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September 21, 2016

Nike will release a self-lacing shoe, and they’re pretty lame

If you remember anything from Back to the Future II, it’s probably the hoverboards, flying cars, and the sneakers with “power laces.”

We haven't seen any high-quality examples of the first two, but Nike is about to make good on one of the iconic film’s predictions by releasing self-lacing sneakers this fall.

According to a new feature from Wired, it took 28 years of conceptualization,11 years of R&D, false starts, delays, the ridding of internal skepticism, countless prototypes and untold numbers of redesigns to develop the HyperAdapt, Nike’s electronic self-lacing shoe.

A new (but unnecessary) type of shoe

Technically called the HyperAdapt 1.0, the new sneaker has a pressure sensor, battery pack, motor, and cable system that adapts the shoe’s fit by using an algorithmic stress equation. When a foot is placed into the shoe, the sneaker snugs up until it detects friction points. A couple of buttons near the tongue allow the wearer to adjust fit as required.

Nike won’t say how much the shoe cost to develop and the TBD price tag is expected to be a hefty one. However, it’s a safe bet that film nerds, sneaker geeks, hardcore early adopters and people with too much money on their hand will likely fork over whatever price tag the iconic sneaker company names. The company's Heidi Burgett tweeted recently that the HyperAdapt 1.0 will be available for "experience & purchase" starting November 28, but only in select Nike locations in the US.

It appears Nike put just as much, if not more, effort into making the shoes look cool as it did in developing the mechanical system behind it. LEDs in the heel illuminate as soon as the shoes start tightening up and when its battery is running low. All of the internal electronics require keeping the shoes charged in order to properly function. It will require three hours for a complete charge that is said to last approximately two weeks, with Nike supplying a magnetic clip-on charger very similar to the one on the Apple Watch.

Incidentally, the thick nylon laces visible on the sneaker are just "visual aids." While they tighten, they're not what's keeping the shoe on the wearer's foot. The internal cable system does that.

Is this really necessary?

All of this begs the question-- what's the point of this device? Sure, the idea was cool when we saw it in Back to the Future II, but it seems unnecessarily complex and expensive. The rise of the Internet of Things means more things in our lives have batteries that need to stay charged. Sure, three hours of charging for two weeks of use isn't bad-- but the point still stands.

Nike seems to be marketing this shoe as a legitimate choice for an athlete, but would anyone want to put that much stress on a shoe with moving parts? There's no way this shoe weighs less than a traditional shoe designed to be lightweight.

Sure it's impractical. It'll be stupidly expensive. That's the point.


Image credit: Nike