The Superfly is back, but in a much different form factor than you may remember it. Nike’s Superfly series, first introduced in 2009, has always been about the latest and greatest, both in terms of design and technology. In 2011, the Superfly line ended at 3, leaving us waiting until mid-2014 for the Superfly 4, a boot that features an incredibly unique and intriguing design.
Maintaining the Superfly’s signature carbon fiber soleplate and a FlyWire-esque support system, now called Brio Cables, pretty much everything else about the Superfly 4 is new and never been done before. With the main talking points being the FlyKnit upper and Dynamic Fit Collar, the Superfly 4 is unlike any of its predecessors, and is truly the next step in Nike ever-evolving Mercurial line.
The Superfly 4 fits and feels unlike anything else on the market, although the Nike Magista Obra will provide a somewhat similar type of feel. The upper is entirely made from FlyKnit, a material that Nike has been implementing in many of their performance models across several different sports over the last couple of years. FlyKnit is a machine knit material, made from various types of yarns and other synthetic fibers, creating a one-piece, seamless enclosure for your foot. What’s particularly attractive and exciting about the introduction of FlyKnit on a soccer cleat is that the construction process is 100% engineered, so Nike has control of every square millimeter of the upper. Nike can determine the thickness, strength and stretch of the entire upper, without seams, without extra material and without extra bulk, something that only makes this shoe great, but also leaves so much room for potential in future models. The possibilities are endless.
So, we know the concept is great, but how does it actually feel and perform? The answer to that question is complicated, but in a very positive way. First of all, the Superfly 4 is not for everybody. Some love the concept, and others hate it, and that’s fine. If you’re intrigued by the design and want to experience it for yourself, than the Superfly 4 is worth a shot. Nike has marketed the FlyKnit upper and mid-cut design as offering a sock-like fit, and that’s something that I can totally confirm as true. Upon putting the shoes on for the first time, the upper immediately wraps every inch of your foot, giving you that signature second-skin Mercurial fit, but with more softness and flexibility than you get from the usual Teijin synthetic uppers featured on all high-end Mercurials.
The FlyKnit upper is thin, and extremely flexible, allowing the upper to move very natural with the bend of your foot. Unlike the Magista Obra, the FlyKnit upper of the Superfly is a lot less structured, its pretty much one thickness across the entire upper. In order to achieve a properly responsive and secure feel, Nike has incorporated what they’re calling Brio Cables, similar to FlyWire, that run from the base of the sole, directly into the laces on both the medial and lateral sides of the upper. The Brio Cables, which are knitted directly into the upper, are very strong cables that provide tons of stability to the upper, not allowing it to roll over, no matter how hard you cut. When you pull the laces tight, you’ll immediately notice the supportive sensation of the Brio Cables, and what’s great is that it does not restrict the flexibility of the upper in any way at all, something that was a major issue with past Superfly models. So, if you were worried about the FlyKnit upper being too flimsy, don’t be, because the upper is shockingly responsive considering how thin and soft it is. Also keep in mind that the Superfly 4 features an internal support cage, fused directly to the upper, only adding to the stability of the entire upper.
Since the Superfly 4 is still part of the Mercurial line, it will of course be compared to current and older Mercurial models, but the experience is totally unique and simply does not compare. Back in 2012, FlyKnit was introduced as a material that would allow for both a sock-like fit and a sock-like level of comfort, while still allowing for proper support and structure by implementing different materials and patterns. Due to this story and the appearance of FlyKnit in general, many will look at the Superfly 4 and view it as a sock attached to some studs, and to certain extent, that’s exactly what it is.
You’ll find two varieties of FlyKnit on the upper, one section that is structured and another that is elasticated. The structured portion, spanning everywhere except the top of the foot, has very little to no stretch, and is also covered in a thin layer of NikeSkin for touch. The elasticated portion spans the top of the foot, under the laces, as well as the entire Dynamic Fit Collar. The stertchy areas of the shoe are key to the overall fit. When you slide the shoe on your foot, the stretch of those key areas will allow you to get the shoe on fairly easily, but once the shoe is one, it compresses to the exact shape of your foot. The boot is purposely cut a little tighter than the average shoe, and this is what allows for that tight fit, even without tying the laces. Once you tie the laces up, you get the extra stability of the Brio cables, reinforcing the sidewalls of the upper, as well as looking your foot down inside the boot.
