Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII SG-Pro (Soft Ground Pro) Review

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The Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII SG-Pro 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 glass fiber soleplate on the SG-Pro version does not feature two different thicknesses like the firm ground version. Instead, the entire soleplate is a two layers all the way through. I didn’t find the sole to feel any stiffer than the FG version, and it does a good job overall at dispersing stud pressure, but only if you’re playing on a soft ground playing surface. If you use the SG-Pro version on firm ground, and especially artificial surfaces, you will have some major issues with stud pressure. 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

Like any Soft Ground model, the weight always goes up from the Firm Ground model. With the FG Vapor VIII weighing in at 6.6oz, I was very surprised to see that the SG-Pro model weighed in at only 7.4oz! Generally you can anticipate the difference in weight between the FG and SG models is about 2oz, and this is mainly due to the metal studs and the reinforced soleplate. Somehow Nike has managed to keep the weight very low, making the SG-Pro Vapor VIII one of the lightest soft ground boots on the market.

Traction

The new SG-Pro stud pattern got people excited, mainly because it is a stud pattern that was exclusive to the professionals, but now Nike have released it to the public. What makes the SG-Pro stud pattern so attractive is that it isn’t a particularly aggressive soft ground stud pattern. With that being said, there are two sets of studs included with the purchase of a pair of SG-Pro shoes. Included are a set of 11mm and 13mm, as well as a set of 13mm and 15mm studs, for really soft ground. If you look at the shorter set of metal studs, they do not extend much past the plastic, or firm ground studs, making this a stud pattern that you can get away with should the ground that you are playing be consistently soft-ish. If you are playing regularly on firm ground or hard ground, the standard firm ground stud pattern is what you want. Another misconception with the SG-Pro stud pattern is that you can use it on turf or artificial surfaces. I strongly suggest not doing so. As the name suggests, the stud pattern is for “soft ground”, which is more or less the exact opposite of a shallow artificial surface. As far as the performance of the stud pattern is concerned, the plastic studs scattered around the metal ones do make for a different feel than you would normally get from your standard six stud, soft ground stud pattern. There are some additional grip points on the shoe, but what I am a big fan of is the extra stud right at the toe. This stud just gives that little bit of extra grip when pushing off, which could be the difference between slipping and staying on your feet in soft field conditions. What is unique to the Vapor VIII SG-Pro, are the studs being blades, rather than conical shaped studs. These bladed studs are significantly more aggressive in terms of how much they grip, and are surprisingly sharp, just like the firm ground version. Other than that, I would say that the plastic studs give the stud pattern a feel more like a firm ground stud pattern on the ball. If you have ever used a pair of six studs before, you know that feel of somewhat of an awkwardness if you ever use the bottom of your foot to control the ball, and that just doesn’t happen with the SG-Pro stud pattern. It is easy to see why the pros are choosing to use the mixed sole stud patterns, but just keep in mind that they are still intended and should be used on soft ground.

Touch

Like the Clash version of the Vapor VIII, the newer colorways of the Vapor VIII feature a slightly different upper than the standard model. The upper itself is still that ultra-thin Teijin synthetic, probably one of the thinnest uppers ever on a soccer shoe. The difference lies in the actual finish on the upper. Instead of the very fine, suede-like finish, you have a finish that has the appearance of leather. This faux-leather finish provides the same amount of grip that you would normally get from a leather finish on a shoe, but the overall feel of the shoe is by no means one that is similar to actual leather. The faux-leather finish also seems to add just a slight amount of bulk to the upper, in comparison to the standard suede finish, but the overall feel of the shoe is pretty much the same between the two models. Since the upper is so thin, while still being soft, and fits so closely to the foot, you truly do get the feel of a second skin. The upper has no extra padding, so the way that you touch the ball with the shoes on your feet, is going to be extremely similar to how your touch would be if you weren’t wearing any shoes at all. The Mercurial line has always offered some of the best thin synthetic uppers on the market, but this new upper on the Vapor VIII truly is something like we have never seen before. If you are looking for the closest touch possible, the Vapor VIII is going to provide that.

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 one of the most solidly built shoes on the market. 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. Keep in mind that the shoe was designed for use on soft ground. Use of this shoe, or any soft ground shoe on firm ground, and especially artificial surfaces is not only unsafe, but will also have a major impact on the durability of the boot.

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

The Nike Mercurial Vapor has become the industry standard of what a lightweight soccer shoe should be. Offering a fantastic fit, a paper thin upper and a lightweight, yet solid, construction, the Vapor VIII is an overall phenomenal boot. Not to mention the new introduction of the SG-Pro stud pattern, allowing you to have almost everything that is made available to the pros. If you’re looking for that barefoot feel, than the Vapor VIII is easily one of, if not the best, option on the market.

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%

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