The latest ACE model might be taking a back seat to the more adventurous renditions of the boot, but there’s no doubting the workhorse of the brand’s current path. Is it able to make the grade without going laceless or without the addition of Primeknit? We lace up to kick an answer out of them.
The standard ACE 16.1 is certainly not getting the attention that the boot received the first time around. With every eye being drawn to the laceless PURECONTROL or the knitted up Primeknit ACE, there seems to be very little that has the synthetic ACE front-and-center. However, no matter what the special versions happen to be, the standard ACE feels like the boot that holds most of the pressure within the adidas revolution.
If we see the boot start to falter this early on in its “life,” it might be a massive blow to such a bold move by the German giants. We enjoyed our time in the ACE 15.1, but we hope that adidas has made the improvements that a year of experience and feedback can bring. Will we still feel like this is a boot split into two halves? Will we still enjoy the padding that the layered upper can bring? We’ve gone laceless... we’ve slipped on the collar... now, it’s time to slip into the boot that got this whole thing started: the adidas ACE 16.1.
Love at first sight?
We can certainly confirm that adidas is trying to drive home the idea of the control web still being ever-present on this boot, but some of the newer (non-covered in solar slime) colourways look more rubbery than plastic-y. The three stripes absolutely dominate the upper, and we like how adidas has used graphics on the tongue to make the stripe look like it extends all the way across the upper. Gone is the multi-layer look on the control web, replaced with a single layer build with raised areas making up the web/triangles. The NSG nubs are still all over this boot, but you don’t notice them if you aren’t right up on these boots. One slightly odd aesthetic option is that there are some portions of mesh on the tongue... it doesn’t hurt the performance, but it feels a bit out of place since the material isn’t utilized anywhere else on the boot. As we mentioned, there is no collar and standard laces are recalled, so the look of the silhouette is nothing unexpected.
Am I bossing in discomfort? Or bossing in slippers?
The newest ACE 16.1 has its biggest struggle in setting itself apart from the other members of the ACE line within its comfort. The PURECONTROL offers an incredible fit and the Primeknit version has a ridiculous level of comfort, so our first impression of the standard ACE had us a bit worried. While just holding the boots in your hand, they feel fairly stiff and you really wonder if there’s any chance that the boots will soften up. The stiffness does carry over to your foot during your first session, but the stiffness of the upper does give way to a nice, padded softness that we came to expect from the initial ACE. After a few sessions, everything has softened up considerably and the level of comfort starts to shine.
Unlike the other upper-tier options with the ACE, the standard version doesn’t have a Primeknit sleeve, but drawing the laces tight still gives you a great fit and lets you keep the midfoot tight after the slight stretching that happens during break-in. The lacing system does make it a bit tough to loosen and tighten those bottom sections, but some trial-and-error will eventually have you set. One of the big issues we did run into with the newest adidas ACE 16.1 is that the forefoot can feel like it gets a bit loose, so figuring out the lacing and keeping your foot snug inside is very important.
As for the soleplate on the standard ACE, the sprintframe shows little signs of rust as it gives the conical studs a great blend of flex and stiffness. This all ensures that your boot doesn’t feel like a stiff board under your foot, but without sacrificing the responsiveness necessary to make quick cuts and turns.
Is it as "boss" as adidas make out?
With the entirety of “bossing the game” and “control everything,” the ACE has never shied away from being the control silo for adidas. Despite a new look to the upper, adidas is still saying that the CTRL/WEB is a three-layer construction designed to fix the same specifications. However, there is a new feel to this boot and we can definitely see the shift from the 15.1 to the 16.1.
The upper may look like it sits close to a very plastic-style synthetic, but your first few touches on your feet quickly dissipate that fear. The CTRL/WEB is actually more of a cushioned rubber element that sits across the entirety of the boot, and gives the upper its unique look while also giving a nice level of padding. With the ball at your feet the upper gives you a nice, close feel while letting the slightly raised web give the sensation of padding. There isn’t more than a centimeter of depth on the triangle-dominated upper and this is what lets it give the padding, but still not feel like you are a mile away from the ball.
Adidas still has the upper labeled as a three-part build, but the newest adidas ACE 16.1 seems to have pressure-sealed all of the layers closer together so that the 16.1 can give a more pure feel on the ball and still let the synthetic material shine (hence the different look from the 15.1 to the 16.1, despite the same style upper).
With dribblers still finding joy inside the ACE 16.1, we think it is those that prefer to spray the ball to others that will find the perfect home within this boot. The design on the upper, from the padding we’ve discussed, really gives a great feel when passing the ball about. Whether zipping a quick 1-2 or attempting to find the opposite corner of the pitch, the ACE hits its peak whenever you are putting your foot behind the ball. The feel also carries over to any time that we were shooting with the ACE. The soft padding, nice warmth, and uniform feel that boots strive for are all present on the boot. In order to give the tongue the same feel as the other parts of the boot, adidas has a line of padding down the middle of the tongue so that a shot or pass of the tongue feels the same as if it was off the forefoot.
For any fan of getting something between themselves and a harsh tackle, the newest ACE does feel built to handle any of the pressures of the modern game. Whether talking about the durability or wanting to not feel every groove of another player’s studs, the ACE checks all the boxes. One thing we definitely wanted to reference was something adidas has fixed that we railed against on the previous version. On the 15.1, we said that the build made the boot feel split into two halves (front half/back half) because of how bulky the area around the ankle was made to feel. The 16.1 feels like a fluid release from the back of the heel to the edge of the toes. Considering this was our only issue with the 15.1, it’s nice to see adidas fix it.
Despite an overall enjoyment with this boot, there were two things that just didn’t help if the adidas ACE 16.1 is supposed to leap to the top of the charts. Adidas is still claiming that the small nubs all over the upper are a type of NSG (Non-Slip Grip) to ensure better friction between your boot and the ball during any type of weather. This feature, much like its feature in other adidas options, still feels like a gimmick instead of a true feature. The nubs aren’t nearly aggressive enough, and (if adidas stick with the NSG) we would like to see this taken back to the drawing board. The other slight negative is the step away from the soleplate of the 15.1. Now, we enjoy this updated sprintframe that the 16.1 has, but we loved what we were given with the first ACE.
During our testing, we found the ACE 16.1 fit completely true to size and was a decent fit for all foot types. As we said, the toebox can feel like it gets a little loose after being broken-in, but that’s something that can be fixed after you figure out how to finagle the base of the laces.
Is the revolution in good hands?
The thing that always gets us going is when we see a boot making obvious steps forward and continuing on a positive path. The newest ACE is still an obvious boot for control enthusiasts, the materials have been improved, and the revolution rolls on with another member that will be well-received and enjoyed.
It doesn’t take a collar, it doesn’t take Primeknit, it doesn’t take a loud and aggressive ad campaign; the ACE 16.1 is a successful outing that deserves recognition. Consider it old school in this era if you must, but it works, and it works well. Viva la revolucion.