LACE 'EM UP

The next generation of Nike’s auto-lacing sneakers will debut in pro sports within a year

More than two years after Nike introduced the HyperAdapt 1.0 (pictured), CEO Mark Parker says the next generation is coming.
More than two years after Nike introduced the HyperAdapt 1.0 (pictured), CEO Mark Parker says the next generation is coming.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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In 2016, Nike unveiled the HyperAdapt 1.0, a futuristic, auto-lacing shoe for athletes. The “for athletes” part was key. Nike started developing the technology more than a decade earlier to make the sneaker with “power laces” in Back to the Future II a reality, and came to believe the concept could actually make for a great athletic shoe.

The result was the HyperAdapt 1.0, though the very limited quantities and $720 price tag made it seem more novelty or (at best) proof-of-concept than anything else. But according to Nike CEO Mark Parker, the next generation of HyperAdapt shoes will actually be used by professional athletes.

Parker shared the news on a conference call yesterday (Sept. 25) with investors to discuss Nike’s strong recent earnings. “In the coming year, for the first time ever, Nike will bring digitally powered adjustable footwear to professional sports,” he said. He added that athletes had tested the new shoe over the summer, and that Nike will offer it “at more accessible price points and in greater quantities” than the previous version.

As a performance platform, the goal of HyperAdapt isn’t really about whether or not it closes on its own. The real aim is a far better fit. The HyperAdapt 1.0 had digital sensors that detected tension and the volume of the foot inside it, and then automatically closed snugly around the foot to provide a secure, locked-in fit. The wearer could adjust it using buttons on the side of the sneaker. It was just the first step, though, toward Nike’s goal of creating a shoe that would adjust automatically, by tightening or loosening to accommodate changes in pressure or swelling in the foot during sports, in what it floridly called “an automated, nearly symbiotic relationship between the foot and shoe.”

Additional details about the new version of the shoe are still scarce, including what specific advances it makes toward the goal of an automatically adjusting shoe. Nike would not provide any further information.

While the next HyperAdapt is likely to still be expensive and not a giant release, it’s part of a broader push at Nike to increase its pace of innovation, which it says is helping getting the company back to growth position in North America, its largest and most important market. Nike struggled in the region at the end of 2017 and through the early part of 2018, but in the latest quarter saw its total North America sales rise almost 6%, while footwear in particular grew 5%.

The company is also now planning product releases ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “That’s always a time where we showcase our innovation and the build up to the Olympics is an incredibly exciting time for Nike,” Parker said. “So, I guarantee you, we won’t disappoint with some of the things we have coming up, and you’ll start to see some of that ramp up over the next 12 to 18 months.”