PUMA Fit Intelligence (Fi) Reveal, Unboxing, & Review w/ @BetaBay
What’s going on everybody? I’m back with another Tech Review, BUT… this one is really special… This is both a tech review and a tech REVEAL for PUMA’s new Fi or Fit Intelligence shoe platform.
You may have caught the Facebook LIVE I did a couple of years ago with Richard Lai of Engadget where we covered the origins of this technology, called the PUMA AutoDisc. If not, check it out and see where this technology started vs where it is today. There’s also more info at Puma Innovation.
So let’s set the stage. PUMA sent me these shoes a couple of weeks ago and while I’m going to be as unbiased as possible, I was pretty stoked to be the first person in the world to be given these. For continuity and because he’s one of the best tech reviewers in the world, I brought Richard Lai of Engadget back into the fold to see his thoughts as well. You can check out Richard’s review here.
The idea I had when I first heard about Fit Intelligence was … ‘I wonder if these can be my one pair of shoes for every part of my life… from travel to the boardroom to the gym and beyond.’ As an entrepreneur and investor, I travel… probably too much, but I’m also always trying to eke out every last ounce of my day and night while also investing in my long-term health.
So, what I’m going to walk you through today is the test I put the PUMA Fi’s through in Hong Kong and how they performed.
Let’s start out by getting off the plane and into the bullet train in Central, Hong Kong. When I’m traveling, I tend to lace, unlace, lace, and unlace again and again depending on pressure, my feet getting cold, if I have time in the lounge or have to race to the gate because I’m late… so I was excited to see how these worked in a travel setting.
Full transparency… I didn’t take a flight just to try this part of the shoe out, BUT, now that the reveal is live, I’ll be wearing these all the time and will follow up with some behind the scenes insights on my Instagram stories. Add me if you want to catch those.
Relaxing on the bullet train and getting ready to hit the streets of Hong Kong, I kept the shoes completely loose and then when it was time to get off the train and tackle the uneven, busy, and maze-like alleys of Hong Kong, I kept the shoes at a level two out of three.
The Fit Intelligence system defaults to three preset fit levels, meaning, you can tell the shoe what your maximum tightness is and it will compute what level one and two should be. Then you simply have to swipe up on the tongue of the shoe, or use the iOS app or the Apple Watch app to swipe up. You’ll see that I try all three of these lacing options at different stages of the review.
Navigating from the bullet train to the office with my carry on and backpack using Fi’s was really comfortable. I even found myself tightening and loosening on my phone, off camera, just to see how that would feel when you were in motion. It was really smooth and nice to be able to just pull out the phone and change your shoe settings without having to stop, bend over or kneel down and untie and retie your shoelaces. Those of you that follow me probably know I’m an addict for efficiency, so this was a nice surprise for me. I don’t know, but maybe I thought you wouldn’t be able to change the setting while your foot was in motion, but you can and that’s awesome!
When I got into the office, I was a few minutes late for a marketing meeting with my team, and wouldn’t have had time to change shoes by opening up my carry on. I found that just jumping into the meeting and using the iOS app to loosen the Fi’s back to zero or fully open, was a cinch.
At work, I use a standing desk and try my best to stand all day if I can, so it was really nice to have access to the Apple Watch app vs having to grab my iPhone, swipe to open, click the app then choose the level of fit I wanted. After knocking out some work, it was time to hit the gym before drinks and dinner with friends. When I was packing up, it was super simple to just raise my wrist, swipe down in the PUMA Fi Apple Watch app and then head off to the gym.
Now, for the workout… I decided this was the REAL test for shoes that had to last all day long and equally as well in every aspect of my life. So, I brought in Alan from Biorna Quantics and he kicked my butt at One Personal Training in Central to see just what the Fi’s could do. Shout out to One Personal Training for the confidential workout space!
I started out with some wind bike to warm up, some rolling and some activation exercises before hitting some box jumps. FULL DISCLOSURE… I DO NOT do box jumps! This was my first time, so I wasn’t sure what to expect and had to trust the Fit Intelligence system a lot because I could have totally fallen on my face had they not performed for me. Luckily, I cleared all the levels and was onto to squats (even the level that was up as high as my chest!).
The Fi’s had a really nice wide base which made for a solid foundation for squats. I don’t squat heavy, so I can’t speak to how they’d compare to a specialized lifting shoe, but I was really happy with how they performed here.
