Nike Adapt Self-Lacing System Adjusts Shoe Tightness Continually With App

Build a better shoelace, and the world will beat a path to your door. Nike is betting the old mousetrap adage holds true in its update to the shoelace, the Nike Adapt system.

The shoelace has been around a very long time. Reports date them back thousands of years. But beyond innovations like the Boa closure system, they haven’t changed much.

Nike-Adapt-Laces

Nike aims to change that with its Adapt system. Announced this week, Nike Adapt is a wild-sounding new way to tighten shoes around feet. The brand claims the intricate lace “engine” closes around your entire foot.

But what’s more exciting is that the shoe “remembers” via a paired app how tight you prefer your footwear. Going further, it can even remember different situations, from warmup to gameplay to rest, and adjust the tightness accordingly.

Nike Adapt BB

“Shoelaces: you had a good run. But we think we may have finally bettered you,” wrote Michael Donaghu, Nike’s VP of innovation.

Indeed, it’s an interesting case that might give our shoe-tying fingers a rest.

Will shoe-tying skills go the way of cursive writing? Maybe. Let’s dig in more.

Nike Adapt BB: Launching a Platform

Nike will launch the Adapt platform in a basketball shoe called the Nike Adapt BB. But it seems the Adapt will expand into shoes for many sports in the future.

“We picked basketball as the first sport for Nike Adapt intentionally because of the demands that athletes put on their shoes,” said Eric Avar, Nike’s VP creative director of innovation. “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.”

In the case of this specific shoe, the lacing system will “personalize” your shoe. Donaghu calls it a “custom shoe for everyone.”

While this alone is a pretty compelling development, Nike is bearish with the Adapt. Its next claims about the shoe take it from simple closure to a fully-connected technological leap that could change the way shoes are sold and that athletes connect with a brand.

Of course, footwear needs to stand up to the rigors of the sport. Nike claims it put the shoe through the gauntlet. Check out its testing claims in the infographic below.

nike adapt testing

Footwear as Firmware

The Nike Adapt platform will allow the brand to update footwear after customers purchase it. This is a big change. Like a computer updating its operating system, the connected nature of the Adapt footwear opens a new realm of possibilities.

“Shoes in our Nike Adapt platform — of which Nike Adapt BB is the first — can update and evolve after purchase, letting consumers opt in to provide you with new services and features through smartphone-like technology,” Donaghu wrote.

Athletes in the future could opt in to allow Nike to create data about an activity. Nike could then use this data to personalize marketing messages or recommend products and services related to new athletic goals.

For some, this may sound almost Big Brother-ish. But for high-performance athletes, there could be benefits. Imagine this kind of technology applied to distance running shoes, or even mountaineering boots. I’m starting to dream of a boot that knows when your feet get cold and turns on the heat automatically.

It seems these kinds of innovations are just around the corner. Nike has begun its journey with the simple shoelace. But given the power of connected technologies, the limits of innovation here may be limited only by our imaginations.

Sean McCoy
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Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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