Puma PowerCat 1.12 SL Review
The Puma PowerCat 1.12 SL is the "super light" model of the standard PowerCat 1.12. Unlike most SL models, the PowerCat 1.12 SL is not all that different from the standard version of the shoe, aside from the weight, which is a good thing. As far as the overall fit of the shoe goes, the SL fits identically to the standard PowerCat. Offering a very tight fit from right out of the box, with a toe box that is on the smaller side, the shoe does require some break-in time before it will feel truly comfortable. The kangaroo leather upper is thinner than the regular model of the PowerCat, and for that reason it seems to be a little on the stiffer side due to the lack of padding. The leather will soften up and stretch, but not immediately, so I would strongly recommend breaking-in these shoes slowly to avoid any kind of discomfort. I personally had no issues with blisters or any kind of severe discomfort, but just know that it is normal for the shoe to feel a little stiff at first. The rest of the shoe fits wide enough through the mid foot and heel area, but if you do have an exceptionally wide foot, I would probably stay away. Sizing is somewhat tricky on the SL version of the PowerCat, simply because the leather doesn't seem to stretch as much as the standard model does. I wore my usual size 9US for review, and the fit was very tight from out of the box, and even after stretching, the fit was still very tight. The ultra tight fit is something that I like to have, but I know that not everybody likes a shoe that tight. So if you want a very tight fit, go for your normal size, but if you want just a little bit of freedom at the front of the shoe, going up half a size is not going to be a problem. The PowerCat 1.12 SL offers a quality fit, and is one of the more solid boots in this weight range.
Given that this is an SL release, one would anticipate this version to be a fair bit lighter than the standard model, and it is. The SL weighs in at 8.2oz, which is about 2 full ounces less than the standard model. This is a significant amount of weight for a shoe to lose, and it is easy to see where the weight was shed. But what makes the PowerCat 1.12 SL so impressive is that it still offers a feel that is true to the original version, which is very rare when you compare an SL model to the standard model. While less weight doesn't necessarily mean better, if less weight is your thing, than you will probably like the PowerCat 1.12 SL.
The stud pattern is unlike any stud patterns that can be found on any other shoe. It is an all-bladed stud pattern, with a unique formation of studs under the heel. I would describe running with this stud pattern as a very smooth ride. All of the studs are the same length, so it offers a solid amount of stability since all of the studs will be touching the ground when your foot is planted. This makes for very good traction for shooting when you plant your foot to strike the ball. Once you plant your foot for the shot, your foot is not going to move, which is very important. I think that part of the reason why you get such good traction when you plant your foot is due to the unique arrangement of heel studs. The heel studs are still blades, like the rest of the shoe, but instead of running the length of the shoe, they run across the shoe. There are also 6 studs rather than the usual 4, so the stability and traction that you get when planting your foot is really good. The overall performance of the stud pattern is very good, and they will provide plenty of traction for quick changes of direction. I’m not one to really go for bladed stud patterns, but I really liked this one.
What always bothered me about so many “power” boots, featuring some kind of rubber striking element, is that it would always be making contact with the ball, especially when dribbling. This is not an issue with the PowerCat 1.12 SL because the striking element is not so much about the rubber element but the actual material of the upper in the strike zone. This makes for a shoe that feels like a very traditional kangaroo leather soccer shoe without the gimmicky rubber in the way. To me this is one of my biggest gripes with any rubber striking element on a soccer shoe, they feel good when shooting, but are generally just in the way whenever you’re not. The touch on this boot feels like that of a very high quality kangaroo leather boot. The leather is definitely on the thinner side, but is still soft, offering a somewhat traditional feel, which is great.
The striking element is still made of Puma’s 3D PST material, which in my opinion is the best shooting innovation from any power boot. Basically it is a slightly thicker, firmer material that has very low rebound properties. This means that very little of the power generated between your foot and the ball will be lost when the ball leaves your foot. While I am not convinced that this will actually allow for more power in your shot, what I can confirm is that it offers a very unique feel that is personally one of my favorites of all of the striking elements on the market. The striking element spans just after the toe all the way back to the third lace hole on the instep of the shoe. You also have these 4 rubber fins that stick up about 1/8 of an inch from the upper. I found the sweet spot, meaning that you are striking the ball directly on the striking element, to be a little lower than the current power boots on the market. I feel like it could have gone just a little higher up the foot, but it does the job. What makes me want to wear a “power” boot is that feeling that you get when you struck a really hard shot and you get that unexplainable feeling where the ball seems to have come off of your foot like a rocket, and I got that feeling with these. The fins that stick out also seem to help ever so slightly in gripping the ball when bending a free kick, but nothing dramatic. To me, this is what a power boot should be. Keep in mind that the SL version is definitely not as stiff as the standard model, but the feel that it offers is very similar.
For being a lightweight soccer shoe, the PowerCat 1.12 SL is going to offer a fair amount of protection. While the leather at the front of the shoe is on the thinner side, it is still going to provide more protection than a synthetic model at a comparable weight to the SL. Along with the rigid striking element, the SL is going to be one of the most protective shoes in this weight range. There is also a small external heel counter which will provide some protection around the heel as well. Keep in mid that the tongue is very thin and should you get stepped in that area, there is not much protection on offer. Overall, this is a shoe that is not going to sacrifice too much protection in exchange for a lightweight feel, which is somewhat unique.
Even though this is a thinned out version of the PowerCat 1.12, the SL still uses very high quality materials and is a well constructed boot. Certain materials have been strategically placed on the shoe, allowing for the shoe to keep its shape over a long period of time. Given that you stay away from artificial grass, the PowerCat 1.12 SL should last a full season without any issues. Keep in mind that this shoe features a natural leather upper, so some maintenance is required to maintain the quality of the upper.
In general, I tend to right off SL releases as a gimmicky release that offers a feel that is plain and simply not as good as the standard model of the shoe. I can happily say that the PowerCat 1.12 SL offers just as much quality as the standard PowerCat, and if you are looking for a lighter version of the PowerCat, the SL is a good choice. Keeping in mind that just because these are lighter than the standard model, that does not automatically mean that they are better. The thinner feel overall is what you are going to get from the SL model, but if that is what you are looking for, than I can strongly recommend the PowerCat 1.12 SL.
Comfort/Fit 10 out of 10
Weight 9 out of 10
Traction 8 out of 10
Touch 10 out of 10
Shooting 10 out of 10
Protection 8 out of 10
Durability 8 out of 10
Final Score 63 out of 70 or 90%