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Nike’s auto-laced future (techcrunch.com)
89 points by Rifu 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments



It's interesting to me that this gets lampooned, but the autolacing shoes in Back to the Future[1] (and the release of actual shoes a few years back[2]) was greeted with awe and cheers. Different crowds, maybe?

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28Wa5L-fkkM

[2] https://www.engadget.com/2016/10/05/nike-mag-first-look/


Autolacing in Back to the Future didn't require you to download vendor's app and connect to an account on vendor's service over the Internet.

That would be my one and only criticism of this implementation. Beyond that, it's pure awesomeness, and I want a pair.


These shoes don’t either. They can be operated manually, as the article states. They have a built-in Sensor and auto-lace when you put them on. You just cannot have some of the nice things that the app brings: multiple different profiles, ...


If the article is accurate, the first time you use them you /must/ use the app to configure them and /must/ log into your flipping shoe account of all things to do so.

An engineer that didn't have a marketing department breathing down his back to drive "engagement" would just have the LEDs on the side also be buttons and tell the user to hold them for 10 seconds to put them in a configuration mode, but hey, if they did that nike couldn't force you to give up your email to use your shoes and then use it to send you spam...


If you don’t like it, buy another pair of shoes! There are literally thousands of alternatives out there. No one is forcing you to buy this pair.


I don't like these types of a comment. You can criticize implementation of a technology even if:

a) You don't have a better solution, or

b) You have a choice to go elsewhere

If Nike made you go through their own network (a sort of a DRM if you will) to operate their shoes, that's something to be criticized, because it serves absolutely no other function than to lock you into their ecosystem and give them data on you. Anti-consumer practices should always be criticized.


If you don't like Sir_Substance's comment, read another! There are literally thousands of alternative comments out there.


Difference being there really are literelly thousands of alternative comments, whereas there are definitely not thousands of alternative electronic autolacing systems :)


It lacks blockchain technology. Given the development cycles in play for such consumer products the blockchain support will probably come two weeks after bitcoin disintegrated.


Also it didn't make the shoe useless when the battery went bad.


If the battery is high quality and a single charging cycle lasts a week, as claimed, I imagine the battery would last well past the usable life of the shoe.


no laces but strings attached


This would be an excellent retort from a privacy-focused footwear company, do we have those yet?


Difference between fiction and reality I guess. In the movie you don't have to think about how it works (magic), but in reality, yes sure, it will need a battery I guess. Which is yet another thing you need to charge. There are lacing profiles which you control in an app, adding complexity to something that should 'just work'. Why can't the shoe adapt to the swelling of your feet? Perhaps v2 will do that. I personally would love that for my hiking shoes.

Maybe if they allowed you to have two settings that you can control from the boot, it would be different.

So I guess some criticism stems from that Nike made something that should be simple and intuitive, into something that requires your attention and needs configuration.


it will need a battery I guess. Which is yet another thing you need to charge.

It can charge the battery by generating electricity off the forces exerted by the wearer's movement.

Why can't the shoe adapt to the swelling of your feet?

If the software did control the amount of pressure the laces transfer to the foot instead of the length of the laces the shoe would adapt to feet of any size.

Just add a few more sensors and write more software.


One was a novelty one-off product to celebrate the anniversary of a beloved old movie.

The other is a BS problem in search of a solution.


That was primarily because of the nostalgic and hypebeast factor. The nostalgia from the people who loved the original movies. And the hypebeast from the resale market which loved that it was a highly limited run (89 pairs). These new shoes have neither.


Interesting topic. Like a lot of things, it's easy and enjoyable to unload some quick snark on Twitter, and certainly anything even related to IoT is a worthy target of all the snark we can muster 99.9% of the time.

On the other hand, the article points out that pro athletes have different needs than others, and these shoes (arguably!) address those needs in ways that other options do not. Also, the implementation isn't as dumb as the cynical might have assumed.


People wanna feel smart. That's all this really is. Sneakers intimidate people's intelligence, hello 2019


Many modern snowboard boots have a pretty impressive ratchet system with steel laces that allows me to get a very tight fit easily (no yanking on laces required), with instant push-button release.

https://www.burton.com/us/en/p/mens-burton-photon-boa-snowbo...

It's unclear to me whether basketball shoes lack this system for good ergonomic/structural reasons or because of marketing/style/tradition.


We are unable to mechanically amplify force without the internet of things. Sorry Archimedes.


