So adidas semi-recently released the ace 16+ purecontrol, a soccer cleat that has no shoelaces. Or Velcro. Or buckles. Nothing. I got to try out a pair this past Friday. Overall the shoes felt great. Very snug. And quite light (220 grams per shoe, about 60 grams lighter than the average soccer cleat). They’re a bit difficult to get on, but the included shoehorn helps. This approach feels like an important development for soccer shoes, because the players wearing these—including pros like Oscar, Mesut Ozil and James Rodriguez—no longer have to worry about shoelaces distorting how they control the ball with their feet. Every touch is clean.
“Players always talk about a sock-like fit or a barefoot feeling,” Marco Mueller, one of the key product leads on the shoes, told me before I took them for a spin. “We wanted to achieve a totally new fit experience, and then also in terms of striking the ball, we wanted to create the purest execution.”
You might be thinking: This sounds cool and all, but I don’t even like soccer. Which is fine. Even though I love soccer, I’m also interested in the broader implications here. I’m not a shoe engineer like Marco, but it seems to me that there’s no reason why this same shoe can’t exist without the cleats. Which means the days of laceless footwear for every activity—basketball, cycling, cricket, drinking beer, walking around—might be coming faster than most people think. And that our grandchildren might not even know what shoelaces are. (Guess there’s one less thing for George Costanza to discuss with his girlfriends.)
In some ways this makes me sad. Tying my shoes was one of the earliest skills that I can remember mastering. If this skill becomes obsolete, I’m going to feel pretty damn old. On the other hand, it might be nice to no longer worry if your shoelaces are coming undone. It’ll also save you a few seconds each morning. Oh, and it’s great news for the manufacturers of shoehorns.