This is an exciting time of year for baseball. I know you may be thinking trade deadline and pennant chases, but this is WPW, not MLBTR. We’re talking kicks. Three major brands, Nike, New Balance, and Mizuno have all gone to market with their second half cleats. This second half trend started about 10 years ago. First, we see some special models dropped in the College World Series, then the new models with fancy colors in the Major League All-Star game. Brands use these moments of exposure to capitalize on the growing popularity of footwear in the baseball world.
Thanks to social media (and WPW), it is easier than ever to find those special player editions (PEs), and of course, people will always want what they can’t have. But if you can’t actually get the exact shoe that the pros wear, the second best thing is to be the first to have the new model. I know it’s not what’s on your feet that matters but its what is in the spikes that does. But I will also tell you there is nothing like getting a box in your locker and having all your teammates gather around chanting “open it!” This is your chance to be the trendsetter and not a follower. The sights, the smell, the feel of brand new cleats can inject you with a shot of confidence that can bring you out of a slump.
Now that you know the new cleats have arrived, let me share my quick initial thoughts. Our major players are Nike, New Balance, and Mizuno.
I’ll start with arguably the most popular, Nike. Nike has released the Nike Air Huarache Pro in a mid cut and low top shoe. My first reaction is its a good looking spike. They played it safe with smooth lines and keeping the same midsole from the Griffey Swingman line. In the baseball world, the Huarache name carries weight in the same way that Jordan does in the basketball world. No matter how it looks, the name Huarache will sell. As is the case for the Huarache Pro NRG (All-Star game) that is sold out due to limited supplies at Nike.com. I am disappointed in the weight of the shoe though. Anything under 13 ounces could be considered lightweight for a cleat. Anything over 14 ounces will be noticeably heavy when you put them on. The Nike Air Huarache Pro Metal Mid weighs in at 15.8 ounces! The low top weighs in at 15 ounces. No doubt this is not a speed cleat. It might feel like a Cadillac on the inside but it will drive more like a Hummer. If you can sacrifice lightweight for comfort then this is your spike.
Next is the New Balance 4040v2 mid and low. I am excited for this version because it is getting a facelift with RevLite cushioning. This is the actual cushioning found in their running shoes. I have been impressed with New Balance making strides in the baseball world. The mid weighs in at 13.8 ounces and the low at 12.9 ounces. Although they aren’t the lightest on the market they will not be noticeably heavy. They are also the first cleat to have “no-sew” construction on the toe. Without the stitching, this should give the cleat a buttery smooth feel. New Balance is giving the pro athlete what they want with a minor detail, a white toe cap. Something so small makes the shoe look more athletic to the eye. With great eye-popping color schemes and color blocking the 4040v2 is an instant hit. SPOILER ALERT: I have my money on New Balance gaining popularity due to the sole fact that I am currently wear testing the 3000v2. With a futuristic look, lightweight technology, and a completely new midsole you will want to be a New Balance athlete. Look for the 3000v2 to drop during the 2014 season.
Lastly we have Mizuno. At one time I was under contract with Mizuno and that led to a continued relationship with them. I know Mizuno is committed to innovation and the design of a superior product. They are great with athlete feedback and truly try to meet the wants and needs of the player. The first model that captures my attention is the new 9-spike Advanced Pro Elite. This cleat is a striking throwback to the classier days of baseball Americana. With a suede upper and mesh toe box this cleat will deliver. It’s simplicity with premium materials make it a must have. I love the white laces. This cleat is so subtle that I expect it to be slept on and passed over, but make no mistake, all this cleat needs is specific team color laces to make it pop! Carrying a price tag of $130 might be a stretch but they are built to last.
The next model is the Mizuno Swagger 2. It stays true to the family line of the original Swagger with its simple yet bold lines. This should be pretty lightweight as Mizuno is looking to reduce weight by minimizing unnecessary materials to the cleat.
To round out the pack for Mizuno is the Vapor Elite 7 mid and low. Once again this cleat will meet your needs with a nice toe piece that has been almost standard on every cleat for the last 5 years. I have watched my catcher wear his Vapor 6 all season behind the plate and they have been extremely durable. If looks, lightweight, and durability are your priorities, be the first to snag these. I have to hand it to Mizuno, they are breaking out of their historically muted, subtle styles, adding some exciting color schemes, a necessary element for the new age ballplayer who isn’t afraid to stand out. Their cleats were once simple, one color, and almost boring. Now they are asserting themselves as a potential leader in baseball footwear.
And not to be left out, Adidas has released the AdiZero 5-Tool 2.5, an earlier release but now offering black and white along with the original yellow. This is a mid cut cleat designed for speed. At 10.6 ounces it is clearly the lightest cleat out of the bunch. Adidas gives us a clean silhouette with the 2.5 but I cannot put my stamp of approval on these cleats due to my lack of experience with the brand. If anyone knows otherwise I would love feedback.
So for those of you making a playoff push or just looking to finish your season strong, turn heads and do it in style. After all, the scouts in the stands are looking at those who stand out.