When Nike unveiled not one, but two new soccer cleats featuring Flyknit ahead of the World Cup this spring, we knew cleated Flyknit would come to the gridiron soon. Soon happened on July 8, when Nike unveiled the Flyknit Vapor Ultimate, offering up the company’s highly engineered yarn material in a football cleat for the first time.
But the Vapor Ultimate isn’t just about Flyknit. The new cleat fuses the lightweight flexibility of the yarn with a new carbon plate born from 3-D printing and testing that gave Nike engineers the optimum stud placement strategies.
With Flyknit, Nike says it offers athletes more movement sensation with a sock-like feel from the yarn upper. The lightweight material comes in a one-piece upper that includes a new “Nike Skin” overlay material to add durability, strength and protection in high-impact areas. Flywire cables—woven directly into the knit—wrap the arch of the foot, strengthening the knit without adding unnecessary weight or seams.
“We’ve created a cleat that can withstand the forces generated by today’s athletes on the football field,” says Ken Link, Nike Football cleated design director, in a statement. “Flywire and Nike Flyknit combine to create a second-skin, sock-like fit that adapts to each individual player’s foot as well as to his style of play. Our most innovative upper combines with our most revolutionary, proven football plate technology to help athletes perform at the highest level.”
That plate design is the first from Nike to pull inspiration and development directly from 3-D printing and testing facilities. In 2013, Nike launched a special 40-yard-dash cleat for combine athletes with stud placement engineered for speed, but the Flyknit Vapor Ultimate plate takes that research further, designing a multidirectional stud pattern instead of one focused solely on straight-ahead velocity. The Carbon-V plate’s layout features “optimal ignition off the back foot,” intended to give players the ability for precision cuts no matter where they are on the field. The forefoot of the plate has a focus on traction.
Nike’s Flyknit takeover has continued, but, as with the Magista and Mercurial soccer cleats we’ve already seen, each iteration features something fresh.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.