Nike’s long-established Phantom silo has had plenty of hits, as well as a few misses, over the years. While the recent Phantom GT series was plenty popular in it’s own right, the recently-released Phantom GX has hit a level of hype not seen from a Phantom boot since the Hypervenom Phantom III. Nike has taken plenty of risks with the newest Phantom and sometimes these bold moves do not come off. However, Nike seems to have created a boot worth of the hype. Mostly.
Fit and Feel
The first thing that is noticeable about the Nike Phantom GX when it is in hand is how soft the upper is. Gripknit is probably the best knit material Nike has produced in some time, if not ever and is the biggest stand out feature on the Phantom GX. It has some very visible grip to touch and yet still maintains a very soft feel overall. As much as I personally have had problems with the uppers Nike has used in the past, it is difficult to find fault with this one.
On feet the Phantom GX feels great as well. The fit is very good, and the boot feels as if it will accommodate most foot types. Another impressive part of the boot is the heel area, which has ample cushioning and does a good job of locking the heel into the back of the boot without feeling overly constrictive. The only slight issue is that the heel could use a bit more stiffening, which could potentially be solved with an external heel counter. This is not noticeable when doing straightforward movements in the boot, though.
Adding to the great lockdown is the deeper-than-expected lacing system which has a good amount of adjustability. The knit that covers this part of the foot is not anything out of the ordinary, but it does not need to be as it is adjustable enough to lock in the foot without feeling overly tight. The laces are also nice, thin, and help with the sleek look of the boot. After a number of tough tackles, there was no issues found with the durability either.
The part of the boot that has the Gripknit does not feel bulky and Nike have done a good job making sure the transition from the regular knit to the Gripknit is not noticeable on the inside of the boot. It is impressive considering that there are essentially two layers of knit in this section and one might expect the boots to feel more bulky on feet. But instead, they feel more sleek and simple. Simple in that Nike has not overcomplicated the boot and have made sure that the Gripknit is the star of the show.
Since the upper is so soft, this also means that the break-in time is minimal at best, taking less than thirty-odd minutes to feel soft enough to go all out in. It is impressive, especially given that the boot has a lot going on with the Gripknit upper. This also adds to the overall comfort of the shoe and even given the cold temperatures I have been training in recently, the boots still felt comfortable with almost no issues.
As far as sizing, the boot does run about a quarter of a size long. I prefer a tight fit with my toes at the end so while I did go a half size down, it is not necessary. If your normal size does have space in the end then a half size down is recommended but again, it is not necessary.
Touch and Dribbling
With as impressive as the Gripknit is on the Nike Phantom GX, the touch on the upper is excellent. The upper has a good bit of tackiness that is noticeable in all sorts of conditions and situations and it is mostly easy to get used to. After a very short adjustment period, the upper helps give a very confident, assured touch on the ball and even in the most awkward of situations the Gripknit is there to back you up. Another reason it is impressive is because of how soft the upper is and a combination of the softness and the grippy upper means that there is a very positive feel on the ball.
Dribbling in the boots does take a little bit more adjustment time because of the grippy upper, but again, because the upper feels so soft, they feel fun to dribble in. The only weird part is the awkward positioning of the Nike swoosh on the outside, which ruins the nice, consistent feel that the rest of the boot is able to offer at the points of ball contact. Aside from that, the upper is remarkable. Nike have done a great job here.
Passing and Shooting
Hitting long balls and shooting are probably the most enjoyable parts of playing in the Phantom GX. The Gripknit encourages you to drive the ball, put spin on ball or whatever else one would wish to try when hitting the ball. Short passes feel nice and solid with the extra grip on offer giving an definiteness to the passes. Long passes feel nice and crisp, and while there is definitely a bit of pingy sensation on offer, it does not feel overly thin, but still makes the contact with the ball feel well connected.
As mentioned above, shooting feels great in the ball and is close to achieving some sort of perfection. The ability to put plenty of spin of the ball is easy but it is definitely not the only trick on offer as knuckling the ball is also enjoyable. It feels very precise when shooting, almost like the boots are dialed in to what kind of shot one would want to achieve in the boots. The ball almost always seems to be caught right when shooting, which of course is a positive consequence of the Gripknit. This is of course provided one has the technique.
However, not everything is top notch when shooting and driving the ball in the Phantom GX. While the rearmost studs provide good stability, the other triangle-like studs in the back do a poor job in the same regard. They shift noticeably when digging feet into the ground for more powerful hits of the ball and somewhat ruin an otherwise great experience. These triangle studs feel fragile to a point where at times it felt as if they could break under too much pressure. The have not, but the feeling is still there.
Which is where some of the issue with the grip come in. Overall, the soleplate has good grip and provides decent stability. But with how high-tech the soleplate looks, it is disappointing when those two rear studs seem to be lacking. There is not really issue with the other studs shaped this way around the rest of the boot, which somewhat makes the issue a little baffling. Part of this could come down to the fact that the rear studs do not a have a stability bar connected between the two of them, unlike what is found on the rest of the boot. The best way that these stability bars can explained is that they work similar to what Diadora used to use with their Axeler technology from over ten years ago, which allowed the boot to flex without being overly flimsy, at least that’s how it was in past Diadoras.
This is probably the section where is best to talk about the other issue with the soleplate, which is the stiffness, or rather the lack thereof. The soleplate is not overly flimsy or anything, but it is noticeable soft in the midfoot. This might bother everyone, and can partially be put down to personal preference, but normally a stiffer soleplate is better since it provides better support for the bottom of the foot and the ligaments and bones in the midfoot, since if the boot is too flexible, it can damage the feet. If you have strong arches, this will not be as noticeable, but since I am bit older with lower arches, it is more noticeable when running and after longer sessions, my feet were a little sore in the middle. This is something Nike should address with future releases, because like the overly flexible rear studs, it messes up an otherwise excellent experience.
Nike have thrown down the gauntlet in the control boot area of the market with an awesome boot with probably one of the best and most balanced knits on the market that gives a confidence of touch and feel on the ball and is a joy to shoot in. However, the soleplate and rear studs need reinforcement to truly make the boot take its place as one of the best on the market. In spite of that, if one can deal with the flexibility issues that the boot has, the Nike Phantom GX is probably the Nike boot to experience.
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