There exist plenty of non-snowboard boots with the Boa system. For instance, Boa's running shoe category: https://www.boafit.com/category/run

I've had some Boa snowboard boots, and they've been good, but I've transitioned to non-ratcheting/non-metal quicklace systems. I find them somewhat more durable and easier to make fine adjustments to, while being nearly as quick/easy to use.


easier to make fine adjustments to

Experienced the same. Boa is pretty good, but it seems to tighten almost uniformly along the length of the cable. Which is probably ideal if your boot has a perfect fit to your foot, but otherwise becomes a pain in the, eh, foot. I have problems with pressure on the top of my feet and with the boa system it seems there's either too much pressure there or not tight enough around the legs. Might be resolved by finding the proper fit but laces are really more forgiving when it comes to that.


Many of the newer or at least better lacing systems for snowboard boots use separate controls for foot & leg or liner & shell.

Tongue shims on your liners might help. A replacement heat molded liner is another option.


Hey marsi, Which shoes did you transfer to?


Currently the Burton Driver X. I don't ride park, and like them a lot.


I'm guessing that basketball shoes are extremely weight sensitive whereas snow board boots are not. Anything that adds weight to an athletic shoe better be adding a bigger advantage than self tying.


You could be right, although the Boa mechanism is really very small. The laces are metal (I think) but much thinner.


Salomon sells cross trainers that use a cable system. I've had two pairs. Both broke within about 2 years.


For me it's not overkill at all. It makes perfect sense on the safety/medical benefits alone. I walk two hours a day. In my prime I ran 5 miles or more/day and biked three times that. My feet pronate and I have to wear orthotic insoles.

For whatever reason I've never been able to keep my shoes stable. They either start too tight and have to be adjusted or are a little too lose, thus reducing ankle stability. I would welcome these on strictly utilitarian benefits. Since I spend $300 every six months on shoes that don't wreck what's left of my fallen arches, this would be a lateral move financially anyway, I suspect.


There's a lot to be said for having a cobbler make custom shoes for you, if one is available.

Also, your mileage may vary, but my ankle instability was greatly improved by a basic "Starting Strength" style workout routine. I went from tripping over my own wobbly feet to lifting 300+ lbs on my back in just over a year. I've never had any notable ankle instability since.


Wow, thanks tons. Your story is an inspiration.


I should add that I had a great coach. Anyone that wants to start barbell lifting should find a coach for at least the first few months.


Put it in ski boots... done and done, I’d buy it right away


Mountain walking/climbing boots as well - adjusting laces in bad weather if you have gaiters, over-trousers and crampons on can be a nightmare.

Mind you they'd have to have a reliable fall-back so they still work and are adjustable if (when) the power fails.

Edit: I was actually thinking last weekend when I think I over tightened my laces on my boots and my feet got quite sore that strain gauges in boots/laces might be a good thing!


Replace the laces with 2-4mm bungee cord and you are set for life.

That was a pretty common trick for combat boots before the laced + side zipper boots became more popular.


What's the steepest decline you've walked with that setup? Did your toes touch the end of your boot?


Pretty steep, including wall climbing but those were full height boots not the ankle height popular with most hikers.

You don't tie as you would normal laces you create a knot on one end and loop it through all the lace loops then you simply pull and loop it around the shaft and the colar and tuck it in it was secure enough to even run in (as much as can one run with a full kit and a PRC-77 they had us chugging along during training) and traverse any terrain I had too.

I don't know how would if fare in very cold (as in sub zero) weather but then I had normal laces snap on me while trekking in Peru and Iceland as well.

BTW don't forget that while a bungee cord can stretch pretty well the shorter it is the more stiff it is so all of the bends in the loop essentially create a lot of short individual links that don't stretch as easily as the entire length of the cord unwound, you also need to overcome the friction between the cord and the tongue of the boot which makes this setup pretty darn secure but easy enough to pop on and off if your curl your foot and ankle and ease it in or out.


I'm going to try this with mountaineering boots. Thanks!


Ski boots are purposefully stiffer, which is presumably the reason they don't use laces like snowboard boots. Ski boots are less comfortable, but I thought one advantage is that they can already be set to a desired tightness very easily? What are you looking for?


Also a dream for me. The lacing system in these sneakers sounds similar to a snowboard boot's Boa system so I could imagine this tech quickly applied to those but a ski boot seems much more difficult.


I was just going to say, I've always had a good experience with Boa systems on snowboarding boots, even though people claim they break regularly. Surprised they didn't get adopted by the sneaker industry. I'm guessing it's either too expensive, or too bulky for them, until now at least.

