For years now, Nike has been working to make self-lacing shoes a reality. In October it announced that it would release the futuristic sneakers with “power laces” Michael J. Fox wore in 1989’s Back to the Future 2. Now, they’re here.
Today (Mar. 16) at an event in New York, the company unveiled its new HyperAdapt 1.0. Put the sneaker on, and it will tighten to the size of your foot using a heel sensor. It’s a fun trick, but the real innovation, according to Nike, is that you can quickly adapt your sneaker to the changes your foot undergoes when competing, using buttons on the side that let you tweak the fit.
Laces, by contrast, may loosen up, or be tied too tight. Your foot may also change shape during exercise (expanding slightly, for instance). The HyperAdapt is meant to eliminate those problems.
Right now an athlete has to make those changes manually, but the “1.0” is telling here. The ultimate goal is to have a shoe that can make those changes automatically, and create a “nearly symbiotic relationship between the foot and shoe,” as Nike puts it.
It does also seem a little like a product still in development. A spot on the sole lights up for no discernible reason, except maybe to make it look futuristic. And the sneaker makes a slight mechanical wheezing noise when it tightens.
But it was clearly an accomplishment just to build it. The sneaker, which runs on a battery that can keep a charge for about two weeks, has been in the works for around 10 years. Tinker Hatfield, the Nike design legend who created some of the company’s best-known sneakers, first dreamed it up. He was on hand in New York to demonstrate it along with Tiffany Beers, the lead engineer on the project.
The HyperAdapt uses two recent Nike innovations, its Flywire filaments and Flyweave fabric, both of which make the shoes hold more firmly to the foot during sports. Beers said the self-lacing technology—actually, it just closes, and doesn’t use regular lacing—is similar to that of the Nike Mag, the sneakers from the Back to the Future 2 that are due out this year.
The HyperAdapt 1.0 will come in three colors, and full details on the release will be out toward the end of the year. But there’s a bit of a catch. The shoe will be available only to members of Nike+, the new app that Nike wants to be a sort of one-stop-shop for athletes. So if you want the HyperAdapt, you’ll have to earn it.