A Cutting-Edge Cleat

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The Adidas Predator LZ soccer cleat is a shoe like no other. Sure, first-time wearers will be forgiven for wondering about the unwieldy mess of textiles encapsulating their feet: There are bright orange rubber gills sticking out of them in all directions, a giant padded plate on the forefoot, and, if you dig a little, a hollow cavity underneath the insole.  Such over-the-top design usually signals that a shoe is either going to be a hopeless, dispensable gimmick and fail, or instead be a literal game-changer. The Predator happily steps confidently towards the latter.

Developed with a battery of testers, from casual players to such fleet-footed Major League Soccer players as David Beckham, the cleat has purpose-built  zones for five skills: first touch, dribbling, controlled and power shooting, and passing. Each zone on the shoe is outfitted with specialized combinations of rubber, memory foam, or perforated material. In use, the Predator is astoundingly effective,  and each specialized zone helps the wearer perform skills better. (For example, the shoe’s sticky leather stripes helped us field a high goal kick with the top of our foot).

But the shoe still has secrets: The slot under the insole holds an Adidas miCoach chip so you can track your stats (speed, acceleration, etc.) and be aware of your progress. All of these stats can be uploaded wirelessly to a smartphone and used build up a soccer avatar that, in an insanely cool twist, can then be used in a videogame. But the important part is that these cleats can change your game – real or not. [$220; adidas.com]