Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground review

Think of a classic soccer cleat and you’ll immediately be transported to the Adidas Copa Mundial. Plain, simple leather boots in black were all the rage for most of football history right up until approximately 20 years ago.

While leather still has its place in the hearts of the regular boot connoisseur, manufacturers started phasing them out about 20 years ago while moving towards synthetic and knitted uppers which were lighter and more resistant to water. It was also more expensive to import, treat and export leather goods as opposed to synthetic and knitted materials.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground logo

Not long after, brands also pushed leather boots down its list of priorities. Unfashionable defenders endorsed them while the flashy knitted and synthetic boots were reserved for superstars like Ronaldo and Neymar.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground midsole

This, despite leather boots’ reputation for an accommodating fit, elegant and padded touch and all-round comfort as opposed to synthetics’ more rigid feel.

Adidas' U-Turn on Leather

During Adidas’ rebranding of their football lineup a few years ago, they took the brave step of eradicating their leather line altogether.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground toebox

Someone in Adidas must have realized their mistake to gift Nike carte blanche to rule the leather boot market with their Nike Tiempo Legend 7 and made a ham-fisted attempt to develop a leather boot again with the Copa 17.1 and 18.1.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground shoelaces

However, they were mediocre productions as compared to their other flagship lines.

By the tail end of 2018, Adidas made a serious return to the leather segment. They launched Copa 19.1.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground mouth

The Spirit of the Copa

Adidas took inspiration from their classic Copa Mundial but sought to modernize it for today’s needs.

Their mission: To produce a comfortable premium leather boot of yesteryear but merge it with the fit, tech, and looks of 2019.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground heel

Leather boots are usually made from several pieces of leather stitched together. This meant that they had to use harder leather to withstand the stitching process. Stitching also led to more holes in the upper, leaving it susceptible to water seepage (and long-term damage) in wet weather conditions.

It’s hard to look away from the ribbed design on the Copa 19.1 – hilariously panned by some bloggers as a parody of a Michelin tire mascot. But look closely and you’ll notice the lack of stitching on the leather upper. Adidas’ treatment of the leather led to a more durable but also softer material to keep the leather as a one-piece upper.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground side

Save for the tongue, the boot is a seamless piece that starts with the softest, most pillowy leather in the forefoot and midfoot. It transitions subtly to a knitted material as you move up the midfoot towards the laces and towards the heel area.

I’ve never seen such treatment and attention to detail on a football boot before. If you’re a boot nerd like me, please take that extra bit of time to appreciate the minor but glorious details as the leather transitions to the knitted material.

Growing pains with the Copa 19.1

Once I was done gawking at its craftsmanship, I had mixed feelings about how it felt on feet. The lockdown was superb in the heel and I had a comfortable amount of wiggle room in the toe box.

My feet felt like it was cocooned in clouds – that was how soft and plush the upper felt. However, things were not going as well in the midfoot.

The Copa 19.1 had a unique “burrito tongue” construction which aims to secure your feet in the boot. But just like the Nike Tiempo Legend 7, this wrapped my feet too tightly.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground insole

A great lockdown in the heel, a suffocating midfoot and pure bliss for the toes. It was odd.

My first play test in the Copa 19.1 was a disaster. My feet couldn’t breathe with that burrito tongue wrapped around my midfoot. I was riddled with cramps on my feet and I was unable to play more than 15 minutes in them. During my self-imposed break, I loosened the laces. It improved the situation but it did not eradicate the problem entirely.

Second time's a charm

I gave the boots another go 3 days later and it was a marked improvement. The burrito tongue must have stretched after the first wear. I could finally experience the boot’s qualities and it performed like a dream.

The secure lockdown was still evident in the heel and midfoot areas while the toebox remained very comfortable for my feet. There were no cramps this time around.

Don’t be fooled by the upper. It may look too thick and pillowy but it stretches out nicely when you put it on. This allowed for an elegant and padded touch while still offering a closer feel of the ball than you may think.

Passing and receiving the ball was a delight as the ball is nicely cushioned by the Copa 19.1 with every touch. Love shooting through your laces? The upper takes away the sting after you connect hard with the ball.

The comfort also extends to the heel area of the insole and the lateral and medial side of the boots which house plush cushions to make every stride and change in direction feel like a stroll among the clouds.

If you like the sensation of a leather boot, the Copa 19.1 serves up all the best traits a leather boot should provide.

Is it odd that a boot can swing so greatly from awful to awesome after a single game? I think so but perhaps you need some patience to break in to them over a couple of sessions.

I would recommend not starting out in them immediately. Start a game with a comfortable pair before switching into them for the last 20 minutes after your feet have warmed up.

Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground collar

Adidas is serious about leather

It’s quite refreshing for a company to put back more emphasis on a leather boot after years of being pushed out of obscurity. It’s not just nostalgia too. Adidas has put in a massive amount of effort in making this the best leather boot it can be.

Facts / Specs

Update: Adidas Copa 20.3 Firm Ground
Top: Low
Surface: Firm Ground
Collection: Adidas Copa, Adidas Fusion Skin
Lacing System: Laced
BRAND Brand: Adidas
Colorways: White / Black / Yellow / Orange

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Adidas Copa 19.1 Firm Ground video reviews

Hatta Aziz
Hatta Aziz

Hatta is a 32-year-old runner who has done most of his running on a grass patch since he was in his teens. A football lover who classifies himself as a box-to-box midfielder, he clocks in 8km per game of futsal as he tests boots and makes those lung-bursting runs at least twice a week in Singapore. His go-to boots are the Nike Premier 2.0 and the Adidas X18.1 though he is going crazy on the fit and feel of the Nike PhantomVSN Elites. When not making tackles on the football pitch, he attempts 10k road races every quarter and practices his 10k runs weekly in his Vibrams or Nike Epic Reacts.