Edit: Actually, turns out they have been already used in sports shoes, go figure! The aesthetics don't quite seem exquisite, but the functionality seems to be all there.


They are pretty common on golf shoes now


These (fairly specialized) ski boots have a boa lace system as part of their closure system, which uses a central dial to tighten a continuous metal lace. It's not automated, but it's close.

For what it's worth, though, I didn't find them that much faster to put on than normal three-buckle boots.

https://www.scarpa.net/en/f1.html


"done and done" ?


> Nike rival Adidas is pursuing the goal in a different way, using interwoven textiles and self-tightening weaves in its N3XT L3V3L basketball shoe.

Emphasis mine. People scoff at a phone-connected shoe (which actually sounds pretty useful for the pro basketball application as described), but I think we can all agree this is worse.


1 d0n'7 kn0w wh47 y0u'r3 741k1n9 480u7.


When I was a kid I expected us to have controlled fusion power plants, hovercraft and Gerald O'Neal space colonies by now.

Instead we have soylent, a nightmare corporate-government surveillance dystopia and ... plastic moccasins, and I'm supposed to be impressed.


60 million in funding for nuclear fusion vs 2 trillion in spending on welfare and entitlements annually

Bread and circus rather than progress is the establishments top priority

The tragedy is that nearly all of the problems we currently face would already be solved if we just invested in our future. NASA used to get 4.5% of our federal budget invested in it, now it's .3%. We used to invest $3 into research or infrastructure for every $1 in entitlements, now we spend $5 in entitlements for every 1$ invested in our future.


Social Security and Medicare solve problems too though. Even the Pentagon (say half a trillion) solves a problem. None of them do it very efficiently, is the thing.


Social Security is incredibly efficient from an administration cost perspective.


You were supposed to be the generation that made those things.


Be happy with your plastic moccasins, prozac and pornography, citizen.


Maybe instead of hoping that the forces of capitalism alone could make us rich and enrich society, we should've gone into government where we could lay out and fund these large-scale initiatives.

It's happening, though—just slower. Government money has aided the start of electric cars and alternative energy, and a Green New Deal has a chance of building on that.


Did you expect to have most of the information in the world available on demand? Anywhere? And be able to communicate with anybody anywhere? I guess it's hard predicting the future http://www.paulgraham.com/ecw.html


I definitely expected to be able to talk to a computer like in star trek and have it synthesize me an answer, yes.

I didn't anticipate it would be delivered using a markup language via a centralized solution, nor that it would be cluttered up with ads and irrelevant marketing bilge or press releases in nonsense like modern online magazines.


Most of the information is not available on demand, but only if you have the requisite credentials.


When a shoe becomes untied, will it auto-lace as I’m walking?

And why stop at shoes? Bring on the auto-lacing corsets, self-buttoning shirts, and auto-adjusting belts (useful for large meals).


I think one of the things make a suit 'prestigious' is that it requires effort and time.


Jackie Chan's suit in Tuxedo looked prestigious enough.


Really, apart from Zippers and Velcro, clothing fastening technology seems to be stuck in the 19th (or maybe earlier than that) century

Yes I want self-tightening shoes, continuous belts (some exists, or close enough solutions, but still with the buckle), self-adjusting and tightening wrist bands, etc

And don't get me started on "button down" shirts, I actively prefer those with the rivet type fastener because at least they're trying


Rivet fasteners are great for doing a hulk impression as they all pop open. Less useful if you are an able-bodied adult who does more than sit or walk slowly throughout the day.


I never had them pop unexpectedly in me, and I prefer less formal attire when doing physical activities


I'm surprised a sport like basketball would allow players to wear apparel which improves their performance using electronics and a motor.


My read was that it'll improve safety and recovery more than enhance performance.


Seems like it could be the same thing, at least that's what McGwire said to himself to justify to himself that it was OK to juice up.

McGwire said he took steroids to get back on the field, sounding much like the Yankees' Andy Pettitte did two years ago, when he admitted using HGH.

"During the mid-'90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years," McGwire said. "I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years, and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too."

http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=4816607


I was thinking that if it achieves the exact same tightness and fit consistently every time that could be very helpful.

I have no idea about basketball but for mountaineering I sometimes re-lace my boots a few times after putting them on to get the tightness just right in the various places, and the same on both feet.


Coming from someone who doesn't watch any basketball, are there many incidents involving shoes coming off or becoming loose? Is the safety argument real?


