Nike’s most data-driven football boot feels more like evolution than revolution.
Nike made the bold move of culling 2 of their product lines, the similarly named Phantom VSN and Phantom VNM, for a single “Phantom” product – the new Nike Phantom GT. It’s a relatively smart move considering that there was a lot of confusion from the naming while neither of these products have been massive commercial hits despite the VSN being a big favourite within the BOOTHYPE team.
Instead, Nike combined the best of both Phantoms to produce a football boot that could help players master control through a barefoot feel and a grippy textured upper.
Phantom GT (Generative Texture)
Nike claims that they have spent countless hours studying how a foot comes in contact with the ball. The pressure points, the angles of contact with the ball and the movement of feet all played a part in their research at the Nike Sport Research Lab (NSRL).
Their analysis resulted in the development of the “Generative Texture”, or GT for short. Like everyone else, I expected “GT” to be named after something cooler but Nike’s really taking the scientific approach really seriously here.
The GT are raised bumps that form a wave-like pattern across the entire upper, optimally placed to maximize grip at all parts of the boot. Nike specifically claimed that they didn’t want to make the upper “too grippy” which I can’t help but feel is a subtle dig at the adidas Predator‘s signature Demonskin spikes. Instead, the Phantom GT aims to differentiate itself as a football boot that balances a moderate amount of grip with a barefoot sensation for the perfect touch on the ball.
That said, the Phantom GT’s textured upper concept isn’t a huge departure from the Phantom VSN. I won’t be able to fault the casual observer from thinking that it’s only a cosmetic upgrade on the Phantom VSN, with less layers between the foot and the ball.
No Quadfit in this Phantom
Speaking of layers, the biggest change has been the removal of the revolutionary Quadfit mesh that was the cornerstone of the Phantom VSN. Quadfit ensured an adaptable and comfortable fit while keeping your foot locked down. I thought Quadfit was a very underrated technology but Nike had found it a challenge to market it to customers due to most of its work being under the hood.
The high price point of the Phantom VSN was also another barrier for customers to adopt and try Quadfit, which is a shame, really.
To compensate for the lack of Quadfit, it seems Nike has built the Phantom GT a little wider to accommodate more foot shapes in them. I am genuinely curious about the lockdown because it needs more structures in place to hold down the foot in a roomy boot without Quadfit and Flywire cables.
A Phantom with sole
With aggressive soleplates all the rage, it made sense for Nike to develop one for the Phantom GT. The idea is to allow freedom of movement and agility by enabling sharp cuts.
You’ll notice a mix of bladed studs and split conical studs that will provide a lot of bite when accelerating and changing direction. The “generative” chassis also promises to be rigid in the heel for planting while the the forefoot is designed for “swift change of direction”. I’m not sure what the latter really means but expect the soleplate for the Phantom GT to be amongst the most aggressive available.
What’s interesting is that they’ve emphasized the arch on the soleplate (through a semi-split sole design) with an intent to help you with those Neymar-esque ball traps and sole rolls with the underside of your feet. It’s a little bit out of left field but it’s definitely a cool design feature.
Nike FlyEase is possibly groundbreaking
The most radical feature announced was the Nike FlyEase technology (see video below) which solves a major problem in modern boots – they make it easier to put on your football boots.
The FlyEase technology features a fold-down heel for easy entry and a wrap-around strap closure in lieu of laces, allowing your foot to enter from the heel area like a slipper.
Nike, this is mind-blowing stuff but pray tell why this is only on a takedown Phantom GT Academy model? This is one of the biggest innovations to come of Nike’s innovation labs and something that could be a game-changer for not just football boots but performance footwear all round.
Perhaps FlyEase is a work in progress but I can’t wait to try it on an Elite model. Imagine the possibilities if done right – ease of entry, adjustable heel lockdown and an opportunity to go laceless without compromising customizable fit.
The sooner it’s available for all models, the better.
In summary, this is a new iteration of the Phantom VSN control boot with its textured, but much thinner, upper. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Phantom VSN and it’s good to see that the concept is being refined further.
However, I’m not sure if this is a radically different enough concept to capture the hearts of the footballing community. The Phantom VSN wasn’t the most universally loved boot as the concept was pretty vanilla and the same can be said for how it looks. Remember when we first laid eyes on the Nike CTR 360 Maestri? Or even the Nike T90 Laser 1?
They looked out of this world and the Phantom GT lacks that bit of oomph to compete with its much more provocative competitor – the adidas Predator.
The other issue is one that haunted its predecessor – the steep price point. The low cut variant will set you back SG$350/£220 and the midcut, a further SG$380/£240. I know Nike’s top of the range products don’t come cheap but a revision in price is needed if they’re looking to have more players adopt the Phantom GT as their boot of choice. The price might have been justified with inclusion of FlyEase but in its absence, a slight reduction should be in order.
Overall, I believe the Phantom GT’s going to be a solid boot and one that I would grow to like. I was just hoping for something different from what we already had on offer.