The football season is upon us. All being well, fans will, at some point, be back in stadia across the country with renewed hope and a sense of unbridled excitement to be watching live sport again.
A side effect of this, of course, is the statement “I could’ve done better there,” uttered by thousands of people each Saturday in stands and pubs when a pass goes astray or a shot goes wide.
Well, it’s time for those have-a-go pros to lace up their boots and put their claim to the test, as the new amateur season is the perfect excuse for a new pair. Making sure you get the right boots is important for many reasons. Firstly, the fit has to be just right: you don’t want to hobble your way through a season, or find that your right boot flies off every time you try a deep cross.
Another aspect to consider is which boot will best complement your game. Are you a defender, looking for a shoe with a wide sole for extra balance? Does a sturdy sole and lightweight upper sound like just the thing for a pacy winger? Are you all about efficiency and old-school looks, or are you prepared to face the wrath of that old centre back that just looked aghast at your choice of neon green?
We pulled up our socks, squeezed into our pre-lockdown football shirts and put some of the best boots on the market to the test.
The best men’s football boots for 2021 are:
Best overall – Umbro velocita VI pro: £180, Umbro.co.uk
Best for speed – Puma ultra 1.3: £180, Puma.com
Best for a classic look – Pantofola d’Oro emidio, £118, Pantofoladoro.com
Best design – New Balance tekela V3 pro energy streak: £120, Newbalance.co.uk
Best for control – Nike phantom GT2 elite: £244.95, Nike.com
Best for balance – New Balance furon v6 pro: £108, Newbalance.co.uk
Best for defenders – Adidas kaiser 5 liga: £85, Adidas.co.uk
Best budget boot – Nike mercurial vapor 14 club: £49.95, Nike.com
Best for poachers – Adidas X Speedflow+: £230, Adidas.co.uk
Umbro velocita VI pro
These aren’t the Umbros of the Nineties. We love the wide-soled, solid feel of Umbro’s traditional fits, such as the speciali eternal. However, the brand has rocketed into the present, and to the top of this list, with the recently-released velocita VI pro.
The fit is snug without cutting off circulation (although maybe go half a size up), with only a little wiggling needed to slide them on. There’s a particularly nice cushioned grip inside, part of Umbro’s adaptive-fit technology that helps to keep your foot in its natural place and adds a great level of comfort. A V-frame support cage also covers the upper to retain the boot’s proper shape, giving your foot a bit of room to breathe.
For such a thin, lightweight boot, it feels like there’s a good level of protection from wayward challenges, and the strong, sturdy sole helps with balance and acceleration. It’s a gorgeous-looking shoe that performs as well as its design promises.
Buy now £180.00, Umbro.co.uk
Puma ultra 1.3
Best: For speed
The ultra 1.3 has taken the already lightweight brilliance of the ultra 1.2 and somehow shaved more non-existent bulk off. This isn’t to say that this is a flimsy boot by any stretch: the strong sole is perhaps the best on this list, hugely aiding explosive acceleration (although we’d never call our own acceleration “explosive”) and turning speed. The 1.3 is narrower than its relatively wide predecessor, creating a tighter fit, but one that stays comfortable.
There’s a sticky nature to the exterior fabric that helps with close control and accurate passing, and while the lightness of the boot (even as far as transparent panels in the side) doesn’t provide a huge amount of protection from a tackle, the bounce you enjoy from the tech inside the boot means you should’ve jumped over the defender’s foot with ease, anyway.
The ultra 1.3 is the first boot to be offered in both a unisex and women-specific fit, blazing a trail for inclusivity in the beautiful game. That’s music to our ears.
Buy now £180.00, Puma.com
Pantofola d’Oro emidio
Best: For a classic look
These are the boots your favourite Italian defender from the Eighties would wear for their entire career. The emidios, named after Pantofola d’Oro’s founder, are handmade over several days to ensure the best possible fit. It’s worked: they’re incredibly comfortable, cradling your feet while still giving you room to breathe.
You can tell how much care has been put into them. The quilted vamp (the top of the boot that reaches the toes) helps you make the best of your first touch and general control while ensuring extra protection for your metatarsals (Rooney, take note), and the leather’s breathability is enhanced by well-thought-out perforations around the ankle.
These are for the casual player that loves football nostalgia and appreciates well-crafted, handmade products. The tongue is brilliantly retro, big and bright and features an elastic band that wraps around the bottom of the boot to keep it in place and keep your laces out of the way. A quality boot of great comfort that exudes Italian football.
Buy now £118.00, Pantofoladoro.com
New Balance tekela V3 pro energy streak
The tekelas are almost as much an art piece as a football boot, with multicoloured, abstract squiggles and white knitted fabric in the style of grooves in the sand making them a particularly eye-catching boot to wear. Behind the art, however, is a heap of technology: version three of NB’s tekela range offers the brand’s “kinetic stitch” tech, which basically ensures your touch will be as consistent as you are, while those abstract paint brush strokes help add some extra oomph to your shots. The laceless stretch-knit upper locks your foot in place nicely and offers ankle support, although we’d recommend ordering one size up, as the fit is very snug – New Balance even provides a shoe horn.
