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adidas Predator History | Complete 1994-2020 Timeline

Beckham. Zidane. Pogba. This is the incredible story of the adidas Predator so far.

adidas predator history

It’s probably the most iconic football boot of all-time. In fact, nothing else boasts a history quite like the adidas Predator

Those classic shades of black, white and red instantly throw up memories of David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero. Since their introduction back in 1994, these boots have continuously made their mark on World Cup tournaments, Champions League finals and struck more than their fair share of bending, swerving free-kicks. 

While the older models always send our nostalgia levels through the roof (honestly, I wish it was still the 90s), the more recent generations have been streamlined for the demands of the modern game. The past 26 years have treated us to constant upgrades and some truly gorgeous designs, with the new Predator 20+ raising the bar higher than it’s ever been.

Let’s hop into our DeLorean, punch it up to 88mph, and take a good look at the adidas Predator through the years.

Origin of the adidas Predator

Like every good origin story, the adidas Predator began with a bit of tragedy. Former Liverpool and Middlesbrough midfielder, Craig Johnston, was forced to prematurely retire in 1988 when his sister became seriously ill. 

Returning home to Australia to provide the care she needed, it was while coaching a group of children that Johnston came up with the idea of adding rubber fins to their boots. After plenty of experimentation, prototypes and late nights trying to get the design together, Johnston was promptly rejected by a handful of major brands. 

Rather than giving up on his creation, he somehow managed to convince German legends Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to wear the boots while he filmed them having a kickabout in the snow. Despite previously rejecting the prototype, the footage was enough to sway adidas into buying the rights and putting it into production. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

adidas Predator History - the Complete Boot Timeline

complete timeline for the adidas predator range, from 1994 to 2020

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1994 - adidas Predator (The Original)

original black and white predator boots from 1994
Image from Futbol Emotion.

The first adidas Predator changed football forever. Those distinctive rubber ridges had simply never been seen before, providing the kind of swerve and power players had been dreaming of for decades. Just as importantly, the simple black, white and red colourway would become synonymous with the Predator silo, with those colours now inciting a flurry of nostalgic butterflies. 

Big Predator Moment: John Collins bagged the first-ever Predator goal while playing for Celtic, bending in a free-kick in the Old Firm derby. Plenty more have been scored since.

1995 - adidas Predator Rapier

retro adidas predator rapier football boots
Image from Futbol Emotion.

Now this is more like the Predator we know and love. While the rubber fins are very similar to those found on the 1994 original, the Rapier introduced yet another iconic design feature: the fold-over tongue. This is a look which adidas stuck with until the end of the 00s, and the Rapier was also the first time anyone offered a football boot in various colourways. 

Of course, the traditional black, white and red was superior to every single one of them. 

Big Predator Moment: Paul Gascoigne looking like a kid in a candy shop in all the official release photos.

1996 - adidas Predator Touch

adidas predator touch boots in black leather with red tongue
Image from Futbol Emotion.

The Predator Touch was all about the tongue once again, this time featuring in a glorious shade of red and completely covering the laces. adidas had also gone out of their way to serve up a much larger striking zone, tweaking the rubber fins (you might call them teeth or ridges) to offer the cleanest strike of the football yet. 

Big Predator Moment: Paul Gascoigne flicking the ball over a bewildered Colin Hendry and then smashing it home at Euro ‘96.

1998 - adidas Predator Accelerator

black adidas predator accelerator with wavy three stripes
Image from Futbol Emotion.

The adidas Predator Accelerator is still (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) one of the “waviest” football boots ever created. The famous three stripes were given a curvier, more stylish makeover, while they also became much more pronounced and really dominated the design.

By implementing asymmetrical laces for the first time, adidas were able to increase the size of the striking zone even further, with the rubber fins now restricted to a much lower part of the toe box. This was undoubtedly the smoothest, sleekest Predator boot to date, and will always go down in history as an absolute classic. 

No wonder they’ve been re-released a million times, then. 

Big Predator Moment: Zinedine Zidane was wearing the Predator Accelerator while completely bossing the 1998 World Cup Final against Brazil. We’ll just ignore the fact he scored both goals with his head…

2000 - adidas Predator Precision

adidas predator precision football boots
Image from Futbol Emotion.

By the time the Predator Precision arrived (just before Euro 2000), Johnston would’ve barely even recognised his ground-breaking creation. The rubber fins were now separated and spread out in thin lines, strategically placed all over the toe box to increase precision, while the use of interchangeable studs meant you could wear them in all conditions. 

Oh, and the design was also absolutely stunning. The wavy three stripes were much more streamlined and aerodynamic, thinning out around the heel counter and looking very smart indeed. 

Big Predator Moment: David Beckham bending in a glorious last-minute free-kick against Greece, sending England to the 2002 World Cup. Serious goosebumps.

2002 - adidas Predator Mania

retro predator mania boots in black, white and red
Image from Futbol Emotion.