The mid-cut design of the boot is an element of the Superfly 4 that many are skeptical about, mainly because it’s somewhat unusual. Admittedly, it is a little weird at first, not so much because of how it feels, but mostly because it’s something that you’re constantly thinking about, at least that was the case with me. The collar isn’t overly tight, but does have a snug fit, tight enough to wear you can feel that its there. With that said, it does not restrict movement whatsoever, and does not get in the way when making touches on the ball. After an hour or so, once I was concentrating more on playing rather than the new shoes on my feet, its something that I stopped noticing.
What’s great about the mid-cut design is that it provides that seamless sensation. As opposed to being shoes on your feet, the sock-like fit and mid-cut design makes the Superfly 4 feel like an extension of your body, part of you as opposed to a piece of equipment.
Inside the shoe, the heel is lined with a smooth synthetic material, similar to what you might find in other Mercurial models, backed by a decent amount of padding. The rear portion of the shoe also features an internal heel counter, providing the necessary structure and stability required of any soccer cleats. The insole is also fully removable, but definitely nothing special. It’s made from a single layer of perforated foam, with a mesh lining, providing some decent underfoot cushioning, and most importantly, it doesn’t slide around.
The new, and what I consider to be improved, carbon fiber soleplate is much more flexible than past variations, giving the boot a much more natural sensation when running. The latest iteration maintains the low-profile feel, but also a lot more flexibility through the mid-foot and toe area, making for a less extensive break-in process and a smoother running experience in general. In all honesty, it feels extremely similar to the new compressed nylon soleplate featured on the new Mercurial Vapor 10, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Its low-profile with no stud pressure and flexible, while still maintaining a slight responsive sensation, what more could you ask for? The looks aren’t so bad either.
As far as break-in is concerned, everyone is going to have a different experience. For me personally, I had no issues taking the Superfly 4 through an entire 2-hour training session with very minimal discomfort. With the being said, blisters can occur if you’re not careful. Minor heel slippage is not uncommon at first, and any kind of movement inside the boot can lead to discomfort and eventually a blister. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you have the proper fit in the length of the shoe. This is not a shoe that you want to wear with tons of growing room. Due to the design of the upper, a snug fit is more or less required in order to achieve that one-to-one feel between your foot and the upper. Excessive space inside the boot is definitely something to avoid.
Another thing to consider when breaking in the Superfly 4 is to take things slowly. New shoes are exciting, I understand that, but if you’re wearing your new Superflys and start to feel discomfort anywhere on your feet, the heel seems to be the most common spot, take them off and switch into another pair for the rest of your session. Repeat this process until the shoes stop causing discomfort. This is a process that you should follow with any shoe, but since the Superfly features a more unusual fit, issues with discomfort at first are more likely to occur. Also, wearing new shoe straight into a game is never a good idea.
In terms of fit, the Superfly 4 maintains the same Mercurial shape that has been so popular for the longest time. This gives the boot a tighter fit overall, but the softness of the FlyKnit upper does make it feel slightly more generous width-wise in comparison to standard Teijin synthetic Mercurial models. With that said, this is still a boot with more of a narrow cut, so if you have wide feet, the Superfly 4 is probably not the best choice. If you fit into previous Mercurial models, or even in Nike’s Hypervenom line, you should fit comfortably in the Superfly 4. Also keep in mind that while the upper will give a little bit, it will not stretch, so the width of the boot from out of the box is a shape that the Superfly 4 will maintain throughout its entire lifespan.
As far as sizing goes, I found the Superfly 4 to run true to size. Just like wear in every other high-end Mercurial, wore a size 9US for review, and the fit in the length was pretty much perfect. Again, the FlyKnit upper is much more flexible than a standard Mercurial, so the fit in the toe box may be a little less snug than you may be accustomed too, giving many the impression that the Superfly 4 runs long, but that’s not actually the case. If you currently wear a pair of Mercurials with a snug fit to tight fit, the Superfly 4 will provide a very similar fit. I say similar because the Superfly 4 is not a standard Mercurial, so while they feel Mercurial-esque, there definitely is a unique aspect to how they fit. Overall, they run true to size, so if you’re planning on ordering, go for your normal size for the best possible fit.
