Here’s What’s Inside Nike’s $720 Self-Lacing Sneakers
An engineering consulting firm dismantled Nike’s futuristic self-lacing sneakers, and Fortune got an exclusive look inside.
Mindtribe, a company that helps companies with engineering and hardware development, recently tore apart the $720 Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 to see what was inside. The company found a strong self-lacing mechanism, laces made from Kevlar-like material, and hints of things to come in future models of the shoe.
Nike (NKE) introduced the HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers in December with the sales pitch that people shouldn’t be bothered with having to bend over to lace their shoes. While they aren’t collector sneakers like Jordans or limited editions, HyperAdapts come with a hefty price tag. Nike has only sold them in limited quantities and in few locations, although it plans to increase availability.
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The HyperAdapt 1.0 can automatically lace themselves once wearers activate them by slipping their feet into the shoes. The sneakers also come with LED lights that tell wearers when the built-in battery, which can last about two weeks on a single charge, is running low (yes, you have to recharge your sneakers).
See how Nike created the HyperAdapt sneaker:
During the teardown, Mindtribe found that Nike is using high-powered components that can accommodate far more sophisticated features than lacing a sneaker. Specifically, Mindtribe believes the electronics and other components inside the HyperAdapt 1.0 could be modified to allow for wireless communication via Bluetooth with mobile devices like smartphones or the ability for people wearing them to choose different lacing “profiles” based on their activity. A tighter lace-up, for instance, may be best while running, while a looser lacing could be best for walking around the mall.
Speaking of the laces, Mindtribe found that they’re not standard laces. Instead, they’re “an embroidery-style thread” made from Vectran, a brand-name for liquid-crystal polymer developed by a Japanese company named Kuraray. According to Kuraray, its Vectran is nearly as strong a fiber as Kevlar so that they won’t easily fray or break like traditional laces.
In order to lace the sneakers at varying degrees of tightness, Nike has included a powerful metal gearbox in the HyperAdapt 1.0. Based on its tests, Mindtribe says the gearbox can generate 30 or more pounds of torque for lacing.
Mindtribe testers were impressed, saying, “You don’t often see a box that that fits in the palm of your hand and can lift three gallon jugs of milk, with power to spare.”
At first blush, the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 may look like standard sneakers. Even with their techie features, several components are actually hidden from view.
After removing the sneakers’ insole and boot liner, Mindtribe found circuit boards, connectors, a battery, and motor. A pressure sensor sits in the heel, and Mindtribe found several magnets throughout the sneaker, as well as an induction coil for the HyperAdapt 1.0’s wireless charging. To deliver a “uniform glow” from the sneakers’ top- and side-mounted LEDs, Nike added a grid of LED lights instead of a single light tube.
Mindtribe, which has dismantled other devices including Apple’s (AAPL) AirPods earbuds, was impressed by the HyperAdapt 1.0’s internal design. In an interview with Fortune, Mindtribe CEO Steve Myers said Nike has achieved an important feat with its sneakers.
“We’ve seen a lot of wearable products over the last few years, but very few that so seamlessly integrate with what you’re already wearing every day,” Myers said. “Most people aren’t aware of the many constraints and challenges that must be overcome to make real, new-to-the-world products.”