Football boots are invariably associated with particular genres of player. If you turn up to play five-a-side and see that your opposite number is wearing plastic Sondicos, you’ll have a fairly good idea of the type of footballer you’re up against.
On the other hand (or foot), if you saw them wearing any of the boots on this list, you’d be worried.
Before we get going, a few words of warning: this ranking will be heavily affected by my own personal bias.
10. Adidas Samba Primeknit
There can’t be many footballers who would look less at home with a pair of needles in hand, working away at a plush woollen jumper than Luis Suarez.
A curious choice by Adidas then, who chose the bite-happy Uruguayan as the poster boy for what they advertised as the world’s first knitted football boots. But this is a marmite boot, and Suarez is perhaps the ultimate marmite player. In this respect, they could hardly have chosen better.
I wouldn’t know where to place these 2016 kaleidoscopic beauties on the colour spectrum; there is a real acid-trip quality to them. The Samba Primeknits are delightfully confusing and the most modern entry into this top ten.
9. Serafino 4th Edge
We had to fit these in somewhere, if only for levity. The batshit, toe-poke concept of the Serafino 4th edge was greeted with a mixture of hilarity and bewilderment by the footballing public. But the optically confusing boots were backed by the likes of Glen Hoddle and Harry Redknapp, so there must have been at least some logic (or marketing budget) behind the concept.
There are only so many innovations you can make with on-pitch footwear, so to try something so off-the-wall like this was admirably nutty. Needless to say, the square-toed design did not catch on. You can still buy the 4th edge direct from the supplier, suggesting A) they were so popular that they are still being manufactured five years later or B) they still haven’t sold out their original stock. We’ll leave you to decide which you think is more likely.
8. Adidas Predator 1994
Predators are generally thought to have hit their prime somewhere between 1998 and 2004. For my money, however, their aesthetic high came at the very start of their timeline in 1994.
These first edition Predators looked like the kind of boots Batman would wear. The black rubber fins on the upper were said to give a softer cushion for control and generate more power when shooting. In reality, they probably didn’t give much of an advantage other than the confidence gained from how boss you looked wearing them.
7. Nike Total 90 Laser
There was something steam-punk about the Nike Total 90 Lasers. An image of a skeletal foot could be found on the sole and the black upper resembled some sort of mechanical spider’s web. At the centre of that web was the Total 90 target, the flourish which makes these boots the perfect footwear to thwack a rage-filled shot into the top corner, Rooney-style. The venomous-looking lemon-yellow edition was the most memorable, though the boots looked just as menacing in other more muted colourways.
6. Puma King 1970
A timeless classic, Puma Kings have been around in some form since 1966. In that time, they have undergone something of a cultural transmigration. These were the boots worn by Pele, Eusebio and Maradona, the game’s wizards. Now, they are more associated with no-nonsense Sunday league players called things like “Macca” and “Big Dave”.
But that they are still being manufactured with very few modifications 54 years later tells you all you need to know. Uncomplicated, uncompromising, genius.
5. Lotto Zhero Gravity
Italy have always had a habit of keeping things in-house with their sportswear. Fila, Errea, Kappa, and Macron are all Italian brands which have a history of producing gorgeous football kits for Serie A clubs. Only Lotto, however, really made a splash in the world of boots.
They were flying the flag for Italy in 2006 when they released the Zhero Gravity, the white and gold version of which was simply glorious. The poster boy for the laceless boots, Luca Toni, wore them as Italy won the World Cup in Germany, only adding to quintessentially Italian aura.
4. Adidas Copa Mundial
It’s not often your da’s passionate about footwear. But he is almost militant in his advocacy of the Adidas Copa Mundial, the best-selling football boot of all-time. And quite right too.
They are design classic. The elan of the black kangaroo leather and the three-stripe design prove the maxim that simplicity is sometimes genius. The boot was wonderfully remastered by Adidas in 2019 in honour of its 70th anniversary.
3. Adidas Adipure II
In the 2000s, football fashion had lurched violently towards brassy, hyper-colourful footwear. Predictably, there was a backlash. Classier boots had a mini-renaissance, with the Nike Tiempo and Adidas Adipure both reaching peak popularity towards the end of the decade.
Adipures were, in my eyes, the more attractive of the two. The second generation in particular, which went a little more modern than the first while retaining that vintage look, are among the sweetest looking boots in recent times. They were designed for players who could control a game without breaking a sweat. With this one, Adidas went against the grain by going back to basics. For that, they should be applauded.
2. George Best Stylo Matchmaker boots
If you haven’t seen these, I’d suggest having a quick Google. You’ll find that they look like they belong in a museum – because they do. The Stylo Matchmakers are on display at the National Football Museum in Manchester as part of a collection of classic cleats. Their historical significance? Well, other than the fact that they were worn by Best, the Stylo Matchmaker boots were some of the first player-sponsored boots in the game.
Few items in the history of sportswear are as visually striking as these; they look like a football boot and dress shoe hybrid. The off-centre laces and shiny red-black leather combine to make a beautifully bourgeois boot.
1. Nike Mercurial Vapor IV
Mercurials are the kind of boots only worn by a certain player. You know the type. Some of you might want to snap them in two the second they step foot on a pitch, some of you might have spent your youth trying to desperately be them. When Nike released the Mercurial Vapor IV in 2007, they did so with this tricky bastard in mind.
It was available in dozens of stunning metallic colourways and was one of the first boots to incorporate carbon fibre into the design. Aesthetically, they were both stripped back and bold. The Nike Swoosh arched around the laces and a chromatic finish gave them that signature sparkle.
The boots proved seismically popular, on Premier League and five-a-side pitches alike. They became synonymous with those lightning-quick Cristiano Ronaldo stepovers, imitated in schoolyards across the world a million times over.