Nike's Newest Football (The American Kind) Goodies: Air Zoom Alpha Cleat & Pro Combat Uniform

So… how about those New York Jets? I hear they’ve screwed the pooch of late. This is how I transition into talking about Nike’s new Pro Combat uniforms and Air Zoom Alpha cleat, introduced yesterday at Cowboys Stadium just outside Dallas. As you might expect, given that I’m writing about them here, the cleat and uniforms do a number of things that might interest the techies in the house… all of you, then.

Let’s start with the Air Zoom Alpha cleat (seen above).

Like some of Nike‘s soccer boots, the Air Zoom Alpha has an adaptive traction system. That means that depending on the pressure applied, the actual cleat part will extend or retract. So, if you’re a running back and need to, uh, run, the cleat will extend to give the player all the traction in the world. You don’t want to fall over as you’re running down the sideline, do you?

The cleat will debut on January 1 with Texas Christian University.

Moving on to the Pro Combat uniform (above). They’ll debut over three of the 8 zillion college bowl games coming up in the next month or so. The Boise State Broncos will wear ’em on December 22; the Florida Gators will wear ’em on January 1; and the Oregon Duck will wear ’em on January 10.

That’s nice, but what do they do?

Nike says the uniform “emphasizes thermoregulation,” with its engineers placing pads and cooling zones and the like in “strategic” locations. The material itself permits “two-way airflow,” so that the players aren’t drenched in sweat during the game. Nike also uses special lightweight padding between the knees and shoulders: it’ll protect the player, but you won’t be walking around with any unnecessary bulk.

This continues the trend we’ve seen this year of the big sporting goods companies (Nike, Adidas, etc.) rolling out fancier and fancier equipment. Impossibly light boots, form-fitting and environmentally friendly uniforms, and so on. Even the Jabulani, which was the focus of so much controversy during the World Cup, has been introduced to domestic leagues around the world, including the German Bundesliga and MLS right here in the U.S. If the ball was so terrible, then why have zee Germans adopted it?

And isn’t the Winter version of the Adidas Torfabrik (that’s what they call the Bundesliga version of the Jabulani) ball the best thing you’ve ever seen? Bright orange = fantastic.