Ever since I saw Michael J. Fox using those self-lacing shoes as Marty McFly in Back to the Future back when I was a kid, I’ve wanted to see that kind of technology in action.
Needless to say, I’ve had to tie my shoelaces manually thousands of times until the technology became available. And when it did launch, it was pretty expensive. But Nike has a more affordable pair of self-lacing shoes out right now, which have nothing to do with those Back of the Future gimmicks. The new Nike Adapt BB have smart features built-in, which are meant to improve the performance of athletes when it matters most.
Retailing for $350, the Nike Adapt BB targets basketball players in particular. Nike doesn’t just want wearers to be able to lace their shows without reaching for the laces. Instead, it’s using sensors in the shoe to allow players to adapt shoelacing to fit their needs, so that the shoe always feels comfortable, and is ready to deliver the best performance.
Nike explains in an announcement that, because of how one’s feet move in a sport like basketball, getting a “perfect fit” is very difficult for regular shoes. But smart shoes have a better chance to adapt to various needs:
Over the course of a basketball game, the foot can expand almost a half-size during play. A level of fit that feels comfortable at one point might feel constrictive just 24 minutes later. Because the needs of the foot change at any given time based on the sport, its duration and on specific movements, like a slashing cut to the basket, ‘perfect fit’ is a floating target.
“During a normal basketball game the athlete’s foot changes and the ability to quickly change your fit by loosening your shoe to increase blood flow and then tighten again for performance is a key element that we believe will improve the athlete’s experience,” said Nike VP Creative Director of Innovation Eric Avar.
The Nike Adapt BB are fitted with custom motors and a gear train that sense the tension needed by the foot, and adjust accordingly to keep it snug. Nike explains that the tensile strength of the underfoot lacing can pull 32 pounds of force, which equal to the power of a standard parachute cord.
Players can use the FitAdapt tech to manually input different settings so that they can quickly adapt snugness to different moments of the game. A mobile app for iPhone or Android can also get the job done.
Nike explains that players will be able to set up different lace tightening settings for timeouts, gameplay, and even warm up. Future firmware updates will support various other settings.
And, as you can see in the infographic above, the shoe should be pretty resilient. Nike’s self-lacing technology is not just a marketing gimmick meant to make you look as cool as Marty McFly. The shoes are intended to actually help professional players during games.
The Nike Adapt BB will start shipping in about a month, on February 16th. In the future, the technology will come to other sports and lifestyle products from the company, Nike said, without revealing other details.