took out boots for testing and the laces were hidden the players were a bit hesitant, but as soon as we showed them where the laces were they were happy they could still customise their lock down as well as benefitting from a clean striking surface.

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We've seen a lot of laceless boots in recent seasons. Your player feedback is telling you that laces are very much still the way to go then?

Yeah. We’ve experimented with laceless boots in the past but unless you have that perfect shaped foot for that specific boot, and even then, you don’t get that perfect lockdown that you’d get from laces. Every players feet are different and the laces, especially with Quadfit, allow players to customise their fit to the shape of their feet.

How have Nike selected which players to move into the PhantomVSN?

We’re focusing on the attacking playmakers, those players with attitude and those players who dictate games in the opponent's half. Of course we’ve got the likes of De Bruyne and Coutinho wearing the PhantomVSN, but we’re always looking for that next generation player.

What has the player feedback been like?

We get player feedback through the whole development stage. The first thing they picked up on is obviously the visual, and how futuristic it looks, but the impact comes when they put it on and feel the sensation of the Quadfit tech harness their feet. Once we nailed the fit the players were on board. After that, the texture on the upper and traction are the finishing touches.

The PhantomVSN is a silo that’s built from the inside-out. We started from a sock which we then added layers to. That was the inspiration and that’s what created the idea of the fit. We chatted to athlete services out in Italy and their research tells us that fit is by far the most important aspect for players. From there we set out find how we could produce the best fitting, most conforming close to the foot feel.

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