Nike vs. adidas is a debate for the ages, and in the world of football boots it’s no different. We take a look at both brands’ most iconic boots built for speed — the Mercurial and F50 — to determine once and for all: What is the greatest speed boot of all time?
In the world of speed boots, many designs and features have came and gone. Despite the constant evolution of technology however, there have been two silhouettes that have led the game and can rightfully be called the greatest of all time: The Nike Mercurial and adidas F50.
Both boots and their different iterations have received love from players and collectors alike, but there can only be one true GOAT. Let’s dive into both to see if we can settle the debate once and for all.
Nike Mercurial: The Originator
The Mercurial is the OG. Stemming from the need to provide Ronaldo Fenomeno some boots worthy of his talent and then through to the evolution of the Superfly and Vapor, it has been around the block and then some. The longevity of this boot, the way it has developed, and how it still remains prominent in the game is only a testament to its greatness as a football boot.
Back in 1998, Nike debuted its soon-to-be-revolutionary model: the Nike Air Mercurial. Originally released in black and blue, Ronaldo rocked a blue, silver and gold that has become one of the most iconic football boots in the sport’s history. For me, the Mercurial silo peaked there. I know, early doors. But I am nostalgic, I prefer vintage vibes over modern technological phenoms, which is exactly what the current versions of the Mercurial Vapor and Superfly have advanced to become.
In terms of football boots, the tech on them is great. The importance is centered around the structure, the stud pattern, and the weight. All considerations are made with speed in mind. This technology mixed with consistently brilliant design work (albeit some outliers) positions the Nike Mercurial, both Superfly and Vapor, as one of the most crucial and highly rated football boots ever.
Donned by Cristiano Ronaldo throughout his career as well, the Mercurial has embraced the feet of some incredible talent. The quick feet and silky step-overs of both Ronaldos are cemented in Mercurial history.
With constant innovation from the Swoosh, it is hard to look past the Mercurial as the greatest speed boot of all time. Some may even argue it holds a place as the best boot of all time period, topping the charts in every category. While the PUMA King of course reigns top of the list when it comes to the entire boot scene, there is a strong argument for the Nike Mercurial.
adidas F50: The Innovator
However, the adidas F50 might have something to say about that. As the Three Stripes’ answer when it comes to the speed boot debate, the F50 (in all its forms) definitely rivals the Mercurial for the top spot — from the iconic Tunit construction, to the spiderweb upper, to the Adizero made legendary by the one and only Lionel Messi.
The F50 was released as adidas’ move to rival Nike in the boot industry. Before that, the brand had the Predator and classic heritage boot, the Copa Mundial. With the success of the Mercurial, the brand introduced the first F50 model in 2004, which had a leather cover over the laces to make the striking area bigger (laceless boots have a lot to thank the F50 for). Two years later adidas switched up the game forever and dropped the F50 Tunit, whose revolutionary technology included an interchangeable stud system to adapt to whatever playing surface you were on.
For me, the F50 peaked with the Adizero series introduced in 2010, and how can you not think that? These boots were donned by Lionel Messi during his destructive era up until 2015, making them synonymous with the greatest of all time. From signature colorways to the introduction of fascinating technology, the F50 Adizero will always hold a special place in my heart and more importantly, football’s as a whole.
The big question is, which takes the title as the GOAT speed boots? I am judging this purely from my experience, both playing and watching. And I am afraid to tell all the Mercurial super-fans out there that the greatest speed boot of all time is in fact the adidas F50 (more specifically, the Adizero). Is this my bias towards Messi shining through? Probably. That dominant period of Barcelona came about at a time when I started truly understanding football and analyzing aspects of the game further, so I look back on the period with fond memories.
This also grew into me being a dedicated Messi fan and thus, wearing adidas F50s when playing myself. One thing to note is that the Nike Mercurial’s longevity is admirable. The fact it has stood the test of time, whereas the F50 was phased out only to be replaced by what should have been its natural evolution with new branding, the adidas X in 2015, is the one aspect that had me considering the Mercurial as the No. 1. But does the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate hold some weight in this argument? Probably. Should it? Definitely not.