In terms of weight, the AG Superfly 4, in a size 9US, weighs in at 7.1oz. In comparison to the FG version, which weighs in at 7oz in the same size, the weight is nearly identical, which is great because that’s not normally the case. The AG version maintains the same lightweight carbon fiber soleplate, and a much more minimal AG stud pattern than what we’ve seen from previous models from Nike. They’re nice and light both in-hand and on feet, and given they’re extremely responsive feel, you don’t really notice that you’re wearing shoes at all. If you’re looking for something lightweight that is well suited for use on artificial grass, the Superfly 4 AG is a great option.
Just as we saw with the firm ground Mercurial stud patterns, the AG Mercurial stud pattern has also undergone some changes. The same basic concept is still very similar to Nike’s other AG models, featuring hollowed out, conical studs, but in a much more minimalist layout.
With artificial grass, or AG, becoming more and more common nowadays, the type of traction pattern that you use should change too. Just to clarify, AG is the playing surface featuring plastic blades of grass, with rubber pellets scattered throughout, hence the name “artificial grass”. Right now, it is not at all uncommon to see somebody wearing firm ground soccer shoes on artificial grass, but what nobody realizes is that there are so many negatives to doing this. Not only is it potentially dangerous, due to excessive amounts of grip that can be generated from an FG stud pattern on AG that could potentially lead to some pretty severe injuries, but artificial grass will also have a major impact on the durability of your soccer shoes. So much so, that many companies are no longer providing warranties to FG shoes that have been worn on AG. The main reason for the durability issues can be attributed to the abrasiveness of AG, and when using an FG stud pattern on AG you get too much grip, causing your shoes to literally be pushed to the breaking point, generally resulting in premature sole separation. An AG stud pattern is designed to provide the same type of grip on AG that an FG stud pattern would provide on natural grass.
Essentially what an AG stud pattern provides is a great grip and stability on artificial grass, without the clingy sensation that you’ll get when using an FG stud pattern on artificial grass.
The new Mercurial AG layout is setup similarly to an FG stud patterns, with the studs being positioned around the outside edges of the soleplate, with a few support stud in the middle. In comparison to Nike’s other Ag stud pattern variations, the performance is very similar, where I really don’t have any complaints at all. If you’re looking for the feel of wearing FG cleats on natural grass, than you’ll love the feel of wearing the AG Superfly 4 on artificial grass/turf.
Unlike the Magista Obra, the FlyKnit upper of the Superfly 4 is made up of what appears to be a single layer, which makes for more of a barefoot feel for the ball. With that being said, Superfly 4 is more padded than a standard Mercurial, most notably the new Vapor 10. Along with being very soft and flexible, the FlyKnit upper is also provides a very slight amount of padding between your foot and the ball, which feels great. It’s a feel that I would compare to the NikeSkin upper of the Hypervenom Phantom, but thinner.
The upper is also finished off with a very thin layer of NikeSkin polyurethane, acting as both a protective layer for the upper and a grip element. If you’ve ever played around with a ball in your socks, than you know it makes for a very slick touch. In order to solve this problem, the NikeSkin layer across the majority of the upper provides a very subtle grip on the ball, without adding any bulk.
Just like all of Nike’s other top-end models, ACC (All Conditions Control) is also included as part of the package. ACC is a secretive process that Nike has, which improves the performance of the boot in wet weather, mainly by providing slightly more grip on the ball. Its tough to determine whether or not its an actual feature or simply the placebo effect in action, since you can’t actually see ACC, but I personally can notice a difference between an ACC and non-ACC boot. With all of that being said, it’s a nice feature that I’m glad Nike includes, but it isn’t something that is going to make or break your overall experience with the Superfly 4.
The mid-cut design is also a talking point when it comes to touch. Normally, soccer cleats are cut below the ankle, so to have a shoe cut above the ankle, you expect that extra material to get in the way. Fortunately, the mid-cut design has been very well thought out. The FlyKnit material is perfect for this type of design for the simple fact that it is thin, yet durable, and moves very naturally with your ankle. At no point did I feel like the collar was getting in the way, and in all honesty, you don’t even notice that its there when playing.
The best part about the Superfly when it comes to touch, is the seamless construction and fit of the boot. The upper wraps your foot perfectly, and since there are no overlapping materials or extra bulk in general, the boot feels more like a second-skin than just a pair of shoes. It’s a really unique and positive experience that makes the Superfly 4 so much fun to wear. If you’re looking for a barefoot feel with some very minor cushion, and a completely seamless feel, than you’ll love the new Superfly.
