Leila Denniston and Josh Coxon Kelly review the Tokay Flight Ultimate Cleats
Tokay (https://tokay-ultimate.com/) owner Robin Lamy contacted us to ask if we could follow up on our original Tokay review, with a trial and write-up for the new model: Tokay Flight. In the interest of transparency, Tokay provided us both with a free pair to trial and keep, and then had no further involvement at all. For the pedants, we’re afraid that the term ‘cleats’, ‘boots’ and even ‘studs’ are used interchangeably in our write up. On to the review…
For some reason, likely marketing, I’ve been a lifelong Nike buyer when it comes to boots. Other than a quick dalliance with Gaia which lasted a few weeks before build quality let them down, that is, so I have a source of cynicism for frisbee-focused footwear. I’ve always wanted the best possible grip, and had lots of joy with the Nike ‘TD’ pattern. An Eastbay regular, I chased the latest Nike Speed options for a while, before returning to home-turf options with the Nike Mercurial half-sock things. I always felt like I had good performance, but quite often a lot of pain and constriction around the middle foot so I was really keen to see if Tokay could be the perfect fit.
Four seasons ago, I figured I’d found my cleat jam: low-cut Warrior lacrosse cleats, UK size 8.5, bought on sale from lacrossemonkey.com and shipped via US-based friends. I’ve gotten through four pairs since, the latest of which suffered a severe de-sole-ing mid-game in June… Unhappy with the emergency cheap replacements I bought from Sports Direct a couple of days before EUF, I was excited but sceptical when Josh asked if I’d test out the Tokays. What could be better than my trusted Warriors? Here’s my verdict, although bear in mind that I’m generally not of much use when it comes to aesthetics and opinions that stretch beyond functionality, durability, and cost-effectiveness…
I think the cleats look good; sleek and colourful but not too over the top visually. They’re fairly wide and padded. The cleat plate is a cool semi-transparent colour fade from blue to green, but I can see gummy glue on the underside of one of them, although this doesn’t affect performance. I like how vibrant the yellow laces look when new. From what I can see from players that have owned Tokays for a while though, the laces age poorly, losing their yellow vibrancy to a dusty browning version. Similarly, I’ve noticed that teammates with the grey Tokays look pretty worn fairly rapidly, since the light grey contrasts so strongly with the dark dust/mud they inevitably pick up. Initially, I was posted a grey pair to review, while Josh was sent a black pair. Although I do think the grey is sleek (to begin with), I couldn’t help but wonder: was I sent the grey as the female reviewer and Josh the black as the male reviewer? I know Tokay are doing a fantastic job of promoting women in ultimate, that this may well be a coincidental incident, that neither light grey nor black are explicitly gendered colours, and that I am personally particularly sensitive to possible gender stereotyping. But nonetheless, I can’t unstitch my assessment of the cleats’ look from this niggling thought that “maybe they sent me one design over another based on my gender” and the ways this possibility influenced my initial perception of Tokay, as a reviewer with a strong desire to be rid of gender stereotyping in sport and beyond. Additionally, the black design is just more up my street, and ages a little better from what I can gauge from those who’ve played in them longer than two weekends.
Overall, the cleats are certainly sleek and vibrant, but some of the Tokay colour schemes can’t seem to hold their vibrancy for long given the dust/mud baths we put them through.
Tokays stand out immediately as you’re walking across a tournament, that’s for sure. Especially that footplate. I have to admit I’m not fully taken with the colours – I’ve typically gone for more simple/minimal colours in the past personally. I’m fine with a little bit of jazz, but having full spectrum on display from yellow to purple, green and blue is a tiny bit much for me. That said – it’s the least important aspect in my opinion, and a quick google of the tokay gecko at least explained a bit more about the inspiration on this front.
Feel and Fit
This is the first place the Tokay’s really grabbed me. I used the site’s in-depth sizing guide, and their exhaustive advice got me to what feels like my perfect size. The boot allows room for my feet, which based on my past use of Nikes I had assumed were excessively wide. The boot felt cushioned, as well as supportive, so all felt good. My first trial was on a rock-hard midsummer Clapham common, and the difference between these and lightweight football boots was huge. It sounds exaggerated, but I was suddenly enjoying running again. I can’t tell if it’s due to design, or additional cushioning relative to my previous boots but in what I consider to be the worst conditions for comfort, the Tokays were a big step up.