Then it was onto leg press. I decided to tighten up a little more here as I go heavy on this machine. While stability isn’t an issue when doing leg press, I was still happy with how the shoe maintained a good grip and a uniform fit feeling throughout.
Then it was onto hack squats and finally lunges. Lunges were something I was wondering about because the lunge movement takes a lot of transition from toe to heel. Since you don’t tighten the laces individually for the lower and upper part of the foot in the Fi’s, I wasn’t sure how they would feel or perform. Other than my legs being jello by this point and needing to drop weight to not look bad on camera, the Fi’s did great. I didn’t have to adjust or even think about them.
The Fi’s transitioned from walking to biking, to box jumps, to squats, leg press, hack squats, and lunges without any issue. I was really pleased with this.
After a hard workout, it was time to catch up with some friends for drinks and dinner. It was a simple swipe to get out of the shoes and get changed. For general walking around, I would try both level one and two for tightness and left level three only for working out.
One thing I didn’t mention. If you do want to set your tightness level further than how it comes out of the box, that’s easy to do on the shoe or via the iOS app. Once you’re at level three, simply tap and hold at the top to tighten further or tap and hold at the bottom to loosen a bit. This was a really important feature for me because everyone has a different fit preference and I liked mine a bit tighter than the tightest default level three setting for my workout and also a little tighter than the default level one setting for walking around. Anyone that decides to get a pair will be able to set this and forget it, which is great.
At drinks, it was really nice to have the Fi’s fully open without looking like your shoelaces are undone. I didn’t really think about that at the time, but there are far more instances throughout my day to day life when I’d enjoy having my shoes fully loose but obviously wouldn’t want to have my shoelaces dangling all over, looking ridiculous.
After drinks, it was off to a well-deserved dinner after a crazy long day and then back home.
A quick swipe down, slip out and then put the Fi’s on their charging dock and it was lights out for me.
Now, there is one more, really cool aspect of the shoes that I didn’t cover in the video that you should know about… the travel case. So with all of the various gadgets and wires you have to carry to live a modern lifestyle on the go, traveling with the Fi’s charging dock would be really inconvenient. PUMA thought of this and in a style that is reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods, made a portable charging case for the removable lithium-ion batteries that hide below the sole of the shoe.
I was really happy to find the little battery container so neatly hidden away under the sole and how the two batteries charged in the Travel Case so I could be sure I always had a charge no matter where I am in the world.
And speaking of charge, I wasn’t sure if the Fi’s were going to last all day while shooting this review. We started shooting at noon and didn’t finish until 10:30 pm and we were constantly opening and closing, tightening and loosening the laces. By halfway through the day, we were still at 87% charge and at the end of the day, I was still at 70%. And from a normal day in the life, I’d say I was opening and closing at least 10X more frequently, so I don’t see battery life ever being an issue.
And PUMA has made sure to add in a safety feature where the shoe auto opens when the battery gets to 3% as there’s no way to manually untie the shoes. That’s smart… I guess it would be a little freaky if you were stuck in the shoes!
Overall, I have to say that I’m really excited this reveal is now live and I can start wearing the Fi’s in my everyday life. I don’t like having to carry a separate training shoe for the gym and I loved having the laces completely loose during meetings and when I wasn’t on the move without looking like I forgot to tie my shoes. I was also really impressed by the ability to train hard and have the shoes respond just as I wanted them to.
So what comes next for the Fit Intelligence platform? I told the PUMA team that I’d love to see them upgrade to the latest BlueTooth 5.0 standard to increase the robustness and durability of the wireless connection between the shoes, the iPhone and Apple Watch. I’d also love to see a visual interface in the app that displays the exact level of fit so you can endlessly finetune and set detailed presets. And finally, I’d like to see the Fi system move into more of a sensing platform using a motion sensor, pressure sensors or something we haven’t even thought of yet! Getting fit right is super tough, but as an investor in this space, I always want more! :)
So what’s the verdict?
I’d recommend these shoes for anyone that likes to be on top of the latest tech trends, someone who likes to have an all-purpose trainer and cut out the extra shoes in their daily routine, and anyone that wants to have a taste of where dynamic fit technologies may be heading in the future.
If you want to check out the unboxing video for the PUMA Fi’s, you can check that out below.
Thanks for checking out the Reveal and Review of PUMA’s Fit Intelligence shoe platform and as always…
Keep living in beta, keep asking @betabay, and I’ll see you next time… peace!