NIKE presents the mercurial superfly: a boot built for speed
designboom was invited to attend NIKE‘s football innovation summit in madrid, where the highlight of the gathering was the hotly anticipated unveiling of the ‘mercurial superfly’. the football boot, revealed by real madrid and portugal superstar cristiano ronaldo, has been four years in development and incorporates NIKE’s flyknit technology showcased in the revolutionary ‘magista’, presented earlier this year.
DB: is there on particular element of the design which has been particularly challenging, or one area you’re especially happy with?
PM: that’s like picking your favorite kid! I think for us as a team we’re really proud of just the final realized product. I think the one thing that we worked really hard on – that we’ve been working on for the last four years – is how we’d apply flyknit to a football boot. so the application of the technology with the skin over the top, and how we get the right balance between the flyknit and the skin has actually been the thing that we’ve been obsessing for about two and a half years. the fact that we have a different silhouette based on performance insight is also groundbreaking, but its how all of the elements come together, not one particular thing.
since their introduction in 1998, ‘mercurial’ boots have been synonymous with speed. the latest version is created for the individual who is always a step ahead, engineered to provide that extra micro-second that could make all the difference in the big games.
‘with its new design innovations, the 2014 superfly makes a quantum leap forward in what high performance boots can be – and what they can help players achieve,’ said NIKE president and CEO mark parker at the madrid unveiling. ‘fueled by NIKE flyknit technology and with a bold new silhouette, the ‘mercurial superfly’ will be the boot of choice for the game’s fastest players.’ read more about mark parker and NIKE in our interview here.
offering a barefoot feel, a micro-textured three-knit weave puts a minimum of material between the foot and the ball, significantly enhancing touch and poise. additionally, the high-top collar that surrounds the athlete’s ankle is designed to create a better fit and a heightened sensation of the boot as not only an extension of the foot, but of the entire body.
‘players have told us that the mercurial fits like no other boot,’ said phil mccartney, VP of sport performance footwear.‘it feels like an extension of the body because the dynamic fit collar integrates the foot, the ankle and the lower leg. it removes distractions and allows the player to be quicker to the ball and quicker with the ball. this is the huge advantage of flyknit: we can tune a boot to match a player’s attributes.’
other important breakthroughs include ‘brio cables’ knitted directly into the upper of the shoe and locked into the outsole. this tendon-like support serves as a slingshot, propelling the wearer forward. at the sole, a flexible full-length carbon plate aids in efficiently transferring traction to the ground, while added studs at the boot’s heel offer improved stability.
‘during the four years that we developed the new superfly, we kept hearing the same message from our players: the game has changed,’ continued mccartney. ‘it’s more intense than at any time in history. players are fitter, stronger, more athletic and more technical than ever before. based on those changes, our players told us they needed to be faster.’
designboom: how does the ‘mercurial’ differ to the ‘magista’ boot, unveiled earlier this year?
phil mccartney: whenever we think about ‘mercurial’ we always focus on speed, how we can help our players be faster. we’ve tuned all the technology, all the innovation in this boot around the very simple idea of how do make the players faster, how do we generate more speed? with the ‘magista’ we’re really trying o think about how we can help players be more creative. so there’s some very distinct differences in terms of how we think about fit, touch and traction between the two boots. actually the only similar thing is that we use flyknit technology on the upper, but the way that we use it in ‘mercurial’ is very different to how we use it in ‘magista’. with ‘mercurial’ we’re being very reductive in terms of its application and really thinking about how we can enhance speed, and how we can lock the player down, which is very different to how we approach the ‘magista’.
DB: can you explain the design process and your specific role?
PM: whenever we’re designing a boot, or thinking about a product, we always start with the athlete first and really obsess over how we get the right feedback and the right insight, and make sure that they’re really a part of the creative process and that they actually drive that creative process. for example, when we we’re thinking about the ‘mercurial’ for world cup 2014, one of the things the players kept talking about was how intense the modern game is, and how they need to be faster. players said ‘I need to get to the ball a little quicker’, and that was the insight that started the creative process. then we go back and discuss that feedback, show prototypes to the players… its a very reiterative process. I think my job is to make sure that we’re focused on the right things, that we’re prioritizing the things that make a difference to the athlete.
designboom: how much involvement do the athletes have with the design of the boots?
denis dekovic: that’s the key of our product creation: to be in touch with our athletes. so for example four years ago when we started, we’ve been all over the world – to south america, europe and the US getting those insights because that’s the most important thing: to listen to them… they’re very involved in our product and they really drive our inspiration and energy.
DB: do players know which specific boot suits them and their style of play?
DD: in the past we designed for specific positions, today we work on playing style – football has changed. someone like neymar is not in a specific area of the pitch, barcelona have changed the way football is played. its a little bit less position driven, its more playing-style driven, but when it comes to pros we work with players that we have already identified and love that kind of boot. for example, neymar loves the ‘hypervenom’, so when it comes to designing the next one, he’s involved.
DB: generally, how much of a challenge is the design process?
DD: the boots are all very innovative, from completely new materials and construction methods. when you push something its always a challenge, that’s why we needed four years to pull it off. we have to test so many times and for so long that the players are really confident and comfortable when they put the boots on.