In May of 2013, adidas launched the Nitrocharge boot to a lot of fanfare. The Nitrocharge was crafted for a player that adidas called "the Engine" and was meant to be the footwear of choice for the squad member that drives the team forward. Its bright blue/electricity/white colorway was hard to miss and not only did the boot look good, but it felt great. The Nitrocharge saw action on the field immediately, playing a role in Bayern Munich's Champions League win on the feet of Javi Martinez.
I loved the Nitrocharge. The innovations that were designed into the boot, namely the "ENERGYSLING" and "ENERGYPULSE" technology, did exactly what they were designed to and to great effect. With every wear, the Nitrocharge became better and better in feel on my feet and touch on the ball. Then, adidas handed me a pair of Black/White/Ray Green Predator LZ II boots and that all changed.
The Predator LZ II is the latest in the long line of boots in the wildly successful predator series with the original LZ taking over the reins in mid-2012 from the previous year's adiPower Predator. It was released with little fanfare despite its bright Ray Green colorway. adidas' efforts understandably went towards promoting the Nitrocharge, the company's first new boot silo in nearly a decade.
In the past, adidas had actually added weight to the boot in the form of Pulse technology that would shift the foot's center of gravity slightly so that more was concentrated at the point where the foot makes contact with the ball. In 2011, the Predator line adopted the f50 adiZero's SprintFrame technology and shed a lot of weight all at once.
Until the original Predator LZ, adidas had placed "Predator Elements," the rubber segments of the boot that provided extra grip, power, and control on the ball, in just one area: the striking part of the foot. The LZ changed that by introducing five "Lethal Zones" strategically placed around the boot: "first touch" at the front of the boot to help bring the ball down, "dribble" on the outside of the boot to help keep the ball close, "drive" on the foot's strike zone to provide power and control in the shot, "pass" which acts like the pass pad on the Nike CTR360 to provide control when passing, and "sweet spot" on the inside of the big toe to create spin and help with the chip.
The Predator LZ II carried all of those "Lethal Zones" over and improved on them in every way. The elements' new 3D constructions provide added grip on the ball, increasing the benefits of the Predator boot.
I have never had a boot fit as well as the Predator LZ II did right from the off. The fit isn't the widest from the beginning but it also isn't narrow. The upper, a material adidas calls "HybridTouch," is an engineered synthetic/leather akin to Nike's phenomenal KangaLite upper. adidas say that HybridTouch offers the durability and ability to resist water of a synthetic upper (like SprintSkin on the f50s) with the softness of genuine leather (comparable to a full-grain or some calfskin) and ability to stretch. Mind, it won't form as much as Kangaroo leather does but it should still have an ample amount of stretch in it.
Even with all of the rubber on the boot, covering large portions of the foot, the touch on the ball that the adidas Predator provides is phenomenal. The upper feels padded yet very responsive and with the various lethal zones across the foot, there appears to be an added layer of protection. The impacts with the ball are certainly there and are present in the best way possible. Bringing the ball down from the air feels remarkably easy with the front of your foot. Passing and receiving is connected and when you release the ball to a teammate, it feels as though the ball has come off of a spring.
Perhaps my favorite part of the Predator LZ II though is the "drive" zone. When you hit the ball with the sweet spot of your foot, you know that the contact was right. The feeling is an assured one and the resulting flight of the ball is predictable in the best way possible. On top of that, shots feel powerful and when the ball bulges the back of the net, that feeling comes through once more.
The Predator LZ II is light, the fit is snug, the stud placement is familiar, and the construction is solid. Additionally, the boot's design is sensational. Hard cuts and sharp lines are everywhere and with the 3D zones, specifically "drive," add that little something extra aesthetically. The Ray Green launch colorway wasn't for everyone (and probably put some people off the boot right away) but it was a bit of a masterstroke from adidas to start off with a bright color without making much noise otherwise. If the green isn't for you, adidas has also made Black/White/Ray Green (used for this review) and White/Black/Red colorways available.
Coming out of (relatively) nowhere, the adidas Predator LZ II has completely won me over. It's an absolutely brilliant boot and one certainly worthy of the Predator name. It is a testament to adidas' ability to continuously take a good product and make it better with each iteration.