If you’re not Nike, Adidas or Puma, it can be pretty tough to gain popularity when it comes to soccer cleats. Under Armour, while they’ve been around the soccer world for a decent amount of time now, have very slowly gained in popularity, but are still a rarity out to see out at the fields. Due to their lack of soccer history, many look at a brand like UA and the footwear options that they have to offer, and almost disregard them completely, which is a shame.
The Clutchfit Force is the latest offering from UA, and I have to say I have been thoroughly impressed. Unfortunately for UA, it released at a similar time as the Nike’s Magista and Mercurial lines for 2014, as well as the Predator and Nitrocharge lines from Adidas, so it didn’t quite get the attention that it perhaps deserved. With that said, the Clutchfit Force, as most UA products, is a very unique and interesting boot that really has a lot to offer when it comes to performance.
“Clutchfit” is the keyword here, as it’s not only the name of the boot, but also the feature technology. UA has launched this technology not only on their latest soccer cleat, but also across their basketball, American football and training footwear lines, which really shows the versatility of Clutchfit. Essentially it’s made from two separate layers of material that are fused together, to create an upper that flexes and stretches like a second-skin on your foot. The term “like a second-skin” is one that certainly isn’t unfamiliar in the soccer world, but UA Clutchfit upper really is impressive when it comes to feel that it delivers.
Upon closer inspection, the Clutchfit upper is unlike any other synthetic boot currently on the market. The base for the upper is made from Trivela Performance microfiber, which is thin, pliable synthetic that has the ability to stretch in multiple directions. On the surface of the upper, you’ll find the second layer to the Clutchfit synthetic, which is made from a rubberized 3-D printed pattern, which consists of what I would describe as an “hour glass” shape, all linking together, covering the entire upper.
It sounds somewhat complicated, but its actually quite simple. The base layer of the upper is soft, pliable and mildly stretchy, while the rubber 3-D printed surface pattern acts as a support cage that reinforces the upper, but doesn’t take away from it’s softness and flexibility. When you pull the laces tight, you can feel the upper stretch ever so slightly to hug your foot like a second-skin. The stretch aspect of the upper is pressure activated, meaning that a certain amount of force is required until it starts to give, allowing for a surprisingly tight, yet comfortable wrap of your foot.
So, the upper stretches, wouldn’t that make for issues with stability? The answer to that question is no. The web-like support cage on the surface of the upper does a great job of allowing the upper to stretch vertically, which is noticeable when you pull the laces tight, but also provides enough reinforcement for hard lateral cuts without any kind of roll over. Your foot remains securely locked in place, and the shoe feels very stable at all times.
To sum up the Clutchfit upper, it’s soft, flexible, and due to its ability to stretch, it wraps your foot extremely well, offering a tight yet comfortable fit. Along with that great fit, you also get great stability from the reinforcements provided by the 3-D printed top layer. It’s a tough sensation to describe, but I can tell you that it feels awesome. It reminds me a little of the Puma evoPOWER 1, the Nike Hypervenom Phantom and even the Adidas Predator Instinct, which is kind of an odd group of boots, but that just goes to show how unique the Clutchfit Force actually is.
When it comes to comfort, other than the Clutchfit upper, this boot has a lot going for it. The heel is lined with a nicely padded synthetic leather material, while the inside of the upper has the feel of suede, making for great overall comfort.
The insole is also a highlight when it comes to comfort, as the Clutchfit features UA’s signature 4D Foam insole. This is the same insole found in UA’s other high-end cleats, and when it comes to step-in comfort and under foot cushioning, nothing else, from any other brand even comes close. The insole combines a top layer of 4D Foam, which offers a memory foam type quality, while the base of the insole is made from UA’s signature Micro G foam. Together, these two materials provide a shocking amount of under foot cushioning, delivering the comfort level that you might expect from a pair of low-profile running shoes, not a soccer cleat. They’re simply the best insoles that you can get in a pair of soccer cleats.
In terms of break-in, the Clutchfit Force feels pretty god from right out of the box. I will say that my first impression of the boot wasn’t the greatest, but after some wear-time, my opinion changed dramatically. At first, the upper wasn’t the softest, and didn’t wrap my foot quite the way I was expecting. After a couple hours though, everything changes. The upper becomes softer, much more flexible, and the stretchy aspect of the upper starts to become more present. I found that every new session with Clutchfit during the break-in process, the upper seemed to wrap my foot closer and closer, to where it eventually offered a perfect wrap and a true one-to-one sensation, while still being very comfortable.
