Whoever said that you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes hasn’t gotten a good look at ShiftWear’s customizable digital sneakers.
Claiming to be the future of footwear, these high-tech, high-, medium-, or low-tops plan to make use of flexible HD display panels on the each side of each shoe. But, unlike those old canvas Converse sneakers you once used to proudly showcase high school Sharpie art, ShiftWear’s panels will display both still and animated images that each wearer can create or purchase on the Shiftwear app.
Want to change it up? The smartphone app is supposed to communicate faster than three clicks of the heel, giving ShiftWear’s wearers complete creative control.
If you want animations instead of still imagery (and why wouldn't you want magical moving pictures on your feet?), the batteries powering ShiftWear’s HD panels are expected to last a month. They'll apparently stay juiced via a mix of kinetic energy, from walking in the shoes, and a wireless charging option.
Of course, every masterpiece deserves a frame—ShiftWear has proposed that the eyelet panel, heel and toe caps will be available in up to five color choices.
Because ShiftWear kicks don’t come cheap, the brand is reportedly extending the life of each pair by coating the soles of their sneakers with Kevlar fiber. Lower maintenance than your laptop, ShiftWear shoes don’t even require a fancy screen cleaner. Instead, the brand claims that their shoes will be waterproof and machine washable.
Who’s Behind ShiftWear’s Innovative Shoes?
According to the brand’s Indiegogo page, the ShiftWear team is a group of entrepreneurs, futurists, and engineers who dream of disrupting the fashion and technology industries.
We don’t have too much information on the creative minds behind ShiftWear, with company founder David Coelho as the only named representative. That lack of accountability could be unnerving to some potential customers, since it turns out that ShiftWear’s shoes don’t even exist yet.
Think ShiftWear Sounds Too Good To Be True? You’re Right.
ShiftWear began as a campaign on the crowd-funding website, IndieGoGo. The campaign was initially seeking to raise $25,000—the amount they need to “move forward with development.”
While the campaign, which closed on December 23, 2015, was wildly successful, many early-bird investors are realizing that making ShiftWear’s shoes a reality will actually require way more money.
To be clear, ShiftWear doesn’t have a working prototype—or even proof of concept design. Instead, that enticing image you see above showcases, not the technology that ShiftWear is testing, but a team member’s glorious Photoshop skills.
ShiftWear’s Success Reveals a Glaring Problem With Crowdfunding
When faced with criticism for a seeming lack of action, Coelho explained the initial $25,000 was simply what was required to boost ShiftWear beyond the prototype phase and toward mass production. "We are still aiming to continue raising funding on our website or through IndieGoGo until we reach the $2-million mark," he said.
Basically, ShiftWear is trying to raise funds by selling advance units which are backed only by a digital promise.
Coelho defends ShiftWear’s position by stating that the technology they propose to use for their shoes has been around for nearly a decade—it’s the same e-ink that Amazon uses in the Kindle.
And he’s not all hot air: The technology for ShiftWear’s shoes is undoubtedly doable. Further, e-paper has already been applied to clothes, most notably as the display technology for the Pebble smartwatch, while walk-to-charge technology has also been proposed and tested in a couple different cases.
However, more than bringing attention to promising technology, ShiftWear’s success has highlighted one of the biggest issues that crowdfunding presents: A group of ambitious creators can get an idea in their head that is too good not to pursue, and are then able to call upon the masses to help make their dreams a reality.
With more funding comes the ability to bring in more talent and momentum. However, it also puts the creators on the hook for something they may find they don't have the capabilities to deliver.
What happens to that near-$100,000 if ShiftWear doesn’t make good on their promise to start delivery in Fall of 2016?
There’s no legal recourse for backers and those who’ve already plunked down cash will be left standing in their socks—an unfortunate fate we’ve seen happen first-hand with other startup products, such as Coin Credit Card and Vessyl.
What It Costs To Get Your ShiftWear Kicks
Those who made the leap of faith to back ShiftWear in their early stages were promised a pair of the low-top L1 Classics for $150.
While the door to ShiftWear’s Indiegogo campaign has closed, they opened a window and are now offering all three styles of shoe for pre-order on their website. Pre-orders are stated to ship in Fall of 2016. Customers can choose from:
- L1 Classic (from $349) is the low-top design
- M1 Classic (from $399) has a medium rise
- H1 Classic (from $499) is a high-top shoe
Aside from how far each model comes up on the wearer’s ankle, there’s no difference between models. Each is available in five different accent colors and, while not explicitly stated, “a range of true shoe sizes.”
While the site says that the shoes will start at the given price, no information is given as to what would make the cost go up.
Note that the FAQ section of ShiftWear’s website states that the corresponding app will be free, but there’s no word on how much it will cost to purchase another ShiftWearer's e-ink creation for display on your own shoe.
ShiftWear Offers Limited Guarantees & Refunds
Per ShiftWear’s website:
Pre-orders are final and non-refundable upon receipt by ShiftWear of the corresponding payment, however, refunds will be issued if the pre-ordered products and Services are deemed by ShiftWear as undeliverable and to the extent of available assets for refund.
We are engaging in a new industry and we are attempting to produce a product of extremely high quality. When you pre-order, you are reserving your very own pair of ShiftWear Classic shoes and will receive them before the rest of the world gets a chance to purchase them at retail stores. We will have to produce and assemble materials needed to fulfill your order and as such cannot issue refunds.
In plain speak, ShiftWear promises to refund your purchase only if the products are deemed undeliverable and they feel as if they have capital left over to do so. Basically, don’t hold your breath.
ShiftWear Is Already Showing a Lack of Direction & Delivery
This realization that a prototype hasn’t yet been developed is stoking a fear that’s already begun to float around online—and discussions surrounding the sneakers have started to grow suspicious that ShiftWear bears all the marks of a crowdfunding scam.
Adding to the fire? While the ShiftWear team promises that they can make the first batch of sneakers for its early backers, there are whispers that the first-generation shoes won’t come with the features that are touted so heavily in the rest of the campaign.
ShiftWear is now claiming that the HD color display won’t come to fruition until their next campaign passes $1 million, and walk-to-charge technology and wireless charging won't be available until the $2 million target is reached.
This means that those who had faith in ShiftWear from the get go are getting shorted the range of colors that could make their HD displays that much more interesting—a realization that’s making many see red.
Should You Pre-Order ShiftWear’s High-Tech Shoes?
Is it worth risking over $349 for a pair of shoes you might not ever see? What about if you’re disappointed with ShiftWear’s fit, comfort, or quality?
That depends on how much you like to gamble. For my money, ShiftWear too risky to hand over your hard-earned money for the hope of getting some shiny shoes several months before the rest of the world.
After all, it’s not like holding off means that you’re losing out on the opportunity completely: Assuming that the team at ShiftWear stops shifting responsibility onto backers to pledge more money before they make good on promises, the shoes will be readily available for purchase in person not long after the early birds get their worm.
If you’re really feeling the need to customize some kicks, ladies can build their own shoes in a variety of styles at the highly-reviewed Shoes of Prey. While their footwear doesn’t offer changing displays, you can, at least, be assured that they’ll show up at your door.