The idea of self-lacing shoes was first imagined in 1989 when Back to the Future Part II was released and in the movie, Marty Mcfly (played by Michael J. Fox) wore a pair of self-lacing Nike shoes when travelling forward in time to October 21st 2015. The shoes, dubbed Nike Mags, were designed by well-known Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, who was asked to create a shoe of futuristic appearance for the second installment of the popular movie franchise.
Over fifteen years later, there was an online petition that asked for a return of the Nike Mags; this caught the attention of Tinker Hatfield himself who thought it was a good idea. He enlisted the help of fellow shoe designer Tiffany Beers, who had also worked with Nike, and they began work on building the Nike Mag.
Progression was slow over six years and the two had to restart three times. The completed shoes, composed from thousands of hours of work, were a replica of the shoes worn by Michael J. Fox in 1989. They were the first rechargeable shoe from Nike and featured lights on the midsole and the strap. The most prominent feature on the Nike Mags in the movie, a power lacing system, was not present however.
A limited quantity of Nike Mags – 1500 pairs – was auctioned on eBay on September 8th 2011, with all proceeds (between $2,300-$9,959 per pair) dedicated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s disease research. As well as this, Nike sold ten additional pairs in presentation boxes at various live auctions around the world. In total, $4.7 million was made from online shoe sales, which was matched by co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, resulting in a $9.4 million donation to the non-profit foundation.
On the same day that Marty Mcfly went to the future in Back to the Future Part II, October 21st 2015, Nike announced that a self-lacing version of the shoe would go on sale on March 20th 2016. Michael J. Fox was the first to receive the updated Nike Mags after they were unveiled. Delayed until October 4th 2016, Nike opened a raffle for 89 pairs of the exclusive footwear, with tickets costing $10 each. A further $6.75 million was raised for the Michael J. Fox foundation.
In March 2016, Nike had also announced the HyperAdapt 1.0, a shoe that made the new technology more widely accessible for consumers by being directly available for retail. Tinker Hatfield, accompanied by another designer Mark Parker, designed the new shoe that was much more understated than the Nike Mags. The HyperAdapt 1.0 featured an electro adaptive lacing system abbreviated as “E.A.R.L”, which is stitched onto the tongue of each shoe. It technically autonomously conforms to the wearer’s foot, rather than featuring any physical tightening laces. The shoes charged wirelessly using a magnetic charging pad.
Despite being more accessible to the mainstream public, the immense $720 retail price did render the shoe exclusive to select people who could afford to spend that much on footwear. The official release on December 1st 2016 was in a relatively limited quantity; several releases since the official date have been in very small quantities.
After a couple of years of working on the advanced footwear technology, Nike announced a self-lacing performance basketball shoe – the Adapt BB. A new app for phones and smart watches was also released that let you tighten or loosen your shoes without touching them via bluetooth. However, the shoes still had button controls for quick adjustments and would still tighten automatically with pressure on the heel like the HyperAdapt 1.0. A change was made to the charging system with a large mat for both shoes that was significantly faster and more efficient. The Adapt app could also control the colour that the buttons would light up when the shoe tightened or loosened. Not only was there significant improvements in technology, but there was also a dramatic decrease in cost, with a retail price of $350.
The Nike Adapt BB released on February 17th 2019 in larger quantities than the HyperAdapt 1.0; the release was both online and in store. It was a huge success and many different colourways were released over the next few months, including one that paid homage to the Nike Mag.
Following the success, a wildly popular pre-existing Nike silhouette, the Huarache, was announced to be having a self-lacing version introduced. The Adapt Huarache was to be released in similar quantities to the Adapt BB and for the same price of $350. It was also compatible with the Adapt app and came with the same updated fast charging mat as the basketball shoe.
Releasing on September 13th 2019, the initial colourway of the Adapt Huarache was in a bright yellow. The lifestyle trainer has also released in several other colourways since, but proved not to be as popular as the Adapt BB release with pairs still available for retail in March 2020.
In early 2020, rumours began to circulate about an updated version of the Adapt BB to be released around a year after the original shoes; they were rumoured to be released mid-February. Nike confirmed the rumours by announcing the shoes and images of them were released to the public. Many voiced how excited they were for the release and the Nike Adapt BB 2.0 was set to be even more successful than its predecessor. It was to feature a zoom turbo air unit in the forefoot and many other improved features to not only make it more comfortable for lifestyle wear but also improve performance on the basketball court.
The Nike Adapt BB 2.0 released on February 16th for $400 and sold out online in all sizes within minutes. New colourways have been announced but as of March 2020 are yet to release. The success of the self-lacing basketball range almost guarantees that Nike will make a third iteration at some point in the future.
The introduction of technology into Nike footwear has been a slow and tedious process. However, now self-lacing advancements have been made, I believe that the technology will become even more mainstream and commonplace in the next few years and we will start to see it in an increasing amount of shoes.
By Ellis Thompson (Year 10)
Images courtesy of Thomas Serer and Romain Mathon @unsplash.com