The History of the Adidas Predator: Football’s Most Iconic Silhouette

The History of the Adidas Predator: Football’s Most Iconic Silhouette

In 1994 the adidas Predator was launched and would fast become one of, if not the, most iconic silhouettes of all time. Originally designed to change the way Sunday league players kicked the ball, the Predator was worn by some of football’s biggest names including Zidane, Gazza, Gerrard, Raul and of course David Beckham. With the latter forming one of the most iconic player/boot hookups the game has ever witnessed. Whenever you think Beckham, you think Predator. And vice versa.

The Predator has been at the centre of football’s most iconic moments since its creation in 1994. Zidane’s World Cup Final double in ‘98. Beckham’s last gasp free-kick against Greece at Old Trafford. Gerrard bagging screamer after screamer. The Predator continues to make its mark. And while older models ooze nostalgia today’s Predators have been adapted for the frantic demands of the modern game. But one thing remains the same; the adidas Predator was and always will be at the forefront of football boot technology.

Originally designed by former Liverpool and Middlesbrough midfielder Craig Johnston who was forced to retire early from the game in 1998. Johnston was coaching a group of kids back in Australia when he came up with the idea of adding rubber fins to their boots to help with control and passing. After numerous prototypes and failed pitches to other major brands, the Australian somehow convinced Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to be filmed wearing and playing in the boots. This attracted the attention of adidas who subsequently bought the rights to the design and went about producing the boot.

With over 25 years of rich history, iconic moments and innovation, we take a look at the adidas Predator and how it’s developed over the years. 

The Predator (1994)

Like nothing else on the market the original Predator was launched in 1994 and consisted of additional pieces of rubber on the upper section of the boot. A similar idea to table tennis bats, the innovation enhanced swerve and power when striking a ball as well as control, which completely revolutionised the game. 

The Predator’s technology was unique and so too was the visual design. A black, red and white colourway would become synonymous with the adidas Predator franchise for decades.

Celtic’s John Collins scored the first-ever Predator goal, bending a free-kick into the top corner against arch-rivals Rangers. A fitting start to the Predator era.

Predator Rapier (1995)

A year later, adidas dropped the Predator Rapier. The technology remained almost the same as the original, but visually there was a significant change; a fold-over tongue. Like the black, red and white colourway, this design element would become synonymous for years to come. 

The Rapier, famously worn by Paul Gascoigne, was the first boot to be available in multiple colourways. Although the original was by far the most popular.

Predator Touch (1996)

In 1996 adidas were at it again with the Predator Touch. Continuing with that exquisite tongue, this time in red and completely covering the laces. The boot had a larger striking zone containing more rubber fins, teeth, grooves or whatever you want to call them. This enabled a cleaner, more powerful strike of the ball. Over time this technology would be key to those wearing the Predator. The likes of Beckham, Gerrard and Zidane to name but a few were all heavily reliant on a clean strike of the ball.

At Euro 96 Gazza was wearing the adidas Predator Touch when he sent Colin Hendry for a hotdog before doubling England’s lead with a neat finish.

Predator Accelerator (1998)

Two years later, adidas upped their game with the Predator Accelerator, the waviest boot ever to hit the market. No arguments. The Three Stripes were more prominent following a curvy redesign. The laces were asymmetrical for the first time in the franchise’s history, allowing the brand to further increase the size of the striking zone. It was impressive. Very impressive. 

The redesign also saw the rubber fins being limited to the toe box, which resulted in a much sleeker, streamlined aesthetic. Arguably adidas’ greatest silhouette of all time. It defined an era and featured prominently at France 98 with Zidane dominating the final against Brazil scoring twice, albeit with his head. It was a match made in heaven. What a boot. What a player.

Predator Precision (2000)

In just six years the Predator had changed a lot both aesthetically and in the technology used. But the rubber fins remained a key feature throughout, and that was no different with the Predator Precision which launched ahead of Euro 2000. There was a slight change, though. Instead of sitting vertically across the toe box, they were now strategically placed in thin lines to help increase precision. 

The red tongue now featured Velcro fastening for added durability and adidas continued to be at the forefront of boot technology by adding interchangeable studs, this was unheard of previously.

Following the success of the wavy three stripes two years earlier adidas tweaked the design slightly so the stripes thinned out and curved around the heel counter. The boots were stunning and so too was David Beckham’s famous free-kick against Greece which secured England’s place at the 2002 World Cup. Whip. 

Predator Mania (2002)

Launched in 2002 ahead of the World Cup and heavily influenced by Far Eastern styles the Predator Mania was the GOAT. Adidas were bold and brave. And it worked. After eight successful years with the rubber fins, they were replaced with kangaroo leather. The Three Stripes returned to their classic, minimal style and a new heel counter provided extra protection. 

Then there’s the tongue strap. The Velcro was ditched and replaced by a more durable strap that locked in place under the boot keeping the tongue positioned over the laces. Like most Predator features this tongue and strap combination would become iconic. The adidas Predator Mania is the greatest boot of all time, and Zidane was wearing a pair when he scored that goal against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League Final at Hampden Park.

The Predator Pulse (2004)

Once again, adidas continued to push the boundaries with the Predator Pulse. Featuring the innovative PowerPulse System – basically a sock liner – the aim was to increase power by shifting the boot’s centre of gravity. Six red, rubber strips across the toe box enhanced control and swerve while the famous three stripes wrapped under the boot.

The Predator Mania was always going to be a tough act to follow, and despite its distinct look, the Pulse failed to hit the mark. In hindsight, it’s no surprise.

Once again it was Zidane who grabbed all the headlines wearing a pair, scoring twice late on against England at Euro 2004. The Frenchman threw up on the pitch before bagging a penalty in the dying minutes. Composure.

