August 23 2014

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Nike’s New World Cup Kick: A Investigative Report


I spent a lot of time in London this season thinking about shoes. (For reference, see here, here, and here.) But on Wednesday night, I was inducted into a footwear cult of a totally different kind, as Nike unveiled its new boot—i.e., soccer shoe—to me and 300 or so agog sports journalists. The Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II was designed with World Cup play in mind—invisible fretting inside the shoe to fit it to the foot, eye-popping color to attract teammates’ peripheral vision ahead of a pass—and Cristiano Ronaldo, currently the world’s best/most expensive player, was on hand at the Battersea Power Station to attest to Nike’s technical cunning.

Seeing is one thing, but wearing is believing, so Nike invited me to give the boot a test run, and on Thursday morning, I kitted up and headed down to a pitch in Chelsea to run drills and play in a pickup game. The drills were a lot like the ones promoted on Nike Football+, an interactive online training program purchasers of the Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II can access. (Maybe the next time Riccardo Tisci decides to show tottering platforms, he can give buyers an access code to an online training program that’ll drill them in walking down staircases and running for cabs.) The field also provided an opportunity to test out the shoe’s “adaptive traction technology”—basically, cleats that shrink or lengthen depending on what the player is doing and how the ground feels—on rain-soaked sod.

The shoes should improve the performance of the guys who wear them on the field in South Africa this summer, but if they improved mine, it wasn’t by enough. Arriving on the pitch after two solid weeks of fashion shows, with a Champagne hangover and an eye twitch from looking at too many clothes, I didn’t exactly do womandom proud. (I was the only girl on the field.) When the ball finally came sailing at me—a beautiful, clear, arced pass—I screamed, and the two French guys who’d been skeptical of me from the start traded a look equal parts satisfaction and disgust. But you know what, French dudes? Walk a mile in my six-inch platforms next fashion week. I’d like to see you try.

Photo: Courtesy of Nike

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