I didn’t really struggle too much with discomfort, other than some very minor cramping in the mid-foot during the first couple of wears, but after that, I didn’t have any issues. If you choose to go for a pair of Clutchfits, just know that they do require some break-in time before they start to feel the way they’re supposed to.
As far as fit is concerned, the Clutchfit Force is a tighter fitting shoe, similar to a Nike Mercurial Vapor, but one that is suitable for a much wider variety of foot types. The width of the boot changes as you break it in. At first, it fits like a slightly wider version of the Vapor, wrapping every part of your foot very closely. As you break them in, and the upper starts to soften up, the stretch of the Clutchfit upper comes into play, and the shoe gains the ability to stretch around your foot, almost as if it were elasticated. Once they’re broken-in, they’ll fit just about anybody. You put your foot in the boot, pull the laces tight, and upper expands. With the laces pulled tight, you’ll find that the boot is tightest through the mid-foot, with the forefoot and toe box area being a little roomier, but still snug. Take your foot you, and it springs back to its original shape. To a certain extent it reacts leather with its ability to expand, but unlike leather, or most upper for that matter, it doesn’t expand permanently. As long you don’t have excessively wide feet, this will fit great.
When it comes to sizing, like most UA cleats that I’ve worn, these do not run true to size. I wore a size 9.5US for review, which is half a size larger than I would normally wear, and the fit was perfect. So, if you’re looking to order a pair for yourself, I would recommend going half a size up for the proper fit.
Weight is one of those elements that has become more and more important in the modern soccer cleat market, so it should come as a surprise that the Clutchfit is fairly lightweight. In a size 9.5US, the Clutchfit Force weighs in at 8oz, which is light, but certainly not lightest. Visually, the Clutchfit Force has the appearance of a “Speed Boot”, so for that reason alone it will automatically be compared to shoes like the Adidas F50 adizero and Nike Mercurial Vapor 10, which in comparison are a fair bit lighter. Is this a big deal? For me personally, I wouldn’t say so. At 8oz, the Clutchfit Force is still lighter than most, or at least many high-end shoes. They feel lightweight on feet, offer a solid build and are also very comfortable. There are lighter options out there, but these are light enough to where I really don’t have any complaints, not to mention that no other boots really have was the Clutchfit has to offer.
When it comes to traction, the Clutchfit Force is well above average. The stud pattern that has been implemented is a slightly modified variation of what was last seen on the UA Hydrastrike Pro 2, which was a great boot by the way. The only major difference is that the Clutchfit features only one support stud in the middle of the forefoot, as opposed to two. The studs themselves are oval in shape, providing somewhat of hybrid feel, combining the best qualities of bladed and conical studs in one. The forefoot of the shoe features only three studs on the inside, and four studs on the outside, along with one support stud in the middle, and of course four studs under the heel.
In terms of how it performs, I was impressed. You get great traction when pushing off and making lateral cuts, due to the oval shape of studs, while still maintaining the freedom to pivot when planted, since the studs have all rounded edges. The studs themselves also have a fairly large surface area, so stability is also a strong point with this stud pattern.
The soleplate also plays a role in the overall traction. The base is made from layer of flexible plastic, with a direct injected stiffener element of sorts that runs through the mid-foot and then thins out through the forefoot. It’s flexible, but not flimsy, and that’s what I like about it. It moves nicely with the bend of your foot, so no matter which way you twist and turn, you have as many studs under your feet as possible.
Since the upper is somewhat stretchy, it isn’t unreasonable to question the stability of the upper, which of course has an impact on the responsiveness of the boot. The 3-D Print pattern on the surface of the upper gets more and more dense, to the point where its completely solid where the upper meets the soleplate. This reinforcement seems to do the trick as far as maintaining sufficient stability when making quick cuts and turns, so to answer the question, yes, these are very stable and surprisingly responsive.
I’m always skeptical of new synthetic uppers, especially from smaller soccer brands. With that said, UA has a real winner with this Clutchfit upper. Again, when I first held the shoe in my hands and got a closer look at the upper, I wasn’t terribly impressed. It doesn’t come across as “premium” in comparison to synthetic offerings from Nike and Adidas just based on how it looks. Well, looks can be deceiving.
Once again, give the Clutchfit Force some time to break-in prior to judging how it feels. At first, it just felt okay, but after several hours, when the upper started to soften up, the touch became really good.
