PUMA Future 2.1 Netfit FG/AG review
In a market that is obsessed with laceless boots (or at least a clean striking zone), PUMA has doubled down and made a boot that is all about the laces. PUMA has always struggled to keep up with Nike and Adidas, both of whom carry considerably larger resources than the big cat.
Their attempts with the Evospeed were shadowed by stellar performers in the Nike Mercurial and Adidas F50 and X lines. So what can you do if you can’t beat the big boys in a sprint? You participate in a different race altogether. Enter Netfit and the PUMA Future.
Nice, comfy fit
For the uninitiated, the PUMA Future is derived from the Netfit technology that has been a big part of PUMA’s innovations over the last year.
As the name suggests, the upper is covered with a netted textile material that allows the user to create an almost infinite number of lacing variations to accommodate different feet shapes and sizes.
Durable, accommodating upper
Sure, it isn’t a big problem with running shoes but with the hustle and bustle of a football game, there are customer concerns that the Netfit layer might rip if the loops get tangled with an opponent’s boot studs. The reality is much less scary.
The net is tautly stretched across the upper, leaving little room for loose spaces and tangles with studs. The net is also pretty robust and is able to take on intense movements and impact associated with a game of football.
It seemed a strange decision for PUMA to scrap the PUMA Future 18.1 after only a few months on the shelf. The successor, the 2.1, looks like a simple facelift but there are some changes notable changes to the boot.
The Future 2.1 has less lacing options around the forefoot area. Instead, PUMA has wrapped a TPU protective layer all around the base of the upper, including the forefoot area to reduce any potential wear and tear over time. While it’s not a problem for me, this limits the lacing area to just the mid-foot all the way to the area just below the ankles.
This means that the Future now has 2 very distinct textures and densities to the upper with the lacing area being very soft out of the box while the TPU-covered areas felt thicker and less plush.
The Future 2.1 also does not stretch as much as the 18.1. Looking at the image comparison above, the evoKNIT sock on the 18.1 (on the left) extends all across the mid-foot but it seems to half that length on the 2.1 (on the right).
This makes the fit even tighter, which is especially bad news for wide footed players. I noticed that the boot is slightly heavier at 235g rather than the 210g of the previous generation and it’s noticeable when you have either boot in hand.
Raising my lace game
Do custom lace configurations really affect the lockdown and comfort of the boot? Upon putting on the boot, I realized that it was rather narrow for my moderately wide feet, even without the laces.
Most of the narrow width was around the mid-foot though I had ample wiggle room around the toebox. The reduced stretch material in the evoKNIT sock definitely made it a tighter fit than the already compressive 18.1. For a boot that sells itself to be a solution to various feet shapes, this was not a good start.
I proceeded to prepare 2 different lace configurations to both boots – one with laces looped high up my foot and the other, a more traditional pattern. What I found out was that there was no distinctive or dramatic change in lockdown when comparing both feet. Both feet were secure and there was no noticeable difference when changing directions, sprinting or striking the ball.
The touch on the ball was decent though not spectacular. With a knitted upper and its price point, I expected the upper to offer a softer, thinner touch but it felt rather plasticky as compared to other knitted options in the market. Do expect to break in the upper after a few games though it would have been good to have been softer out of the box.
One cause of concern for me was the soleplates which were said to be developed for both firm (FG) and artificial ground (AG). However, the long studs make the Future more of an FG boot rather than AG with minor stud pressure troubling me through a 2-hour game on artificial ground.
This is a very important factor to consider if you’re carrying or have a history of injuries on your joints. You don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on your feet and joints with studs that are too long.
Looking forward to future releases
The PUMA Future 2.1 is a decent boot by most standards. It looks really cool, it’s got one of the best mid-cut socks in the game with evoKNIT and an aggressive soleplate for speed merchants. The Future is also one of the most creative concepts released by the big cat after struggling with boot innovations the last couple of years.
However, I think there’s massive potential for improvements. Top of that list would be an AG compatible soleplate and a more responsive upper that makes striking the ball feel more engaging. At present, it looks like PUMA has found their groove again. Let’s hope the Future kicks off a new era for the big cat.