We’re still waiting on Back to the Future-style hover boards, but at least self-lacing takkies are a reality thanks to Nike. Last week the company announced its Adapt BB footwear will come to market on 17 February 2019 with a recommended price tag of $350 (around R4,800). The bad news? Nike South Africa says there are no plans to bring them to local outlets, so if you want ’em, you’re going to have to import ’em.
A local Nike representative says South African sneaker heads will be able to order the shoe from Nike’s global website, but we’d suggest exercising extreme caution, as we’ve learnt the hard way that imported fashion attracts a 50% duty (allegedly to protect our local fashion industry), which means you could wind up paying over R6,000 for the Adapt BB if you go that route.
We also reached out to retailer Shelflife for good measure, and the retailer says it has “not confirmed this release” and that “if [Nike SA] have confirmed it’s not coming, then we wont be getting them either unfortunately”.
For those non shoe fanatics out there, the Adapt BB is exciting because it’s the first consumer-orientated self-lacing shoe (fans will point out Nike’s made two previous self-lacing shoes, but both were extremely limited edition and pricey, rather than intended for the mass market like the Adapt BB).
What does self-lacing mean, you ask? Put simply, the lacing mechanism is built into each shoe and can be tightened or loosened via a pair of buttons on the side of each shoe, or the accompanying mobile app. The app also allows wearers to create three tightness profiles which can be activated with a tap of an on-screen button, which means you could have a setting for warming up, during the game, and late in proceedings when your feet are swollen.
The tightening and loosening is thanks to a custom designed “lace engine” that includes a 505mAh battery and an array of sensors of the sort found in smartphones, including an accelerometer, Bluetooth module, gyroscope, and a wireless charging coil, and the essential motor and spindle that adjusts the laces. Charging is done inductively via the supplied charging pad, and Nike says the shoes will always have enough charge to unlace, so you’ll never get stuck in them because they’ve run out of juice.
The BB part of the name refers to basketball, and suggests we could see Nike’s adaptive lacing tech come to other non-BB shoes in the future. While it’s tempting to call the Adapt BB a “smart shoe”, jammed with tech as it is, that’s not really accurate. Unlike connected shoes like Under Armour’s Hovr Infinite that allows runners to track their steps, pace, cadence and other metrics, the Adapt BB’s “smarts” are limited to tightening or loosening the laces… for now at least.
Thanks to the accompanying app it’s entirely possible Nike could add features to the Adapt BB via a firmware update. They could, for example, eventually adjust dynamically, or the lights in the soles that illuminate when the laces are being adjusted could be programmed to flash morse code messages at one’s court-side foes.
Given their hefty price tag and limited features, we don’t imagine the Nike Adapt BB is going to get much love outside the basketball and sneaker fan communities, but it’s nonetheless a fascinating peek at where footwear (and Nike, specifically) is headed. And yes, we still kinda want a pair.