Self-tying shoes--first seen in the classic film "Back to the Future Part II"--is a technology that appeals to a broad range of people. Everyone from tech geeks to lazy adults to 7-year-olds who haven't quite mastered the art to people who honestly need assistance donning footwear has lusted after Michael J Fox's sneakers since 1989.
That's why it's so exciting that Nike released its HyperAdapt 1.0 self-lacing sneakers last week. (They retail for an equally exciting $720.)
And Nike isn't the only company developing self-tying shoes. Puma came out with its own Autodiscs in extremely limited edition--they made 50--earlier this fall, sending out samples to elite athletes like Usain Bolt.
Nike HyperAdapt 1.0
Nike actually unveiled its first generation of self-tying tech back in October, integrating the HyperAdapt mechanism into an exact replica of the "Back to the Future" shoe, donned by Michael J. Fox in the movie.
Only 89 of those shoes were produced (apparently a nod to the year the movie came out--but then why didn't they make 1989 pairs of the shoes?), and each was sold in a raffle to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
It's actually a bit puzzling, given all the amazing technology that's appeared since the 1989 film, that it's taken this long for something as seemingly simple as a self-tying shoe to appear. But listening to Nike Senior Innovator Tiffany Beers describe the problems of scaling down the motors and batteries, you begin to understand the technical challenges.
The HyperAdapt 1.0 looks nothing like the Back to the Future version. It comes in Black/White-Blue Lagoon, features a blue battery light on the sole and five LEDs on the back. The shoe is activated when you step into it and your heel hits a sensor which triggers the system to automatically tighten. Two blue buttons on the side loosen and tighten the shoe for finer adjustments.
Nike insists the HyperAdapt 1.0 is meant to be a serious sneaker and not a gimmick. The company points to the importance for athletes to have "consistent, personalized lockdown" and says the HyperAdapt will relieve some of the stress of competition.
Yeah, Nike is finally here. But Puma actually beat Nike with its Autodiscs about a year ago. Reportedly, the company produced only 50, and sent them to high profile athletes and personalities. Like Usain Bolt.
The company is remaining pretty quiet about its Autodiscs, and hasn't even released official images. The picture below is from tech site Engadget, which got access to an early pair.
There are two distinct differences between the Autodiscs and the HyperAdapt. First, the motors are in the tongue and not the sole. Second, Puma added Bluetooth connectivity, so you can hit a button on your smartphone to dial in a preset tightness. You can also monitor battery levels through your phone. Because, yes, self-tying shoes necessarily have batteries.
If you're frustrated at the high price of Nike's HyperAdapt or Puma's pro athlete marketing, don't worry. New technology often starts with the rich and famous and then filters down to the rest of us, right? My prediction: Self-tying shoes will soon be as common as self-cleaning ovens. Until then, watch this and fantasize.