"Say goodbye to the shoelace," Michael Donaghu, Nike's director of global footwear innovation, told a group of assembled media and influencers from a stage in the company's New York headquarters on Tuesday.
The presentation was held to reveal the Nike Adapt BB, the company's new version of a self-lacing shoe. It's a performance-focused and heavily upgraded version of Nike's first self-lacing shoe, the Hyperadapt 1.0, which was built for general consumers.
The BB stands for "basketball," and the shoes were created to be played in, first and foremost.
The new shoe is all about fit, Donaghu said, which is something top of mind for these players.
The Adapt allows for minute changes in tightness through a companion app, leading to 40% more "lockdown" for feet in the sneaker. Unlike the Hyperadapt, which was controlled by physical buttons on the side of the shoe, the app is the only way to control how this new shoe fits.
The new shoe is targeted directly at basketball athletes, but that's a market that is shrinking, according to NPD analyst Matt Powell. Fewer people are playing basketball, Powell tweeted, and sales of basketball sneakers are expected to decline this year.
The Adapt BB is smart enough, however, to adapt to a wearer's foot at the touch of a button. The app also lets users change the colour of the glowing twin dots on the midsole of the shoe to 14 different colours.
Nike will begin offering the Adapt BB in February for $350 (R4,800) - less than half the Hyperadapt's original price of $720. It comes with a wireless charging mat, which can charge the shoes in three hours for two weeks of wear time.
The new shoe is also connected, unlocking its potential beyond offering exact fit.
"We're beginning to talk about more than just the product itself," Donaghu said.
Much of that functionality won't be available at launch or in this first iteration, but it's the start of where Nike is going with its tech-enabled footwear.
The Adapt can send data about usage and analytics back to Nike, should users allow that. The data could also eventually be used to track athletes' movement and performance, which Nike says can help it offer new products or services to customers.
"We are essentially putting in a mobile sport research lab on the feet of athletes all over the world," Donaghu said, adding that Nike will provide incentives to share this data.
Users can also update the firmware on the shoe, potentially unlocking additional functionality.
It's also the beginning of the Adapt platform, which Nike said it hopes to expand into running and lifestyle categories with different shoes.
Nike allowed attendees hands-on experience with the shoe, along with a pre-paired smartphone for testing purposes. The first impression is that the adaptive lacing system is very comfortable, offering a very snug feeling. The interface is easy to use, and the shoes can get extremely tight.
The shoes were also surprisingly loud due to the speed at which the internal motors clamp down on the foot. For whatever reason, the experience was less disorienting than lacing up the Hyperadapt was.
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