The sole is made of lightweight nylon and is one of the sturdiest on this list, which should give the wearer confidence in the sprint, while the stud tips are grooved to help with traction and flexibility. The tekela is the perfect choice for the playmaker who wants to pre-empt their artistry as they walk onto the pitch. Just make sure you back your claim up.
Buy now £120.00, Newbalance.co.uk
Nike phantom GT2 elite
Best: For control
We featured the original phantom GT elite boots in our best astroturf boots round-up last year. A whole roster of professionals swear by the phantoms, and the brand new second edition serves to build on its glowing reputation.
The GT stands for “generative texture”, referring to the particular design of Nike’s flyknit upper. Straight from the serious-sounding Nike sport research lab, the texture is patterned and angled in such a way as to create the optimum level of grip. However the clever bods in the research lab have done it, they’ve delivered supreme control and spin when connecting with the ball that could elevate anyone’s game.
The “all conditions control” technology ensures that optimum control is retained in dry and wet conditions by keeping the same level of friction on the boot’s surface. The flyknit upper now also stretches further up your ankle, providing more support while still feeling like you’re putting on a sock. A worthy successor to the original GT.
Buy now £244.95, Nike.com
New Balance furon v6 pro
Best: For balance
We included this boot in a previous round-up, and have included it here again with good reason. It’s a great example of a reliable, modern football boot: the lightweight “fit weave” fabric upper hugs your foot, but stays as comfortable as a sock, and the raised ankle collar, made of elastic knit, keeps the boot firmly attached in all the right places with extra support.
The furon v6 pro is another boot focused on acceleration (understandably, given the bright colourway). The sole is curled at the front for lower toe spring – who would’ve thought we needed that? – and on hard ground and artificial pitches, the studs do most of the work for you, with their considered positioning aiding braking and acceleration.
Buy now £108.00, Newbalance.co.uk
Adidas kaiser 5 liga
Best: For defenders
Any defender worth their salt knows the kaiser 5 boots. They’re no-nonsense, classic-look, wide-fit beauties that make the wearer feel a metre taller and made of steel. The full-grain leather and super-quick-dry synthetic lining mean that they can be chucked on, contribute to a clean sheet in the middle of December and chucked back in the car without fuss.
They’re lighter than their look suggests, with an EVA insole and polyurethane outsole that’s sturdy enough to cope with that tricky winger who likes to think they can turn you inside out until they’re on the floor and the ball’s at your feet.
Buy now £85.00, Adidas.co.uk
Nike mercurial vapor 14 club
Best: Budget boot
These are the cheapest boots on the list, but this doesn’t mean they’re to be disregarded. The technology developed at the Nike research lab has trickled down into all the brand’s boots, including the mercurial vapors.
The grippy texture seen on Nike’s more expensive options makes an appearance here, too, providing an impressive amount of control, while the specially-designed studs help with sudden bursts of pace and tight turns. The lining isn’t as fancy as others on the list, but is cushioned and comfortable. The vapor design is understated, mixing the modern and the classic nicely. They’re a very handy pair to have.
Buy now £49.95, Nike.com
Adidas X Speedflow+
Best: For poachers
Adidas has a great track record when it comes to bright boots for strikers: the footballing prestige linked to the word “Predator” is enough proof of that. The X Speedflow+ builds on Adidas’s penchant for incredibly lightweight speed demons, with a series of developments geared towards quick, intense movement – perfect for the six-yard assassin.The sole of the boot, a hyper-modern, chromatic beauty, is super strong, with a Carbitex carbon fibre insert doing the heavy lifting for you; the studs are high quality and aid with control; and the raised toe helps with push-off sprint speed.
The frame is sturdy for such a lightweight boot, giving you space while keeping your foot steady for sudden turns. As with a few of Adidas’s top boots, the laceless textile upper is perfect for precise shooting, but as it’s so thin, you feel the connection pretty acutely: great for accuracy, but takes some getting used to. The almost vacuum effect of the fit (go up half a size) adds a good level of comfort – they feel the closest to slippers on the list – while the padding in the back of the boot sticks your ankle in place to help with support. It’s the boot that Miroslav Klose would wear if he was still scoring history’s nicest tap-ins.
Buy now £230.00, Adidas.co.uk
The verdict: Men’s football boots
The battle between the futuristic and the traditional rages on. Regardless, most brands seemingly improve their boots almost year on year, with discernible differences to the last generation.
If you’re looking for a boot that gives cutting-edge control and speed while providing a strong style ethos, the Umbro velocita VI pros are a fantastic choice. However, if you’re in the market for something much more classic that will last you for years, the Pantofola d’oro emidio will bring you la dolce vita.
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