Shooting the ball in the Superfly 4 is a very positive experience. The upper is thin, so naturally you get more of a responsive, pingy sensation when striking the ball. The seamless upper again offers a nice consistent feel no matter what part of the foot you’re using to hit the ball, providing what I would describe as a modified barefoot striking experience. There’s a slight grip sensation from the NikeSkin covering, but other than that, the sensation that you get is just very natural.
One could also argue that the mid-cut design helps with providing some extra support for the ankle when striking the ball, but for the most part, I would say that this is more the placebo effect as opposed to actual support.
Overall, if you’ve worn Mercurials in the past, you’ll feel right at home striking the ball in the Sueprfly 4.
Protection was a huge talking point when the FlyKnit was first unveiled, and I’m not so sure why. I can understand the reasoning of many people in that Nike marketed the FlyKnit upper of the Obra as “sock-like”, and while that is true to a certain extent, the upper of the Obra is far from a standard pair of socks in both quality and protection.
Unlike the Obra, where the GlyKnit upper is much more structured, and made up of several layers, the Superfly 4 is much thinner, which in turn makes for less protection. Again, if you’ve worn Mercurials in the past, the Superfly 4 is going to be on par with the amount of protection that they provide. If you want that barefoot sensation when making touches on the ball, you have to sacrifice protection.
It must also be said that the mid-cut design provides extra protection that you wouldn’t normally have around the ankle area. It, just like the rest of the upper, is several layers thick, and while it won’t cushion an impact to the ankle, it will certainly prevent a cut, and provide more protection than other shoe in this particular area.
Overall, there isn’t much protection here at all, but that’s not something that should be too surprising. The upper is thin and soft, meaning that the majority of your foot will be left “exposed” shot you take a blow to the foot. If protection is something that you value from your shoes, because at the end of the day protection is still a preference, than the Superfly 4 may not be the best choice. If you can live with the lack of protection for the sake of feel, than you shouldn’t have any issues with these.
The woven concept scares a lot of people, for the simple fact that people are worried that the upper will essentially unravel or snag, causing major damage to the boot. This is again a misconception with the Superfly, either because people aren’t familiar with FlyKnit or just because most have not yet held the Superfly in their hands. Once more people get to try out the Superfly for themselves, even just seeing them in person will change a lot of opinions when it comes to the structural integrity of the boot.
The FlyKnit upper does not snag, and will not unravel, its very well made. The majority of the upper is also covered in NikeSkin, which not only acts as a protective barrier for the FlyKnit upper, but also makes cleaning the boot much easier than you might expect. Even the areas of the upper that aren’t covered in NikeSkin have held up very well.
As far as durability on artificial grass is concerned, I haven’t has any issues. There aren’t any significant changes to the structure of the boot, other than the stud pattern, that would imply better durability on harsh artificial playing surfaces, but the lower-profile, less aggressive stud pattern alone should make for better overall durability.
Please keep in mind that the AG version of the Superfly 4, or any AG shoe for that matter is designed for use on Artificial Grass/Turf and nothing else. I do not recommend using AG cleats on natural grass for both performance and durability reasons. The softer rubber used for the studs will wear down very quickly if used on natural playing surfaces.
The Superfly 4 is a shoe that I can confidently say is built to last. This is a boot that should pretty easily get you through at least a season’s worth of play, if not longer should you take good care of them.
Nike never ceases to amaze when it comes to new and innovative products, especially as of late, and the Superfly 4 is part of their impressive line-up. Not only does it visually make a statement, demanding attention with its bright color and unusual mid-cut design, but it also performs the part!
The FlyKnit aspect of this boot is very impressive, and really shows the versatility of this new technology. They can make a more rugged, structured upper which they showed with the Obra, and can also make a more delicate, yet incredibly solid upper in the form of the Superfly 4. The upper is thin, soft and flexible but somehow maintains an incredible amount of support and responsiveness.
The sock-like fit, seamless design, carbon fiber soleplate and Mercurial stud pattern combine to make one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had with a pair of shoes. As technologically advanced as the Superfly 4 may be, when you’re actually wearing the shoes, they just feel so simple. Everything feels right.
As positive an experience as I had with the boots, it still isn’t a shoe that I would recommend to everyone. The FlyKnit upper and mid-cut design will surely maintain its skeptics, and it’s really up to you to decide whether or not the Superfly 4 is the next boot for you. Some will love it, some will hate, but those who love it will really love it.
|Comfort/Fit||10 out of 10|
|Weight||8 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||61 out of 70 or 87%|