Puma King SL 2013 Review
The Puma King series has undergone a major redesign for 2013, with both the standard King and Puma King SL 2013 models being changed significantly in comparison to all previous models released by Puma. The biggest change from last year’s Puma King Finale SL to this year’s SL model is the lack of kangaroo leather. In fact, the new SL model isn’t actually leather at all! While this might seem like a major deal breaker for most, trust me when I say that the King SL 2013 is still a fantastic boot.
The fit and feel of the King SL is nothing like the standard King. The King SL 2013 feels more like a top-end “Speed” boot, rather than a traditionally styled soccer shoe, which is what you would expect from a shoe bearing the King name. The major talking point is the full synthetic upper, which actually has the appearance of leather. To the touch, you can definitely tell that the upper is synthetic, but the softness and overall quality is still better than I had anticipated. From a comfort standpoint, the synthetic upper used on the King SL offers a lot of the flexibility that you would normally only from a natural leather upper, along with the tighter fit of a synthetic, making for a comfortable, yet secure fit.
Unlike many synthetic boots currently on the market, the King SL 2013 definitely requires some break-in time. The boot feels great from right out of the box, but after a couple hours of play time, you’ll really feel the upper soften up and even stretch a little bit to fit your feet even that much better. This is great boot for people who want to make the transition from a natural leather boot to a synthetic, as the King SL seems to be the happy medium between the two types of boots. After some break-in time, you’ll get the tight fit of a synthetic, with the soft, slightly cushioned feel of a leather boot.
There are also several other elements of the King SL that allow for a comfortable fit. The boot features a central lacing system, backed by a thin synthetic tongue. The central lacing system really allows you to get the boots as tight as you want, while the thin synthetic tongue is just thick enough to protect you from any kind of lace-bite. The heel is lined in a synthetic leather with a grip coating over top, and is backed with a nice amount of padding, making for very comfortable fit, as well as keeping your heel locked in place. The Pebax soleplate is very thin and flexible, making for a very smooth running experience. Of all of the ultra-lightweight boots that I have ever worn, the King SL is definitely the most flexible, making them feel very natural.
The fit of the King SL is also great. Like most ultra-lightweight boots currently on the market, the King SL does feature a slightly narrow cut. Through the mid-foot, the upper definitely hugs the instep of your foot when you pull the laces tight, but not to the point where it feels as if the boot is too restrictive. The forefoot and toe box area of the boot features Puma’s Aptolast shaping, giving the shoe a very tight fit. You’ll notice that the toe box is not rounded off like most shoes, but instead comes to a slight point at the big toe. The shoe is designed to flow with the natural shape of your foot, and it does that very well, just keep in mind that it does make for a slightly narrower fit. Personally, I love the feel of tight soccer shoes, and the fit of the King SL, for me, was awesome. Keep in mind that the upper does have some stretch to it, so if the boot feels a little too tight from right out of the box, the upper will give a little bit. The King SL is great because it offers the tight fit that you might get from a shoe like the Nike Mercurial Vapor 9, but with a more cushioned feeling upper.
As far as sizing goes, some people will want to stay true to size, while others might want to go half a size up. For this review I wore my usual size 9US, and the fit in the length was perfect, but the shoe did fit a little tight at first. So, if you like your shoes to fit tight, than I would strongly recommend going true to size, but if you prefer a fit that isn’t overly cramped in the toe box, than I would recommend going half a size up.
The Puma King SL 2013 is incredibly lightweight! Weighing in at 5.8oz, which is exactly on par with the current Adidas F50 adizero in synthetic, the King SL is one of the lightest options currently on the market. What’s great about the King SL is that it is incredibly comfortable considering how lightweight it actually is. The softness of the upper, the amount of padding on the inside of the shoe and the flexibility of the soleplate, makes the King SL a stand alone when you’re talking about weight to comfort ratio. Not only do the shoes feel weightless when you’re playing, but they’re also really comfortable.
Just like the rest of the boot, the stud pattern is an all-new design from Puma. Each of the studs are trapezoidal in shape, with a stud layout that is undeniably similar to what you’ll find on the Adidas F50 adizero. In the forefoot you’ll find three studs running along the lateral and medial sides of the boot, with one single support stud right in the middle of the forefoot, and under the heel you’ll find a standard four-stud layout. While the layout and stud shape might not seem like anything special, the actual performance of the stud pattern is actually really good.
The stud themselves are about average in width, so they do a good job of digging in and giving great traction when pushing off and changing direction, while still maintaining plenty of stability. Even though the studs themselves are technically “blades”, the amount of maneuverability that you get when planted is still pretty good, as you never truly feel locked in place, which can be the case with any bladed stud patterns. I also found the length of the studs to be just about perfect for firm, natural grass playing surfaces, with each stud being just long enough to penetrate the ground without feeling clingy.
