Laceless football boots
For more than 15 years now and the appearance of the first lace-up boot, brands have been developing all sorts of technologies, but will laceless studs still be around in the future? There is a rather incredible statistic around the use of laceless boots as only 1.7% of players were playing with laceless studs. While this technology was launched in the 2000s and brands such as Nike and PUMA have still not joined the battle, what is the future of laceless football boots?
MORE THAN JUST AN AMBITION, A TRADEMARK
To date, there is absolutely no doubt that the leader in laceless football boots is Adidas. Indeed, the brand with the three stripes has a top-of-the-range laceless version on its three silos: the Copa Sense, the Predator Freak, and the X Speedflow. Even better, it is these laceless models that are at the heart of Adidas’s communication strategy when new colors are released. Yet when you look at the usage figures for these models, only 19% of Adidas players play with these laceless versions.
So why is there so much focus and importance on models that are not the most used? More than just a fashion phenomenon, the lace-up has become the Adidas trademark, a testament to its unique know-how and technological capabilities. A strategy and an ambition that had already been mentioned in 2016 when Adidas launched its first laceless pair. “The ACE 16+ Purecontrol is set to become one of our most iconic models. The laceless boot is the future of football design and the future of Adidas,” said Sam Handy, Adidas Vice President of Design at the time. Since then, Adidas has continued to develop and improve this technology. If you compare the Predator Freak and Copa Sense with previous generations, you can see that Adidas has listened to feedback and worked to make the laceless boots much more comfortable and easy to put on! But the brand with the three stripes goes even further as, since November 2018, it offers mid-range models for less than €100 with laceless technology. Thanks to this, it has established itself as the undisputed leader in laceless boots. While New Balance has joined the dance with its Tekela V3 Pro and a Tekela Magia in recent years, neither of them are pioneers in this technology.
LOTTO ZERO GRAVITY, TOO FAR AHEAD OF ITS TIME?
To find traces of laceless technology, you have to go back to the 2000s. It was indeed 16 years ago, and the oldest among us will certainly remember this revolutionary pair. White and gold, a futuristic look, and unknown technologies. Worn only by Cafù during the 2006 World Cup, the Lotto Zhero Gravity will never experience the revolution it was intended to. A year later, Adidas followed Lotto’s lead and launched its f50.7 Tunit Laceless Upper, but like the Italian brand’s pair, this f50.7 Tunit was only worn by a few professional players and therefore did not benefit from the kind of media coverage that we see today with big marketing campaigns. A few months later, the brands will stop these models to refocus on more traditional boots. It was then thought that laceless boots were simply not suitable for football!
A decade later, Adidas has put the lid back on and unveiled the ACE 16+ Purecontrol, which aims to replicate the effect of a barefoot kick. The technologies are vastly different from previous models, and the new boot looks set to revolutionize football and the football boot market. Worn by Mesut Özil and Paul Pogba after signing with the German firm, the pair has maximum visibility on the pitch and the brand with the three stripes is putting all the chances on its side to make this comeback a success. Innovative and stunning technologies, top European players as ambassadors, well-run marketing campaigns, everything goes. Despite arriving ten years after the Lotto Zhero Gravity, the Adidas ACE 16+ Purecontrol became for many the starting point of the lace-up football boot and the beginning of a new market that promises to flourish.
While it is difficult to quantify the share of the lace-up studs in the growing football boot market, it is clear that Adidas is not prepared to relinquish its leadership in this sector. With many players changing their sponsors, it is interesting to see that lace technology can be an important argument for the brand with three stripes.
Pogba’s change of studs, a blow for lace-ups?
For years, Paul Pogba has been the number one ambassador of lace technology at Adidas. Ever since he signed with the three-stripes brand, he has always worn a pair of high studs without laces. However, in recent weeks, the French international has swapped his laceless studs for a pair of low Predator Freak.1s, which allows him to rediscover the feeling of a laced boot. This sudden and unexpected change, which has been implemented in just a few weeks, will inevitably put the laceless range of the three-stripes brand in a lesser light and the Mancunian was recently joined in his choice by … Matteo Guendouzi, another former Predator Freak+ ambassador, who is finally switching to the high but lace-up version…
With Euro 2020 highlighting the fact that laceless boots are only worn by 26 of the 211 players who play in Adidas shoes, it’s hard to believe that laceless boots are the future of football boots as we might have thought a few years ago. Nevertheless, they remain an important technological showcase for an equipment manufacturer like Adidas and should be available in the stud ranges for a long time to come.