Swoosh! Nike Makes Laces Obsolete
A podiatrists take on the new Nike Adapt BB and the Adapt platform
I can still vividly remember sitting on my mum’s knee as a wee tacker learning how to tie up my shoe laces. Even at a young age I must have been destined to be a podiatrist as there was no mucking around with bunny rabbit ears with what my mum taught me. I had to learn the single loop, around the back, through the hole lacing technique from the start (aced it BTW, I know, humble brag). Well, Nike have announced that kids of the future will not have to be mucking around with laces as there’s now another way; the adapt “platform” which will first launch in basketball form in February 2019. Before we get into the future, let’s look at what and why we even have laces on our shoes.
Firstly, why we lace in the first place
Our shoes are incredibly important to modern life. They protect, they stabilise, they feel good, they a symbols we use to show our personality, our feelings, our mood. How shoes hold onto us via fixation of laces, straps, velcro, elastic or our own muscle force can play a big role in how we feel, how hard our feet and legs work and whether we are at risk of getting an injury or not.
Laces have been the fixation method of choice for hundreds of years and there are many different types of lacing techniques for different feet in different shoes (or even for sending coded messages – that’s a story for another time). As a podiatrist daily I see the effects of poor lacing, lack of lacing or an inability to lace shoes and the deleterious results on people’s lives and well being (injuries and falls just to name a couple). So maybe Nike are onto something with this new no lacing fixation system.
Second, so what is this Nike Adapt platform
Well Nike have taken the Back to the Future automatic lacing shoes and brought them into reality. In 2016 there was a one off shoe that Nike introduced with an auto lacing feature but the Adapt platform will bring it to a wider audience.
Basically, Nike have placed a small motor and bluetooth receiver in the sole of the shoes (“the platform”), this connects to a thin cord that threads from the sole through the upper where you would expect the laces to have been. The motor tightens or loosens the shoes via either an app (yes, yes, I realise that not everyone wants their shoes connected to the net via their phones). Where things get pretty exciting from a podiatrist point of view is how adjustable and adaptive the Adapt platform can be…
You don’t have to be a podiatrist to know that your feet are not the same shape at the start of the day compared with the end. They also change with intense exercise with increased fluid flowing to the periphery. Also, some of us have a slightly longer, wider or deeper left vs. right foot. Nike claims the Adapt platform can adjust to changes in foot shape and tighten or loosen the shoes as the wearers foot swells or as their activities change. Nothing laces can’t do already but this time it’s electronic and app controlled.
The first shoe to be released with the new Adapt platform is a basketball shoe, the Nike Adapt BB. This seems like a really smart decision from Nike as basketball is such an all or nothing sport, with ridiculous high loading sprints, cuts and jumps combined with stoppages in play and rest on the bench for minutes at a time. The genius of the Adapt BB here is that the shoes can automatically tighten for maximum support and control when your on the court, then loosen for comfort when resting on the bench or during time outs. How cool is that?
Like so many new technologies there’s always a cost for early adopters, and there is a cost. Currently the Adapt BB can only be pre-ordered in the USA and for a hefty $350 USD (although that is cheaper than the $700 for the first self lacing shoe Nike brought out in 2016).
There will also be the challenge to charge your shoes overnight. This sounds ridiculous now but we are only recently conditioned to charging our mobile phones and watches nightly, why not shoes as well? Finally, a basketball shoe is a great start for Nike but for us runners it will be interesting to see if they can get the weight down in the Adapt platform to be viable in a serious running shoe.
Innovation in footwear is always exciting for this podiatrist, even if it means mum’s lacing lessons aren’t needed anymore. Let’s see what Nike and other brands think of next.