Sportswear brand Puma has introduced a training shoe with automatic lacing capability based on the company’s Fit Intelligence (Fi) technology platform, according to a Puma press release.
Puma plans to make Fi-based shoes commercially available next year, and for now is looking for "tech savvy" people to beta test the technology. Prospective testers can sign up for that opportunity through the Pumatrac mobile training app, the company stated.
The new shoe, unveiled at an event in Hong Kong, leverages a smart sensing function that learns the shape of the wearer’s foot, and a micromotor that powers a cable system that auto-laces the shoe, by swiping up or down on a Fi module. Fit can be monitored or adjusted through an iOS mobile app or Apple smartwatch.
The Puma announcement comes just a couple of weeks after Nike debuted its latest self-lacing shoe. While it is tempting to suggest that Puma’s Fi offering is a hastily-assembled reply to Nike’s announcement, it takes longer than two weeks to develop an adaptive-fit platform.
Fi is a direct descendant of AutoDisc, a wirelessly-connected adaptive-fit shoe Puma announced in 2016. Much like Nike, which announced its first commercially available self-lacing shoe the same year, Puma has spent the intervening time upgrading and refining its technology.
It remains to be seen if self-lacing shoes are the next big trend, as both brands appear to be in a mode of continuing to study demand and how to apply the technology to future shoe models. When Puma’s shoe eventually hits the market, it will come with a $330 price tag, about $20 cheaper than the Nike BB Adapt, according to a CNBC report. Nike Adapt BBs already are selling for hundreds of dollars above their list price on online marketplaces, so perhaps market demand already has been stoked.
A self-lacing shoe is just the latest interesting bit of news to come out of Puma over the last year. The company started 2018 by striking out on its own after being divested by Kering in an effort to focus more on its high-end labels including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen. The sneaker brand later posted a strong first quarter as an independent company, then named Jay-Z as creative director for its newly-christened basketball division. Puma also signed NBA rookies like DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III to endorsement deals, but its first basketball shoes weren’t ready until October, leading to the bizarre sight of Ayton playing NBA summer league and pre-season games in Nike shoes with tape covering the famous logo.