I am Marty McFly: My week in 'Back to the Future II' shoes

The future is now as Crave writer Amanda Kooser dons a glowing pair of Air Mag replica shoes and wears them everywhere for a week.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
3 min read

Back to the Future shoes
Looking good, twinkle toes. Amanda Kooser/CNET

My mother looked at my feet and shook her head. "You've been like this since you were a baby," she said. I suppose she knew I was destined for geekiness since my first breath. What sparked her comment were the shoes on my feet. The gray high-tops were all aglow. We were about to go shopping and she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to be seen with me.

I've been wearing a pair of shoes modeled after the Nike Air Mags from "Back to the Future: Part II" all week long. The shoes are officially licensed replicas (minus the Nike endorsement and swoosh) from HalloweenCostumes.com. They have the same light-gray color as the shoes Marty McFly dons as he explores the future world of 2015. The fat end caps behind the heels, high-top holes, ankle plates and lights are all there.

The shoes became available for a few brief, glorious moments before selling out in a matter of minutes. HalloweenCostumes.com expects to have a new batch in stock in early November. They cost $98.99 (about £61, AU$113) and are much more in reach for the casual "Back to the Future" fan than Nike's limited-edition replicas, which sold through eBay in 2011 with bids going into the thousands of dollars.

Missing from my replica shoes are the power laces. There are stretchy bands over the top of the foot where the laces should be, so they do look correct. They just don't lace down automatically. An adjustable Velcro cuff around the ankle lets you dial in the fit a little.

The real highlight of the design is the glowing lights along the bottom and on the outside of the heel. I walked around, shining from my feet, through several grocery stores and caught quite a few side-eye glances from people trying to get a good look without outright staring. In the checkout line, a mother stood behind me with her young girl in a cart. "My daughter's shoes light up, too," she said. "But only when she jumps on them."

I walked around in the shoes for days before anybody told me they recognized where the footwear came from. Not surprisingly, the breakthrough took place when I walked into an Apple Store and one of the employees pointed at my feet and declared, "Cool! 'Back to the Future' shoes!"

The shoes charge up via USB and give off a little over three hours of LED light in blue, red, orange and yellow. Knowing I was going to be out late one evening, I took along a backup battery pack and recharged my shoes while listening to a local band. People wanted to know why I had wires running down to my ankles. The flashy kicks were an endless topic of conversation.

The Air Mags are a little big. This is probably because they were designed for man-feet, but they're impressively comfortable. I strolled around all day in them and felt just fine, which is saying a lot for someone who normally wears minimalist shoes. They're warm, which is great for my chronically cold toes. But the best part of all is how they light up and make me feel like I should be riding a hoverboard and cheering the Chicago Cubs on to win the World Series.

We're closing in on 2015, the future year the movie is set in. We don't have time-traveling DeLoreans or much hope for the Cubs in the World Series but a working hoverboard is on the horizon. You can pledge your support for it on Kickstarter. In the meantime, flying cars are still in their infancy and power laces aren't available yet, but at least we can all wear Air Mags slightly ahead of schedule.

Back to the Future shoes at band practice
I wore the shoes to band practice. Amanda Kooser/CNET