We love it when a gadget from science fiction makes its way into reality, and while we still don’t have flying cars or time machines, Nike has at least made the self-lacing shoe — like those seen in Back to the Future II — an actual thing you can buy. Nike’s latest take on the self-lacing shoe is the Adapt BB, built for playing basketball. The Adapt BB has already graced the highest stage in basketball — Boston Celtics player Jayson Tatum wore them in an NBA game earlier this season — but for the average consumer, are they worth $350?
First, an explanation of the unique technology inside the shoes, a system Nike calls Electric Adaptable Reaction Lacing, or E.A.R.L. From the outside, the Adapt BB looks like a typical basketball shoe, albeit without visible laces. The tongue and upper portion of the shoe are covered in Nike’s Quadfit mesh, beneath which hide the laces, which are connected to a motor in the soles of the shoe. When you put your foot in, a sensor in the sole triggers, and the motor pulls the laces, tightening the shoe around your foot. There are also buttons on the sole to manually adjust the fit.
The Adapt BB squeezes to conform to the user’s foot, which means that, no matter the particular shape and contours of your foot, the shoe should fit snugly like a glove for your foot. Unfortunately, the shoes can feel a bit stiff at first, and they grip the entirety of the foot, which feels different than a traditional basketball shoe.
The Adapt BBs only weigh a bit more than a pair of Lebron 15s, so they won’t slow you down on the court.
The shoes are packed with electronics. In addition to the motor, there are a variety of sensors, and lights, and there’s an associated app to adjust the setting on the shoes and even change the colors of the lights. The shoes do need to be recharged, but Nike has built a wireless charging pad, so you can simply drop the shoes on there and let them charge for a few hours (it takes about four hours to fully charge them, and the charge should last for about two weeks of regular wear).
One potential hazard these shoes face that a traditional pair wouldn’t is that, because they are built around electronics, they can fall victim to software issues. This has happened once already, as Android users got a bugged firmware update that rendered some shoes unable to lace. Although Nike worked to fix the problem, bugs are always going to be a problem for smart devices.
Overall, the Adapt BBs are pretty nifty, but they won’t elevate your game, and at $350, they cost significantly more than a pair of Jordans or Lebrons. Still, they will certainly turn heads when you wear them around town, and they’re pretty comfortable for walking around in.