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The Hacksmith: Self-Tying Sneakers

By The Hacksmith

This project was created by Engineering Superheroes of Hackmith Industries.


With the first movie in the Back to the Future series being 35 years old, it seems fair to call Marty McFly's adventures a bonafide sci-fi classic. Generations of viewers have come to adore the adventures of McFly as he moves through time, seeing some incredible technology that The Hacksmith is working to bring from the silver screen into real life.

In Back to the Future Part 2, Marty McFly gets a pair of Nikes with power laces. The 2015 future that Marty visited in the movie had flying cars, large 3D holograms, and dehydrated food that grew over 10 times its size when cooked. We’re several years past that date now, and technology doesn’t look quite as advanced as it was seen in 1989.

However, in 2016, Nike created the “Mags” self-tying sneakers, modeled after the shoes in Back to the Future: Part 2, but those were a collectible series, and Nike made only 89 pairs. Those shoes are now going for over $40,000 in auctions. Even mass-produced, self-tying sneakers for consumers have only very recently come down from $700 to around $350.

The steep price of self-tying sneakers, paired with James’ dislike of and possible inability to tie shoelaces, gave Hacksmith Industries an idea. Why not design their own?


How Does it Work?

Like Nike’s consumer model, this design centers around an electric motor that pulls the laces in a circle to tighten them and reverses its spin to loosen them. The laces are fastened to a spool that is spun by the motor, which is powered by a 12V 450mAh LiPo battery.

The motor is controlled by an Arduino Nano paired with a Adafruit motor control breakout board. There are buttons to loosen and tighten the laces that correspond with LEDs to let the wearer know which direction the motor will spin so they don’t accidentally over-tighten them.

To fit the circuit into the shoe, a significant portion of the sole had to be removed. This caused the sole to lose most of its structural integrity, so a stainless steel insert was laser cut to fit inside the shoe like a Dr. Sholl’s insert.

Schematic and BOM



More Arduino-Controlled Hacksmith Creations

The Arduino is typically the go-to controller for the Hacksmith’s “Make it Real” projects. Find more on at the links below!

Key Parts and Components

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