Nike's self-tying Adapt BB sneakers are shoes that'll learn to fit perfectly

The smart basketball shoe will let you make adjustments on the shoe itself, or with an app.

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3 min read

Nike's new self-tying sneakers, the Adapt BB. They're paired with an app to control the laces, and they charge on a mat. 

Alfred Ng/CNET

Add these new Nike sneakers to the growing list of household items that'll need software updates. 

The Adapt BB sneaks, unveiled Tuesday and Nike's newest self-lacing shoes, sound a lot like a fitness tracker. Apart from letting you tie your shoes Back to the Future-style, they can pair with your phone to collect data on your activity and personalize how you want your sneakers to fit. 

The shoes are a sequel to Nike's HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers, released in 2016. Self-tying shoes have been a vision for Nike since 1989, when Tinker Hatfield, a famed designer with the company, imagined the Air Mags for Marty McFly in Back to the Future II. But Nike doesn't want this technology to be just a nostalgic gimmick. The sneaker giant has used the Adapt BB to introduce a whole new platform for athletes, using data to improve people's performance. 

"If our athletes choose to opt-in and share their data on the Nike Adapt platform, they can expect an ongoing conversation with Nike," said Michael Donaghu, Nike's vice president of innovation.

NBA all-star and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has been testing the sneakers for Nike over the last few months and plans to debut them on the court Wednesday, in a game against the Toronto Raptors.

Watch this: Nike's self-lacing sneaker will be worn in the NBA

"I didn't think about the shoe" while wearing it, Tatum said at a press event for Nike on Tuesday, "and I think that's what you want when you're on the court, you just want to focus on the game."

The sneakers will cost $350 and are set for global release Feb. 17. The batteries in each sneaker last 10 to 14 days, depending on how often you're using the lacing technology, Nike said. The Adapt BB also comes with a magnetic charging mat, which lets you simply place the sneakers on top to juice them up.

Everything that powers the laces -- the battery, the motor, the chips that connect to your phone's app -- is in a small box tucked inside the shoe's sole. 

The shoe also has buttons on the side for tightening or loosening laces if you don't want to use the app. Nike will continue sending updates to the app, with the first update due for release within the first week of the sneaker's availability. That update will let people set different profiles for their shoes -- one for when you want to run, for instance, and another for relaxing at home. 

You'll also need to use the app to change the colors of the lights on the sneakers. 

Shoes with software updates and charging mats sound like an unnecessary hassle, but Nike sees this as the future of footwear. As technology becomes easier to tuck into everyday objects, like we've seen with coffee makers, toilets and clothes, smart sneakers were logically the next step for Nike. 

Part of Nike's vision is something it calls "adaptive performance": the ability for a pair of sneakers to change based on your needs, as opposed to you buying a different pair of shoes for each purpose. It means Nike looking at more ways to put technology in its shoes, and pushing out software updates for new features. 

"We definitely believe that adaptive performance, products that can change from one state to the other, is in the future for Nike," said Eric Avar, a creative director at the company.  

Right now, with the data it collects, Nike is focused more on personalized fit: creating a profile for you based on how tight you like your shoes. The company says it's not collecting data on your steps or your location, but Nike is envisioning a future where athletes can opt-in on the app to analyze performance data and learn how to improve their activity.  

"Imagine training and guidance, changing in real time, personalized to each athlete's needs," Donaghu said. "We are essentially putting a mobile research lab on the feet of athletes all over the world."
First published Jan. 15, 8:35 a.m. PT. 
Update, 11:15 a.m.: Adds details from Nike's event in New York.

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