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Magical Spy Sneakers

It’s a bit of a wonder that communism hasn’t fallen to its knees, screaming, “You win!” at Nike. Since 2006, the company has implanted tracking sensors into its line of Nike+ sneakers, a practice you would think certainly has political implications.

by Liz Armstrong
Jul 12 2012, 2:40pm

It’s a bit of a wonder that communism hasn’t fallen to its knees, screaming, “You win!” at Nike. Since 2006, the company has implanted tracking sensors into its line of Nike+ sneakers, a practice you would think certainly has political implications. A couple of weeks ago, the Hyperdunk (basketball) and Lunar (training) both received the Nike+ treatment with an updated "pressure sensor," becoming the Hyperdunk+  and Lunar TR1+ respectively with glow-in-the-dark details. Both shoes boast sensors embedded in the “corners” of the sole and a processor in the middle that uploads all its information wirelessly to an app in your phone. This information includes how fast you’re going, your reps, and how high you’re jumping. It also calibrates your capacity for greatness based on ability and comparative effort. In other words, it knows how hard you’re trying. Drop a thousand crates of them on North Korea and it’s curtains for their labor camps.

On one hand, it’s a little scary: these shoes are kind of spying on you. Especially since the app also encourages you to upload showoff videos, and compete against others. Embed a GPS in these sneakers and suddenly you have a device that effectively puts you in jail while making you feel like you’re free. We don’t really know where all this information is going, do we? But whatever, honestly, that dark paranoia melted away after I put them on. I am used to wearing heels every day. It was extremely foreign to me to buckle down and purchase flat sandals this summer, so to wear actual sneakers is like an epiphany for my feet. These shoes were incredible (and disclaimer: no one at VICE or at Nike harassed me to write about the experience, by the way, which is extremely rare)—light, springy, insanely comfortable, and somehow exciting. They felt like I was wearing a space-age fish. I have no idea what that actually means, as up until this point I had been legitimately terrified of fish. Yes, somehow this sneaker not only lazered through my conspiracy fantasies, it also cured a phobia. Powerful.

I got to wear the sneakers after Nike took a bunch of us out for a day. I was scared that I was going to have to show off my non-existent basketball skills to a downtown arena full of sneakerheads and Lakers fans; instead, as it turned out, they brought us to a slam dunk contest. (Newsflash: Slam dunk contests are fucking cool.) We were split into groups, told to put on some workout clothes, and the next thing I know it’s almost midnight, I’m on a rooftop in Hollywood wearing these shoes, I’ve got a personal trainer amping me up through an obstacle course that was easier than the one my sister and I did when we were ten, but it still felt like such a major thrill and accomplishment that I wanted to do it twice. Seth Meyers was there lightly making fun of my ungraceful jumping skills and I was cheer-screaming my team on and wondering why the hell I didn’t try to go to college on an athletic scholarship for jumproping, and if it’s maybe not too late for that.

There’s always a promise inherent in fashion—no matter if it’s that you’ll appear so rich and influential because you don’t even need to be able to walk in whatever crazily unwearable thing you’ve got on, or if it’s that you’ll come off as so confident you don’t give one tiny shit about what you look like and can therefore go running around in filthy ripped jeans and a t-shirt your underams have burned holes through. Sneakers are a fine line between fashion and function. And in these particular ones, there’s encouragement. But maybe I just say that because I’m not forced into smiling while performing elaborate plays for my eternal President.

@lizzyarmstrong