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Nike taps into fit customization with app-enabled sneakers

Nike has launched a power lacing sneaker that allows users to customize the shoe’s fit through a dedicated app, called Nike Adapt.

The Adapt BB, which is targeting basketball players, uses the brand’s newly developed fit technology, FitAdapt, to adjust the shoe onto the person’s foot and give them the most comfortable and personalized experience. It is inspired, once more, by the self-lacing sneakers in the Back to the Future II movie from the 1980s; a dream that Nike has been chasing ever since.

It works by using pressure sensors to register the foot and activates a tiny motor and gear, which then tightens or, in other words, laces the upper side of the shoe. After it is securely attached to the player’s foot, the fit of the shoe can be adjusted either manually, by pressing a specific area on the sneaker, or by using a designated smartphone app.

For basketball players the sneaker is especially useful as they can adjust the fit of the shoe based on different moments in a game. For example, when the player is taking a time out or has finished the match and their feet are swollen after strenuous activity, the shoe can be loosened for comfort.

“We picked basketball as the first sport for Nike Adapt intentionally because of the demands that athletes put on their shoes,” says 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.”

Similar to the HyperAdapt 1.0 self-lacing shoe, the first one the brand launched to market in 2016, this model was put through a series of tests including temperature and end of life tests, as well as focus groups featuring professional basketballers.

This is an important phase in the product development of a Nike product, says the brand, as founder Bill Bowerman, an athlete himself, believed fit was the foundation of any athletic performance. “The Nike Adapt BB helps the athlete find their custom fit and provides uncompromising lockdown, feel and traction throughout a game, but we knew it would only be validated once the game’s best players tried it out,” says Avar.

Nike’s future ambition is to bring the FitAdapt technology to other sports and lifestyle products in its portfolio, meeting fit demands that differ depending on context and environment.  

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Editor's pick product technology

Nike unveils raft of innovations including adaptive lacing and new personalisation app

Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit
Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit

Nike was in an innovative frame of mind yesterday as it unveiled a raft of tech-based sports shoes that it said represented “new breakthroughs in performance… the all-access pass to your potential”.

I must admit, I wish the announcements these companies make would be less hyperbole-laden. I always go into default sceptic mode when I hear those regular press release words like “groundbreaking,” “pioneering” and not forgetting the favourite “revolutionary”.

But to be fair to Nike, when you strip back the superlatives, you do get some real steps forward (pun intended).

Nike’s new adaptive lacing
Nike’s new adaptive lacing

The innovation came through in launches such as its “adaptive lacing” platform, as well as a “pioneering” football technology that separates mud from cleats and “transformations” in the Nike Air and Nike Flyknit lines.

Nike CEO Mark Parker also unveiled the new Nike+ app that connects athletes with the brand’s products and services “in a simple, seamless way”. The company says it delivers a personal store and on-demand coaching through a personal feed that recommends products tailored to the user, coaching for all levels that adapts to each person’s performance and schedule, and a fair bit more.

Continuing with the superlatives, here’s more of what Parker said: “Today… represents a fundamental shift in how we serve the athlete. We’ve entered a new era of personalised performance. Athletes want more than a dashboard and data – they want a more personal relationship, one that gives them real solutions and total access to the best product and services.”

Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit
Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit

What this all boils down to is innovation in materials, fastenings and soles as well as all the extra services that the app will bring. This is some of what’s coming:

  • Nike HyperAdapt 1.0: Ushering in this new era of personalised performance, it’s the first-ever step in the concept of “adaptive lacing”. That means self-tying to you and I. It delivers a precise fit that can be adjusted to the changing needs of the game so your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten, although the wearer can also adjust the lacing via special buttons. Shoes using this tech will be exclusively available to purchase through the new Nike+ app, which means you won’t be able to buy them unless you sign up to Nike+.
  • Air VaporMax Flyknit: Since the advent of the Air platform 40 years ago, designers required foam and rubber to separate the Air and the foot for support and traction purposes. But not amy more as the firm’s research has allowed “these barriers [to] be removed to create maximum feel and efficiency for runners”. Nike said this development “reimagines how footwear is made and offers athletes the purest cushioning ever created”. The Air VaporMax features Nike’s most advanced Air bag unit to date. It debuts not only more extreme, targeted Air placement but also more Air than before. Discarding the traditional foam midsole, sheds weight and bulk in exchange for better flexibility, without compromising structure. Weight and waste are reduced, and placing the upper directly on the Nike VaporMax Air unit ramps up response, the company says.
  • Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit spike: This gets even more specific, introducing a knit pattern that provides mid-foot support adapted to the centrifugal force of the track. Plus, the innate construction of Flyknit eliminates the weight associated with traditional cut-and-sew uppers.
  • Anti-Clog Traction: No, it’s not a declaration of war on Crocs or traditional dutch footwear! It’s clog as in clogging, and helps prevent mud from sticking to the bottom of football boots (cleats) with a new adaptive polymer to help players avoid the slips and excess weight that can be a monumental pain.
  • Flyknit: I have to admit, the Flyknit platform was something of a game-changer and it’s now available in all sports for all athletes in all conditions, a major leap forward for a technology that four years ago launched solely for marathoners. The combinations of yarns and digital knitting techniques that make up Flyknit now offer athletes stronger and more weatherproof options.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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Editor's pick technology

Nike unveils real pair of “Back To The Future” self-lacing sneakers, Michael J Fox is first to try

NikeMAG

Back to the Future fans were waiting with bated breath following a tweet by Nike on the eve of October 21 that simply read: “.@realmikefox see you tomorrow.” Could the self-lacing sneakers promised ever since their fictionalized version were seen on the feet of Marty McFly in 1989’s Back to the Future II really be on their way?

Come yesterday, the day young McFly travelled to the future in the sequel film to save his own children, and Nike finally released that early fantasy idea of wearable tech for real.

Read the full story and see Michael J Fox wearing the first pair over at Forbes.

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Editor's pick technology

The real wearable tech catching-up with Back to the Future’s Marty Mcfly

BTTF_hoverboard

Marty McFly might have landed in the future on this exact day – October 21, 2015 – 30 years ago, but even the self-lacing sneakers he imagined in Back to the Future II don’t actually exist yet.

Yes rumors are rife that Nike will release a version of its Nike MAG shoe complete with “power laces” at some point today (if the film’s clock is anything to go by, it’ll be 4.29pm), and no doubt they’ll be a sellout once they do. But the idea of such pieces hitting broad suburban uptake, is still someway off from being a reality.

And therein lies the issue with wearable technology across the board in current times. While Juniper Research expects the wearables market to rise to $53 billion by 2019, the majority of pieces we’re seeing and feeling inspired by are still concept or prototypes only.

Smart watches and fitness bands aside, what we really want to know is where are all those other cool things we’ve been promised? Forget t-shirts that light up or rings that buzz to notify us our phone is also ringing, where are the hats that change colour and the jackets that can be adjusted to fit, or instantly dry, as McFly also wore?

Tech restrictions coupled with issues surrounding manufacturing above all else, means nothing so outlandish has truly hit retail yet. But the good news is, they are apparently coming. Indeed the view ahead for wearables is an exciting one. Head over to Forbes to read all about it.