In sneaker culture, the term technology is almost always used literally. But in most cases, the term refers to integration of new materials that optimize a shoe's comfort, functionality, or something of the sort.
However, there are instances when models are given technological upgrades in a mechanical sense. Ideas that would be a plot line in a film released 30 years ago. (Ask Marty McFly!) And in those moments, we see just how far the bar can be pushed in regards to innovation.
Of course, there's levels to this. The level being how the shoe in question fairs aesthetically. Because we've seen what happens when there's a disconnect between lofty technological gambles and how well the design actually looks.
SG revisits some models that checks off the aforementioned boxes. Shoes that introduced groundbreaking technology, while pushing the limits of style and creativity.
NBHD x UNDFTD x adidas Micropacer
Released in 1984, the adidas Micropacer was the perfect release to coincide with the era's infatuation with the future. It was pegged a runner with a built-in pedometer for calculating steps, making it one of the first smart shoes ever.
A sensor in the toe determines distance, average pace, and calorie burn, though its functionality was questionable, even by 1980s standards. Results are displayed on a small digital screen featuring two buttons labeled "mode" and "reset."
The Micropacer would see numerous re-releases over the years, with each new iteration featuring new adidas technology like an EVA midsole – not to mention colorways that incorporate materials that make it a worthwhile lifestyle selection.
The pair photographed above is a rework from Japanese streetwear label Neighborhood, who teamed up with adidas Consortium and retailer Undefeated for this 2004 release. The pair maintains a clean all-black upper with the brand’s signature skull and crossbones logo. Undefeated’s logo is also applied to the left shoe.
BAPE x PUMA Disc Blaze
Link: BAPE x PUMA Disc Blaze
The PUMA Disc Blaze model reaffirms that sneakers with mechanical components aren't necessarily digital. Here we have the world's first laceless closing system.
In 1991, the Disc Blaze technology was first debuted to the world; it took very little time for the world to become acquainted to its effectiveness. Its roots are in track and field, as Olympians like Heike Drechsler (an Olympic gold medalist for the long jump in Barcelona in 1992) and Colin Jackson (winner of gold in the 110m hurdles at the '93 World Champs in Stuttgart) were early champions of the model.
A simple twist of the nob on the upper adjusts the shoe for comfort.
PUMA teamed up with BAPE in 2016 for this bold take on the Disc Blaze, featuring BAPE’s signature camouflage print with black accents and a white speckled midsole.
The Disc Blaze is archaic in comparison to other models featured here, but in an era where laceless sneakers are common place, you have to tip your hat at the trend's originator.
Parley For Oceans x adidas Ultra Boost 3.0 "Coral Bleaching"
Parley for the Oceans, known for creating environmentally friendly products, continued its collaborative relationship with adidas with the "Coral Bleaching" collection.
Comprised of an Ultra Boost 3.0, Ultra Boost Uncaged, and Ultra Boost X, the trio of sneakers were meant to bring awareness to coral bleaching – a crisis that threatens our waters. The technological aspect lies in how this info is shared. Each model is outfitted with a NFC chip that provides more information about the adidas x Parley partnership as well as the Parley A.I.R. strategy ("avoiding" plastic use, "intercepting" plastic waste, and "redesigning" the plastic material).
Each Ultra Boost model makes use of 11 recycle plastic bottles in the upper's Primeknit upper and webbing on the heel.
Nike Air Mag
Link: Nike Air Mag
Easily the most recognizable shoe listed, the Nike Air Mag first draws nostalgia before it leaves anyone who sees it in awe. Credit that, in part, to its construction, as it features light up fixtures in the ankle strap, heel, and sole, as seen on the pair that Michael J. Fox's beloved character Marty McFly wore in Back to the Future Part 2.
The Air Mag saw an official release in 2011 via limited eBay auctions to support the Michael J. Fox Foundation. With each auction ending in thousands of dollars, the Mag quickly reached legendary status.
Its prominence only heightened when Nike re-released the shoe in 2016, this time featuring the auto-lacing technology we dreamed about. Of course, this pair will run you a hefty chunk of change, but who ever said the best things in life are free?
Nike Hyper Adapt 1.0
Link: Nike Hyper Adapt 1.0
Nike designers Tiffany Beers and Tinker Hatfield cracked the code with their beautiful creation, the Hyper Adapt 1.0. Taking a step into the future, the shoe introduced "adaptive lacing" technology that's activated by a heel sensor that, when pressure is applied, automatically tightens its laces.
Beers and Hatfield brought this model to life with E.A.R.L. technology, merging digital, electrical, and mechanical engineering to ensure proper functionality of the aforementioned details.