Like most thin synthetic soccer cleats, the upper is one-piece, with a tongue, wrapping your foot very closely. The upper is thin, but not what I would describe as truly barefoot when it comes to feel. There’s a very slight cushioned quality to this upper that I really liked.
The second, and most surprising element to the upper of the Clutchfit, at least when it comes to touch, is the rubberized 3-D Print on the surface. Since the top layer of the upper is rubber, you get extra grip on the ball. The hourglass pattern that you can very clearly see across the entire upper, is slightly raised off of the surface of the upper, so it has some nice texturing to it. The pattern also spans the entire upper, so you consistently get the same feel for the ball no matter what part of the foot you’re using, which is nice.
If I had to compare it something else on the market, it would be the Adidas Predator Instinct. I make that comparison simply because of the extra grip that you get on the ball, but with that said, the feel is still very different. The extra grip that you get isn’t over whelming like it can be with a more traditional rubber elements. The grip is subtle and consistent, so getting used to the feel is pretty easy. An aspect of the Clutchfit that is slightly unique when it comes to touch, is that you get that extra grip, with pretty much no extra bulk, simply because the rubber grip element is part of the shoe, as opposed to on the shoe, if that makes sense.
The feel provided by the Clutchfit is definitely unique. It’s kind of like a combination between the Adidas F50 adizero and Predator Instinct when it comes to feel. IF you like thin uppers, you’ll like how these feel and if you like extra grip on the ball, you’ll like these more.
Shooting the ball in the Clutchfit Force is a positive experience to say the least. The upper is thin, and the construction of the boot feels solid, so you get very responsive sensation when striking through the ball. Not to mention the extra grip that you get, while still maintaining a thinner feel, which arguably the main attraction when it comes to shooting. You get the grip of a rubber striking element, without the bulk, which is awesome.
As with most thin, lightweight soccer cleat, protection is the first element to be sacrificed at the expense of feel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The upper is thin, and quite soft, so should you get stepped on, you’re definitely going to feel it. With that said, as far as thin uppers go, this is one of the most structured that I’ve comes across, so you could say that it’s one of the most protective thin uppers around. You’ll also find that the rear portion of the boot features an internal and external plastic heel counter, providing both stability as well as extra protection.
Overall, this is not an ideal shoe if protection is a priority for you. It’s certainly not the thinnest boot around but protection is still what I would describe as minimal.
The last couple of top-end model from UA have not only been great performers, but also quite durable. I’ve got well over 20 hours of wear-time on my pair of Clutchfits, and they have held up incredibly well. There aren’t any real signs of wear at all. One thing that thin, one-piece synthetic uppers are known to do is crease, and you don’t get that from the Clutchfits. The bond between the soleplate and upper remains 100% intact, and other than a little dirt, they look like they did from day one.
This is a pair of shoes that should easily get you through at least a season’s worth of play, if not significantly longer should you take good care of them. These seem some of the most durable lightweight cleats around.
Please keep in mind that the firm ground version of the Clutchfit Force, or any firm ground cleat for that matter, is designed for use on firm, natural grass playing surfaces only. Should you wear any FG cleat on turf/artificial grass, it will have a definite impact on the durability and longevity of your cleats.
I’m generally pretty good at predicting how much I’m going to like a shoe prior to actually wearing them, so it isn’t often that my expectations are exceeded. The UA Clutchfit Force, if I’m honest, didn’t really impress me at first, but after giving them a fair shot, I really came to like them, a lot.
The Clutchfit upper is thin, soft, flexible, and even stretchy, making for an awesome fit, and unique overall feel. The touch that they provide is excellent, the traction is great and they’re just a very comfortable pair of shoes to wear. I also think it’s a really good looking shoe, but that’s beside the point.
Under Armour has another winner on their hands, and I can only hope that people give their latest models a try. While they’re not the most popular, and don’t have nearly the same hype around them as the bigger brands, what they have to offer when it comes to performance is top class. If there’s a major downside to this boot it’s $175 retail price, which isn’t unreasonable considering the performance, but since its on par with offerings from Nike, Adidas and Puma, people are less likely to opt for UA.
If you’re looking for something less mainstream, I strongly recommend the Clutchfit Force. It really does have a lot going for it, it’s just a matter of giving it a chance.
|Comfort/Fit||10 out of 10|
|Weight||8 out of 10|
|Traction||9 out of 10|
|Touch||10 out of 10|
|Shooting||9 out of 10|
|Protection||6 out of 10|
|Durability||9 out of 10|
|FINAL SCORE||61 out of 70 or 87%|