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How Nike Made Self-Lacing Shoes a Reality

The Nike Air Mag has been a fetish item among sneakerheads ever since Back To The Future II came out in 1989. There were online petitions asking Nike to release the shoes that came out of a meeting between the film’s director Robert Zemeckis, Nike’s Tinker Hatfield, the current vice president of creative concepts, and Mark Parker, the current CEO. In 2011, Nike did, in fact, come out with a very limited amount of Air Mags that were auctioned on eBay to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. But while those were a fairly faithful reproduction of the movie props, they didn’t really deliver on the promise of self-lacing shoes. In a new article in Wired, Hatfield, Parker and other insiders explain how Nike finally achieved its goal of adaptive footwear with the HyperAdapt 1.0.

The magazine was given rare access into Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, where designer Tiffany Beers handled a lot of the heavy lifting around the adaptive technology. She had to become an expert in tiny motors and batteries. Beers operated with no deadline or budget limitations. Her first prototype was completed in 2007, but it was very rudimentary. An off-hand comment by Hatfield at the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend that the shoes were only a year away lit a fire under Beers and her team.

The HyperAdapt 1.0 are slated to release this holiday season. A sensor in the heel sends a signal to the lacing engine to tighten the shoe when the foot is inserted. Plus and minus buttons near the ankle allow for microadjustments. The shoes will need to be charged approximately every two weeks and lights on the heel indicate the battery level. No price has been announced, but you can bet they won’t be cheap. Nike says it has conducted numerous wear-testing experiments that show that the HyperAdapts provide a meaningful benefit to athletes beyond saving valuable loop-and-swoop lacing time. We will have to wait until the sneakers actually come out to see if that is true.


Justin Tejada is a writer and editor based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter at @just_tejada and Instagram at @justin_tejada.

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