Here are the basics you need to know about the shoes and why they’ve got sneakerheads and technophiles so pumped.
First things first, do the shoes actually tie themselves?
Well, not exactly. The shoe’s laces are not like those traditionally found on athletic shoes, which crisscross along the top of the foot and then tie in a bow. Instead, there is a small motor at the base of the shoe that controls nylon bands along the top. Those bands can be loosened or tightened electronically using buttons and sensors built into the shoe.
“When you step in, your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten,” Tiffany Beers, a senior innovator at Nike, said in a news release. “Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it’s perfect.”
Where did this idea come from?
The wonders of Hollywood. The Nike HyperAdapt is based on the high-top “Nike Mag” sneakers that Marty McFly sports in “Back To The Future Part II,” which was released in 1989 and set in the year 2015. Nike’s shoe design king Tinker Hatfield was actually tapped to dream up the concept for McFly’s footwear. (No word yet on why Nike needed an extra year, but predicting the future has never been an exact science.) Wired has the full backstory in its October 2016 issue.
How long did the shoes take to develop?
One could argue that development began in the late 1980s when Hatfield first conceived of McFly’s futuristic sneakers. In reality, development has taken about 11 years. In the Wired profile, Hatfield explains the project has had many false starts and misfires as it was developed in a secluded, bunkerlike research lab on Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Ore. Over the years, the company had to contend with the bulky size and capacity limitations of motors and batteries, as well as the challenge of adding the technology without compromising the sleek and functional design athletes expect.
What is “adaptive lacing”?
In an ideal world, Nike wants the HyperAdapt to sense when the shoe needs to be tightened or loosened based on an athlete’s minute-by-minute needs. That’s true “adaptive lacing.” For now, people will still make that judgment call manually.
Will the electronics weigh down the shoe?
The company has not yet released the shoe’s exact weight or other specifications. But when a Twitter user remarked on how heavy the shoe must be, Nike’s spokeswoman Heidi Burgett replied, “I think you will be pleasantly surprised.” Another Twitter user asked whether the shoe would be lightweight and rechargeable. Burgett tweeted, “Yes and yes.”
When do they hit shelves?
Nov. 28. Nike has not yet said how customers can schedule appointments to view the sneakers (yes, you’ll need an appointment) or which retail locations will have them in stock.
And finally, what’s the damage to my wallet?
Read more from The Washington Post’s Innovations section.