This was when we said goodbye to the rubber fins once and for all. The Predator Mania introduced us to the wonders of kangaroo leather, but the most memorable feature was undoubtedly the strap for the fold-over tongue. Replacing the velcro which had been used on the Precision, you’d fasten this to the sole of your boot and lock the tongue firmly in place.

Released ahead of the 2002 World Cup, the design drew inspiration from Japan, Korea and other parts of Far East Asia. The three stripes were brought onto the toe box in the form of rubber strips, while an external heel counter was added to provide some extra protection and stability. Quite possibly the best football boots of all-time. 

Big Predator Moment: Zidane. Bayer Leverkusen. Champions League Final. Yep, these were the boots he was wearing when he scored THAT goal.

2004 - adidas Predator Pulse

black and red predator pulse football boots
Image from Futbol Emotion.

The 2004 Predators were all about the PowerPulse System. This was essentially a sockliner with a fancy name, designed to increase power by shifting the boot’s centre of gravity and getting some more weight behind the ball. Not too bad at all. 

The Predator Pulse didn’t quite live up to the hype of its predecessors, but it still rocked one of the most distinctive looks in football. The rubber strips now came in the form of six thin red stripes on the toe box, while the classic adidas stripes were extended to run across the sole of the boot.  

Big Predator Moment: Zidane again. This time scoring two late goals to beat England at Euro 2004, famously throwing up on the pitch before slotting his last-gasp penalty.

2006 - adidas Predator Absolute

adidas predator absolute football boots from 2006
Image from Futbol Emotion.

The PowerPulse sockliner was used once again with the adidas Predator Absolute, but this time players could completely remove it if it wasn’t really up their street. Released ahead of the 2006 World Cup, the number of rubber strips was reduced to just three, while vertical stripes running inside the boot delivered the Predators signature grip and control. 

Big Predator Moment: Kaká setting the Champions League alight for AC Milan, and duly announcing himself as the best player on the planet.

2007 - adidas Predator Powerswerve

white and red predator powerswerve boots
Image from Futbol Emotion.

Goodbye rubber, hello SmartFoam. The Predator got back to its best in 2007 with the absolutely stunning Powerswerve model, which introduced an innovative microfibre upper designed to increase, well, power and swerve. Of course, this increased bend made them absolutely ideal for players like Beckham, although his free-kicks were half-decent already, to be honest. 

This time, the PowerPulse technology was much more dynamic, with the use of tungsten powder on the insole allowing the weight to shift with your movement and momentum. Sadly, this was the last time a headline Predator would feature the classic fold-over tongue, which was once again held in place by an elasticated strap. 

Big Predator Moment: Steven Gerrard scoring twice in a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford, then running to the camera and kissing the badge.

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2009 - adidas Predator X

adidas predator x boots in white with green detailing
Image from Futbol Emotion.

As we approached the end of the decade, the adidas Predator underwent some pretty drastic changes. The striking strips and fold-over tongue were now nowhere to be seen, with adidas keen to remove layers and bring the wearer’s foot much closer to the ball - unfortunately, this evolution meant the classic Predator look was now almost completely lost.

The individual SmartFoam strips of the Powerswerve made way for a single, much larger area on the in-step, which basically limited the amount of Predator goodness you could really get out of them. Just as drastically, the classic kangaroo leather made way for Taurus leather, while the introduction of Powerspine technology sadly made them a little rigid and uncomfortable to wear. 

Big Predator Moment: Xavi making opponents dizzy as Spain marched to victory at the 2010 World Cup.

2011 - adidas Predator adiPower

adidas adipower boots in black with orange stripes
Image from Futbol Emotion.

Up until this point, the Predator had been primarily focused on enhancing the grip and touch of the football. While those elements still remained important, the adiPower was by far the lightest Predator boot to date, utilising the SprintFrame outsole which had become so popular with the f50 series. 

The Powerspine technology was there, but the adiPower addressed the shortcomings of its predecessor and made these new features much more effective. It’s fair to say the Predator elements also felt much more pronounced, with awesome 3D fins offering plenty of power and a silicone rubber zone designed to improve control. 

This release was followed up by the Predator adiPower SL just a month later, which made use of a SprintSkin upper (instead of leather) to create an even lighter alternative. Not a bad option for the speed demons out there, by any means. 

Big Predator Moment: Robin van Persie scoring a hat-trick against Aston Villa to secure Manchester United’s 20th league title (two years after the boot's initial release).

2012 - adidas Predator Lethal Zones (LZ)

adidas predator lethal zones in blue and yellow
Image from Futbol Emotion.

The classic Predator elements, such as touch, power and swerve, were represented by five separate zones on the LZ model. And, yes, each of these zones was designed to be pretty lethal. 

