A Brief History of Nike Football Cleats
The Swoosh joined the football fray in 1971 with a molded rubber cleat dubbed “The Nike.” The first Nike cleat was designed for increased traction, control, and stability. Both American football and soccer players well-received these football cleats.
Early interest in “The Nike” proved a stable future for Nike Football and set the blueprint for succeeding iterations and improvements.
The following year, Nike crafted a multi-purpose cleat called the Nike Turf Quick. These versatile football cleats were an early indication of Nike’s desire to conquer the gridiron and the company’s mission to meet the needs of athletes in an evolving sport.
In 1976, Nike released a trio of football-specific footwear as a response to the changes in the playing surface and its resulting style. Taking inspiration from their patented textured waffle outsole, the Swoosh launched the Astrograbber, Sudden Six, and Turf Star.
The Nike Astrograbber featured a waffle-cleated outsole that was designed to provide optimal leverage on artificial turf. This football cleat proved the capability of molded outsoles and also set the stage for Nike’s growth in the gridiron.
In the 1980s, Nike launched the first molded football cleat designed for both turf and grass. The cleat’s revolutionary design marked a breakthrough for Nike Football.
The Nike Shark (the progenitor of Alpha Menace Shark) boasts a lethal combination of 13 perimeter cleats and shorter, interior cone-shaped studs. This innovative cleat configuration gave football players maximum grip and made them impervious to attack despite the playing surface. The Shark’s balanced cleat layout made it suitable for all types of players. These football cleats were able to maximize the explosive speed of skill players and the tight footwork of linemen.
This game-changing Nike football cleat introduced a new approach to designing football-specific footwear and drove home the company’s capacity to innovate.
Nike Football Cleats: Game-Changing Innovations
For nearly 50 years, Nike Football has been pushing the limits of football cleats by introducing innovations that increase the athlete’s speed, quickness, and power.
During the late ’80s, Nike introduced the first multi-sport footwear that combined features from running, weight lifting, and other court sports. Dubbed the Air Trainer 1, this versatile shoe offered football players with enhanced cushioning, support, and stability.
Nike Football drew insights from the Air Trainer 1 and applied it to their next game-changing football cleat, the Nike Air Veer.
A first for football, the Air Veer boasts a distinctive midfoot strap that offered 360-degree stability. The design was not only functional but also provided a recognizable on-field presence that came to dominate the gridiron.
Advancements in Nike football cleats also have close links to running shoe designs. In 2013, Nike partnered with coaches, biomechanists, and gold-medal sprinter Michael Johnson. With their help, the Swoosh was able to introduce the first 3-D printed plate that is designed to provide optimal traction off the line.
The Carbon V-Plate pushed the limits of performance innovation and led to new ways of thinking about body positioning and traction.
“Nike’s new 3D printed plate is contoured to allow football athletes to maintain their drive position longer and more efficiently, helping them accelerate faster through the critical first 10 yards of the 40,” Michael Johnson explains. “Translated to the game of football, mastering the Zero Step can mean the difference between a defensive lineman sacking the quarterback or getting blocked.”
The Nike Vapor Laser Talon is the first football cleat to feature the new 3-D printed technology. The revolutionary 3-D printed plate helped football players perform at their best and master the 40.
The plate was crafted using Selective Laser Sintering technology (SLS)—a manufacturing process that uses high-powered lasers to combine tiny particles of materials into a 3-D shape. The SLS process allows the creation of configurations not previously possible when employing more traditional manufacturing processes. SLS technology also accelerates the innovation process by allowing design updates within hours instead of months.
“SLS technology has revolutionized the way we design cleat plates – even beyond football – and gives Nike the ability to create solutions that were not possible within the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes,” Shane Kohatsu, Director of Nike Footwear Innovation explains.
Looking to push the limits of speed on the gridiron, Nike Football once again took inspiration from running and unveiled the Vapor Untouchable line. Nike Flyknit—a technology that debuted in the Nike Flyknit Racer—provides football players with a dynamic fit that enhances the natural motion of the Carbon V-Plate.
The Vapor Untouchable showcases Nike’s ability to innovate and represents the company’s mission to provide the most progressive advancements in football footwear.
“Every piece of equipment needs be the best in its class,” Nike Football VP and Design Director Todd Van Horne says. “But the real strength of Nike is integrating the whole system together, and that gives athletes better feel and performance.”
As athletes continue to evolve, Nike Football continues to innovate and push the boundaries of what’s possible. Nike is determined to help athletes achieve their highest potential by listening to their voice and providing them with the equipment they need on the gridiron.
What Are the Different types of Nike Football Cleats?
Nike has no shortage of options when it comes to outfitting players of all skill levels with the right cleat. Through game-changing innovations, Nike Football was able to develop different cleat lines to address the needs of every position. Whether you are a skill position player or a big man in the trenches, Nike has a wide range of football cleats and spikes for you to choose from.
Nike Football’s three main cleat lines are the Nike Vapor, Nike Alpha, And Nike Force. In an interview, Nike Football Product Line Manager Tyler Luckey explains that the Nike Vapor is designed for speed players who need to cut on a dime. The Nike Alpha is built for elusive players who need to move quickly on the field while the Nike Force is perfect for powerful players who require supreme comfort in their cleats.
