the world cup: design, technology and innovation through football boots

the world cup: design, technology and innovation through football boots

the summer spectacle of the soccer world cup provides the opportunity for innovators to flourish. in a previous designboom article, we covered the historical significance and some of the most unique designs of stadiums around the world that act as theaters for gladiatorial football players.


in this article, designboom takes a look at the weapons used in battle between teams at this summer’s world cup, and in past tournaments, with a focus on football boots by adidas, NIKE, puma and new balance.

adidas copa mundial 1982 edition
image courtesy of adidas



in 1982, adidas released what is widely considered to the best boot of all time: the copa mundial. at the point of their roll out, the copa mundials featured a new layer of foam rubber under the leather of in the forefoot, while also providing flexibility, comfort and enhanced control of the ball for players. the shoe made in scheinfeld, germany has been regarded by adidas as its ‘most successful football boot produced,’ more than 30 years after its original release in 1979.

the first adidas predator was released in time for the 1994 world cup
image courtesy of adidas



12 years later, just in time for the 1994 world cup in the united states, adidas would change the entire sport with the launch of ‘one of the greatest product franchises in sporting goods history. the adidas predator has a long and illustrious list of players that have worn the boot, making it one of the most powerful vehicles involved in creating memorable sporting moments.


adidas designer wolfgang scholz was behind the concept of the legendary predator line of football boots
video © adidas


according to adidas, designer wolfgang scholz ‘transformed the industry and improved the game’ by creating a boot that emphasized function. the predator incorporated unconventional rippled fins with the specification to allow users to produce more power and curve, while providing additional control of the ball. a traxion stud technology system was introduced to allow more grip on the field, allowing for easier acceleration and lateral movement.

the first NIKE mercurial was released in 1998 and was memorably worn by ronaldo of brazil
image courtesy of NIKE



during france 98, the world was introduced to a new product that would become a template for the next 20 years. the new mercurial boots were debuted on the feet of brazilian legend ronaldo, and were, according to NIKE, ‘the first premier boot made from synthetic leather.’ using this new material, the NIKE mercurial was designed to be a light, thin product with a sticky outer layer taken from racing motorcycles to enhance the touch and feel of the ball for players.

building off of the original in 1994, the predator has evolved considerably. here is zidane’s 2006 custom built shoe
image courtesy of adidas



eight years later, zinedine zidane — one of the greatest footballing artists of all time — was pulling on his custom made predator absolute SG boots for the last time. just as an artist requires a steady hand, zizou’s world cup 2006 shoe was tailored to fit to his exact foot measurements, and even included an adhesive strip integrated at the heel of the boot to prevent his foot from slipping — allowing for further comfort and control.


the production of the NIKE magista — the release took center stage at the 2014 world cup
video courtesy of NIKE



as the world prepared to join brazil for the month long global football festival in 2014, NIKE again changed the face of the industry with a groundbreaking design: the introduction of mid-cut boots with NIKE flyknit uppers. incorporated to provide flexibility and speed to allow creativity to flourish and adapt in an increasingly fast paced and demanding game environment, the magista and mercurial boots would, according to NIKE, allow the ‘quickest players to take advantage of every split second.’

the boot shown during its production
gif by designboom, courtesy of NIKE video



now, in 2018, the football boot has changed dramatically since the arrival of the copa mundial in 1982 and has pushed innovators in the industry to come up with new designs and technological advancements to set themselves apart in a crowded market place.



the 2018 adidas predator model, completing our brief overview of predator models



for example, adidas has gone back to basics with its latest predator model. however, the design also reflects the modern game with a sock and no shoelaces to provide minimal friction and misdirection. additionally the material used on the upper of the boot, ‘colorskin,’ is meant to provide further control to allow the ball to attach more freely to the foot. this predator model also utilizes a ‘controlframe’ baseplate with studs that increase stabilization and quick movement.


the new NIKE mercurial boot for the 2018 world cup has changed drastically since 1998



NIKE has also introduced a number of new new colorways through their ‘just do it’ pack. two of its models, the NIKE mercurial superfly 360 elite and the NIKE hypervenom III elite provide clean and simplistic designs, which make them two of our favorites on show this summer in russia. in particular, the hypervenom is built with a fkyknit construction that provides an innovative take on how to fully wrap the boot around one’s foot, while maintaining breathability and flexibility. in addition, the boot has a bladed texture on the strike zone areas to ‘optimize shot velocity.’

NIKE’s new hypervenom for the 2018 world cup in russia
image courtesy of NIKE


two brands competing outside of the adidas and NIKE world are puma and new balance. although they are represented less frequently in terms of player and team sponsorship in comparison to NIKE and adidas, their products provide an insight into the amount of competition that is now in the football market place. where puma emphasizes unique color schemes and material for comfort, new balance focuses on ‘speed and maneuverability to change the outcome of games.


A post shared by PUMA (@puma) on

puma has released two boots for the 2018 world cup



this visual storyline demonstrates how football boots have transformed through innovative design and technology. the rapid and drastic evolution of successful product lines — such as the predators from adidas or the mercurials from NIKE — is dramatically highlighted at the world cup, where the players themselves are able to tap into the global audience that these brands chase.


A post shared by newbalance (@newbalance) on

new balance is part of a new wave of companies competing in the football market place

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