Fast and light: our adidas f50 adiZero 2012 review

Lionel Messi has been wearing the new adidas f50 adiZero on the field for a couple of weeks now but we wanted to find out what the boot feels like on someone that isn't superhuman.

Much like the three previous iterations of the adidas f50 adiZero, the brand new version is light. It barely weighs a thing at just 5.8 ounces (165 grams). With something that weighs about the same as six slices of bread, you would expect it to be flimsy. Guess what? It's not.

When adidas reinvented the f50 series from the Tunit range that the name embodied prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it suddenly became the next best thing since, well, six slices of bread. For years and years, manufacturers were focused on power (say it like Jeremy Clarkson would: powerrrrrrrrrr) with the thought being that more weight would lead to more power. After all, force = mass x acceleration. In previous years, adidas went so far as to add insoles with an extra weight in them or ones with a compartment for sand.

The f50 adiZero changed all that. Yes, it was still all about weight, but this time, it became about getting rid of it. The Predator series was an excellent example of this with the last generation before the adiZero era, the Predator X, being a heavy, rigid beast. In 2011, adidas introduced the adiPower Predator and shed weight in terms of speed. If you're going by that formula, by losing mass, you have to compensate by adding acceleration. Boom.

The newest adidas f50 adiZero, is, to be frank, nothing new. That isn't a bad thing though.

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At first glance, the sprintframe (the outsole) is largely the same as previous versions in terms of look and feel. The stud layout is unchanged. There is still a space under the insole for your miCoach SpeedCell chip (sold separately, of of course). The materials are more-or-less the same. Something with a proven history of working well doesn't necessarily beg for change, does it?

Don't get me wrong, there are changes with one very important one at that. This isn't just a fancy new paint job for the outsole but that is one of the big differences from the last version. A new design language for the f50 brand that strays from the tight geometry of the adiZero III and moves to something more fluid and sharp. Gone are the embossed triangles that gave the boot shape (and appearance of a frame) and they are replaced by a (mostly) solid bright yellow and 3D-printed texture (known as adidas sprintweb) that provides better traction on the ball, much like a tire with brand new treads.

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One of the biggest complaints from footballers in regards to their footwear is performance in the rain and general wet conditions. Nike did a very good job of compensating for the lost touch in their last CTR360 Maestri III boot with the All Condition Control coating. Now it's adidas' turn to step up to the plate.

Really no matter how you slice it, the f50's microfiber upper is slick in the rain. During my extended run out with the boots, the ball didn't really feel attached to your foot much like it did with the CTRs. I was not using a top-of-the-line ball like the Adidas Tango or Nike Maxim simply because that would be the best-case scenario for grip and could be construed as a misrepresentation of real-world (read: Sunday League) conditions. The sprintweb texture certainly does help with grip on the ball but it's not "sticky," per se.

In order to make the f50 adiZero so light, adidas turned to an innovative use of thin and hollow materials to reduce weight. With the sheer lack of bulk to the boot, you would expect them to be very flexible, if not flimsy. The sprintframe features a very ingenious design though that creates stability along the outsole while offering enough flex in the forefoot to make running comfortable. The interior sprintframe is unnoticeable when wearing the boot but the provided stability is definitely there and the boot is better for it.

The one real issue I found with the boot during my testing was the touch. The sprintskin upper material doesn't do much for the feel on the ball and because of that, I found the whole experience to be a disconnected one. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't good and it's a bit of a wonder that the CTR360 (with a relatively much thicker upper) offered superior touch. The leather version of the f50 will offer a different feel and could easily make this issue a moot point.

As for fit, the f50 slipped onto my feet like a sock. The forefoot is wide where it needs to be but is admittedly very narrow around the arch, widening out a bit more around the heel. Like the previous versions, they do provide two insoles: one lightweight and low profile, one thicker and for comfort. The insoles will affect fit with the comfort insole raising your foot that little bit higher into the sprintskin upper. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for those with wider feet.

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With all that said, if you are looking for a lightweight boot, you would be hard pressed to find one with a) better pedigree and b) lighter weight. What the newest adidas f50 adiZero sets out to do, it does well. In terms of being a "speed" boot, you'll struggle to find one that's "faster." The f50 is comfortable (given that you don't have overly wide feet), it looks good, and boasts a boatload of technology. There are few more innovative boots on the market. However, the feeling of disconnect from the ball is enough for me to say that the (synthetic version, at least) of the adidas f50 adiZero is not for me.

The boot has found untold success since its launch in 2010 and that has become a clear indicator that adidas has done more than a lot right with it.

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