At a time when the world is pushing for more inclusivity in every domain, Nike has come up with something ingenious. It has designed a shoe that is “easy on, easy off”, meaning it is a hands-free shoe that can help an athlete who has “trouble getting in and out of shoes”.
According to Nike News, this inventive project was on designer Tobie Hatfield’s “radar for over three years”. And then he drew inspiration from one Matthew Walzer. Walzer was preparing for his junior year of high school in 2012, but his biggest concern was the ability to tie and untie his shoes. Per the information on Nike News website, he was “born two months premature”, with “under-developed lungs that led to cerebral palsy”. And while he overcame many of his physical limitations doctors predicted, tying his shoes remained a challenge, since he only has flexibility in one hand.
And this is precisely what prompted Walzer to write to Nike. Titled ‘Against All Odds’, the letter read: “…I have overcome many challenges in my life. Although doctors from the country’s top hospitals told my parents that I would never walk; and if I ever talked I would have a major lisp, these diagnoses proved to be false, I walk somewhat independently around my home and use crutches when I’m out or at school. I’ve also never had a speech problem. In fact, I am planning on attending college…”
“Out of all the challenges I have overcome in my life, there is one that I am still trying to master, tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscles in the body. As a result, I have flexibility in only one of my hands which makes it impossible for me to tie my shoes. My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day…”
“I know that Nike makes slip-ons, sandals and other types of shoes. However, I and many other physically challenged people are unable to wear them due to a lack of support. When I think of Nike, I think of one of America’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies. Nike is always pushing the limits, making their shoes lighter, faster and stronger by using new materials, new designs and new technologies… If Nike would design and produce basketball and running shoes with moderate support and some kind of closure system that could be used by everyone, Nike could create a shoe line that attracts people that face the same physical challenges I did and still do, yet it could still be possible for anyone to wear them.”
Walzer concluded the letter by saying that he is “always searching the web for any type of shoe brand that makes athletic shoes that provide good support, are self-lacing and are made for everyday wear or for playing sports”.
When the letter reached the right people, especially Hatfield, he reached out to Walzer and began developing prototypes. Hatfield said Walzer “was an absolute pleasure to work with”. In 2012, Nike delivered a Hatfield design to Walzer for test wearing, for which he had said: “…a shoe that, for the first time in my life, I can put on myself. When I put the shoes on every morning, they give the greatest sense of independence and accomplishment I have ever felt in my life.”
But Hatfield was not entirely done; he was determined to deliver an even better solution for Walzer and many other such athletes experiencing similar difficulties. Some years later, it led to the development of the Nike ‘FlyEase’. Per the report, FlyEase “introduces a wrap-around zipper solution that opens the back of the shoe near the heel counter, making it easier to slide the foot in and out. At the same time, the system provides sufficient lockdown and eliminates the need to tie traditional laces”.
The shoes are being hailed for the new kind of technology, which works not only for adaptive athletes but for everyone else, too! They will be “available initially via invite for select Nike Members, with broader consumer availability planned for later this year”.
Here’s how netizens reacted to the shoes:
It is great that attention has been brought back to these shoes — especially for those who were previously unaware of its existence. We hope more companies take such an inclusive approach when it comes to the sale of their products. Don’t you agree?