Nike Mercurial Vapor IX SG-Pro (Soft Ground Pro) Leather Finish Review

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Nike Mercurial Vapor IX SG-Pro (Soft Ground Pro) Leather Finish Review

The Nike Mercurial Vapor IX SG-Pro 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.


Nike has now made the Vapor available with two different upper variations. With the release of the MV9, you now have the choice between the new Speed Control dimpled finish or the Faux-Leather finish version, a finish that we’ve seen used in the mercurial series several times in the past. While both upper variations do offer slightly different feels, you’re still going to get a fantastic touch on the ball no matter which upper variation that you go for. Just keep in mind that the upper variation depends on the colorway, where certain colorways will feature the Speed Control dimpling and others will feature a faux-leather finish, but never will you see two upper variations available in the same colorway. Also note that the fit, sizing and overall comfort of the MV9 in both upper variations is exactly the same.

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 SG-Pro weighs at 7.6oz, which is very lightweight for a soft ground soccer shoe. The firm ground model weighs in at 6.6oz, so for the soft ground model to weigh only an ounce more is pretty impressive. If you’re looking for a lightweight shoe for use on soft ground, you’ll get that from the MV9.


The SG-Pro stud pattern from Nike is something that has gained a lot of popularity ever since its release. It features a combination of six screw-in, metal studs and plastic molded studs, giving many the impression that SG-Pro is designed as a multi-surface stud pattern, and that’s just not the case. If you’re not going to be playing on soft ground, do not buy the SG-Pro stud pattern. With that being said, there are two sets of studs included with the purchase of a pair of SG-Pro shoes. Included is a set of 11mm and 13mm metal studs, as well as a set of 13mm and 15mm metal studs, allowing you to change your stud length depending on how soft the playing surface is.

The stud pattern itself performs great, but it is absolutely crucial that you’re using it on the correct playing surface. If you’re playing on firm, natural grass playing surfaces, than 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 playing conditions. What’s unique to the Vapor SG-Pro, are the plastic studs being blades instead of conical studs. The extra plastic studs positioned in-between the six metal studs give the SG-Pro stud pattern a slightly different feel on the ball than your average six stud. I like the SG-Pro stud pattern because it provides the grip that you need when playing on soft ground, but offers the feel of a firm ground stud pattern on the ball. Soft ground stud patterns, in my opinion, all offer very similar amounts of traction, and that includes Nike’s SG-Pro stud pattern.

What’s more important when it comes to SG stud patterns is that you’re actually wearing them on soft ground, because if you’re not, the performance is not going to be that great. On soft ground, the SG-Pro stud pattern from Nike performs great, and is a nice improvement over the standard six-stud soft ground stud formation.


So, why should you pick the faux-leather finish version of the MV9 over the Speed Control version? The answer to that question is really up to you. I wouldn’t say that one version is better than the other, and I’m actually happy that Nike has given us a little bit of a choice with the Vapor this time. To sum up the difference between the two upper variations in terms of feel, the Speed Control version provides slightly more grip on the ball, where as the Faux-Leather finish provides a slightly thinner feel with less grip on the ball. So, if you want to try something new, go for the Speed Control version, but if you want that classic Vapor feel, than I would go for the Faux-Leather finish version. Whichever model you choose, you’re still getting a great shoe.

One of the major reasons why many were confused by Nike releasing a faux-leather finish version of the MV9 is because it appears to be nearly identical to the MV8. From a visual standpoint, it is hard to deny that, but trust me when I say that the shoe is actually different in terms of how it feels. This version of the MV9, just like the Speed Control version, features the latest version of Teijin synthetic, which feels a little different than what we got with the MV8. The Teijin synthetic is a little thicker than it used to be, and has the slightest bit of natural cushion to it. While this is a very small difference in comparison to the MV8, it really does make a big difference in the way that the shoe feels.

If you’re looking for the ultimate barefoot touch on the ball, than you’re going to get that from the faux-leather version of the MV9. Touches on the ball feel extremely close to the foot, and the tight fit of the upper makes the shoe feel as if it is a part of you. There’s no extra grip on the upper, so you’re left with a very natural touch on the ball, which feels great. If you’re not a fan of having extra grip on the ball, like me, than you might want to consider the faux-leather version of the MV9 over the Speed Control version.

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. The Faux-Leather finish MV9 may not be as exciting as the dimpled version, but if you’re looking for that classic, close to the foot, clean touch on the ball that the Vapor series has been known to provide, than you’ll love this version of the MV9.


Shooting in the Vapor IX is also really great. There is 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. Overall, striking the ball in the MV9 feels amazing, especially if you’re a fan of having that barefoot feel.


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 soft ground version of the Vapor 9 is designed for use on soft, natural grass playing surfaces. Using any soft 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.

The Verdict

Its always nice to have options when it comes to your soccer shoes, and this is the first time ever that Nike has given us the choice between two upper variations at the launch of a new Vapor. Like I said earlier, both versions of the MV9 are great, it’s just a matter of what your preference is when it comes to deciding which version to buy. If you want something completely different, than go for the Speed Control version of the MV9, but if you really liked the MV8 and would like a slightly improved version of that, than I would definitely go for the Faux-Leather version of the MV9. If you were considering a pair of Nike Mercurial Vapor 9s, my best advice is to for it. The Vapor series has always been great, and its exciting to see Nike continue to innovate with each and every new model!

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%
SR4U Laces