Each zone was strategically placed on different parts of the boot. For example, the part built for power was placed on the strike zone, while the zone for first touch was at the front of the toe box. The leather upper was also replaced by a lighter, more modern synthetic material, with the SprintFrame outsole once again used to complement this speedier silhouette.

After a period of monumental change, adidas calmed things down a bit by following this release up with the LZ II. This was basically a thinner, more streamlined version of the original LZ, while the biggest change came in the form of a new HybridTouch upper. 

Big Predator Moment: Edin Dzeko equalising for Manchester City against QPR, setting the stage for Sergio Aguero to deliver the most dramatic moment in Premier League history.

2014 - adidas Predator Instinct

Image from Futbol Emotion.

The final Predator before the silo was temporarily replaced by the hugely-popular adidas Ace, the Instinct was another boot inspired heavily by the f50’s success. Using the same lightweight synthetic upper, this was another Predator built with speed very much in mind, but it’s worth noting that it was actually a little heavier than the LZ and adiPower.

Featuring a truly distinctive design, the look and feel of classic Predators feel a million miles away here, but this was still a very good football boot indeed. The “lethal zones” still play a central role, delivering all the qualities you’d expect from a Predator, but there’s definitely a huge part of me that was still wishing for the good old days. 

Big Predator Moment: Ángel Di María putting in an absolute masterclass during the 2014 Champions League Final, with Real beating their local neighbours 4-1 AET.

2017 - adidas Predator 18

Image from Futbol Emotion.

Ah, the resurrection. After a 3-year hiatus, the Predator made a glorious return at the end of 2017, drawing an end to the era of adidas Ace. While the Instinct and adiPower felt like the Predator was losing its sense of character, the 18+ seems like a natural evolution of this iconic football boot. This was, without question, a Predator for the future. 

The 18+ brought us a laceless upper for the very first time, featuring stretchy Primeknit material throughout the upper and sock collar. You can find the Predator's quintessential sense of grip and power within the innovative Controlskin materials, which keeps the ball stuck to your feet like glue regardless of what the weather might be doing. 

There’s no question that adidas learnt new lessons with the Ace, and they used that extra knowledge to get the Predator back on track. You might not prefer it to the classic originals, but the fit, comfort and performance makes it one of the best adidas football boots to date. 

Big Predator Moment: Paul Pogba smashing one home in the World Cup Final then shamelessly dabbing with the trophy in the rain. 

2018 - adidas Predator 19

Image from Futbol Emotion.

Whereas the 18+ marked a ground-breaking new dawn, the 19+ offered subtle, almost unnoticeable improvements on its predecessor. The design, tech and comfort of these football boots seems exactly the same, so you might be left scratching your head while playing this elaborate game of spot-the-difference. 

Apart from a new selection of colourways, the only real difference can be found on the heel counter, which now includes a ribbed section to offer more protection. That being said, the minimal changes really are a testament to how well the first laceless Predator has been received. 

Big Predator Moment: Liverpool’s Fabinho thundering home against Manchester City and establishing the Reds' serious title credentials. 

2020 - adidas Predator 20 

Image from Futbol Emotion.

The latest addition to the adidas Predator family, and it’s one of the most distinctive, jaw-dropping designs they’ve ever made. Finally bringing rubber elements back, the 20+ features over 400 tiny spikes across the forefoot, engineered to improve control, power and swerve in true Predator style. 

You’ll probably also notice that the Primeknit collar is even higher and stretchier than usual, offering better lockdown and comfort out on the pitch. The original “Mutator” colourway is absolutely stunning, throwing us right back to the classic black, white and red colourway of the originals. 

This feels like a real Predator. 

Big Predator Moment: Let’s wait and see.

adidas Predator Remakes

Image from adidas.

It’s fair to say that adidas love a Predator remake. They just can’t resist nudging our nostalgia and making us wish for more Beckhams, Zidanes and Gerrards. Naturally, every remake gets me massively over-excited, so I’ve made a quick list of all the re-releases you need to be aware of.

2014 - adidas Predator Original, Accelerator and Mania Remakes

2014 - adidas Predator Original, Accelerator and Mania Remakes

2017 - adidas Predator Accelerator - David Beckham Capsule Collection

2018 - adidas Predator Accelerator “Electricity” Remake

2019 - adidas Predator “25 Years of Predator” - Accelerator

2019 - adidas Predator Mania 19+ & Predator Mania OG

2020 - adidas Predator “Archive”

There have also been several signature Paul Pogba Predator boots, with each sporting his own logo and other subtle nods to the French World Cup-winner. Basically, if you’re into Predators, you’re pretty much spoilt for choice these days.

Find discounts on adidas Predator and other cheap football boots by comparing prices at FOOTY.COM. We basically do all the hard work for you, leaving you with more time to put your feet up, have a brew or, most likely, show off your brand-new Preds. 

Ben Hyde

Rubbish FIFA player with an addiction to buying football shirts which are way too cool for me.