DEBATE: With Nike coming up with new self-lacing trainers, is this really a good use of tech talent?

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics
During a game will athletes use their smartphone to adjust their shoelaces? (Source: Getty)

With Nike coming up with new self-lacing trainers, is this really a good use of tech talent?


Rowan Kisby, strategy director at digital transformation agency MullenLowe Profero, says YES.

This is a much more interesting story than simply the link to those Nike shoes worn in the 1989 Back To The Future sequel. Because this isn’t only about self-tying laces: it signals the first move in a whole new data game from Nike.

This launch hints at an approach to sport performance technology that could unlock a new, incredibly rich data layer for the brand, beyond its ubiquitous coaching app. Every shoe adjustment is a data point – data that could one day drive everything from personalisation to new product development.

I can easily see a future shoe release with greater functionality, that learns and adapts more intuitively, having decent consumer appeal – whether it’s providing the wearer with that extra edge in the moment, a comfort boost, or data-driven nudges that help prevent personal injury.

Will we all have a pair by the year’s end? No. But I’d bet that this is the first move in a longer game, and one that’s well worth watching.


Sophie Lewis, chief strategy officer at marketing agency VMLY&R, says NO.

I love a story that makes me laugh. It’s a bleak world out there, after all.

This is a product for trainer and tech nerds – who grew up on Back To The Future and want the shoes to match.

The “functional” story according to Nike is brilliant: “During a basketball game, the athlete’s foot changes, and the ability to quickly change your fit by loosening your shoe to increase blood flow and tighten again for performance is a key element that we believe will improve the athlete’s experience.”

So during a game, athletes will use their smartphone to, wait for it, adjust their shoelaces? It reads like an April Fools’ story.

Nike is better than this, as proven by its ad campaign featuring US sports star Colin Kaepernick. This is a PR stunt, not a product answering a real need. It’s a tech story in a tech bubble.

With global warming, Brexit chaos, political crises, and food shortages being just a few of the issues of today, I cannot help but borrow from Jay-Z: “I’ve got 99 problems, but doing up my laces ain’t one.”

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