Another major factor in the amount of traction that you’ll get from the King SL is the soleplate. Made from ultra-flexible Pebax, the low-profile feel of the soleplate puts you as close to the ground as possible, which helps with stability. Also, because the soleplate is so flexible, the entire traction system moves with your foot, so no matter which direction you turn and no matter how your foot bends, the studs will remain beneath your feet. Like I said earlier, the design might not come across as revolutionary, but it works, and works well.
While Puma was going for a leather feel with the type of synthetic used on the King SL 2013, it just isn’t quite the same as the real thing (Especially since they have already given us a taste of what they’re capable of with the King Finale SL). I’m not by any means saying that the touch on the ball is bad, it just isn’t what I was hoping for with the new King SL.
To the touch, the synthetic upper is definitely thin, but there is a small amount of padding to it, almost like what you would get from a natural leather. I put a lot of thought into how I could possibly describe the way that this synthetic upper feels, because I do like it, but at the same time, it could be better. I would describe the feel as leather-like, but without the natural softness of actual leather. For example, when receiving a pass, your touch on the ball will feel ever so slightly cushioned, but due to the lack of softness on the outer, faux-leather covering, the amount of feel for the ball is not as strong. What I’m getting at is that the thin nature of the upper does not match the amount of feel that you get for the ball.
So, to give my opinion on the feel, I really do like it. It does take some getting used to once you start wearing them, but once the synthetic upper starts to soften up, the touch that you get on the ball is actually pretty good. I like the thin synthetic tongue, as it gives you a very close touch on the ball when juggling. So, to sum everything up, the touch on the ball that you get is not quite leather, but it is very close. If you want an ultra-lightweight soccer shoe, but don’t want too thin of an upper, than the King SL might be the shoe for you.
Striking the ball in the King SL is great. The shoe feels weightless on your foot, giving you a real sense of precision when striking the ball. The slight amount of padding of the synthetic upper gives you some impact protection when making a hard strike, but for the most part, you will be able to get a really good feel for the ball. The faux-leather finish of the synthetic upper does not offer any kind of extra grip on the ball, and the shoe itself lacks any kind of striking elements. There is also stiffener in the form of a bar through the mid-foot, giving the otherwise very flexible soleplate some rigidity. Again, if you want that ultra-lightweight feel, but don’t want a paper-thin synthetic upper, than the King SL is one of very few options available that will meet your demands.
There isn’t much in the way of protection when it comes to the King SL, but in comparison to other ultra-lightweight shoes currently on the market, the King SL is above average. The slight padding of the synthetic upper will provide some minimal impact protection, but should you get stepped on, you will still feel most of the blow. The shoe does feature an external plastic heel counter, so you will be somewhat protected should you take a kick to the heel. If you’re looking for protection, you’re not going to find it from a sub 6oz soccer shoe, but if you want the most protective sub 6oz model, than look no further than the King SL.
For an ultra-lightweight soccer shoe, the overall construction of the boot feels very solid. Since the upper is synthetic, no maintenance is required and the shoe will maintain its shape for the entire lifespan of the boot. Like any soccer shoe, the lighter you make it, the less durable you can expect it to be. Personally, I did not have any issues with the durability of the King SL throughout testing and nothing on the boot jumps out at as a potential problem. The King SL should get you through a season’s worth of play without any issues, but one piece of advice that I always give to anybody who is buying an ultra-lightweight soccer is to treat them as a pair of match day boots. Picking up a cheaper pair of shoes for practice is a great way to preserve any high-end soccer shoe, and will certainly increase the amount of time that you’ll get out of your shoes. Also keep in mind that the Firm Ground version of the King SL, or any firm ground soccer shoe for that matter, is designed for use on natural grass playing surfaces. Using any FG shoe on artificial grass/turf will have a major impact on the durability of your shoes.
There are so many things about the King SL that I love. The fit is fantastic, its very comfortable, its incredibly lightweight and the stud pattern provides great traction, but at the end of the day, this is still a synthetic Puma King, which is a major turn off for so many consumers. With that being said, the King SL is not a right-off, it just cannot be looked at as a traditional style soccer shoe. If you look at the King SL as a new “Speed” boot from Puma as opposed to a new King model, than I think the general response would have been a lot more positive. In my opinion, the King SL is the most comfortable sub 6oz soccer shoe that I have ever worn, and that in itself is impressive enough to make the King SL a very viable option if you are currently on the market for an ultra-lightweight soccer shoe. The Puma King SL 2013 is a fantastic lightweight soccer shoe, but it is not a Puma King.
|Comfort/Fit||10 out of 10|
|Weight||10 out of 10|
|Traction||9 out of 10|
|Touch||8 out of 10|
|Shooting||8 out of 10|
|Protection||6 out of 10|
|Durability||8 out of 10|
|FINAL SCORE||59 out of 70 or 84%|