Nike's Senior Innovator, Tiffany Beers, was on hand at the company event seemingly named for her particular skill set: Nike's 2016 Innovation event in NYC. She fielded questions about the groundbreaking Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, a project that she and design legend Tinker Hatfield have worked on for the past decade. We spoke to her about the development of the groundbreaking sneaker.
How did the design come about?
Originally it came about from the Back to the Future shoe (Nike Mag) and Tinker Hatfield's concept for auto lacing. The overall design evolved from the WALL-E and EVE characters from the movie WALL-E. The white and blue colors and the traction pattern are all inspirations that Tinker took from that film. The Converse Chuck Taylor was another inspiration.
What were the challenges coming with a design like this?
Technically, getting it to work was very challenging. We had several, several prototypes, and some of them you'll never see because they just weren't functional. Getting the technology to work, testing it on athletes and having them validate it, was a very long process. Getting the weight right. Getting the tensioning system correct. It has Flyweave in it, it has Flywire in it and then it has the E.A.R.L. lacing system. All three of those combined is what makes it such a good fit.
How does E.A.R.L. (Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing) work?
A built-in sensor automatically adjusts the laces to your foot, and once it feels a certain level of tension it stops lacing. Regardless of the size of your foot, it’ll adapt. It’s balanced, even lacing, so even if you tighten or loosen it, it delivers consistent lockdown.
How long was the process of developing the technology?
We started and stopped. We started in 2005 and we stopped about 2007. We had built a prototype and it was just too big, but we could see a performance vision. We restarted, I think, in 2009, by building a snowboard boot that had an external mechanism on it. It was great, but again, it was too big. Then finally we had some technology breakthroughs in 2014 where the batteries were small enough, the motors were small enough and it enabled us to get it in the shoe.
What's next possible application for E.A.R.L.?
In addition to runners, we had basketball players testing E.A.R.L. in our sports research lab to get the right balance and fit for the lacing.
How long have you been with Nike?
Twelve years. I spent my first year at Nike IHM, designing and developing Air bags, and then I got into the Innovation Kitchen for a few months, until Tinker met with me and asked if I'd start this project, and then he pulled me into this group. Tinker and I have been working on this project for the better part of 10 years.