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AFM Magazine

AFM Magazine

Built From The Ground Up

by: Jim Douville
Assistant Coach, Newman Catholic High School, Wausau (WI)
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A Guide to the Game’s Top Cleats

As much as I would like to say this in jest, I am sure there are plenty of your players that still haven’t equipped themselves with new gear for the upcoming season. You will see the ones at practice, the players that are routinely using athletic tape to hold together that pair of cleats they have been using for a year or two, but are just too stubborn or forgetful to replace. That is why I would like to run down the best of what the top footwear brands in the game have to offer your athletes.
One thing is clear about this year’s line of cleats. Today’s game is about speed. The spread offense has taken a facet of the game that has normally been a piece of the pie and put it front and center. The teams and players with the most speed tend to fair very well in the game today. Cleat manufacturers have seen this trend and have followed suit, fueling our need for speed with a battle to create the lightest footwear possible. There are performance cleats for other players besides the skill guys, but most of the innovations have been put into these lines. I strongly suggest Eastbay’s Cleat Coach as an option for the athletes looking to find a cleat that will match their game and your scheme.

Nike Zoom Vapor Carbon Fly

When I first researched Flywire technology on Nike’s Hyperdunk basketball shoe, I knew it was only a matter of time before the Swoosh would have this innovative material in a football cleat. The Nike Zoom Vapor Carbon Fly basically offers the exact same look and performance as last year’s Vapor Jet 4.2, but with a few upgrades to the overall package.
Flywire is an extremely strong set of threads that Nike uses in the upper of its highest performance footwear to create unmatched strength while reducing the ever-important weight factor. These threads act like a suspension bridge for the foot and are placed in a manner to increase output.

The second major improvement is the Zoom Air unit embedded in the footbed. Zoom Air is Nike’s second most popular method of cushioning, next to Max Air. This excellent form of cushioning has gotten great reviews in just about any piece of footwear it has been associated with and should provide your men with lightweight cushioning to keep them comfortable during the pounding of practice or the intensity of games.

The tongue of the Carbon Fly uses elastic on both sides to give a secure fit for any skill player that laces them up. From the players I have spoken to about this cleat, they have told me nothing but good things from a comfort and fit standpoint.
You can get the Carbon Fly in either a detachable or molded bottom, but the lighter molded bottom competes with any speed cleat at a meager 9.9 oz. You will definitely see this cleat on the feet of wide receivers, defensive backs and safeties on Sunday’s this season.

Under Armour Blur

UA has come a long way from the ‘Click, Clack’ campaign that thrust them on the scene a few years ago. They have spread out over a very wide range of sports, but since the company was founded by a former Division I player, football is still very important to Under Armour.

The Blur is UA’s lightest cleat to date. With the Blur Low MC weighing in at a very light 9.7 oz., the shoe throws itself in the mix with the fastest cleats out there. One thing you will notice is that the Blur uses a one-piece synthetic upper with a stylish graphic to create the look. This creates a comfortable fit that Under Armour hopes will make the cleat a literal extension of the player’s foot. Asymmetrical lacing and a wrap around tongue help to secure the foot and create comfort.
One of the things I love about Under Armour is that they listen to the consumer. The first run of Under Armour cleats, albeit very good-looking, left a poor taste in some player’s mouths on comfort. I had many kids tell me that they could feel the cleats popping up through the bottom of the footbed after some pounding. Under Armour must have gotten the same feedback, because they have responded with an ArmourForm sockliner that is very cushiony and should create a new standard in comfort.

The outsole on the Blur comes in one style, a molded bottom. These molded bottoms are not the cleats of old. They offer tremendous traction on a variety of surfaces and are used to create the lightest cleats in the game. The TPU plate on the blur offers ArmourLaunch technology. This innovation puts fiberglass at the center of the outsole’s chassis, wrapping onto the upper to provide stability and support.

The result is a speed cleat that you will see a lot of on weekend afternoons and can become a favorite of some of your faster skill players.

Reebok U-Form 4Speed

Reebok has gone a very different route than the competition when it comes to football cleats and it seems as though they are gaining some ground of their own. Instead of following the pack and searching for the lightest cleat they can come up with, Reebok has put their eggs in the basket of comfort and fit with the Reebok U-Form 4Speed.

It starts with U-Form technology. This is going to sound crazy, but believe me it’s true. U-Form technology allows the athlete to custom fit the cleat to their foot by taking it and placing it in an oven (200 degrees for three minutes) and then putting them on and lacing them tight (allow up to eight minutes for proper form). The result is a perfect custom-formed cleat. The magic is that the U-Form fit process can be duplicated any number of times for better fit and feel. This technology was first introduced by Reebok for hockey skates, where it has been earning rave reviews from Reebok’s professional athletes. Now the concept has jumped to the gridiron where it has been getting similar feedback from test athletes.

I spoke with Reebok spokesperson Chad Wittman, who told me that Chad Ochocinco was approached to wear the U-form last season as a test athlete. “He was very concerned about wearing a mid as a wide receiver. He told us that he never would go there, but after a fitting and a few patterns, he liked the cleat so much that he asked to wear it for his playoff game.”

Expect to see not only Ochocinco, but Eli Manning and Vince Young in the U-Form this season.
Fastened to the U-Form upper is a seven-stud detachable cleat outsole. A Bi-Fit innersole board combines with the Hardlink arch stability system to offer your athletes arch stability and flexibility in the forefoot. At 14.6 oz., the U-Form is a bit heavier than the other cleats on this list, but I think the comfort factor might turn out to be ideal for some of your larger skill players, quarterbacks, linebackers, tight ends and linemen.

adidas adiZero Scorch

adidas has been the king of lightweight cleats for a few years running. This year they have built on a very solid foundation with the adiZero Scorch. This truly is the lightest cleat in football at an amazing 8.6 oz. Picking up one of these cleats makes me feel like I have a few more snaps left in the tank. The sheer weight of the cleat is possible by using a molded bottom and an upper that consists of nylon mesh with synthetic overlays. This combination of mesh and synthetics creates a breathable, secure upper that weighs next to nothing. The lightweight factor of the adiZero Scorch is the selling point and will hopefully increase the speed of any player that laces them up, but there are also a few other nice aspects to this cleat as well.

This cleat also comes equipped with a non-slip liner that keeps an athlete’s foot in the cleat. I would best describe it as a material that has smooth feel as you slide into the shoe, but a rough one if you attempt to pull out of the cleat. This lockdown creates oneness with the cleat and, hopefully, will improve performance.

The adiZero Scorch also offers a SuperFly Pebax molded outsole. The truly unique thing about this part of the cleat is the cleat pattern itself. adidas has designed the adiZero with an extra row of studs on the lateral side of the outsole, unlike any I have seen, to allow for better cutting and change of direction moves. This was clearly designed for skill players and you will see it being put to the test by Reggie Bush this fall.

That is the rundown of the top performance cleats in the game. Most of the footwear on this list is designed for speed-based skill players, but there are tons of great selections for every player on the field.

Whether you make team orders or have your athletes purchase cleats on their own, consider that they can be a huge factor in your team’s performance and with the technologies and designs today, there is virtually a cleat made specifically for every position on the field. I suggest players tailor the type of cleat they purchase to their game and their position.
Good luck this season and give those procrastinators a kick in the pants to get them prepared for the road ahead.

Jim Douville, a copywriter for Eastbay/, has been an assistant football coach at Newman Catholic High School in Wausau, Wisconsin, for five years. He was also an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for one year.


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