Film director Robert Zemeckis and Nike introduced the world to the idea of self-lacing sneakers in the second Back to the Future movie, and now three decades later, shoe makers are making a spirited push to sell consumers on the real thing. Puma is the latest to pounce on the concept with a line of Fitness Intelligence (Fi) footwear.
"We have created a product that speaks to the future of sport which is life in motion. It’s fast and changing all the time," said Charles Johnson, Puma’s Global Director of Innovation.
More than just a new shoe, Puma is pushing a technology platform that is designed to give wearers a "performance fit." As currently implemented in beta form, there is a micro-motor that powers a "uniquely configured cable system" to lace up the shoes, which users control by swiping up or down on the Fi module.
The platform also features a smart sensing capability that allows it to learn the shape of the foot of each user, and then adapt the fit accordingly.
This is very much a high-tech run at the emerging smart shoe category, and a swipe at Nike, which recently introduced its second-generation HyperAdapt 2.0 kicks. It's also an interesting approach that looks beyond what some might consider a gimmick. Self-lacing is only part of the equation.
"To make things even more athlete-friendly, users can make on-the-fly adjustments with their Apple Watch. The technology was built to train smart and is designed for modern mobility. It can handle the urban landscape and the gym making it right for the daily routine of a connected generation," Puma says.
The self-lacing shoes also feature a breathable upper section and an "industrial grade" fiber support system with a forefoot lockdown band for a snug fit. Perhaps just as importantly, the current version looks like a sneaker, the for the most part, rather than some far-off future concept.
Of course, this is also a way to sell pricier shoes. The first footwear to sport Puma's Fi technology will be available in 2020 for $330. That's expensive, though it's $20 cheaper than Nike's latest HyperAdapt sneakers.