Nike is going back to the future.
The sneaker maker on Thursday said it has created a limited-edition shoe based on a glowing pair that appeared in the popular 1989 movie "Back to the Future II." The 2011 Nike Mag is designed to be an exact replica of the fictional sneaker, including a glowing Nike name on the strap. But unlike the movie version, these shoes won't lace themselves.
Nike will release 1,500 pairs of the 2011 Nike Mag sneaker for auction on eBay and donate all proceeds to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's disease research. Fox famously played Marty McFly in the "Back to the Future" time-travel trilogy, where he wore the shoes during a visit to the year 2015.
"It hasn't gone unnoted by us that there is something special about that shoe and, of course, the movie," said famed Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, who helped design the original shoe and worked on the latest version.
Limited-edition shoes can draw as much, if not more mania, as a new movie or comic book release. Fans obsessively track the latest news and are willing to camp out all night or spending hundreds or more for a single pair online.
Nike's collector sneaker has been long awaited by shoe collectors and movie fans, who have been urging the company to make them ever since the movie was released. There were roughly eight or ten pairs used in the movie, some of which are in Nike's possession and a few that collectors somehow got their hands on.
Owning them, or even seeing a pair of them, has become a singular pursuit for some fans. There was even an online campaign a few years ago called "McFly 2015, Make it Happen" that gathered thousands of signatures to convince Nike to bring the McFly shoe back.
"This is the biggest thing that has happened to sneakers since Michael Jordan, hands down," said Matt Halfhill, an avid shoe collector who runs the website nicekicks.com and flew from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles for the unveiling of the shoe on Thursday hours after Nike contacted him. "Other than the birth of one of my children, I wouldn't have missed this for anything."
Nike Inc., based in Oregon, decided more than four years ago to create the shoe, but was unsure when a pair would be ready. Unlike the shoes in the movie, the real-life versions had to be designed for day-to-day use. For instance, the design used in the movie required Fox to wear a battery pack with wires running down his pants to light the shoe, which was the best technology available at the time.
Hatfield said the Nike Mag has been difficult to develop and the electrical systems, which illuminate the shoe for up to five hours, have been one of the most challenging things the company has ever done in footwear. But the timing seemed perfect to bring the shoe back to support a bigger idea.
That Nike is releasing the shoe in 2011 enables it to take advantage of a matching grant for the foundation. Google founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki have offered to match all donations to the Michael J. Fox Foundation up to $50 million through the end of 2012.
"The project is exciting to me because it brings together three very passionate audiences: the Parkinson's community, sneakerheads and 'Back to the Future' fans," Fox said in a statement. "With their support we can accelerate our objective of finding a cure for Parkinson's."
Nike also has created a faux "lost scene" from the film to promote the shoe that includes original cast members Christopher Lloyd and Donald Fullilove, who will be joined by basketball star Kevin Durant and Nike's Hatfield.
The auction begins Thursday and will end Sept. 18.