Thursday February 19th, 2015

Under Armour has a shoe technology story it likes to tell. You know, the one where they went to a bra manufacturing facility to start making shoes with molded heels and toes to eliminate seams while tightening the fit.

That story started in running shoes—well, it really started with NASA years ago, but Under Armour’s version starts with running. At the NFL combine it has made its way to cleats.

The new SpeedForm MC football cleat, a culmination of 20 months of research and testing, debuts as a cleat designed for skill-position players, an offering that Under Armour presents in a low-top, an unconventional move for the Baltimore-based company.

Patrick Peterson, defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals and one of the faces of Under Armour football, tells Edge the biggest change he sees in the shoe is from the glove-like fit, especially in the forefront.

“The new addition, what they added on with the molding of the toes, it feels more comfortable,” Peterson says. “I didn’t have to go through a break-in period. It is game ready.”

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Using the bra-like technology, the SpeedForm molds both the toecap and the heel to eliminate seams. The shoe also has articulated toes, an aesthetic feature designed to enhance the fit.

“The seamless heel has never been done,” Josh Rattet, Under Armour’s vice president of team sports footwear and accessories, tells Edge. “Stitching and designs and things that irritate the heel. We took away all that irritation.” An external heel counter offers the added support.

Taking ideas from the Under Armour SpeedForm running shoe, Rattet says they made the cleat more durable with football-specific outerwear and liner materials.

Going low was a departure for a company that has built its brand on the Highlight ultra-hightop. “When everybody was going low, we went light, high and tight,” Rattet says. “There was still a kid who wanted a shoe with a true low-top.”

Courtesy of Under Armour

At 8.6 ounces, the new SpeedForm MC is the lightest cleat from Under Armour, but not the lightest in the football market. “I’m not chasing the lightweight game,” Rattet says. “This is a lightweight solution, but I’m not going to compromise the integrity of the shoe to chase the game.”

Peterson says the low-top looks great and will draw in young kids looking for a new option. And while the defensive back has spent the last two months training in the low, he’s opting for a mid-height version when he takes the field next season.

Whether low or mid, Peterson says the ability of Under Armour to mold the cleat to his foot gives him a comfort level on the field. “It is part of you,” he says. “The cleat pattern, the feel, the durability, it is all there.”

The lightweight factor of the shoe will appeal to skill players, so the cleat pattern matches. Rattet says rounded cleats in the forefoot combine with secondary cleats for added traction and bladed cleats in the heel to help disperse pressure, giving wearers the ability for quick cuts in all directions. And, in Peterson’s case, also the ease of backpedaling.

While most of the SpeedForm is born from bras and running shoes, Under Armour brought its V56 football technology into the forefoot. A major point of concern for any cleat manufacturer is eliminating turf toe and hyperextensions. At 56 degrees, the foot and toes hyperextended, so the V56 fits into the forefoot to limit the foot’s ability to hyperextend.

Molding, though, that is where the newness of the SpeedForm MC rests. For Peterson, he likes the molded story. And he likes that he’ll have “some new things” coming for the 2016 season.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb

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