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Nike’s ‘First Native Web3’ Shoe Could Spawn Pokémon Go-Style Games

Is the future of footwear here? The Web3 fashion startup Nike bought last year seems to be pushing that narrative with a tech-packed, dual-world drop.

Until 11 a.m. Eastern Time Friday, sneakerheads all over the U.S. can sign up for a raffle to be able to buy the first virtual shoe of its kind in the form of an NFT (non-fungible token) to be redeemed for a pair of new Nike Cryptokicks iRL (in real life) sneakers. These state-of-the-art RTFKT kicks that connect to users’ smartphones are available for the blockchain price of just 0.34 ETH (Ethereum Currency), which translates to approximately $417 U.S. dollars.

Hailed as the first shoe to merge the digital and physical worlds, this sneaker—and its corresponding NFT—is limited to just 19,000 models to be constructed in each reality.

“In the shadows created by core fires lays the Blackout. It’s slick, shifty, forever escaping grasp or understanding. It is said that those who wear it can travel between worlds undetected,” the RTFKT website says. “The Cryptokicks iRL is the first native Web3 sneaker featuring the latest technology which combines decades of Nike Sneaker innovation, with RTFKT’s vision to merge the digital and physical worlds.”

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RTKFT (pronounced ‘artifact’) is the digital and fashion collectible company, recently acquired by Nike, that launched in 2020 and aims to converge the digital, virtual and crypto worlds into real-world fashion.

To qualify to purchase one of the 19,000 Cryptokicks iRL sneakers that will exist in the material world, consumers need only to log on to the RTFKT website for “the drop” that will first requires prospects to sign up for an RTFKT account. Interested buyers will also need “a cryptocurrency wallet supported by WalletConnect, at least .5 ETH ($625 USD) in your wallet and a U.S. shipping address.”

Consumers whose entry is picked in a “private mint selection”—or raffle—on Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m. ET can then purchase 1 Lace Engine NFT and then redeem—or as they say in the crypto world, “burn”—that token for one pair of the shoes in any of the four “colourways” on offer, including Blackout, Stone, Ice and Space Matter.


The “mint,” which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “a place where money is coined,” gives way to the “forging” process, which will systematically turn “burned” tokens into physical shoes. The “colourways” chosen by all 19,000 “minters” will be tracked on a live “leaderboard” on the RTFKT website. The data retrieved from this “leaderboard” will inform Nike how many shoes of each “colourway” to make at its “factory.”

If any of the 19,000 shoes remain after Dec. 14, they will be available for sale on the RTFKT website for 0.5 ETH, or approximately $625 at current market value.

In other words, the Cryptokicks iRL is masquerading as a marketing scheme for a limited release product that requires prospective customers to sign up for a cryptocurrency account, deposit money in a crypto wallet and then use that to buy a shoe that comes in the U.S. Mail. If any shoes remain after the push, they will still be for sale on the site at a higher price.

Someday thereafter, presumably, more of these shoes will be produced and made available to consumers via traditional U.S. tender.

While the marketing behind the Cryptokicks iRL may be a bunch of newspeak coated on top of the same old mumbo jumbo, the shoe itself may actually be revolutionary.

An homage to Tinker Hatfield, the famous overseer of Nike’s “Innovation Kitchen,” and designer of the ‘Air Mag’, this shoe features auto-lacing, enhanced lighting, haptic feedback, gesture control, walk detection, app connectivity, AI/ML algorithms and wireless charging.

The sneakers promise a pre-programmed fit that adjusts shortly after wearers start walking. They will also have iRL Quests, in conjunction with the app, which could translate to something like scavenger hunt games with others, a la Pokémon Go.

They will also come with a chip that will track back to the NFT from which they were spawned to “verify legitimacy and provenance.”