BY BEN STOCKTON AND MIKE CAROZZA
As the long offseason slips into the month or so before Spring Training, we’ve put together a buyer’s guide to the best baseball cleats of 2017. We’ll take a look at a few intriguing models on the market and some things to look for in the coming year. We will look at each of the 5 major companies; Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, Adidas, and Mizuno. For this guide, only models released in 2016 will be considered, even though there are many many models from 2015 and even 2014 still available. Often a great deal can be had going after the past season’s model from the same line. For example, instead of purchasing the Under Armour Yard from 2016, purchasing the one from 2015.
Their current product lineup’s diversity and vast size sets it apart from every other company’s. The Zoom Trout 3 and Jordan XII occupy the top tier. Top of the line team models such as the Air Clipper 17 and Vapor Ultrafly Elite are in the next tier. Budget-friendly team models and the Trout 3 round out the third tier. Molded versions of the team models create the fourth and the fifth tier, which is made up of the most affordable cleats.
- Mike Trout’s third signature cleat with Nike is laced with Flywire and cushioned with a large volume Zoom bag.
- The Trout 3 features the best tech that Nike has to offer and is virtually unmatched across the marketplace in tech.
- The wide array of colorways also make this luxury model intriguing.
- You will be the envy of your teammates, and they’ll probably be so jealous they’ll make fun of you (even though they secretly want to take them from you).
- At $140, the Trout 3 can be a bit steep, so luckily there’s also a Trout 3 “Pro”; a stripped down version featuring a similar design.
- 15.1 oz is heavier than Nike’s other offerings
The “Pro” version takes the look of the true 3 and replaces the fuse and premium mesh with synthetic leather and a cheaper mesh. Phylon also replaces the Zoom. The slightly heavier (15.6 oz) “Pro” is much less expensive, along with its materials, but it will definitely get the job done while looking good. Most of the true Trout 3 colorways are carried over to the Pro as well.
Nike Vapor Ultrafly Elite (and Pro)
- The Nike Vapor Ultrafly Elite launched with a WPW favorite, George Springer in 2016, and is one of the most stunning cleats we’ve seen at WPW.
- Hybrid (plastic/metal) cleat plate maximizes traction without sacrificing comfort.
- 14.4 oz is lighter than Trout 3, though surprisingly a bit heavier than Ultrafly Pro (14.2 oz).
- This is the Editor’s choice. Sexiest cleat on the planet right now.
- We expected better weight savings from the hybrid cleat plate, but finding out that the Elite, with a hybrid plate, is actually heavier than the Pro with straight metals was pretty disappointing.
- Still expensive at $110.
If you don’t need the hybrid cleat plate, maybe you play a lighter schedule and wear-and-tear is less of an issue, then the Pro is a veritable clone of the Elite at a $30 discount ($80 compared to $110). The primary differences between the two are the traditional tongue on the Pro version compared to the sleeve on the Elite, and the lack of Flywire on the Pro. Often times traditional tongues allow for better fits than sleeves, so the fit should be roughly on par with the Elite. The materials, plate, and cushioning are all identical on the two versions.
The lack of colorways is the only thing holding the Pro back, but there are some very nice colorways available. I don’t see any reason for anyone to buy the Elite version when an identical shoe is available at $30 less.
Pros wearing the Vapor Ultrafly line: George Springer, Brandon Barnes, Gregor Blanco, Matt Kemp.
- The biggest pro to the 12 is that its available, period. An awesome play by the Jordan brand to make these available to the public after a few years of teasing us with great player exclusives like those on David Price, Manny Machado and a few others.
- Of J’s in the Big Leagues, these are the most popular.
- Available in both metal and molded.
- Decent colorways that have been worn by Big Leaguers
Under Armour tends to preview their updates to their product lines at the All-Star Break as well. They then roll out the new models in time for the playoffs so their stars can be rocking the newest gear on the biggest stage.
- One of the best kept secrets in baseball footwear, the Ignite line has been around forever as great budget alternative to the top model for UA.
- The Ignite for 2017 mimics the Deception, a handsome cleat. Featuring what is essentially the same upper as the Deception mounted on the Ignite line’s standard EVA midsole and plate.
- Quick, inexpensive option to consider, especially if it’s not essential that MLB stars are wearing your spikes.
- Due to the 2nd tier status, few MLBers wear the Ignite, if any.
- Metal version only offered in black! Sad face. TPU black and white only.
If you like this style, you might have to bump up to the Deception for color options.
Pros wearing the 2017 Ignite: None yet. Lindor wore the 2016 Ignite.
This year saw a renewed effort to revive the Heater line, a second tier model that has been going strong since UA began their baseball operation. Over the past few years, random bits of tech had been thrown at it without any real cohesion with the baseball department’s design motif. 2017 changes that, and now the Heater is a step up from the Yard (but the same price as the Yard on UA.com?) while being completely indistinguishable from the Yard.
- The mid and low both feature Charged cushioning on UA’s standard plate.
- The upper is a mesh and fuse combination that should be fairly durable and comfortable.
- The mid version features a high-cut neoprene sleeve that should be extremely comfortable, but otherwise is identical to the low.