Speed and quickness have become essential on the field as the sport evolves, and the pace of the game increases. Not only is it needed on the edges of the gridiron but in the trenches as well.
Because of this, Nike also developed three cleat types that push the limits of speed on the field. Introduced in 2015, the Nike Vapor Speed, Alpha Speed, and Strike Speed respond to athlete-specific needs across every position.
The Nike Vapor Speed is designed for the fastest players on the football field. This group of Nike football cleats delivers unstoppable explosiveness off the line. Like the Vapor Untouchable, these cleats are perfect for speed athletes who need to avoid the rush of the defense and close in on opposing receivers.
The Nike Alpha Speed is engineered for elusive players with uncanny agility. This set of football cleats offers multidirectional speed and strength with its 18-point traction system. The Alpha Speed allows for instantaneous change of direction on the gridiron.
The Nike Strike Speed is tailored for athletes who live at the line of scrimmage. This collection of Nike football cleats provides first-step explosiveness, protection, and multidirectional traction. The Strike Speed line is perfect for athletes who need to make split-second reactions to the snap of the ball.
Are there Athlete-Specific Nike Football Cleats?
In recent years, Nike Football has worked with athletes from every skill level to fuel their game and respond to their needs on the gridiron.
The Nike Vapor Ultimate was the first football cleat to feature Flyknit technology. This revolutionary technology provides increased strength, durability, and protection in high-impact areas. Flywire cables are woven directly into the knit fabric for heightened strength and durability.
“We’ve created a cleat that can withstand the forces generated by today’s athletes on the football field,” Nike Football Design Director Ken Link explains. “Flywire and Nike Flyknit combine to create a second-skin, sock-like fit that adapts to each individual player’s foot as well as to his style of play. Our most innovative upper combines with our most revolutionary, proven football plate technology to help athletes perform at the highest level.”
During the 2014 College Football Playoffs, Nike unveiled the Vapor Untouchable line. The Nike Vapor Untouchable was designed and tested with the help of the University of Oregon football team. Constructed with a Flyknit upper, these football cleats are engineered to provide explosive vertical speed on the field.
The Vapor Untouchable line is perfect for athletes like Odelle Beckham Jr., Marcus Mariota, and Richard Sherman, who need all-out speed on the gridiron.
After two years in development, Nike launched the Nike CJ Elite TD in 2015. These football cleats were crafted with direct insight from one of the greatest wide receivers of all time Calvin Johnson.
The Nike CJ Elite TD is designed for hybrid athletes who need maximum strength, support, and durability in a lightweight, minimal package. These Nike football cleats incorporate Flyweave technology for unbelievable strength-to-weight support where it is required the most.
Nike Football also launched the Lunarbeast Elite TD cleat in 2015. Made with insight from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Nike Lunarbeast Elite TD offers unrivaled speed through force. These high-top football cleats are engineered to provide a quick first step while a NikeSkin upper offers lightweight durability and protection. The Lunarbeast Elite TD also boasts a proprioceptive collar that allows freedom of movement without sacrificing ankle support and stability.
In 2019, Nike introduced all-new football cleats designed for multidirectional threats such as Russel Wilson, Khalil Mack, and Saquon Barkley.
The Nike Alpha Menace Elite 2 boasts a new midfoot strap for enhanced containment. The cleats also feature TPU yarns at the forefoot to protect Wilson’s and Barkley’s foot as they create space out on the field.
The Nike Force Savage Elite 2 has been redesigned to include a cleat plate for increased comfort and traction. These football cleats also boast additional armor around the toe to protect Mack when battling at the line of scrimmage.
Nike Football will also have several cleat options for the 2019 NFL Rookie class that includes Kyle Murray, Devin White, and Jonah Williams. Aside from the Alpha Menace Elite and Force Savage Elite, Nike also launched the Air Jordan 1 cleat and the Vapor Untouchable 3.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best Nike football cleats for skill players?
According to Nike Football Product Line Manager Tyler Luckey, the Nike Vapor cleat line (e.g., Nike Vapor Untouchable 3 Pro) is perfect for wide receivers and skill players. These Nike football cleats are designed for speed and cutting on a dime.
What are the best Nike football cleats for linemen?
In a video, Tyler Luckey explains that Nike Force Savage cleats (e.g., Nike Force Savage Elite 2) are the best cleats for linemen. These Nike football cleats feature a durable upper for added protection while a full-length midsole provides supreme comfort.
What are the best Nike football cleats for running backs?
According to Tyler Luckey, Nike Alpha football cleats (such as the Alpha Menace Elite 2) are perfect for players who need to evade the defense and move quickly down the gridiron.
11 best Nike football Cleats
- Nike Force Savage Pro 2 D
- Nike Alpha Menace Shark
- Nike Alpha Menace Elite 2
- Nike Vapor Untouchable Shark 3
- Nike Alpha Menace Varsity 2
- Nike Force Savage Elite 2
- Nike Force Savage Pro 2
- Nike Vapor Untouchable Pro 3
- Nike Force Savage Shark 2 Mid
- Nike Vapor Untouchable 3 Speed
- Nike Alpha Menace Pro 2 Mid
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