When we heard about the release the new Nike Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease, we we’re beyond excited. One small movement in a very big hurdle for accessible living.
It took one teenager to get Nike’s attention and motivate the company to make a change. Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy, wrote a #NikeLetter expressing his frustrations with putting on a sneaker.
“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’ve worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe, because I need ankle support to walk. At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing.”
Since then, the company has revolutionized shoe technology with the new LeBron Flyease. The already popular basketball sneaker has new flair with a special wrap-around zipper system, thus assisting thousands of people who need help tying their shoes. The shoe still provides the stability expected of a typical high-top shoe but now wearers can literally peel back the heel of the shoe with ease and slip their foot in (and no laces to tie). – something that can drastically improve a person’s quality of life.
Nike actually began development of the new zipper system seven years ago when an employee, Jeff Johnson suffered a stroke and limited his right side mobility. Walzer’s letter inspired the Nike innovation team to pursue the challenge again: A shoe specialized to the disabled public. The shoe was finally released on July 16th 2015 to. Tobie Hatfield, the company’s senior director of athlete innovation lead the project. Hatfield says. “It’s not going to be perfect, but we will learn a lot from it and continue to make improvements.”
Regardless of the outcome, the new shoe will aid in a new level of independence for people with disabilities.