History of the Nike Mercurial Vapor

Article by Chris Field

The Nike Mercurial Vapor (and the entire Mercurial line) is recognized as one of, if not the, premier soccer cleats on the pitch today. The shoe has an interesting and storied history, let’s take a look:

Ronaldo first introduced the Air Mercurials in 1998. these shoes are the ancestors of today’s generation, “Vapors”.

He wore Chrome/Yellow/Blue versions that Nike created for the 1998 World Cup final against France. This version was uniquely produced for the particular match. The standard issue Mercurials in 1998 were black and white. Here’s a pic (left) of Ronlado’s “everyday” boot at the time.

The shoe burst on to the scene as ‘the’ lightweight football boot, and quickly became the ‘must have’ cleat for strikers and wingers world wide.

To achieve such a low weight, Nike for the first time used synthetic leather in the uppers construction, and also for the first time, engineered a shoe purely for speed.

The shoes came in (and still do) “Soft Ground” and “Firm Ground” varieties. The SG cleats are molded whereas the FG’s are removable and come with a variety of cleat lengths.


The ‘Air Mercurials’ became the ‘Nike Mercurial Vapors’ in time for the 2002 World Cup.

They were again fronted by Ronaldo, Nike created an exclusive pair for him to wear in the semi-finals match.The Nike Mercurial Vapor featured a number of innovations, and upon their release were the lightest soccer boot on the market.

Nike incorporated the glass-filled outsole technology from the track and field genre and introduced NikeSkin: a synthetic leather that was purportedly lighter, thinner and stronger than kangaroo leather. Nike also released a kangaroo version of the shoe, concurrently.

Two years later, in 2004. Nike released the Vapor IIs. This time with Ronaldo debuting the boots about a month before general release and Thierry Henry wearing a red version around the release date. The main performance difference between these shoes and the originals was the addition of cushion around the ankle.

Nike made a couple of aesthetic changes to the upper design, and offered the Vapor IIs in a number of new colors.

The Vapor IIIs or MVIIIs of 2006 incorporated some substantial performance enhancers.

By now the shoe weight was down to 6.9 ounces and a carbon last provided extra support. Microfiber components made the shoe more customizable, as fiber conforms better to the individual foot.Again, Nike tied the shoes release to the World Cup by celebrating Italy’s victory with a shoe in their light blue colors.

Additionally, the company celebrated 10th year anniversary with a special edition of the cleat.

The MVIVs were released in February, 2008 and feature a distinctive lace cover. The uppers of the Nike Mercurial Vapor IV have been recrafted to not only help players run faster, but to run faster while dribbling. They have only one seam, which should aid in ball control and, along with the lace cover, allow for superior foot/ ball contact. There is also a tactile coating over the shoe which aids in ball grip.

Nike uses a glass fiber heel for strong, lightweight support while the heel padding has been supplemented for extra comfort.

2008/09 marked the dawning of the Flywire era at Nike, with the release of the Mercurial Super-Flys. But first lets look at the Vapor Vs and the most up to date member of the Vapor family the Vapor VIs., which were released concurrently with the Flys I and II.

With the Fly’s competing to become the new showcase model of the Nike soccer brand, the Vapor V introduction was made to a divided audience. The Nike V also enjoyed one of the shortest shelf-lives of the Vapor line as the next generation Vapor VIs were released in February 2010 in the run up to the South Africa World Cup.

The Nike Mercurial Vapor Vs sport Teijin Synthetic Leather uppers and continues using the Daewoo lace covers to smooth out the contact areas. Some dramatic structural changes helps the Vs take a leap forward on the weight scale. In our work we have only seen rave reviews for the Nike Mercurial Vapor Vs.

As mentioned the Nike Mercurial Vapor VIs were debuted about a year after the Vs. While the Vs were reported to be revolutionary, the VIs are more evolutionary.

One difference between the Vs and VIs that was certainly noticeable was the new, and absolutely garish color schemes employed by Nike for the new 2010 model. Nike claims that these colors are not a fashion statement (and we certainly concur!) but rather are a performance enhancement: the neon shoes make it easier for teammates to pick their players out on the pitch for passes.

These colors may help with visibility, but what it accomplishes for the “beautiful game” concept remains to be seen. The conspiratorial minded could guess that the color changes were made to give a perceived difference, and reason for a new model in time for the 2010 World Cup. For there is little else differentiating this shoe from the Vs. How much development could really take place over a 10 month span?

The biggest performance difference between the Nike Vs and VIs lies in the sole plate. The VIs use a glass fiber chassis which saves about 4 grams of weight but at a cost of greater rigidity and hence, break-in time.

Mercurial Vapor Super Fly

As mentioned above, Nike came out with a truly ‘new’ boot in the Vapor Mercurial Vapor Superfly, on 14 March 2009.

The Superfly II followed closely on the ‘heels’ of the original model.Interestingly, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nike’s front man for the Nike Mercurial Vapor line debuted the Vapor VI. But only introduced the Suprfly II at a release ceremony : Clint Dempsey but debuted the shoe on the pitch.

Player endorsements inclued: Dani Alves, Didier Drogba, Frank Ribery,Cristiano Ronaldo and Theo Walcott.

The Superfly II features two truly new innovations:

1) Flywire technology- an upper construction based on the theory behind suspension bridges. The shoe uses threads as opposed to leather to provide foot support and thus can provide more firmness per ounce,

2)Nike Sense- – a technology that enables the stud heights to vary to become more compatible with different pitch conditions. The mechanism works by reacting to varying pressures put on the studs while in play. Stud lengths can vary by up to 3mm.The new-fangled studs and re-engineered uppers sit below and above a carbon composite chassis, another weight saving component.The Superfly’s weigh about 6.5 ounces.

Besides introducing new technologies these boots also bring in a new look, as the threads of the Flywire are clearly visible on the uppers and give them a neat, contoured effect.

The reduction in material needed to construct the uppers also leads to a neat, minimalist presentation.

Besides all the new technologies, Superfly II customers will also gain access to online support through Nike’s Football+. The program features training tips from world class players and coaches.You get all this for the low, low price of 0!

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