Nike has a plan to replace the tried-and-true shoehorn.
While the sneaker giant’s recent innovations dabble in augmented reality, social media messaging and 3-D textile printing, Nike’s latest patent for footwear takes on the simple task of putting on shoes.
According to a patent filed in May, Nike is working on footwear that includes a “rotatable conveyor element” in a space between the insole and upper. The rotatable conveyor is designed to “rotatably engage a body part of the wearer as the foot enters the space and draw the foot into the space.”
In layman’s terms, the treadmill-inspired contraption is intended to help the wearer slide into their shoes without friction. Nike explained that the invention would eliminate the need to grip shoes with hands or the use of temporary devices such as a shoehorn, which Nike said would “passively oppose the insertion of the foot.”
Nike said the conveyor element can be applied to one shoe or a pair, and be powered on and off. The patent includes a “controller mechanism” that Nike describes as “a switch or mechanism to detect the presence of the foot.” The switch may be located so that the foot triggers the switch when the foot enters the shoe, or the switch may be accessible so that the wearer can trigger the switch.
The invention could bring a new level of convenience to consumers who are already fixated on footwear with stretch knit uppers and easy slip-on silhouettes.
What’s more, Nike’s innovation could help those with disabilities or who have difficulty donning shoes.
Nike introduced the laceless LeBron Zoom Solider 8 Flyease in 2015, inspired by Matthew Walzer, a teen with cerebral palsy who wrote to brand about his concerns of being unable to tie his own shoes in college. A year later, Nike debuted its first self-tying shoe, the HyperAdapt 1.0. The shoe was touted as the “first fully functioning athletic shoe that electronically adjusts to the contours of your foot via adaptive lacing technology.”
Adaptive footwear continues to be an area of focus for Nike—and for the footwear industry as a whole.
Kizik Design introduced Foot Activation Shoe Technology earlier this year, designed to conform to the wearer’s foot without buckles, snaps or laces. “Unlike a slip-on, Kizik shoes are a step-in automatic sneaker that give you a custom fit without using your hands,” Kizik president Pat Hogan, explained.
Startup ZeroTie recently launched a patented hands-free technology for footwear that removes the need to bend over and manually tie laces. Founder Greg Johnson was inspired to make the shoe after he witnessed his mother, who suffered from arthritis, struggle to tie her shoes.