Have you ever tried to tie lace-up shoes with one hand? In the past few years, I had that experience three times following rotator cuff surgery on each shoulder and a trigger finger release on my left hand. In each case I lived through just a few days of awkwardness, so I’m not complaining, but I know how tough it is to tie shoes with one hand. The fact is that it is nearly impossible to do well. And how about people with arthritis, neurological conditions, or back issues who do not have the control or dexterity to tie their own shoes? Velcro hook and loop closure tabs are one answer. Many children’s shoes use the same fold and press technology to get a good fit, so the Velcro solution does work, but it’s bulky and awkward and not a good look for adults who want to appear stylish.
Just in time for the holiday season 2016, we’ll be able to buy athletic shoes that look like regular lace-ups but use technology to secure the shoes and then adjust the tightness with the press of a button. Nike recently introduced the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 self-tying shoe. Nike is Nike, of course, so the focus for this first commercial release of a technology they’ve been working on for several years is performance athletes.
The HyperAdapt 1.0 shoes have a chargeable battery and a series of motors that tighten the “laces” sequentially from the bottom up after you step into the shoes and activate a sensor in the heel. Once the shoe is “tied” you can use small buttons on the side of each to tighten and loosen the fit. During the day, a game, or a workout you can adjust the fit as needed. No pricing is available at this time for the HyperAdapt 1.0’s and they will only be available to people who sign up for Nike+ (it’s free; they just want your email address and basic demographics).
Nike foresees a time when the its self-tying system will use personalized settings or AI to know when to adjust shoe tightness, perhaps based on your calendar or sensing a new form of activity: automatically tightening if you start cutting and turning fast, for example. Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 shoes are a precursor for the company and perhaps the shoe industry in developing smart shoes that can assist with control, safety, and appearance for people with medical conditions as well as athletes.