In contrast to Josh, I really struggled with the online sizing guide. My trusted Warriors are 8.5, the Adidas Predators I played in this summer are a 9. When I followed Tokay’s instructions and measured my feet, I was surprised to learn I should order a 7.5 according to their size charts. A quick google brought this Ultiworld article to my attention, in which reviewer Katie Reynolds describes similar surprise at how small the measurement system suggested she order. She recounts those cleats indeed being “agonisingly small”, and then finding the “perfect fit” by trusting her own sense of sizing based on “a lifetime of ordering shoes”. So, I went with Katie’s experience and my usual size (8.5, a full size above the recommendation based on my measurement). I was disappointed (in myself) to discover they were indeed swimmingly too big for me, even with the thicker insoles that Tokay provide in case you’re between sizes. Beating myself up for ordering the wrong size, I swapped them for a pair of (black) size 8s at EUCF, with kind help from Tokay founder Robin. Despite the measurement system indicating that I needed a 7.5, even the 8s were on the verge of too small. So as much as I like the way Tokay 1) provides two insoles (a thick set and a thin set) to ensure you get the best fit from your cleats and 2) has devised a system for (supposedly) figuring out your size from afar, I was disappointed to find not only that the measurement tool didn’t quite work for me, but additionally that I still seemed to be between sizes. Trusting that the cleats would stretch out over time, I set off to play Deep Space’s remaining 4 games at Euros in the size 8s. While my big toes have indeed complained a bit, especially on hard turns, I think (and hope) they will keep stretching out. But, I can’t deny the fact that if I found myself in between sizes like that in a shop with other brands available, I’d probably try on others so I wasn’t making a choice between definitely-too-big and maybe-slightly-too-small.
Other than the slightly impinged tips of my big toes, I find the cleats fairly wide, especially/surprisingly around the toes. I have quite narrow feet, and have more lateral movement in these than I’d perhaps like. And that’s with the laces pulled pretty tight (and triple knotted because they are long!). I don’t think the padding is overly helpful for me, although the cleats are generally comfortable. I especially like how light they are, both for the whole running around the frisbee field thing we do, but also for the sake of my over-packed Ryanair hand luggage to and from tournaments! They also have holes to lace the shoes in a way that keeps your heel in place and your foot snug: ideal. They didn’t take long to wear in either. I was happy playing four games in them at EUCF and then playing two days of GB trials in them the following weekend. This seems important for a frisbee cleat company that sells direct at tournaments. If your cleats die mid-game and Tokays fit your feet and budget, then it’s certainly a great asset to have specialised cleats at close proximity that don’t take half a dozen training sessions to break in. I’m also grateful that Tokay offer such a wide range of sizes – as I know teammates with small feet can get frustrated at having narrow options, or having to resort to the children’s section – and appreciate knowing that Tokay puts an emphasis on sustainability too.
Personally, if the pair I currently have do stretch out a little more, then I’m overall pleased with how light and comfortable they are. From my experience, I wouldn’t advise buying them online without trying on a pair at a tournament or from a friend first, but I do appreciate the efforts Tokay are going to in order to (try) and make online sizing and purchasing straightforward, and realise that the size guide likely works for many players (like Josh).
Playing Performance/Stud pattern
It’s difficult to comment on the impact of the stud pattern beyond obvious slips/general grip. I enjoyed playing in them both on grass at EUCF and then on 3G. I didn’t experience any slips or grip-based frustrations, and found they coped well with the relatively hard ground at EUCF. The cleat pattern is tailored to our cutting shapes/needs, and I did feel powerful and clean through my turns in them. I’d like to try them out on softer ground (winter on Clapham Common, say…), as for me it’s important that I can play a full season in the same pair of cleats, from the wet slush of winter fields to the rock solid common in summer. Beyond the stud pattern, the fact that they are light and a snug fit is great, and after my first game in them feeling anxious about the possible state of my big toe nails, I’ve barely thought about them on my feet since.
