Back To Future Part II made America want three simple things from the 21st century: flying cars, hoverboards, and shoes that automatically lace themselves up.
I think speak for everyone when I say we can wait a little longer for the flying cars (at least until Elon Musk merges SpaceX with Tesla). And hoverboards might be a little too “flies in the face of known physics” to be realistic. But self-lacing shoes? That should be easy. It’s ridiculous that, in 2016, we’re still tying little bows on our feet like we’re 19th century British bankers putting on a pair of Oxfords.
However, the future of footwear looks bright. Some tech companies are creating shoes that will make your toes feel like they’ve climbed into tiny time machines.
Here are the coolest smart shoes that are coming out soon.
Sneakairs: Autopilot For Your Feet
Google Maps has empowered anybody to weave their way through a foreign city as adeptly as a local. But it comes at the price of a cool experience. Instead of gawking at the unfamiliar buildings, people, and landmarks, you’re forced to keep one eye on your phone, lest a wrong turn put you in a part of town the U.S. Department of State specifically warns against entering.
The Sneakairs solve that problem by promising hands-free navigation. Simply enter your desired destination on your phone, stick it in your pocket, and start walking — your shoes will lead the way. When it’s time to turn left, your left shoe subtly vibrates. When it’s time to turn right, you’ll get a mild tingle in your right foot. If you walk too far, the Sneakairs vibrate twice so you know to find your way back to your path. When you arrive at your destination, they vibrate three times.
Now you can soak up the local culture on your stroll, and let your shoes point the way. Right now the Sneakairs are just a prototype being tested by the airline easyJet. But they might be more widely available if vibrating feet becomes the new way to walk in a city.
Iofit: Kicks To Find Your Center
How’s your form when lifting weights or swinging a 4-wood on the golf course?
Unless you spring for a coach to help you perfectly align your body when exercising, your answer is probably, “I think I’m good, but I have no idea.” And even if you are getting tips from a pro, they may not be able to see subtle weight shifts that are hurting your performance. The Iofit is designed to help you achieve better balance while you’re exercising. When you go deep while doing squats on leg day, your shoes will tell you if you’re unconsciously favoring one side over the other. If you’re teeing up to smack a golf ball 300 yards, they can tell you if you’re perfectly centered before you start your backswing.
Digitsole: For The Marty McFly-Inspired Hypebeast
Now, this is the futuristic footwear that Doc Brown promised us.
Digitsole has a host of neat data-collecting and comforting-enhancing features. If you want warm tootsies if they get cold (they can heat your feet up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit). If you want a more accurate step count than a wearable on your wrist, Digitsole can literally count your steps. They also measure the distance you walked and calories burned.
And most important of all: they automatically tighten on your feet, just like McFly’s Nikes.
Do they look dorky? Well, there’s a thin line between weird and fashion-forward. They look good if you make them look good. But if they’re too ostentatious for your style, Digitsole also makes more conventional looking sneakers.
Lechal: Finding Your Way, Fitness, and Friends
Like Sneakairs, Lechal makes a pair of shoes that can help you navigate unfamiliar terrain. They’re equipped with two pods that attach to either side of your shoes and tell you where to turn. But they also include fitness features like steps, calories, and distance travelled. If your travel partners happen to wear Lechals too, you can take advantage of the Group Journey feature. While you’re all walking to the same destination, you can track each other’s path en route.
Under Armour SpeedForm Gemini 2 Record Equipped: Fitness Feet
Is the SpeedForm Gemini 2 Record Equipped as innovative as its unwieldy 10-syllable name? This is a fitness shoe designed specifically for runners. It pairs with the app MapMyRun and helps you track important running metrics, like time, distance, pace, and split times. Oddly, though, it doesn’t track cadence. Essentially, it gives you all the same stats that you expect with a running watch, but it’s built straight into your shoe.
Shiftwear: Digital Billboards You Can Strap To Your Ankles
Let’s get down to brass tacks: is anyone making shoes that will make you look like a fashionable time traveler? If you’re mostly concerned with aesthetics, then take a look at Shiftwear. These shoes actually have a programmable screen on the side. Just select any animation or image you want with the included app, and they’ll appear on your shoes. Want to wear a cool animated inkblot design? Go ahead. Want your shoes to show off Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam? Do it. Did your basketball team lose and you want to express your grief by putting crying Jordans on your shoes? You shouldn’t, but it’s a free country and Shiftwear will be able to let you do it, so knock yourself out.
You can even plug in your own designs, so you can make your Shiftwear match your outfit from day to day. The shoes are expected to ship this fall.