Nike’s Self-Lacing Shoes Are Coming to the Masses
In 1989, when Nike invented a pair of self-lacing shoes for Back to the Future Part II, it inadvertently created a problem the brand would chase for decades. Marty McFly’s shoes only functioned thanks to movie magic, but Nike has been hell-bent on making self-lacing shoes real ever since. The brand successfully reproduced a one-off version of the Air Mags—actually functional self-lacing shoes—and debuted them in 2016. A month after that, Nike announced that the technology seen in Back to the Future was actually coming to customers in the form of a $720 sneaker: the HyperAdapt. Still, Nike apparently wasn’t satisfied.
On a call with investors yesterday, Nike’s CEO Mark Parker announced that the brand is closer than ever to the future it imagined in 1989: that self-lacing shoes won’t just be movie magic, or unaffordable collectibles, but the norm. Parker said that Nike will be making the HyperAdapt more affordable and releasing them in greater quantities. That first part is a big deal: those $720 HyperAdapts are quite possibly one of the most expensive items Nike's ever released. Notably, though, regular people won’t be the only ones wearing them.
Parker also dropped that athletes will wear the new HyperAdapts during real game action. This has long been a dream for the technology. Around the release of the first version, Tiffany Beers, the shoe’s former product lead, said that one day they could have real benefits for pro athletes. Take an NBA player for example: he laces his shoe as tightly as he can so his sneakers don’t shift when he’s making cuts and sprinting down the court. The problem is that the shoes maintain boa constrictor tightness throughout the game, during time on the bench or extended breaks. Tight shoes are one of the reasons these guys have such gnarly feet—and why they all get behind a good pedicure. Hypothetically, the HyperAdapt can be easily loosened during downtime during a game and then cinch right back into place when needed.
There was plenty more good news for Parker to share on the call. Not only are self-lacing shoes coming to the masses, but Nike profits are up. Even in the midst of executive turnover fueled by toxic bro culture, the Swoosh is finding ways to drive revenue—maybe by turning itself into a massive player in the world of fashion. Global sales were up 9 percent—putting the brand on track to reach $50 billion in sales by 2023, according to ESPN reporter Darren Rovell.
Parker also noted that the recent, controversial-in-some-circles marketing campaign with Colin Kaepernick is already paying dividends. Yes, the ad with the iconic football player-turned-activist is a proud moment for the brand….but more importantly, it’s driving “record engagement,” Parker said (For those keeping score at home, burning shoes and posting about it technically still counts as engagement). The latest earnings report only went through August, and the Kaepernick campaign came out in September, so we’ll have to see if it had any real tangible effect on the business besides engagement. Early reports coming from outside the company suggest it’s driving sales, though.
What might be an even bigger boon to the business is the fleet of self-lacing shoes that will start trickling out of Nike HQ. Parker didn’t put a price or a timetable on the next version of the HyperAdapt in stores, but at least they’re not so far off in the future we’ll need a time-traveling DeLorean to get them.