Review: Umbro Speciali Pro Soccer Boots
In recent times we’ve been testing the Umbro Speciali Pro (known as the Speciali Statement in North America) soccer boot. This is currently one of Umbro’s premium grade soccer boots and has been used by English Premier League stars John Terry, Darren Bent, Deco and Gael Clichy over the last year. It builds on a line that has been out for the last 20 years. Most notably, England and Newcastle legend Alan Shearer scored the majority of his 313 career goals in the Speciali.
This is a brief description of the Speciali from Umbro:
- Umbro has designed a boot that builds upon Speciali’s traditional values with incredible comfort, improved control, increased accuracy and additional power
- The boot’s famous premium soft leather creates outstanding fit, delivering supreme touch, accuracy and control
- The eye catching A-Frame design has become a central functional component for the new Speciali, cradling the mid-foot and securing the heel
- The new red and white style colorway adds a nostalgic sense of Umbro’s English roots
- The high density memory foam in the tongue and collar maintains its shape
- There are fast flex grooves in the outsole for greater flexibility
- The lightweight precision studs are engineered with aircraft grade aluminium
- It’s the lightest Speciali Umbro have ever made
Now here’s the Football Fashion review of the Umbro Speciali Pro soccer boot from a former NCAA Division 1 player currently plying his trade in one of the our local leagues.
It hasn’t rained much in my area for some time. Thus the fields that I tested the Umbro Speciali Pro boots on were quite dry and hard. Most of them had not been kept up at all over the winter because of local city budget cuts and were essentially patches of dirt with a bit of brown grass on them. My test consisted of the following:
- One break-in session in which I ran some dribbling, turning and shooting drills and practiced skills moves
- Two pick-up games featuring several former NCAA Division 1 and 2 players
- One Sunday league match.
I tested a pair of white hard ground Umbro Speciali Pro soccer similar to the boots pictured above. As you can tell from the pictures throughout this article, the latest version of the Speciali maintains the line’s heritage with a truly classic look that stands the test of time. I was thankful for this breath of fresh air in design after being inundated with a multitude of gimmicks from boot manufacturers meant to attract impressionable buyers over the past few years. The classic, 90s-reminiscent design of the Umbro Speciali Pro is simple, yet effective. It looks like a purist’s soccer shoe not meant for flash or ball tricks but for serious business on the pitch.
I usually wear US size 10 shoes but got size 9.5 Umbro Speciali Pro boots because of my preference for snug-fitting game footwear.
The Umbro Special Pro was comfortable from the time I slipped it on. I didn’t even have to adjust the laces to get a good fit. What I did notice was that there was a little bit of toe room towards the pointed front of the boot. After wiggling around my toes a bit, I quickly got used to this. After playing in the boots a couple of times, I went on to adjust the laces a bit to make them a little tighter. This is nothing out of the norm with any new shoe — soccer, running or otherwise.
I was also amazed at the light weight of the Speciali Pro. At only 9.4 oz in weight, it is Umbro’s lightest boot ever. You’d never think that a boot with a classic design like the Speciali Pro could weigh this little and feel like next to nothing on the foot!
It took me about two hours of practice time to break-in the Umbro Speciali Pro boots. Most of this time was spent getting use to the boot’s light weight and passing and shooting attributes. However, after the break-in session I felt extremely comfortable in them and was ready for action on the pitch during the following day’s pick-up game.
Touch maketh a football boot and with the Umbro Speciali Pro, touch reigns supreme. Its ultra-light kangaroo leather upper combined with great stability makes trapping and passing the ball on even the coarse fields that I play on the Speciali on nearly effortless. I cannot wait to use them on a pristine, well-kept field.
The shape and padding of the Special Pro at the instep works wonderfully for trapping both on the ground and slightly above ground balls. I found that this combination was an excellent momentum-killer leaving me with that extra half second of time so important in making a pass under pressure. The same combination works excellently for accurate, on the ground passes. I suspect that the boots stability (provided by its heel counter and sole plate) may also factor into this.
My favorite “touch” feature of the Umbro Speciali Pro is the padding at the front of the boot. The best way to describe it is as being traditional. It’s the type of padding and stitching that found on soccer legends like the adidas Copa Mundial and Puma King. This amounts to a forefoot area with which you can easily trap low balls with the inner or outer foot, cushion high balls with the front top of the boot and execute powerful and accurate shots and crosses (more of this later). Try doing that with one of those paper thin neon boots that are in proliferation these days.
Because the Umbro Speciali Pro has a classic design, it’s the type of boot that most soccer players born before 1995 would have used in the past. As such, it doesn’t take much practice to become acclimated to shooting with it.
The light weight of the boot was its one characteristic that took me the most amount of time to get used to when practicing shooting with it. This was because the weight led me to think that I needed to put more power than usual into my shots. However, after a few over the crossbar misses, I was quickly able to adjust to shooting with the Speciali Pros.
Once used to shooting with the Umbro Speciali Pro boots, I became addicted to them. The feel of a light, yet adequately padded and extremely stable boot like this when striking the ball for a top of the foot power shot is terrific. It’s almost like being barefoot but getting a great deal or power and accuracy with such shots.
The Umbro Speciali Pro boots also works wonderfully for low “placement before power” type shots. You can see England and Sunderland striker Darren Bent executing these in his Speciali Pro on a weekly basis in the English Premier League. I attribute this to the Touch features of the boot mentioned above given that such shots are essentially well-placed passes into the goal meant to leave a goalie stretching in futility. In fact, the first goal that I scored with the Speciali Pro was such a shot — a one-time side footer into the lower left-hand corner of the goal from about three meters out and courtesy of a low pass.
I regard stability to one of the most important features of any soccer boot. As with Touch and Shooting, the Umbro Speciali Pro did not disappoint in this area.
I suspected that the shoe would have good stability from just looking at it. I’m no shoe engineer but the from its ergonomic shape and its Fast Flex feature towards the front, the Speciali’s soleplate appears to be a quality unit, designed and built with this factor in mind. A tap of the boot’s backheel reveals a sturdy heel counter under the lightweight K-leather.
The true test of the Speciali Pro’s stability came when I used them on the aforementioned rough fields. They held up remarkably well for running, trapping, passing and shooting even on these grassless dirt patches on which one could easily roll an ankle during even the simplest of moves. While absolutely no soccer boot could afford a great deal of comfort on the abused fields I used the new Umbro boots on, playing in the Speciali Pro’s minimized the displeasure in what could have been a much more harrowing experience.
I’ve logged about six and a half hours of practice and game time in the Umbro Special Pro soccer boots thus far. Sadly, they are now a shade of light brown rather than their original white because of my use of them on dusty fields. However, structurally they are as good as new. They show absolutely no signs of quality defects such as ripping or anomalous shape distortion. Like its predecessors, I believe that the Umbro Speciali Pro is definitely a quality product that will stand the test of time. It’s the type of soccer boot built to last for years.
Here is a picture of the Umbro Special Pro boots that I tested after the break-in session and two pick-up games.
What first got me interested in the Umbro Speciali Pro was the fact that arguably England’s best defender, John Terry, has been using them for every game for going on year now. Then striker Darren Bent started challenging for the English Premier League 2009/10 goalscoring title in them. Upon using these boots, I came to understand why such high-calibre professionals seem to love them. From their fit to their light weight to their touch, shooting attributes and all-important stability, the Umbro Speciali Pro boots are as world class as the England internationals wearing them. They proudly continue the fine heritage of one of Umbro’s signature lines. I recommend them for any player of intermediate to advanced skill.
Special thanks to Pieter G. for making this review possible.
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