Nike’s got a plan to make it that much easier to put on shoes before setting out for that run: laces that automatically tighten.
This futuristic feature was one of many product design innovations that the world’s largest athletic-gear maker unveiled at a swanky press event in Manhattan on Wednesday. The shoe, called the HyperAdapt 1.0, is “the first performance vehicle for Nike’s latest platform breakthrough, adaptive lacing,” Nike has boasted.
So how does it work? Fortunately, Fortune got a chance to try it out. I slipped my size 11 feet into the size- 10 prototype shoe that Nike (NKE) had at the event. The laces on the upper portion of the shoe constricted within seconds. It was a snug fit, almost as if I had laced up the shoes themselves (it is notable to add that the laces aren’t long like most shoes – they are built into the top of the shoe).
To make adjustments, I was able to press two buttons on the side of the shoe, a plus to tighten it further or a minus to loosen the shoe. Those changes could also be made within seconds. Would these snug shoes feel great on a run? I can’t say just yet, as I only got to try on the shoe briefly at a massive press event.
In the future, Nike’s designers says the shoe will adjust automatically as an athlete is out on a run. Nike points out that while out for a run, an athlete’s feet naturally swell. This technology could make a run all that more comfortable. And how does the shoe know a foot is in it? Nike says that when your heel slips into the shoe, it will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten.
“We are trying to help athletes perform better with a safer and longer career,” said Tinker Hatfield, a legendary shoe designer, at the event.
Hatfield also gave some details about the inspiration for the design of the HyperAdapt 1.0, which took a decade to come to fruition. The midsole – that’s the bottom portion of the shoe – was inspired by a flying robot named EVE that was featured in the 2008 Pixar film “WALL-E.” He said the bottom of the shoe reflected the namesake character of that famous film.
Pricing details weren’t disclosed on Wednesday. The initial run of the shoes will only be sold to members of the company’s digital Nike+ community, kicking off later this year during the holiday season. It will be available in three colors.
For Nike, the world’s largest footwear seller with $18.3 billion in sales, the new innovative shoe is just the latest big surprise the sports company has unveiled in an Olympic year. Steered by CEO Mark Parker, who started out at the company as a footwear designer, Nike likes to share news about its biggest innovations ahead of the Summer Olympics – often previewing franchises that will fuel future design innovations.
Past debuts have included Flyknit in 2012 and Lunar in 2008, both forms of technology that Nike still uses broadly today. The Flyknit innovation, which incorporated new yarn and fabric constructions, is expected to be a $1 billion franchise for Nike in 2016.