Nike soccer cleats have long been designed for specific types of players. Early on, they saw how players identify with their cleats and moved to associate their endorsed athletes with a specific model. While that is still the case to a certain extent, players are being asked to do more on the field which blurs the lines of cleat design. Cleats, like the players that wear them, can no longer be one dimensional and more multi-functional models are available than ever before.
When it comes to Nike soccer cleats, there are four different families, or silos, of footwear that make up the American brand’s soccer catalog. The Mercurial is the flagship model primarily aimed at speedy attacking players while the Hypervenom is the specialist for goal scorers. The Phantom Vision is the playmakers cleat designed for players that value touch and precision in their game. The Tiempo is the multi-functional do it all silo that holds classic status amongst players.
For years, Nike soccer cleats have pushed the boundaries of innovation and they continue to do so with some fantastic options to choose from. Be sure to check out our guide to saving money on soccer cleats when you’re done to see how to get the best deal once you’ve identified the perfect pair.
Nike Mercurial & Mercurial Superfly
The Nike Mercurial Vapor has been loved by players since it first made its way on the scene in 1998. Back then, it was on the foot of a young Brazilian named Ronaldo who was setting the world on fire with his power, pace, and instinctive finishing ability. Fast forward to 2018 and the Vapor is on its 12th iteration and worn by many more players who continue to challenge what’s possible on a soccer field.
With 20 years of innovation behind it, the Mercurial is Nike’s dedicated speed silo with the tag line “Engineered for Speed”. The Vapor 12 has a lot to talk about with some major design upgrades as Nike continues to improve its flagship silo.
The 360 in this year’s name refers to the full Flyknit wrap that stretches and conforms to tightly fit your foot and respond to every movement. Nike have embedded their All Conditions Control (ACC) into the Flyknit for close control regardless of the playing conditions. An added bonus of only having one layer to their upper is increased durability (i.e. -they will last longer).
In a truly revolutionary move, Nike have switched to a minimalist split soleplate. Where as most soleplates are one piece, Nike have eliminated the plate in the mid foot between the studs and replaced it with foot-hugging Flyknit. The idea being that the cleat disappears on your foot and provides traction only where you need it. Nike have also gone with all chevron studs inspired by the paw of a cheetah. They have positioned the studs to give aggressive acceleration in the forefoot and braking in the heel.
In a first for Nike, the Mercurial Superfly is identical to the Vapor with the one exception being the dynamic fit collar. If you prefer the collar of your cleat to come up over your ankle, the Superfly is for you.
The Mercurial and Mercurial Superfly are ultra lightweight weighing in at 6.4oz and 7.2 oz respectively. The cleats benefit from some amazing technology that makes them about the closest thing to wearing a sock with studs on the field. If you’re the speed player that wants something ultralight you can put on and forget about, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more ideal cleat.
Nike Phantom Venom
The Hypervenom was originally Nike’s dedicated agility silo and was then transformed to finishing. The Hypervenom has now evolved and been replaced by the Phantom Venom. The Phantom Venom feels like a logical progression though and it’s clear that Nike has engineered every part of this cleat to be deadly in front of goal. The cleat comes in a low cut version only and graces the feet of top-classl strikers like Kane, Cavani, and Rashford. With top players to draw on for feedback and the heritage of the T90 laser to draw on, it’s no surprise that the Phantom Venom is proving popular already.
The Flyknit upper ensures a tight snug fit and the addition of Flywire deliver superior lockdown from the very first time you lace them up. Flywire was designed with inspiration from a suspension bridge and gives support in the medial and lateral parts of the foot while remaining flexibile and lightweight. It wraps the fool like tendons and keeps it locked tightly to the insole so your foot isn’t slipping inside the shoe. Nike uses this technology on many of their shoes and it has performed fantastically.
