Nike Mercurial Vapor IX
The Nike Mercurial Vapor is arguably the most popular high-end boot on the market, and for good reason. With the release of the Mercurial Vapor IX, Nike has taken the fantastic design of the Vapor VIII and tweaked it, taking the Vapor series one step further in its never-ending evolution. The Nike Mercurial Vapor has gone through so many different redesigns, but Nike still manages to impress, introducing some new ideas that work extremely well.
DESIGN - 5/5
The Nike Mercurial Vapor IX stays true to what the Mercurial series has stood for ever since it was first created. The concept of having a lightweight, close-to-the foot feel is what the MV9 is all about, but with several new designs elements that make the overall package even more exciting. One of the first things that you notice is the unique golf ball-like dimpling on the upper, called "Speed Control", designed to alter your touch on the ball depending on the situation.
One of the most important design elements is the streamlined fit of the boot; it is designed to wrap your foot as closely as possible, acting as a second skin. With a slightly modified fit, the modern silhouette of the Nike Mercurial Vapor IX makes it not only very attractive, but one of the best fitting boots currently on the market. Keep in mind that the fit of the MV9 is on the narrow side, however, so wider footed players should probably look elsewhere. The soleplate of the MV9 features two stacked layers of silver fibreglass, creating not only a very lightweight frame for the boot but a very solid one as well. The strength of the fiberglass not only gives the soleplate a very responsive feel, but it also allows your foot to sit very low to ground, again playing into the idea of being as low-profile as possible. Along with a slightly tweaked soleplate, you'll find that Nike has left the stud pattern unchanged from the MV8, featuring the same six-stud, firm-ground pattern that has become one of the main distinctive features of the Vapor series.
COMFORT - 5/5
The upper itself is still made from the usual Teijin Synthetic that we've come to expect from the Vapor, but this variation is much changed from past versions that we've seen. The first thing I noticed was how soft the upper was from right out of the box. The upper is very flexible and actually feels slightly elastic - when you slide the boot on, you can feel the upper stretch around your foot, giving you a tight but still comfortable fit. When you pull the laces tight, the upper hugs every inch of your foot, giving it a sock-like fit. As far as other comfort elements are concerned, the Nike Mercurial Vapor IX is not much different from past versions of the Vapor. The laces run directly up the middle of the shoe, allowing you to get a nice secure fit. The heel is lined in smooth synthetic leather, with a solid amount of padding considering the lightweight nature of the boot. The same EVA foam, perforated insole is also included, which although not the best insole around is removable if you wanted to swap it out for something different. The MV9 is true to size and anyone with wide feet wanting to go up half a size should not do so - the boot will still have a narrow fit.
The Mercurial Vapor IX is a perfect example of what a modern boot can be. The standout feature is undeniably the "Speed Control" dimpling on the upper, which certainly performs the part. On a golf ball, the dimpling is there for aerodynamics, but on the MV9, they act as an adaptive touch element. The ultra-thin synthetic upper has a slightly sticky finish to it, and when you combine that with a slightly cushioned, dimpled surface, it makes for an adaptable boot that sees softer touches on the ball have less grip and harder touches on the ball have more grip.
Other performance elements include a very lightweight construction, with the boot weighing in at a mere 6.6 ounces. The tight fit gives a very responsive feel, and along with its lightweight construction, it's almost as if you aren't even wearing soccer boots: if you're a fan of that barefoot feel when controlling, striking and dribbling the ball then you'll love the touch of the MV9. The inclusion of Nike's ACC (All Conditions Control) technology is also an awesome feature, allowing for better friction between your foot and the ball when playing in wet weather. The stud pattern also performs great, allowing you to really feel the grip under your feet. Some may be sceptical of only having two studs at the heel, but trust me when I say that stability is not an issue at all. Just keep in mind that the firm ground studs are a little longer than your average FG stud pattern, so it's not the best to use if you're going to be playing on hard ground or artificial grass.
VALUE - 4.5/5
If you look at the majority of the current 'in-demand' high-end boots from companies like Nike, Adidas and Puma, they all retail around the $200 (£130) mark. While this does seem like a lot of money for a pair of boots, if you want the best of the best, that is the price of admission.
Durability is a major factor when buying any pair of soccer shoes and the lighter the shoe, the less durable you can expect it to be. That's not to say the MV9 lacks durability - just don't expect them to last forever. So, is the MV9 worth the money? In my eyes, absolutely. The boot has a surprisingly solid construction considering how light it is and features only premium materials. This is definitely a pair of boots that will get you through an entire season.
OVERALL - 5/5
I was expecting to like the Nike Mercurial Vapor IX, but I didn't expect to like it this much. Between the incredible fit, the softness of the synthetic, the Speed Control system and the great performance of the stud pattern, the MV9 is easily one of the best lightweight soccer shoes currently on the market. If you're a fan of the Vapor series or were thinking about giving the MV9 a try, go for it. I didn't think that Nike would be able to top the Vapor 8, but they've done it again.
Joshua Vujovic is editor of Soccer Reviews For You - www.SoccerReviewsForYou.com