This is addressed somewhat in the article:

> Players, for example, will tell you that after about a half hour on the court, their feet will swell, sometimes up to a half size. This changes their comfort level significantly. So they have a choice: either play with their shoes too loose for 30 minutes or tighten them enough to be painful by halftime. Not with an adjustable shoe.


Why not just retie the shoelaces at halftime?


They probably do, but they're already painful by then.


So the safety argument isn't real then. It's a comfort argument.


Misadjusted shoes can cause injury, whether too loose or too tight. It's a safety issue.


Would a player trip if their shoe was hacked to suddenly release tension?


That's impossible according to this naive part of the article.

> When you pair, you’re linking your shoes directly to your Nike+ account, so there is no chance of anyone either connecting to or controlling your shoes


Perhaps, though it's likely still better than a shoelace untying, which leaves the player with a dangling lace that can easily cause a trip.


Autolacing is a fundamentally bad idea. It means that each step will be weighed down by a motor, battery, and radio that are used only for a second when you put on the shoe. It's like everyone forgot that Nike has been marketing lighter shoes since their inception.


This was my first thought as well. How is it the article doesn't mention weight at all? Still I imagine it wouldn't be that hard to move the weight out of the shoe. The shoe could expose a cord that you hook in to a separate machine to provide the force for tightening.


That loses one of the big benefit though: being able to take breaks from the tight lace and restore it easily on the go

I can't imagine the weight couldn't be cut down to the same order of magnitude you're looking at for a shoe with strong support anyway.


The application here is professional sports. In that context every tiny bit of weight matters. And they're not really "on the go" - they could just keep the machine on the sidelines.


This lacingpattern looks like the same used on bicycle shoes for some years. For an example see "shimano rc9". Not adjusted by a motor, though.

Think it's called Boa lacing.


I'm interested in buying these shoes as a consumer, auto-lacing actually seems like a wonderful app even though it does sound like overkill


I'm kind of disappointed you need to charge these. I was hoping the battery could charge itself via energy generated while walking, like those light up shoes children wear. Would that not have been practical?


That sort of charging system as weight and complexity. And it's it fails, the shoe doesn't work.

If a kid's shoes don't light up, they still function as shoes.


I suppose it all depends on how much weight and complexity. To me, the need to remember to charge my shoes makes the whole thing a nonstarter.


This is comfort tech designed to pull dollars from the poorest among us.


This would be awesome for casual runners too, not just pro/semi-pro basketball players.

If you're doing distance training good and consistent lacing can be essential to your health


You want running shoes to be as light as possible. The book the sports gene went over how slender ankles (less weight on the feet) is a significant factor in running performance and potential. I don't think adding a motor and batteries to a runner's shoes will help them, unless they're looking to get more of a workout over the same period of time.


> One of the most exciting ancillary effects of a self-lacing shoe is assistance that it can give people with fine motor skills or mobility issues.

That's good.


May be in a few years time I will start something call Analog. Which is to sell anything that isn't Digital. Seriously I think the world is getting a little.... too digital in everything. ( I know this may be unpopular on HN )

I want to simplified the tightening lace, but it doesn't have to be auto. May be in a Pull Lever like mechanics.

When will someday people gets to hack the system and tightening up your lace just for fun? Would I have to update my shoes firmware as well. Or many of the Internet of Things we are going to have in the next 10 years.


The system used on Salomon running shoes is rather good - ever since I tried it, I feel like the traditional shoe laces are cumbersome. https://www.salomon.com/en-us/blog/how-to-use-the-salomon-qu...


For what it's worth I agree with you about the IoT. But I don't think it will stop. At this point it feels almost inevitable.


I sort of want a pair of these.


If you lose wifi will you be unable to take your shoe off ?


1) They use bluetooth, not wifi.

2) They're actually designed to work in situations where you don't even have your phone as a primary use case.

So no, of course not. That was actually a major point made early on in the article. If you'd even skimmed the article, you'd have seen the answer to your question. :)


The worrying thing is that this is even a question.


Denial of Shoe attack.


Next disruption:

All new shoes come with 30 days free lacing on creation of an account. Lacing feature billed at $9.99 monthly unless cancelled. Model specific variable tightness DLC pack not included.

Wearing this shoe constitutes consent to our data sharing and privacy policy and acceptance of binding arbitration agreement.


and we may revoke you right to wear shoes if you get upset with what your wife asks you to do, as per our no-bullying policy.




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