The Flyknit upper on the Phantom Venom is covered with Nike’s All Conditions Control skin to make them water tight and ensure close control in all weather. The all important strike zone of the cleat has been enlarged by 30%. A Precision Strike Zone has been added that consists of 13 plastic ridges angled to keep the ball down in the instance that a player mis-hits it. Nike also uses microtextured Flyknit in the toe box of the cleat ideal for chipping the ball over an onrushing keeper. The laces even angle towards the outside of your foot and have a Flyknit cover to give you a bigger strike zone for driving the top of your foot through the ball.
The Hyper-reactive soleplate has a flexible forefoot for responsive support you can feel from the very first step. It’s obvious they’ve added additional flex to aid the quick movements strikers often make around the box. It’s all about enabling a player’s natural motion – lateral cuts, medial cuts, as well as being able to stay in the ground, engaged longer, allowing them to create more torque on the ball and get themselves in positions that they need to be able to score.
Overall, the Phantom Venom really is a striker’s dream and there has been no detail left uncovered. While players in other positions will no doubt love this cleat, it is about as close as you can get to a cleat custom designed for a specific position.
Nike Phantom Vision
The Phantom Vision is Nike’s dedicated silo for playmakers. What that means practically is a cleat that is focused on giving you the absolute best touch on the ball and all the features possible to aid in spraying the ball across the field.
To do this, Nike began with the instep as it is the most common area of the foot used in controlling the ball and passing. The cleat boasts a huge triangle there with plenty of texture perfect for putting whip and bend on passes and shots. The triangle is also said to be a visual guide for control. The Nike Sport Research Lab concluded that the further down the triangle you collect the ball, the higher degree of control you should have. It makes sense if you think about it as controlling it with the top of the triangle would cause the ball to pop up.
The Phantom Vision benefits from a number of Nike’s other innovations. Most prominent among these is the new Quadfit interior mesh bootie. This is a 4D stretch mesh that conforms to the foot instantly and contains it rather than restricts it. The Ghost Lace system is a single pull lace construction that provides a customized fit and tucks under the Flyknit upper. The result is one of the most comfortable pairs of cleats you’ll ever wear that provide fantastic lockdown and a snug fit.
The outsole has what Nike is calling an FEA-informed traction pattern. What that means in layman’s terms is they’ve designed it for quick changes of direction as well as pivoting at speed. They literally engineered every part of this cleat for opening the game up and launching the attack.
The Phantom Vision is a game changer with its ultra comfortable Quadfit bootie and Ghost Lace system. While the padding on the touch might be a little much for players who prefer the barefoot feeling, it’s hard to think of a position on the field these wouldn’t be suited for.
Check out our full play test and review of the Phantom Vision here.
The Tiempo is Nike’s classic cleat. Made with leather for the truest of touches, the Tiempo has been worn by generations of players of every skill level. It is an absolute classic and Nike have taken careful steps to make sure they keep the cleat up to date without detracting from the features players love so much.
Leather cleats are rare these days and there are a few pros and cons to consider, but the Tiempo has always been leather and that won’t be changing. It’s ultra soft feel on the ball is fantastic and it molds to your foot over time for a custom fit. Nike have gone one step further and used a Fitmeshliner inside the toe and midfoot of the cleat to preserve the fit and prevent over stretching of the leather. This is a nice touch that will lengthen the life of the cleat.
For the first time in the Tiempo, Flyknit is used in the heel and tongue for a snugger fit that is lighter than the leather used on previous editions. The addition of Flywire aids with the snug fit and gives fantastic lock down. Nikegrip insoles use interlocking textures to keep your foot from sliding inside the cleat so the Tiempo really does feel like its an extension of your foot when you’re on the field.
The Hyperstability soleplate has a Pebax overlay that is ultralight so you will have all of the traction without any added weight. This really is the best Tiempo yet and the painstaking steps and careful attention to detail shine through all over this cleat.
Now that you’re up to speed on Nike’s line up, be sure to check out our recommendations for the best cleats based on your position. Whether you’re a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, or forward, we have a few suggestions to help you get the best cleats for your needs.