“Immensely disappointing”: Nike killing app for $350 self-tying sneakers 

Nike Adapt BB sneaker
Enlarge / Nike announced the Adapt BB as “a Self-Lacing Basketball Shoe” with app-controllable LEDs.


In 2019, Nike got closer than ever to its dreams of popularizing self-tying sneakers by releasing the Adapt BB. Using Bluetooth, the sneakers paired to the Adapt app that let users do things like tighten or loosen the shoes’ laces and control its LED lights. However, Nike has announced that it’s “retiring” the app on August 6, when it will no longer be downloadable from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store; nor will it be updated.

In an announcement recently spotted by The Verge, Nike’s brief explanation for discontinuing the app is that Nike “is no longer creating new versions of Adapt shoes.” The company started informing owners about the app’s retirement about four months ago.

Those who already bought the shoes can still use the app after August 6, but it’s expected that iOS or Android updates will eventually make the app unusable. Also, those who get a new device won’t be able to download Adapt after August 6.

Without the app, wearers are unable to change the color of the sneaker’s LED lights. The lights will either maintain the last color scheme selected via the app or, per Nike, “if you didn’t install the app, light will be the default color.” While owners will still be able to use on-shoe buttons to turn the shoes on or off, check its battery, adjust the lace’s tightness, and save fit settings, the ability to change lighting and control the shoes via mobile phone were big selling points of the $350 kicks.

Despite the Adapt BB being Nike’s third version of self-tying sneakers and its most widely available one yet, the sneakers look doomed to have some its most marketed features bricked. Nike still maintains other mobile apps that are directly tied to shoe functionality, like its shopping app and Run Club app for tracking running.

Disappointed sneakerheads

Adapt BB owners have shared disappointment after learning the news. One Reddit user who claimed to own multiple pairs of the shoes called the news “hyper bullshit,” while another described it as “immensely disappointing.”

Some hope that Nike will open-source the app so that customers can maintain their shoes’ original and full functionality. But Nike hasn’t shared any plans to do so. Ars Technica asked the company about this but didn’t hear back ahead of press time.

One person going by Maverick-1776 on Reddit wrote:

These shoes were so expensive when they came out. I don’t see why it’s such a big deal to keep supporting the app. It doesn’t mean they need to dedicate a dev team. …

Hopefully the app doesn’t disappear if you already have it installed. I like using the app to see how much battery is left, or just messing around with the LEDs.”

Reddit’s Taizan said companies like Nike should “offer alternatives or put out stuff to the public domain when they do these things,” adding: “Sustainability also involves maintenance of past products, digital or not.”

“I’m out. Fuck ’em.”

Some may be unsurprised that Nike’s attempt at commercializing the shoes from Back to the Future Part II has run into a wall. Nike, for instance, also discontinued NikeConnect, its app for $200 NBA jerseys announced in 2017 that turned wearers into marketing gold.

Casual sneaker wearers would overlook the Adapt BB’s flashy features, but the shoe had inherent flaws that could frustrate sneaker fanatics, too. It didn’t take long, for example, for a recommended software update to break the shoes, including making them unwearable to anyone who wanted to tighten the laces (at the time, Nike said the problem affected a small number of owners). Nike’s tech inexperience played a role, as the company’s testing reportedly didn’t fully consider all the different phone models in use and their varying Bluetooth capabilities.

Nike’s borked shoe update was early warning of what happens when expensive products are tied to technology run by companies with limited tech chops.

Reddit user rtuite81 called Adapt’s sunsetting “entirely expected, but frustrating.” They added:

I knew this day would come … I just didn’t think it would be so soon LOL. I’ve only had these for a little over a year and worn them about 15 times. Hopefully my current phone outlasts the shoes.

This year, we’ve reported on customers of numerous companies—including Amazon, Oral-B, and Spotify—that have disappointed early adopters of their ambitious tech-tied projects.

As we’re currently seeing with AI, corporations are eager to force technology into products that don’t necessarily need it in order to set themselves apart and make money. But this makes customers inadvertent test subjects for products that are inevitably dropped. And as customers like Reddit’s henkmanz get let down, they lose faith in such trendy products:

I’m done with products supported by apps, now. If you can’t trust a multi-billion dollar company like Nike to continue support for a sneaker, how can you trust a toaster maker [or] an automaker? I’m out. Fuck ‘em.

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