Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII Firm Ground Review

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The Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII is impressive for so many reasons, but one of my favorite features is how comfortable they are and how well they fit. Ever since the Vapor IV, the Vapor seemed to be getting wider and wider with each new edition, which is not a bad thing, but Nike has gone back to what the Vapor used to be with the Vapor VIII, a very tight fitting shoe that hugs your foot very tightly. This means that unlike the last Vapor, the VIII is much more narrow fitting all the way through, similar to the Superfly III.

Nike seemed to have brought back the shape of the Vapor III, easily one of the favorites of most long time Vapor wearers, where the midfoot and toe box are much more narrow fitting. The midfoot of the shoe is about a medium width at best, while the toe box is significantly smaller and a little more pointy than what you might be used too. The Slightly shaper toe may cause some confusion about with sizing, but trust me when I say that these fit true to size. From brand new, the sides of the toe box are very narrow, which does not allow the front of your toes to push up against the front of the shoe, as they should. Don’t worry, because once you give the shoe just a little time to break-in, the upper will stretch ever so slightly and you will be left with a perfect fit, no need to go up half a size. So, the Vapor VIII fit completely true to size, as I wore my usual size 9US for review, and after break-in, the fit was perfect. Like I said earlier, if you have a wider foot, or even struggled to fit into a previous model of the Vapor, the VIII may not be wide enough for you, and while the upper will expand just a little, the width in the midfoot is not going to change.

Given that you do not have an overly wide foot, the Vapor VIII is easily one of the most comfortable and well fitting lightweight soccer shoes on the market. Part of the reason for the comfort is the new shape, which allows for a tighter fit, but the main reason for such great comfort has to be the new Teijin synthetic upper. The Teijin upper that has been used on the Vapor has pretty much stayed the same ever since it came into existence, but on the Vapor VIII, we have what is essentially Teijin 2.0. The upper truly is something that has never been done before. I have said in the past that I felt that Nike were the king of synthetics, and the Vapor VIII proves that, and I would go as far as to say that the upper on the VIII is more impressive than Nike’s own Kanga-Lite synthetic, used on all of Nike’s other boots. This version of the Teijin upper is much thinner, much softer and more flexible than past Vapors, and is truly and honestly the first ever Vapor that is game-ready from right out of the box.

I didn’t have any issues with discomfort, no rubbing spots or anything, and that was after wearing them for 3 hours straight, from brand new. The new glass-fiber sole is also an improvement over that of the Vapor VII, in that it is much more flexible. The forefoot section of the soleplate is a single layer of glass-fiber, making for a very flexible feel, while the midfoot and heel area uses two layers of glass-fiber t maintain stiffness. I was also a little worried about stud pressure, given the very long studs and how there were a minimal amount of studs under the foot, but the sole does an excellent job of dispersing pressure, even on hard surfaces like turf. If I had one complaint it would be some insole slippage, but that is an easy fix, and not a huge problem. Overall, I can say with confidence that the Vapor VIII is one of the most comfortable ultra-lightweight soccer shoes on the market, given that you have the correct foot for them.

Weight

The Mercurial line has always been based around being lightweight, making the 8oz mark the standard in lightweight. With more and more innovations from other companies, like Adidas with the adizero, the bar for lightweight soccer shoes has now been set much higher, and the Vapor VIII is Nike’s first attempt since the Vapor IV to really make an effort to shed some weight off of the Vapor, and wow have they done that. The Vapor VIII weighs in at a very impressive 6.6oz, which is about 1.5oz less than the previous Vapor. If you were to compare this to the actual weight of the synthetic Adidas F50 adizero miCoach, the Vapor VIII weighs exactly the same! While there are still slightly lighter options out on the market, none of them are as supportive or fit as nicely as the Vapor VIII. Usually the tighter the fit, the lighter the shoe feels, so when a shoe fits perfectly, like the Vapor VIII, and is lightweight, I think you can imagine how they feel on your feet.

Traction

Firm ground stud patterns are becoming more and more unusual, and the Vapor VIII probably wins the award for the most unique one of the bunch. Nike has always played around with the stud pattern of the Mercurial line, with redesign on the Vapor VI and the Sense Studs used on the Superfly II and III, but never has it been changed to the point where there is almost nothing similar to the previous model. The stud pattern on the Vapor VIII essentially uses a six stud, firm ground stud pattern. If we start from the back, you will immediately notice that there are only two bladed studs, as opposed to the usual four studs that you would get from past Vapors, or pretty much every other firm ground stud pattern. The bladed themselves are not particularly large, but they are well supported, with clear plastic strips running off of each side of the stud. Moving to the forefoot, you will find a single blade positioned right under the ball of your foot, as well as a parallel single blade on the outside of the foot, with one open “V” shaped stud in the middle. On the inside at the toe, you get you get two blades that are very close to each other, one positioned to push off to the outside and the other to push off going forward. While the last stud is on the outside of the toe, slightly further back, positioned at about a 45 degree angle. If your were to put these shoes on and stand on a regular floor, it might scare you a little bit as to how they feel, but once you set foot on a grass field, the stud pattern on the Vapor VIII begins to make sense. Obviously with only six studs, excluding the middle support stud, under your feet, you might thin that stability would be an issue on firm ground, but surprisingly, there are no issues at all. The stud pattern really feels as if it were designed for pushing off and accelerating, something that the Vapor stud patterns have always done very well. Since there are only six studs under your feet, you really have a good idea of where the traction is under your feet, which allows you to really push off hard, confident that there is something there for you to push off of. The VIII stud pattern really seems to be based around feel, and when you can feel the grip, you can more easily push your limits. It is also worth noting how narrow and sharp that the actual blades are on the Vapor VIII, which is part of the reason why they do dig in so well. As far as what ground these are best suited for, I would definitely say that softer to firm ground is where they are going to feel the best. You should also be alright on higher quality turf fields, but shallow turf or harder ground is not going to be well suited for this particular stud pattern. As far as pushing off and feeling the grip, I don’t think that I have ever worn anything quite as good as the stud pattern on the Vapor VIII.

