They’re real. We slipped on Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 self-lacing sneakers

There is art imitating life and then there’s art driving real-life innovation. Today we look at the latter, where one of the most iconic movie moments from decades ago has inspired one of the biggest sneaker innovations for the decades ahead. The dream of the self-lacing sneaker came from the 1988 film Back To The Future II, which paved the way for the real-world Nike Mag prototype. Now, this self-lacing shoe is ready for its world debut with the December 1 release of the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, designed by Tinker Hatfield, the mastermind behind 15 iterations of the iconic Air Jordan sneaker. Tiffany Beers, senior innovator at Nike, joined the team working on the HyperAdapt in 2005 and has worked diligently for more than a decade to fit the tech into Hatfield’s vision.

Digital Trends traveled to one of the only physical stores in the world you can currently get your hands on the HyperAdapt 1.0, the Nike+ Clubhouse in New York City’s trendy SoHo area, to speak with Beers and try on all of Nike’s hard work. According to Beers, the HyperAdapt went through roughly five different prototypes before the team decided on the current look.

Using test data to for the right fit

To make sure the lacing tension was just right, Nike held what Tiffany calls “perception tests” at the Nike Sports Research Lab with 300 people with shoe sizes 7, 10, and 13. “We had them tell us what was comfortable setting and what was a ‘too tight’ setting,” Beers said. “We calculated some things about that data and figured out what the ‘just right’ setting is.”

Wearing the HyperAdapt 1.0 is best described as form-fitting comfort. The second your foot fits snuggly into the shoe, the built-in sensor detects the foot pressure, causing the HyperAdapt 1.0 to start tightening the laces. The magnetic charger that attaches to the sneaker’s sole is powered through a USB connector. Beers says that design feature allows the charger to be connected to a two-amp portable battery charger, ensuring that both your sneakers and your phone can stay charged on the go.

The sneaker knows when to stop tightening once it detects a certain friction threshold. It works well for the most part, but occasionally the left sneaker’s tightening button was unresponsive no matter how hard we squeezed – only later it would resume tightening again. There is a noticeable bump you feel at the bottom of your foot where the battery is, but it does not impede your movements.

What’s next for HyperAdapt 2.0?

The next generation of the HyperAdapt may be more Honey, I Shrunk The Kids than Back To The Future II. “The smaller things get, the better it is for wearables, period,” Beers added. “The smallest size we have is a men’s 5.5. That’s just because technology does not let us get smaller at this point.”

Beers even hinted that software updates being sent to your sneakers may be possible in the future. Now that Nike has proven it can fit a motor and battery in a sneaker, with further miniaturization, incorporating hardware that connects to the internet seems very possible.

The arrival of the HyperAdapt 1.0 signals that the technology we thought was once only science fiction is now a reality you can buy in the store. But, just as the 1.0 version number in the name suggests, these shoes are just the beginning.