With its third incarnation in just over a year, is the Future finally here?
One of the main reasons why leather football boots have withstood the test of time is its ability to mould to your feet and provide a 1 to 1 fit. The modern knit uppers have yet to fully capture that customised sensation.
To get over this hurdle, Puma went for a different solution. They allowed you to customise the fit of the boot around your foot, with extra lace loops to allow for extra pressure and lockdown on specific areas of your foot as you want it. They called it the Netfit system.
It’s been slightly over a year since Puma first launched the innovative Puma Future 18.1 with its Netfit system and subsequently, the Puma Future 2.1, which saw minimal updates to the upper but reduced the Netfit area and reduced the bulk of the upper.
The newly released Puma Future 19.1, on the other hand, is Puma’s first proper attempt at evolving the Future silo and unlike its brother, the Puma One 19.1, we’ve got happier news to report.
The Future Of Netfit
Arguably the biggest evolution in the Puma Future 19.1 comes from the upper, which has been revamped from the ground up. Addressing the main criticism of bulkiness in the previous versions of the Future, the upper has now been condensed into a single layer. Called the evoKNIT PRO, the Netfit system has now been combined with the 3D Havoc Frame to form a seamless one piece upper that brings your foot closer to the ball.
The 3D Havoc Frame features raised wavy textured patterns etched all over the upper. Like the Nike Magista Obra 2, these patterns are hollow inside, which helps to give you a slightly cushioned sensation on the ball. They’re also coated with a silicon layer to, theoretically, give you more grip and control. Surprisingly, the knit upper actually feels stiff to the touch at first and requires a number of games to actually break in. The upper is also reinforced in the toe area to help with durability for those of us who have a tendency to drag our feet before shooting the ball.
Gone is the ‘Net’ in ‘Netfit’. The knitted upper now features laceholes instead for you to customize your lacing and fit. Puma have further refined the lacehole coverage, to ensure that the holes are only in areas where you need it to be – on the lateral side of your midfoot up to your ankle area.. The holes are also much smaller now, so chances of a stray stud getting caught in it and tearing out the upper is slim to none.
Still The Best Sock Collar In The Business
I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, but if you haven’t, allow me to reiterate that Puma have got the collar game absolutely locked down. The collar features a very subtle tweak, curving just that little bit more to make them feel extra comfortable and reduce any possible chafing. It continues delivering that Goldilocks balance of making your boot feel like an extension piece of your foot, without getting in the way of ankle mobility.
Another tweak that can be felt, is that the central area through your foot where the classic ‘tongue’ used to be placed feels much more stretchy and accommodating to the foot. This means that wearing it is a lot less of a pain than most one-piece upper boots (I’m looking at you, adidas Nemeziz 18.1).
The knockback effect of this, is that you can’t really wear them laceless anymore without lockdown issues. The stretchiness also means a reduction in the lockdownso while I can see someone wearing them laceless for a one off game, once it breaks, you’re really just putting yourself at risk for an injury if you go laceless. So please don’t.
The most probable reason why some of the pros are able to go laceless, is that the boots they wear are actually developed exactly to the specific shape to their feet, from the soleplate to the upper. That and the fact that they’re able to change their boots once every few games means that their boots almost never get fully broken in and can keep their shape.
A Tailored Fit For Your Feet
While we’re on the topic of laces, I did try out some of the more ‘outrageous lacing systems that Puma suggested. However, I soon realised that the ‘best’ lacing system is the one that allows your foot to feel as comfortable as possible. I have a wider midfoot, and resorted to inserting my laces through the lower parts of the outside of my boot and it worked a treat. The Puma Future is definitely one of the most comfortable, yet responsive boots I’ve ever tried, like a dress shirt tailored specifically for my body.
Having said that I did run into 1 minor issue – the wide toebox. Even for someone with a slightly wider foot (I’m between E and 2E, if we’re being technical about it), I felt it was still slightly too wide, much like the New Balance Tekela Pro.
While this could reasonably be compensated with the customised lacing for myself, I can foresee slim footed players running into issues with it. This is because a one piece upper will not have the same stretch or give that a normal shoe will provide. The connected tongue will limit the amount of ‘pull’ your laces can give you when tightening the boot. So while it can help relieve or provide extra pressure and lockdown on certain parts of the foot, it’s not going to be a magical silver bullet if your feet is too slim for the soleplate.
Havoc On Feet
The Future 19.1 gives you’re a nice crisp touch on the ball. Despite the 3D Havoc Frame’s best attempts, any dampened sensation is minimal and feels more like the bumps on the Nike Hypervenom Phantom 3. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it does give you a nice punchy feeling when striking the ball, reminiscent of the OG Nike Hypervenom Phantom 1. The boot felt responsive when pinging those ‘Hollywood passes’ due to how close your feet felt to the ball, a clear improvement from the previous generations of the Puma Future where the upper felt too bulky and in the way.
What was slightly disappointing for me, was the lack of ‘grip’ on the upper. The grip that comes with the silicon layer on the upper isn’t as noticeable or obvious as the Nike PhantomVSN Elite. This is a slight shame, as it would have been an easy feature to add to the boot and one that would have been welcome by most players.
Sharing a similar construction to its predecessors, the heel is still equipped with a synthetic suede and padding which prevents slipping and locks you in. Our review of the previous generation Puma Future mentioned that there was slight stud pressure when playing on artificial ground (AG). However, I did not feel much stud pressure during this review despite this being the exact same soleplate. It might just be the quality of the AG pitch I was on, but my advice is to swap to a slightly thicker insole if you’re feeling stud pressure.
I’ve always been slightly intrigued by the stud layout provided by the Future as the bladed studs are often positioned in areas that don’t seem to help when pushing off for a sprint. It’s a solid stud pattern that does its job, but doesn’t provide anything for you to shout about.
Puma also needs to up their insole game. While they provide two yellow foam pads on the fore foot and heel of the insole, the foam isn’t like the Poron pads that other brands use. Prolonged usage will lead to the foam compressing and make the insole feel a lot thinner than it should.
When Will the Future Finally Arrive?
While I thoroughly enjoyed my ride in the Puma Future 19.1 and would happily use it for the season, I can’t help but feel like it’s a boot that could have been so much more. The 3D Havoc Frame has so much untapped potential. The upper could have been more grippy and aggressive with a pattern that could acted as a curve or control element. Right now it feels too tame and ends up not doing either, much like its mixed identity as a control and speed boot.
This is such a pity because the Puma Future 19.1 could easily have been the leading contender for Boot of the Year due to the comfort of its upper. Instead, it’s a solid but unspectacular boot. Having said that, if Puma makes more tweaks to the next generation of the Future, we might have a showstopper on our hands. Over to you Puma.