I was happy to see that along with the comfort improvements, I also experienced immediate playing improvements. Again – this could have been down to inadequacy of my previous footwear which, made for football, had forward-clawing studs. My lateral movement was enhanced, my turns were sharper, and I altogether felt I had a much more solid footplate to push off of. Grip is super important for me – and as a handler and someone who relies on quick jinks more often than pure top speed, I genuinely felt Tokays supported my play better than all previous alternatives, only just coming out in front of a great old pair of Nike Speed TDs I had a while back. Taking this test to Euros a few weeks later allowed for a much more in-depth look at performance. Something I found immediately was that I needed a bit more tightness in the boot. I put this down to usage loosening the fit very slightly, and so I was now pushing the limits of how tight I could lace up (the laces were very long for me, too! I put in the larger insole to combat this, but had to remove these as for some reason I had less internal grip than the smaller yellow one. This was me being really picky, however and after these initial adjustments, I didn’t look back for the whole tournament. On the grassy Caorle fields, I didn’t notice such an advantage as was clear at the Clapham dustbowl. But this will likely be due to much more tiredness as the tournament progressed, and a consistently high level of competition. What I see as a major success is that, I didn’t think about the boots at all, I just played – not once feeling a lack of trust in grip, comfort or performance. It’s a bold claim made by the company on their front page, but I have to say it’s how things went for me. It’s also worth noting that there was no threat of blisters at any point, either due to break-in or the tough 3-game a day schedule. I couldn’t test them on softer ground, and I do think that the stud pattern that works so well on dry and grippy conditions could quickly become slippery here. This isn’t something other boots generally manage to avoid, but it’s worth stating this area wasn’t tested.
The flights are not a budget boot, and a pair will set you back 119 euros. We’re talking much more than the majority of off-the-shelf options in the UK. However, given this is a high-end performance focused boot, the audience are likely to be those already shelling out similar amounts for importing american football cleats or for the lightest and most nimble football ranges. Given the challenges of starting up small and competing with some of the world’s biggest clothing companies, I think it’s actually a high, but good value price and also that it’s impressive to stay competitive with companies with much more purchasing power. It’s obviously not a great option for those on a tighter budget, or those just starting and getting their first pair. But as arguably the most important bit of kit for Ultimate players, it is an outlay that will likely be worth it for many.
I’ve only once spent more than £35 pounds on cleats, and they didn’t last more than one season or feel much better than cheaper pairs. I’ve never considered spending 119 euros on cleats. Given that the Tokays don’t fit my feet fantastically (although I’m still hoping they will stretch out to do so) and that I know I have viable alternatives that fit well and cost a third of the price, I’m not swayed currently. However, if the cleats do stretch out to give my big toes a tad more comfort in a relatively short time frame, and I find myself with more money to throw at frisbee in the near future, then I could be swayed. The sport-specific stud pattern, lightweight design, short/non-existent “break-in” time, and availability at ultimate tournaments are certainly worth paying more for. Whether they’re worth paying quite so much more for, notably given the push for inclusiveness and youth development in the sport, I’m not so sure.
Final Score out of 10
LD – 7/10
I’m docking a point for the sizing difficulties I experienced ordering online, a point for their width/lengthy laces/rapid loss of colour vibrancy, and a point for the price.
JCK – 9/10
The look isn’t something I’d choose but I couldn’t really find much fault anywhere else. Longevity is a crucial area that can’t be tested, but reports from other users are that Tokay’s at least keep up with the competition here. It seems like the hard work and close feedback loop with players has come good to produce a product that fits Ultimate players’ requirements better than boots made for other sports which, given the size and power of the competition, is a really great achievement. From the tiny details from blog posts on the many ways to lace your boots for different outcomes, to the shoe box which has cut-outs to create a disc-holder – you can tell the product is a labour of love but importantly one built around smart improvements and optimisation. If you’re looking to get more comfort without sacrificing performance, in my opinion they’re definitely worth a look!
Check out the flights for yourself at https://tokay-ultimate.com/
This piece was amended on 14/10 to correct a typo: ‘not’ changed to ‘nor’ in Leila’s paragraph for feel and fit.