The Nike Mercurial Vapor IX FG is arguably the most popular high-end shoe on the market, and for good reason. With the release of the Mercurial Vapor IX (9), Nike has taken the fantastic design of the previous Vapor VIII and tweaked it, taking the Vapor series one step further in its never ending evolution. The Nike Mercurial Vapor has gone through so many different redesigns, but Nike still manages to impress, introducing some new ideas that work extremely well.
The first thing that you’re going to notice when you see the Vapor 9, is the unique golf ball like dimpling on the upper. While this has nothing to do with the fit of the boot, it does change the overall feel of the upper. The upper itself is still made from the usual Teijin Synthetic that we’ve come to expect from the Vapor, but this variation is much different from past versions of Teijin that we’ve seen. The first thing that I noticed was how soft the upper was from right out of the box. The upper is very flexible and actually feels slightly elastic. When you slide the shoe on, you can feel the upper stretch around your foot, which is part of the reason why the shoe fits so well. When I say that the upper has some stretch to it, I don’t mean that the upper is going to mold to your feet, it just has a little bit of give to it, allowing the fit to be as tight as possible while still maintaining a comfortable feel.
Part of what makes the Vapor series so great is the ultra-tight fit. The Vapor 8 was one of the best fitting synthetic soccer shoes ever released, and Nike has managed to improve the fit with the release of the 9th Vapor. When you put the shoe on your foot, even before you pull the laces tight, the upper wraps your foot perfectly. When you pull the laces tight, the upper hugs every inch of your foot, giving the shoe a sock-like fit. If you were to compare the fit to the Vapor 8, the toe box is lower and the forefoot, as well as the mid-foot are cut a little tighter on the Vapor 9. This is the only shoe that I have ever worn where it feels like the upper 100% matches the shape of my foot, with no extra material at all. In order to achieve such a tight fit, the shoe has to have a more narrow cut, and the Vapor 9 is definitely not the widest fitting shoe. I have an average width foot, and I’m pretty much at the limit as far as foot width is concerned. So, if you do have wider feet, I would recommend looking elsewhere.
As far as other comfort elements are concerned, the Vapor 9 is not much different from past version of the Vapor. The laces run directly up the middle of the shoe, allowing you to get a nice secure fit. The tongue is made from a very thin Teijin synthetic, providing no extra padding whatsoever, but still allowing for a comfortable fit, even with the laces pulled tight. The heel is lined in smooth synthetic leather, with a solid amount of padding considering the lightweight nature of the boot. The same EVA foam, perforated insole is also included, which honestly is not the best insole that I’ve ever used, but it is removable, so if wanted to swap it out for something different, you have that option.
As far as sizing is concerned, they Vapor 9 runs true to size. I wore my usual size 9US for review and the fit in the length was absolutely perfect. So, if you’re looking to order a pair for yourself, I would strongly recommend ordering true to size for the best possible fit. One question that I know a lot of people will ask is, can go up half a size if you have wide feet, and the simple answer to that question is no. You should never go up in size to be able to fit into any soccer shoe if it means that they’ll be too long, and even going half a size up the shoe will still have a narrow fit. The Vapor 9 has the tightest fit that you can possibly have without the shoe being uncomfortable.
The Nike Mercurial Vapor 9 has a listed weight of 6.6oz, which is exactly the same as the previous model. Both in hand on feet, the Vapor 9 feels extremely light. The tight fitting nature of the boot gives it a very responsive feel, almost as if the shoe is one with your foot. If a lightweight feel is what you’re looking for, than the Vapor 9 will provide that.
The Vapor 9 uses the exact same stud pattern as the Vapor 8, which is not a bad thing at all. The stud pattern on the Vapor 9 essentially uses a six-stud formation. Starting 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 pretty much every other firm ground stud pattern out there. The blades themselves are not particularly large, but they are well supported, with solid 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 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 feel a little weird, but once you set foot on a grass field, the stud pattern on the Vapor 9 begins to make sense.
Obviously with only six studs, excluding the middle support stud, under your feet, you might think 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 sense of where the traction is under your feet, which allows you to really push off hard with confidence that you’re not going to slip. The IX stud pattern really seems to be based around feel, and when you can feel the grip, you can more easily push the limits. It is also worth noting how narrow and sharp that the actual blades are on the Vapor 9, 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. This is not a stud pattern that you should be wearing on artificial grass, or turf, nor should you wear the SG-Pro version of these types of fields. 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 9.
The Vapor 9 features another all new synthetic from Nike, introducing the Speed Control system. “Speed Control” is what Nike is calling the dimples featured on the upper of the Vapor 9, and not only does it look cool, but it also performs the part.
