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Inside Nike's Innovation Kitchen: HyperAdapt 1.0

Guardians of the technoverse, WIRED, were recently issued a golden ticket to the sneaker world, gaining access to the inner sanctum of Nike’s Beaverton HQ – the Innovation Kitchen. It’s a rare privilege to be allowed into the facility, a place where a select few Swoosh employees conduct the secretive blend of science and wizardry that results in the breakthrough technology Nike continually churn out. Opening the doors to the chamber of secrets, Tinker Hatifeld and his cohort showed off their latest innovation – 28 years in the making – the Hyperadapt 1.0.

Marty McFly's Nikes in Back to the Future II.

In 1988 Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker were given the task of dreaming up the shoe of the future, which was to be featured in the blockbuster sequel to Back to the Future. Little did they know at the time, but the science fiction concept they imagined would become one of Nike’s longest ongoing R&D projects – taking a dedicated team countless hours, as well as what Parker recently described as ‘a considerable amount of R&D dollars.’ Sadly, the shoes that Michael J. Fox slid into on set had no such feature – what they did have was a Hollywood special effects team.

Senior Innovator Tiffany Beers has been heading up the project since 2005, free from the shackles of deadline or budget. By 2007 the team had overcome a few hurdles and had the first prototype in hand. It was big and cumbersome, having to house large moving parts and a power unit, so it wasn’t a very practical design but it was the first milestone and allowed Nike to take out a patent for their automatic lacing system. The concept involved a series of cables, a motor, a battery and a few LEDs. Thanks to advances in technology and unabated dedication, they were on the road to the Hyperadapt 1.0.

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Then came the moment we’re sure still stings in the memory of sneakerheads around the world, in 2014 Hatfield announced that the self-lacing shoe would be ready the following year. What could be better, just like the movie, the future would arrive just in time. Beers and her team went all in, they dedicated themselves night and day to refining the tech – and not long after that Tinker and Mark had enough of an idea to get started on the design. But as we all know, 2015 was not the year of the self-lacing shoe, we’d have to wait.

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The shoe’s design needed to focus on the tech to ‘make “power laces” more of the hero…’ as Parker put it. He and Hatfield worked to develop a simple design, something that wouldn’t tire as the years passed but still looked contemporary. Although the shoe was in final stages of prototyping in 2015, it was the top dogs of the Swoosh that weren’t convinced. They couldn’t see exactly how it would benefit the athlete, they needed more than just fancy electronics. With the help of the Sport Research Lab the shoe was tested and tweaked, while masses of data was collected to prove its potential by measurably improving athletic performance. In March of this year the world finally had confirmation of the Heperadapt 1.0. Pictures emerged and the internet buzzed – now, after months of religiously checking Nike’s newsfeed for any mention – the shoe has a release date.

It’s rare that a company can release a product with the potential to change the direction of an industry. It might not force traditional laces into obsolescence, but we’re pretty sure the sneaker world will remember the day the Nike Hyperadapt 1.0 first went on sale – November 28, 2016.

Head over to WIRED to get the full story of what went down the day they visited Beaverton.

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