Thursday May 21st, 2015

The new Nike Hypervenom II cleats worn by the likes of Neymar Jr. and Wayne Rooney are the same as the ones worn by Alex Morgan. Except for one major difference: For the first time, Nike has made a pair of soccer cleats specifically for women.

And while the sizing and aesthetics in the two lines differ, the technology in the new boot remains in step.

Developed originally in 2013 with a focus on agility, Phil Woodman, Nike soccer footwear designer, says the second iteration had an unusual beginning. “We started very simply, with members of our team wearing white socks and spray painting them while their feet were flexed in various football-specific movements,” he says. “As they unflexed their feet, the unpainted white lines identified prominent flex grooves. That exercise quickly escalated into visits to Nike’s Sport Research Lab to consult with our scientist on how the foot can best move with the boot for ultimate agility.”

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The Hypervenom II then mapped in Flywire cables for support, removed materials in heavy ball-contact areas for enhanced touch and used “loft mesh of varying density levels” for a better on-the-ball feel for players.

The cleat’s linear angles align with the natural flex of the foot, helping players cut in any direction, according to designers.

“I’m able to change direction, accelerate and evade defenders without hesitation,” Neymar Jr. says in a statement. “And I also love the look of the boot.”

The first Nike cleat to mix Flyknit—an engineered yarn—with mesh and NikeSkin, the Hypervenom II merges a Flyknit collar onto the upper, allowing for a tighter fit high on the cleat without bulky materials and weight. Plus, when flexed, the collar reveals a hint of extra color.

The laces are offset so they don’t interfere with ball striking, the sole plate has gone softer than the original and a split-toe design helps with quick movement.

Courtesy of Nike, Inc.

Overall, designers loved the idea that agility-driven players zig zag on the field, using that inspiration for an aggressive, angular aesthetic pattern on the sides of the cleat.

“While the sidewalls of the boot definitely catch the eye, they serve a distinct purpose in cradling and transitioning the foot from the plate to the upper,” says senior design director Nathan VanHook. “The sidewalls are neither as firm as the plate nor as soft as the upper.” This effort aims to keep the foot comfortable and stable.

The eye-catching of the Hypervenom II comes in the form of animal prints, using a “belly of the beast” idea, Woodman says, for differing patterns that rise from the bottom of the cleat up the side. For the women, the coming World Cup features players wearing the new boot in blue and yellow.

Technology designed for men and women, yet created differently.

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

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