Sunday, July 6, 2014

Its A Sneaker Thing Part 4 - Modding MAGs

The NIKE MAG was first seen in the 1989 film BACK TO THE FUTURE Part II. The shoe was a Hi-Tech design that [in the film] form fitted to the wearers' feet with "power laces".  The MAG became known as the greatest shoe never made. 
In 2011, NIKE released a replica of the shoes with some 'improvements' over the original screen used shoes.  There was 1510 pair made and the shoes were auctioned on eBay with proceeds going to the MJF Foundation.  The average price of these shoes were many thousands of dollars leaving fans of the shoe feeling a little disappointed they missed their chance to own a pair.  

In 2012, a Chinese made replica came available for a fraction of the cost of the genuine article and whilst well made, are not perfect.  The purpose of this blog is to document the modifications I have made to them to make them more screen accurate.  

My Replica MAGs 

 Out Of The Box

The shoes are presented in a yellow box similar to that of the 2011 NIKE MAG release.  Some of these errors with these shoes can be corrected by DIY and some parts just can't be corrected without re-building the entire shoe.  

Upgrading The Ankle Buckle

The factory made Ankle Buckle is quite flat.  The part I have used is a 3D printed [on the right] part that can be found online.  It seems to fit perfectly over the factory part and I had used it to conceal the 3V power supply which provides enough to power the lights in the Sole,  Heel Cup and Ankle Strap.  

Slimming the Toe
One thing that gives the MAG its unique look is the flat clean toe. The original design listed this a "sock type" because there was no toe box used on the screen used shoe.    

Many boots have a clean toe, but they also have the traditional boot shape and these replicas have been made with that boot look [original on right] making them look like "moon boots".  The easiest way to correct this is to heat the toe box up and reshape it.  Size pending, you may get a smooth taper or have to flatten the toe.  I wanted the "sock type" look of the movie shoe, so I flattened mine.    

Lighting the Strap

I cut out the back part out of the factory ankle buckle to allow it to hold 2 AAA batteries.  I have cut out the stamped logo and replaced it with a clear and black version that can be back lit.

Upgrading the Wiring

The original wiring in the shoe is very fragile and parts of mine failed after just a few days wearing.  After removing the soles, I decided to replace both the wire and LEDs.

A New Tongue  

One part that both the 2011 MAG and these replica MAGs have is a short tongue.  I have made a custom replacement part to help make these shoes look closer to those seen in the film.  The factory replica tongue is made from a stretchy fabric where the 2011 and the screen used MAG features a leatherette part.  My new tongue is made a from leather look vinyl with a stitched ribbon edge.  The top part is about 20% longer than the original.    


The original sole features translucent parts that are made from a tough rubber.  Unfortunately, it seem this rubber is not UV stabilized and the rubber turns yellow rapidly.  The shape is also not correct with a vertical outside edge.  I wanted to correct this to be closer to the shape of the proper outrigger soles the real shoes have.    

To do this, I have created a new master part that I have been able to mold and cast. The new part is cast in clear elastomer and features the correct pyramid tread on the base and the correct "waffle" pattern on the sides.  The photos [above 3] show my prototype in water clear elastomer along with the base of the master part that I used to make the molds. 

Glow In The Dark
After a few electrics fails, I decided to remove all the wiring and go with a Glow In The Dark additive for mixing into clear elastomer.  I dub these 'solar powered" as they only need to be exposed to bright light for a short time to glow.  The image above was taken with a phone camera in a fairly bright room after exposure to sunlight for less than 1 minute.   

Colour Chart 1
The colour of the light is CYAN which is made from equal amount of GREEN and BLUE.

As mentioned, there are a few things that can not be corrected on these shoes. I have listed all the things that CAN NOT be improved and they are -

CUFF:  This is stitched directly to the collar and can not be corrected without making new uppers.

PULL HOLES:  These are cut wrong and sewn around.  Like the cuffs, these can't be corrected without making new uppers.

SWOOSH:  This part is incorrect in shape and slightly too large. Because it is recessed, it can not simply be removed and replaced.

SEAMS: The real MAG has only two seems, one up the back of the shoe and other on the inside of the side centered between the 4 laces.  On these replicas, the side seam is too far forward being between the 1st and 2nd [from the toe] laces.  The back seam should go all the way up to the cuff.  On the replica, there is a 3rd seam where the top of the collar is joined.  Although this seam is hidden by the Ankle Strap it should not be there.       

LACES: These are too wide although, I actually prefer these over the width of the laces on the real shoe.

A Detailed Look At The Changes 

HEEL CUP and MIDSOLE were originally listed here as parts that could not be upgraded.  The Heel Cup is a good part, just slightly undersized.  Both the heel Cup and Mid-Sole are made from a grey rubber that is too dark.  One of the more controversial mods I have done is to pop the Heel Cup out of its slot on the inside of the Mid-Sole and attach it to the outside of the Mid-Sole.  I then built it up with layers or rubber to make it larger.  Both the Heel Cup and Mid-Sole were then coated in a light grey rubber.  I also re-did the splatter and made larger MAG letters using an Aqua rubber.  Unlike paint, these will not crack, peel or scrape off.  

 Colour Chart 2