Predator Absolute (2006)

Next came the Predator Absolute. The PowerPulse system remained but had been redeveloped to allow players to remove the liner if they preferred. A smaller, minimal tongue replicated the Predator’s more streamlined design, which featured just three rubber strips. The brand’s famous Three Stripes resorted back to a wavy design giving the boot a very modern feel.

By now Kaka was the new kid on the block and he announced himself to the world in style wearing a pair of Predator Absolute during the 2006 Champions League Final. He dominated the game from start to finish. A world-class player was born.

Predator PowerSwerve (2007)

In 2007 adidas once again pushed the boundaries. Ditching rubber for SmartFoam, a microfibre designed to boost, as the name suggests, power and swerve. It was revolutionary. Unlike anything on the market, and it looked outstanding.

PowerPulse technology had also been improved. Tungsten Powder was used on the insole and shifted with every movement made. The PowerSwerve, though, marked the end of an era. It would be the last Predator to feature the famous pullover tongue. And for me, a 90’s kid, the Predator silhouette went rapidly downhill after 2007, but I’m sure plenty will disagree.

Predator X (2009)

In 2009 the Predator was given a drastic redesign. The iconic tongue and striking strips were removed. The kangaroo leather was replaced by Taurus leather. And a single area on the in-step was used instead of the single strips as seen on the PowerSwerve.

The Predator X had been completely stripped back with the guys at adidas HQ keen to bring the player’s foot much closer to the ball. As a result, this silhouette was much lighter and more streamlined than its predecessors. Enhancing pace, touch and dribbling ability there was an apparent change in emphasis, and it matched the shift in the style of play with Tika-taka football on the rise.

It was fitting then that Xavi helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup wearing a pair. He was an absolute joy to watch.

Predator Adipower (2011)

In 2011 adidas released the Predator Adipower with one primary focus, to enhance speed. It was the lightest Predator boot to date and the first to feature the SprintFrame outsole which had previously been used on the f50.

3D fins helped enhance power, while a silicone rubber segment was designed to improve touch and control. These two elements touched on the Predator’s core characteristics.

Sporting a pair of Predator Adipowers in 2013 Robin van Persie bagged a hat trick, including that sublime volley, against Aston Villa to secure Manchester United the Premier League title.

Predator LZ (2012)

A year before RvP’s heroics adidas dropped the Predator LZ, incorporating classic Predator elements with a unique, modern design. Each precisely placed on different parts of the boot for maximum performance, like a zone on the toe box to enhance first touch and a specific strike zone for increased power. With this silhouette adidas dug deep into the Predator archive utilising the most significant elements of the franchise. Even the leather upper had been adapted with a lighter, synthetic material for increased speed.

The Predator LZ II followed a year later, which featured a thinner design and a new HybridTouch upper. 

Famously Edin Dzeko wore a pair of Predator LZ when he equalised against QPR for Manchester City before Sergio Aguero netted a dramatic winner deep into stoppage time. Scenes.

Predator Instinct (2014)

Nothing lasts forever. And in 2014 adidas launched the Predator Instinct which turned out to be the last silo of its type for the franchise before being replaced in the market by the adidas Ace.

Inspired by the popular f50 the Predator Instinct used the same lightweight synthetic upper and was designed purely with speed in mind. Although the boot does feature a strike zone and other Predator elements to help your all-round game. Its aesthetic is bold and whacky, a million miles from the simple black, white and red Preds we came to love in the 90s and early noughties.

Predator 18 (2017)

After a three year absence, the Predator was back with a bang. The Predator 18 was completely laceless. Instead, a stretchy Primeknit material on the upper and collar keeps the boot secured to the foot. It’s very much like an American Football cleat. It’s streamlined and modern. But then there’s still the odd nod to the Predator’s rich history. Grip and power are both enhanced with groundbreaking Controlskin materials, meaning the ball will stick to your feet no matter what the conditions. 

The boot is very Marmite. Some will love it. And others will hate it. They’ll say it’s nothing like the original Predators, but then that’s what makes adidas so brilliant. Their ability to combine classic features with futuristic designs keeps them and the Predator franchise ahead of the times.

This is a boot for a certain type of player. A player who’s extravagant. Classy. Has the wow factor. Can dribble. Has five-star skills. Can ping one into top bins from 30 yards. A player like Paul Pogba. And so it was fitting he wore a pair on his way to winning the 2018 World Cup with France, scoring in the final and dabbing on the podium. That’s where football is at now.

Predator 19 (2018)

The Predator 18 brought about a whole host of changes to the Predator franchise. It was interesting then to see adidas’ next drop, the Predator 19 feature minimal improvements. A new heel counter providing added protection is the only major change. But then that’s it. Other than a couple of new colourways, not much changed. Which illustrates the success of their maiden laceless boot. As the old saying goes ‘why fix something if it’s not broken?’

Predator 20 (2020)

And finally the Predator 20. 26 years after the first silhouette dropped adidas revealed its most distinctive Predator design yet. Rubber elements returned in the form of 400 spikes strategically placed across the entire forefoot. Designed to enhance power, swerve and control in typical Predator fashion.

The Primeknit collar is purposely higher and stretchier than that of its predecessors for increased comfort. And the “Mutator” colourway takes us back to the classic black, white and red we all grew up loving. Adidas have once again nailed it with this modern take on a classic.

So there you have it. The adidas Predator franchise through the years. It is without doubt the greatest silhouette ever released. A boot that has remained at the forefront of innovation since the original was launched in 1994 and continued to push the boundaries. Remakes and re-releases of our favourite silhouettes have kept the love affair going. The Predator will always have a lasting impression on all football fans.