HandsFree Labs is led by Mike Pratt, who saw the need for a solution for putting on and removing shoes without the need to use hands

HandsFree Labs is led by Mike Pratt, who saw the need for a solution for putting on and removing shoes without the need to use hands

US sportswear giant Nike has made a strategic investment in Handsfree Labs, a specialist in hands-free footwear technology that enables consumers to step in and out of shoes more easily without lacing or the use of hands. 

Based in Vineyard, Utah, HandsFree's portfolio includes patented step-in shoe technologies branded as FAST (Foot Activated Shoe Technology), which HandsFree says, virtually any shoe can incorporate.

The F1 Titanium Arc is the firm's original FAST solution that provides hands-free functionality with aerospace-grade titanium. The 'Arc' acts a paddle to slide the foot into the shoe and is suitable for use in a range of footwear from sandals to oxfords and booties, according to the firm. The FAST collection is sold under the Kizik brand with HandsFree due to launch a new brand of athleisure footwear, Pilar, in early 2020. 

Nike says the strategic investment in, and exclusive intellectual property licensing partnership with Handsfree strengthens its leadership in footwear innovation.

"Our Nike FlyEase platform is aimed at providing greater access to sport for all athletes, and we believe Handsfree's 'easy on and off' technology has the potential to broaden and enhance this effort by removing barriers to play and making sport easier for more people," says Tom Clarke, Nike president of innovation.

In addition to its investment from and licensing partnership with Nike, HandsFree will roll out its technology through licensing deals with other footwear categories and manufacturers. 

Monte Deere, CEO of HandsFree Labs, adds: "HandsFree Labs is passionate about bringing the comfort and convenience of hands-free shoes to everyone, and our partnership with Nike accelerates this vision. We intend to continue our momentum of bringing hands-free technology to every type of footwear, from children's shoes to boots, and our ultimate goal is to provide access to a better footwear experience to everyone."

Nike's investment follow a series of acquisitions, most recently that of predictive analytics platform Celect in August. The move, which Nike said fuels its Consumer Direct Offense strategy of "serving consumers personally at a global scale," followed that of Israel-based fashion technology company Invertex and leading consumer data analytics firm Zodiac last year.