In today’s climate of camo adorned, neon accented, and metallic infused gear, few cleats harken back to the days when you, and every one of your teammates, had one option: black and whites. In today’s game, that subtle style speaks to gritty and hard-nosed play. The type of player who goes out and quietly out-plays everyone else. Nike’s newest offering, the Air Clipper ‘17 embodies that stealthy greatness.
Featuring a full nubuck upper with fuse overlays, Nike is trying their hand at revamping the past for today’s game. In recent years, nubuck has taken on the role of being a secondary upper component to lighter fuses and meshes. Often times nubuck ends up being used as a mudguard and toe protector, or as the reinforcement along the eyestay, such as on previous Under Armour Yards. Some upper-end models, like the Vapor Trouts and Harper Ones, completely forgo nubuck for entirely synthetic uppers. A scattering of lower tier models have retained the full nubuck uppers of the past, such as the Adidas Power Alley 4.
Like the Adidas Afterburner and Under Armour Yard, the Nike Air Clipper ‘17 occupies the mid-tier in the company’s product offerings. Comparable to the other offerings, Nike’s mid-tier starts at $95, to Adidas’ $100 Afterburner 3, Under Armour’s $85 Yard Low, and New Balance’s $100 4040v3 and $95 3000v3. Like the New Balances, the Air Clipper leans heavily on nubuck to handle the majority of the upper. Because nubuck is a raw material, it breathes more naturally and tends to break into the foot better than fuse material. The downside of nubuck is the decrease in durability compared to fuse and other plastics.
The perforations throughout the upper only increase durability concerns. Nike recognizes this however and reinforces the toe box, collar, and heel with copious amounts of fuse. This should lessen some of the wear and tear. However, it likely wouldn’t do much to prevent damage from pitching.
To bring this model into the 2010s, Nike has infused a few modern innovations into this throwback. Most notably, the plate and midsole, borrowed from the Nike Huarache 2K Filth. This is likely a cost saving measure on Nike’s part, but it’s a standard practice among all of the cleat manufacturers. One of the main selling points of the 2K Filth was it’s anti-clog geometry, meaning the shape of the plate wouldn’t allow dirt and mud to clog up around spikes. Since the Air Clipper features the same plate, the geometry returns. For cushioning, the photos of the Air Clipper indicate Max Air, the same as the 2K Filth. This high-volume air bag should be very comfortable compared to other cleats with just foam cushioning, but shouldn’t be confused with the very popular Air Max running shoes.
I would recommend the Air Clipper ‘17 to players who will stay almost exclusively off of the mound and who are looking for a more cushioned cleat. If you’re a speedster or just looking for a responsive and quick cleat, I’d look elsewhere, as the combination of the heavy nubuck and Max Air will feel slower than a fuse and Zoom Air or EVA foam equipped spike.
The Air Clipper should play very similar to the 2K Filth. However, since the Air Clipper is out, the 2K Filth should begin receiving discounts. Due to the discounts and more modern technology in the 2K Filth, I would recommend purchasing the Huarache ahead of the Clipper.