The idea behind the dimpling on the upper is not aerodynamics, like it would be for on a ball, but instead has to do with surface area. If you think of a flat surface versus a dimpled surface, the amount of friction that each surface will produce is different. In the case of the upper on the Vapor 9, the upper has a slightly grippy finish to it, and when you combine that with a slightly cushioned dimpled surface, you’ll have more or less grip depending on how hard or soft your touch on the ball is. For example, when your dribbling, making very soft touches on the ball, you’re only making contact with half of the surface area of the upper (the part around the dimples). This means that you have less grip on the ball, but just the right amount to allow the ball to slide freely against the upper when dribbling. When you’re striking the ball, the impact between the ball and the upper is much harder, so the slight cushion of the upper compresses, making the dimpled surface flatten out, giving you the extra grip of the other half of the uppers surface area (the inside of the dimples). Its a little bit difficult to understand, but if you give these shoes a try, than you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. To summarize, softer touches on the ball will have less grip and harder touches on the ball will have more grip.
As a whole, the system works really well, and like the idea of having more grip on the ball when I need it and less when I don’t. It’s a concept that we’ve never seen before, acting as somewhat of an adaptive touch system. Unlike the paper-thin Teijin synthetic used on the Vapor 8, the Vapor 9 synthetic feels thin, but also has little bit of cushion to it. By no means does it feel like a padded leather, but it has a very slight natural padding, that I personally love. You’re still going to get that close touch on the ball, it just won’t be as unforgiving as other thin synthetics. The flexibility and softness of the synthetic is also pretty impressive, and I would even go as far as to say that break-in time is almost not required.
Following the latest trend from Nike, the Vapor 9 also includes ACC (All Conditions Control) technology. Think of it as a “wet weather” control element, allowing for the best possible touch on the ball in all types of playing conditions. Basically, it doesn’t allow water to sit on the outside layer of the upper, so you won’t have as slick of a touch on the ball when playing in the wet. ACC itself, is not actually a coating either, but is actually something that is permeated to the upper itself. The process by Nike is pretty secretive, but we do know that ACC is actually in the makeup of the Teijin Synthetic upper, rather than being a coating that could wear away.
So, does it work? The answer to that is not exactly straight forward, because it does what it is supposed to do, but at the end of the day, control is down to the player and not the shoe. When playing in wet weather, I noticed that the outside of the upper remains much less slick with ACC, in comparison to a non-ACC shoe. The ball doesn’t feel as slick against your foot when playing in wet weather, but again, the difference is not as significant as you might think. I would still argue that thin, synthetic boots are the most difficult to use when playing in the wet, as opposed to using a shoe with a more cushioned feel to the upper. With that being said, I would rather have ACC on my shoe than not have it. I like ACC for the simple fact that it has the ability to disappear when its not activated.
To sum up the touch of the Nike Mercurial Vapor 9, it feels fantastic. I’m generally not a big fan of thin synthetics, but I love the feel of the Vapor 9. The Speed Control system works surprisingly well, giving the shoe a very unique feel. If you’re a long time Vapor wearer, than you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the touch of the Vapor 9.
Shooting in the Vapor IX 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. For how light the shoe is, it has an incredible amount of stiffness through the mid-foot, which feels fantastic when striking the ball. There are now two layers of glass fiber throughout the entire soleplate, so you’ll get plenty of rigidity from the base of the boot. The Speed Control system also helps in adding a little bit of extra grip when striking the ball, without any bulky striking elements in the way. The upper feels thin, providing just enough cushion between your foot and the ball to provide that awesome barefoot feel, while still providing some minimal impact protection.
Protection is not something that we’ve come to expect from the Vapor series. The thin upper provides that nice close touch on the ball, but provides very little impact protection should you get stepped on. The only protective element on the boot is the internal plastic heel counter, which should absorb some of the blow should you take a kick to the heel. If you’re buying into the idea of being as light as possible and having that barefoot touch on the ball, then protection shouldn’t be one of your main concerns.
The Vapor IX feels surprisingly solid for a lightweight soccer shoe. The Teijin synthetic feels very tough and the finish on the outside of the upper seems like it would bond very well with the soleplate, so premature separation shouldn’t be an issue. Most of the testing that I did was at -10 celcius, and I had absolutely no issues at all, which leads me to believe that this shoe is pretty tough. This is a shoe that I can definitely see lasting at least an entire season’s worth of play. Keep in mind that the firm ground version of the Vapor 9 is designed for use on natural grass playing surfaces. Using any firm ground soccer shoe on turf/artificial grass will have a major impact on the durability of the boot. If you’re going to be playing on artificial grass, the Vapor 9 will now be made available with an AG stud pattern.
I was expecting to like the Vapor 9, but I didn’t expect to like it this much. Between the incredible fit, the softness of the synthetic, the Speed Control system and the great performance of the stud pattern, the Vapor 9 is easily one the best lightweight soccer shoes currently on the market. If you’re a fan of the Vapor series or were thinking about giving the Vapor 9 a try, then my best advice is to go for it. I didn’t think that Nike would be able to top the Vapor 8, but they’ve done it again.
|Comfort/Fit||10 out of 10|
|Weight||10 out of 10|
|Traction||10 out of 10|
|Touch||10 out of 10|
|Shooting||9 out of 10|
|Protection||6 out of 10|
|Durability||8 out of 10|
|FINAL SCORE||63 out of 70 or 90%|