As shoe manufacturers gear up for the June start of Brazil’s World Cup, rest assured they have just as much riding on the summer tournament as the teams and players participating. They want you to notice them. And here’s what you’ll see, new for World Cup 2014.
The first Flyknit—engineered yarn—soccer cleat will show up in neon yellow in Brazil, with the likes of Iniesta donning the boot. But not only did Nike unveil a knitted cleat, but it did so in a high-top version, not a common soccer occurrence.
The Fkyknit material allows a tighter fit to the foot in a lighter weight. Phil McCartney, Nike’s vice president of football footwear, says they didn’t set out to create a high-top boot, but as they worked with the sock-like Flyknit, it made sense to go above the ankle to limit distractions from the shoe, a decision derived from player feedback during more than 3,000 hours of testing.
The soccer-specific Flyknit yarn contains “loft” and “texture,” giving players the ability to control the ball with 3D friction. A special paper-thin coating keeps water out.
NEWCOMB: World Cup Jerseys in Photos
The new compressed nylon outsole orientates the stud placements specifically for a creative player looking for multi-directional cuts and playmaking.
With the ability to color each yarn, the Magista holds a distinctive look against the green turf. “We can be really microspecific about the colors and how they blend together to create a more organic application with texture,” Dennis Dekovic, Nike’s design director, tells SI.com. “There are boundless possibilities in terms of aesthetics and color and texture.”
Just weeks after giving the soccer world the first Flyknit boot, Nike followed that up with yet another Flyknit offering in the Mercurial Superfly, the signature look of Cristiano Ronaldo.
But this Flyknit version has speed, not control, as the main focus. Hitting the feet of Nike athletes in a vivid red, the Mercurial has a thinner Flyknit weave to put less material between the foot and the ball. A new full-length carbon plate adds flexibility while giving a stud placement designed for more traction at the toe, giving players extra grip and propulsion during the final 10 percent of their stride.
Both the Mercurial and Magista use 10 Brio cables woven into the yarn to add strength and support. Max Blau, Nike’s vice president of soccer footwear, tells SI.com the Mercurial proves a thin, reductive design aimed at speed. “We increased flexibility to increase propulsion.”
While speed, not a lighter weight remains the goal, Blau says, the Mercurial weighs 190 grams and the Magista 195.
Adidas: F50, Predator, Nitrocharge, 11Pro
All four adidas lines of cleats for the World Cup will have a distinctive black-and-white pattern. And every adidas athlete will wear that pattern.
Dubbed the Battle Pack cleat collection, which will debut on May 24, the German apparel company says the black and white design plays off war paint of native warriors and features gold stripes representing the FIFA World Cup trophy.
The new colors include a fresh Lionel Messi signature adizero F50 that adds a blue and white pattern to celebrate the Argentina colors. The F50 weighs in at 150 grams, one of the lightest cleats on the market, and includes a stud alignment designed for acceleration. This non-Messi colors of the F50 are worn by the likes of Luis Suarez, Arjen Robben and Jozy Altidore.
The 20th anniversary Predator cleat, worn by Mesut Ozil, Oscar, Fernando Torres and Graham Zusi, focuses on control, while the 11Pro, worn by Philipp Lahm, Frank Lampard and Sacha Kljestan minimizes ground impact with a “comfort frame” to better distribute pressure and with memory foam embedded into the quilted Taurus leather upper. The Nitrocharge has a highly elastic sling around the forefoot to support side cuts and precision turning.
All the Puma athletes, such as Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure, will don the evoPower boot in Brazil.
The new cleat—which Puma says will come in a "trick" color choice for the World Cup of one blue and one pink boot—aims to merge the freedom of movement and power found in barefoot kicking with the control and accuracy that a shoe offers. The new frame has a spine in the sole plate that allows the shoe to bend both ways, giving the foot the ability to flex naturally. A new upper stretches only vertically to allow the AccuFoam insert located on the upper to create a smooth, flat kicking surface.
Nike athletes such as Neymar and Wayne Rooney can be seen in the Hypervenom. The key ingredient to this 2013-launched boot is a new skin system that has a soft mesh bound with a thin polyurethane film that provides water protection.
A groove in the forefoot helps players move the first metatarsal, the bone that defines reaction time of the foot’s first movement. The compressed nylon outsole has a stud configuration designed for quick release of the turf.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.