Nike Mercurial Vapor IX AG (Artificial Grass) Review
The first thing that you’re going to notice when you see the Mercurial Vapor IX AG, 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 AG weighs at 7oz, which is almost exactly the same weight as the firm ground model. The firm ground model weighs in at 6.6oz, so for the AG model to weigh only 0.2oz more is pretty impressive. The small amount of extra weight comes mainly from the plastic layer covering the glass fiber soleplate. We’ve been asking for an AG model of the top end Vapor for a while now, and we’ve finally got it. If you’re looking for that ultra-lightweight feel for use on AG surfaces, than you’ll get that from the MV9 AG.
Artificial grass is becoming more and more popular all over the world, with many players spending a lot of time, if not all of their time, playing on artificial playing surfaces. As players have had to adapt to playing on artificial surfaces, soccer shoes had to change as well, and for the first time ever, we have a top end Nike Mercurial Vapor available with an AG stud pattern!
What most players don’t realize about artificial grass playing surfaces is how important your choice of footwear is. If you look at what most players are wearing right now on AG fields right now, you’re going to see the majority of players wearing FG stud patterns and maybe a handful of players wearing Turf shoes. Wearing turf shoes on AG is completely fine, you just might not get that same sensation of grip that you’ll get from a FG stud pattern. Wearing an FG stud pattern on artificial grass, while it may seem very common, is actually something that I would strongly recommend against!
There are several reasons as to why you shouldn’t wear FG studs on AG playing surfaces, but the main reason that should jump out as a concern for everybody is safety. There is such a thing as having too much grip, and when you wear aggressive FG stud patterns on a shallow, very abrasive playing surface, like artificial grass, you get that clingy feel. If you’ve ever worn an FG stud pattern on AG, then you know that it is nearly impossible to slip, which might seem like a good thing, but in actuality this is a very dangerous performance trait for any pair of soccer shoes. Once your foot is planted it becomes stuck, so any kind of contact from another player, however big or small, could potentially cause some major damage to your knees or ankles! If that has never happened to you before than that’s great, but there are tons of situations where severe injuries have occurred that can be directly blamed on wearing the wrong kind of shoes on the wrong type of playing surface. If you’ve played on AG long enough, than you may have witnessed one of these injuries first hand.
Too much grip can also lead to premature separation between the soleplate and upper of your soccer shoes. Since an AG surface does not allow your shoes to slip at all, your putting a lot of extra stress on all of the seams where the soleplate meets the upper, which will have major impact on the lifespan of your boots. The last reason why you shouldn’t wear FG shoes on AG fields is comfort. Many FG stud patterns nowadays feature very aggressive and very long studs that sit on thin soleplates. These studs are designed to dig into natural grass, which has a fair amount of depth to it. An AG field does not have any depth, so your studs don’t have the ability to dig in, which can lead to issues with stud pressure and discomfort.
The AG stud pattern from Nike is designed to feel more natural when playing on artificial grass. If you can imagine what it feels like to play with an FG stud pattern on natural grass, that is the exact feel that you’ll get from Nike’s AG stud pattern on artificial grass. The first thing that you’ll notice about the Mercurial AG stud pattern is that it’s a little different from the AG stud patterns used on Nike’s other three lines. The reason for that was to allow for the AG Vapor to retain that Mercurial style, which is all about being lightweight and minimalistic.
In terms of performance, I couldn’t be happier with the amount of traction that you get on AG fields. You have all of the grip that you could possibly need at push-off, but still have plenty of maneuverability, allowing you to twist and turn freely once your foot is planted. You’re unlikely to slip with this stud pattern, but at no point do you feel as if your feet are stuck in the ground when planted.
The unique traction pattern is made up of many tube-like studs scattered across the main traction points at the base of the sole. The hollowed out studs are made from a firm, yet flexible rubber material giving them the ability to flex. This flexibility in the studs is what allows for this stud pattern to not have that clingy feel on AG, but still provide plenty of grip. The studs themselves vary in shape and size, and if compared to your average FG stud pattern, the studs are much shorter, which is great because artificial grass is a shallow playing surface.
If you’re going to be putting any large amounts of playing time in on artificial grass, than I would strongly recommend going for an AG stud pattern. The first question that I know many will ask is can you use the AG stud pattern on regular grass, and my answer to that is you could, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You won’t get the best traction and the studs will wear away a lot quicker than you might like. If you want the best performance from your soccer shoes, than it is absolutely crucial that you stick to using the correct stud pattern for the playing surface that you’ll be playing on. For artificial grass, you’re not going to find anything that performs better than the AG stud patterns from Nike.
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. This is a shoe that I can definitely see lasting at least an entire season’s worth of play. Again, if you’re going to be playing on artificial grass, you’re going to get the best durability from the AG model of the MV9.
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%|