Touch

The new Teijin upper truly does make for the best feeling synthetic on the market. Apart from fitting skin tight against your foot, being super soft and flexible, this version is also much thinner. When the adizero was released, and we saw the single layer Sprint Skin synthetic upper, it was shocking how thin they were, but incredibly enough, I would say that the Vapor VIII upper is thinner. What makes the feel so unique is not only how thin the upper is, but how closely it fits to your foot. The Vapor VIII truly replicates that feel of a “second skin”, something that is very rare for a shoe to accomplish, especially with a thin synthetic. Another unique addition to the Vapor VIII upper is the new suede-like finish. I would compare the feeling to a very light “peach fuzz”, which may not seem like much, but it really does give the upper a very clean feel against the ball. The suede texture makes the upper feel very similar to a soft leather shoe in how the upper slides against the ball, which makes for an awesome dribbling experience. I would describe it is a grip without being sticky, if that makes sense. Juggling the ball feels as close to barefoot as you can possibly be in a soccer shoe. There is a precision about how this upper feels that is indescribably unique about the Vapor VIII. I have said in the past that I definitely prefer the feel of leather soccer shoes, but if there were ever a synthetic upper that would convert me, it would be this one.

Shooting

Shooting in the Vapor VIII is also really great. There is, as I said earlier, a feeling of precision when a shoe is so thin and fits so tightly. When you strike the ball, you can feel every bit of the shot, from the first impact between your foot and the ball, to when the ball leaves your foot. What is also unique about the Vapor VIII is that out of all of the ultra-lightweight soccer shoes out of the market, these easily have the stiffest soleplate. If you look at how the soleplate is shaped, the midfoot pinches in, which makes for a narrow fit, and a rigid sole. Also keep in mind that the midfoot also has two layers of glass fiber, so there is plenty of stiffness. You get that thin, lightweight feel, while also getting that solidness from the sole, which is great.

Durability

Nike is usually pretty good about putting out a solid product that is built to last, and the Vapor VIII is no different. I would say that in its weight range, it is probably the most solidly built shoe. The upper is thin, but feels very strong, and because it won’t stretch, the shoe will maintain its shape for a long time. It is worth noting that the upper is prone to scuff marks, but this has no impact on the structural integrity of the boot. Like any shoe, if you do use it on turf regularly, know that you will be shortening the life of your shoe, but if you are playing on grass, you will easily get a season’s worth of play from the Vapor VIII.

Protection

If there is one category that all of the lightweight boots always fall short, it is protection. Obviously protection was not a concern when designing a shoe with an upper that is the thickness of a few pieces of paper, so it should not a surprise that you will not getting much in the way of protection. To put things simply, if you get stepped on, it will hurt. If you are worried about having your feet protected out on the field, the Vapor VIII is not for you, but if you’re willing to sacrifice protection for feel, than you will get exactly what you asked for.

The Verdict

There was a ton of hype around the Vapor VIII, and I am happy to report that it was all for good reason. Nike seemed to have been slouching with the last two Vapor releases, which were great shoes, but nothing ground-breaking. The Vapor VIII is the shoe that takes so many risks and offers so much new, and it just comes together to really make something special. Between the new upper, the better fit, and the unusual stud pattern, the Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII truly redefines what a soccer shoe can be. Not a single thing was overlooked in the making of this shoe, and that is something that you can’t say very often. I have always been a fan of the Mercurial line, but they were never a shoe that I truly wanted to wear. The Vapor VIII changes that. Nike has raised the bar.

Comfort/Fit10 out of 10
Weight10 out of 10
Traction10 out of 10
Touch10 out of 10
Shooting9 out of 10
Protection6 out of 10
Durability8 out of 10
FINAL SCORE63 out of 70 or 90%
Joshua Vujovic (1129 Posts)

My goal is to provide the most detailed, in-depth reviews on all the latest soccer gear. Its very easy to get caught up in all of the hype around the latest soccer equipment, but we're here to point you in the right direction. As a product tester, I always give my honest, unbiased opinion on everything that gets tested, ensuring that you're always getting the most accurate information possible


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