Technology & Fashion: Part 1 - Footwear

To the average consumer technology and fashion are two entirely separate industries, rarely coexisting or collaborating. But if we pause, and think about where our clothing comes from, we will find that without technology the brands that we adore and love today would struggle to exist.

Technology - A Key Selling Point for Footwear

These days, major brands like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour are using scientific technology to position themselves as leaders of the footwear industry. To be clear, this is nothing entirely new. In 1988, Reebok was one of the first companies to use technology as a key selling point, claiming that their Reebok Pump could be quite literally pumped up to fit your foot in the most ideal way possible, giving consumers a shoe that felt more natural to the design of their feet. Never before had a shoe been designed with a fully adjustable fit, and it didn’t take long for the shoe to gain national attention: when Dee Brown pumped up his shoes right before throwing down a monster dunk in the 1991 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Reebok knew it struck gold and quickly developed a new line of Pump’s dedicated for all major sports, ranging from the tennis court to the golf course.

Since then, technology has played a major role in the development of these major brands. Nike captivated an entire generation with their line of Nike Shox, a basketball and training shoe that came out in the early 2000’s with one simple promise: you’ll jump higher than ever before with a pair of Shox on your feet. I myself had a few pair of Shox’s, and I can vividly recall the feeling of owning a pair. Did they make me jump higher? Absolutely not. But I felt pretty cool wearing them, and my 10 year old brain trusted the technology enough to buy into their promise of making me a better basketball player.

Shoes like Nike Shox, or the Reebok Pump, made large promises to the consumer with little scientific research to back it up. Yes, it was new and exciting, but did it really make a difference? There wasn’t, and still isn’t any hard evidence that the shoes truly lived up to their competitive advantages, but that didn’t stop Americans from rushing into retail stores to get their hands on the latest drop.

10 Years Later - Things Have Changed

Gone are the days of gimmicky promotions, at least to a certain extent. Industry leaders are now backing up their competitive advantages with impressive, detailed reports of scientific research that neatly outline the technology behind their high-end products. Nike continues to dominate the shoe game thanks to their advanced Flyknit series, a shoe designed by a team of engineers, and programmers. The Flyknit material is woven and ran through computers with immense processing power, creating a lightweight shoe that has taken the market by storm thanks to it’s key influencer's like Kobe Bryant.

It’s not just Nike, as Adidas continues to release shoe lines with impressive technology behind their footwear. In hopes of disrupting the industry the company infamous for it’s 3 stripes recently collaborated with BASF, the world’s leading chemical company. The two industry giants created the Ultra Boost, a shoe that is now often regarded as the most comfortable and fashionable shoe on the market. Engineers and developers blew up a material known as TPU, then remolded it in a way to capture and give back the most energy possible to the wearer of the shoe. The Boost has been so successful that Adidas has adopted it to all major sports: if you’re a basketball fan, you can currently see James Harden rocking his own version of the Boost in the NBA playoffs.

Taking It One Step Further

Following the success of these major companies, entrepreneurs and angel investors have quickly realized the benefits of combining technology with footwear. But they’re not interested in creating a shoe like the Boost. Instead, they want to take things one step further and bridge the gap between footwear and online connectivity.

Iofit has revolutionized the golfing industry with their smart shoe served to improve a golfer’s game. If you’ve ever golfed, you know how important it is to have a balanced and smooth swing, appropriately shifting your weight as you follow through and drive the ball towards the green. But if you’re like me, you struggle with consistency: you’ll drive a ball 250 yards only to come back and slice a ball 30 yards in the wrong direction. That’s where Iofit comes in. The impressive shoe deeply submerged in technology can relay data that details the golfer's motions while hitting the ball. You can find out how much pressure you’re putting on each foot, which heel is supporting your swing the most, and how evenly balanced your hips are. The shoe not only relays this data back to the user, but it also makes suggested improvements that fit the golfers style of play.

If you’re not a fan of golf but love the idea of a smart shoe and enjoy outdoor activities then you’re in luck, as the company Aria has recently developed an insole dedicated towards maximizing your comfort during outdoor activities. The smart-sole is controlled through an app on your phone that allows you to customize it however you please. It has plenty of cool features that incorporate social media and data tracking, but what really makes it stand out is it’s adjustable temperature that can either cool or warm the user. Yes, you read that right, insoles can now literally warm you up or cool you down by integrating technology and online connectivity.

Onward & Upward! 

Remember going to the mall and seeing the pop-up stores that sold shoes that had lights on the bottom of the soles? Not too long ago, that was a pretty big deal. Entrepreneurs could turn a quick profit by simply putting in some cheap LED lights that lit up when a person’s foot would touch the ground. At the time, that was kind-of-sort-of considered cutting edge technology, because there had yet to be a healthy amount of shoes deeply integrated in the tech world. But oh how things can quickly change. In 10 years, we’ve gone from gimmick to woah, it can do that?! My feet are tingling just thinking about what will come within the next decade!