- Do we even like the look of these cleats? Why are these different than the Yard? We’re just confused. The Heaters look sick in solid colors (not a huge fan of Trea Turner‘s below) but the 3000v3 or just about any Nike option LOOKS better to us right now.
Under Armour’s first entry of 2017 is definitely their best looking model currently available. The low-top edition of the Harper One packs all of the technological punch of the original at a bit more manageable price and with a better form factor.
- As a Low, this edition offers more comfort for those of us who don’t like to have our ankles wrapped up in extra padding. The Low weighs less than the original due to a reduction of materials, and will play quicker and feel more nimble.
- Thankfully, the Harper One Low is a true low-top version of the original meaning it retains all of the characteristics of the original in a smaller package. In this case, it retains the fantastic woven upper with a durable fuse toe/forefoot guard.
- At $120, the Harper One Low is $10 less than team colorways of the Harper One and $30 less than the Limited Edition colorways.
- This will likely change over the next few months, but the Low is currently only available in solid black and a white colorway that is reminiscent of the Platinum colorway of the Original.
- It’s not a turf edition. I think a turf edition of the Harper One would be fantastic since it has a lot of sneaker style attributes (woven upper, Charged Cushioning, etc). Maybe a turf is on the way or will accompany the Harper Two.
Pros wearing the Harper One Low: BRYCE HARPER.
New Balance tends to update their main two lines, 4040 and 3000, in alternating years. Since 2016 saw the arrival of the 3000v3, we can expect the 4040v4 in 2017. Popping up alongside the two mainstays each season is a minimalist model, in 2015 the Minimus and in 2016 the 406v1. Neither see too much on-field time in the MLB, but New Balance has shown a preference to introduce new technology this way, so keep an eye out in 2017.
- New Balance debuting customization with the 3000v3 developed into one of the most significant improvements in the baseball industry last year.
- The 3000 line has earned a reputation as one of, if not the single most comfortable cleat in baseball.
- The first we saw these cleats was last year in Omaha, on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers—the out-of-nowhere national champs. That means the 3000v3 has built-in mojo.
- For the custom version, $150 is a pretty penny.
Adidas made huge waves in 2016, with what are two of the best looking models on the market in the Energy Boost Icon 2 and Afterburner 3. With another year of product sales and experience under their belts, I’d expect a huge follow-up from the Germany-based brand.
Their current product line-up features 4 distinct tiers. The Energy Boost Icon tops the lineup as the luxury model. The Afterburner is the swift team model. The Power Alley is a lower range, throwback performer. And like the UA Leadoff or Nike Keystone, the Wheelhouse is a low-budget offering.
- The Afterburner 3 stole my heart in 2016. It is my favorite baseball cleat of all time. -Ben
- Streamlined and aggressive silhouette. Looks and feels fast. The Afterburner shreds the competition in regards to each of those.
- As one of the very few sub 10 oz metal cleats ever, they feel weightless on foot.
- Custom builder!
- Insane array of colorways, thanks to the Dipped Collection, including mint, brown, burgundy, and gold.
- Due to being so light, I think fast outfielders and agile middle infielders would find this model ideal.
- There isn’t much protection for catching or pitching.
- Heavier players may find that there isn’t enough cushioning. (The Energy Boost Icon should be helpful to those types.)
The Boost Icon 2, the preference of adidas’ two brightest stars, Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa, is the cleat that put adidas on the map in baseball.
- The Roberto Clemente edition finished first in our “Top 5 Cleats of 2016.”
- Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa approve.
- Boost midsole makes this cleat much more supportive than Afterburner 3.
- $120 is expensive.
Mizuno entertains a very loyal niche audience these days. The persistence of the Wave Plate midsole design paired with a reluctance to adopt modern upper materials caused Mizuno to fade in the baseball market. As Under Armour, New Balance and now Adidas increase their share of the market, Nike’s has been shrunk, but not as significantly as Mizunos. Their once wide array of products is now reduced to a single main headliner, a few classic turf models, and an assortment of budget options. 2015’s headliner, the Heist IQ has stuck around for two years and recently saw a $20 discount on the MSRP.
- Entirely fuse upper and modern silhouette.
- The Wave plate seems to have finally have gone the way of the dinosaurs. (The Heist IQ is also wave-less, but featured a scant amount of midsole EVA foam.)
- The Dominant IC sees a large increase in midsole volume and also a new foam named U4icX (Euphoric X). Mizuno claims this is a softer and more cushioned foam. This should be on par with any other foam-only cushioned cleat (Boost Icon 2 excluded).
- Mizuno has always been a premium-priced brand, but just barely cracks three-digits while the other brands are pushing up into the $120-$150 range.
- Basic team colorways only.
Mike’s Pick: Vapor Ultrafly Elite
“Performance, look, colorways, its all there with the Ultrafly.”
Ben’s Pick: Harper One Low
“My favorite cleat of 2017 is the UA Harper One Low. I love low top cleats and the Harper One’s woven upper looks really comfortable. I feel like the Harper One Low offers a very versatile ride and fit. On top of it all, the Harper One Low is the best looking cleat on the market, tied with the Afterburner 3.”
Jake’s Pick: Jordan 12
“I’ve always been a Jordan guy. I’ve waited on line before to get some Jordan’s. This is a sheer aesthetic pick—its only about the look. I’m not gonna lie, it looks dope with my jersey!”