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The sneaker market is evolving constantly when it comes to the tech found in footwear. From thermally reactive materials through to self-lacing sneakers, designers will leave no stone unturned when it comes to innovation. In fact, even when the laces aren’t self-lacing, there have been plenty of new ideas and approaches to fastening and tightening our shoes.

In 1989, Reebok introduced a supplement to conventional lacing with its Pump technology, doing away with laces entirely when it gave the world the Instapump Fury (aka the Pump Fury) in 1994. Nike, meanwhile, had already teased the concept of self-lacing tech when the Tinker Hatfield-designed Mag appeared in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, finally realizing the idea when the HyperAdapt dropped in 2017.

But while the biggest footwear brands always look to push boundaries, it was BOA, a relatively unknown innovator based in Colorado, that managed to create the hottest lacing system in the world.

BOA was founded in 2001 by snowboarding and surfing enthusiast Gary Hammerslag. While the wind-up BOA Fit System was initially created to improve the fit and performance of snowboarding footwear, it can now be found on shoes used to golf, bike, hike, ski, and trail run. The closure system uses a distinctive wheel mechanism, which can be twisted clockwise and counter-clockwise to tighten or loosen wiring on the shoe for a fast and effortless fit.

boa fit system technology

Some of the brands BOA works with include Giro, Red Wing Shoes, Burton, Saucony, and, most notably, adidas. With the relationship between technical hardware and streetwear stronger than ever, it makes sense that BOA tech would be used by sneaker brands. It took Hammerslag months of experimentation and countless prototypes until he had a usable technology and could attract K2 and Vans, BOA’s first two brand partners back in 2001.

“We were flattered that our system made its way into fashion and lifestyle footwear,” says Eric Weis, global business unit director at BOA, who cites the system’s “attractive, more organic aesthetic,” which he says allows brands and designers to integrate it “in a way that respects the brand’s DNA and the latest material use.”

adidas, the biggest brand to use BOA, utilizes the Fit System in everything from its golfing and snowboarding collections to hiking and trail footwear, some of which has been the subject of high-profile streetwear collaborations.

boa fit system technology

“Not only have BOA redefined the closure systems of shoes for an uncompromising fit and higher performance, but the team continue to astound us with their innovation and output,” says adidas director of outdoor footwear Andrej Zwer. “Unquestionably the perfect fit,” he adds.

The first adidas outdoor shoe to feature the BOA Fit System was the 2017 adidas Terrex Conrax Boa boot. It was a success and was followed by last year’s Terrex Two Boa, a trail running sneaker that was recently the subject of a collaboration with Japanese brand White Mountaineering. This year saw the release of the adidas Terrex Agravic Boa, which is favored by record-breaking ultra-runner Timothy Olson.

“We share the same passion for top performing technical gear, and BOA are able to provide us with different fitting systems for our multi-sport needs,” says Zwer. “This, in combination with a high-level testing process, BOA keep to the highest of standards, so you know you’re getting the best of the best.”

Since its launch, BOA has turned two brand partners into more than 300 and seen its Fit System used on countless boots, shoes, and other performance products. Like many technologies and styles, the BOA Fit System became known on the performance side before being adopted by fashion and lifestyle. And with high-spec technology becoming cooler by the season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see BOA tech appear on a hyped release soon.

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Words by Jack Aldrich