Nike responded to a request from a teenager with cerebral palsy and designed a new line of sneakers specifically for people with disabilities.
Matthew Walzer wrote an open letter to Nike in 2012, when he was 16. He said he was able to dress himself independently, but he still needed his parents to help him tie his shoes. He found that frustrating and embarrassing. He wanted to become more independent so he could attend college. Walzer is now a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Nike developed the LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE sneaker in response to Walzer’s request. Nike worked with him for three years on testing prototypes. Designers talked to other individuals with disabilities and learned that being able to put shoes on easily was just as important as the lacing system.
The new shoes are an “easy-entry footwear system.” They have a larger opening at the back to make it easier for wearers to slide their feet in and out. Instead of laces, they have a wrap-around zipper system that secures the shoes.
Nike was unable to create a universal solution because different people have varying levels of mobility. However, the company believes FLYEASE is a significant development for people who seek more independence.
LeBron Solider 8 FLYEASE sneakers began to be sold in limited quantities on Nike.com on July 16. The company is working on other FLYEASE styles.
Walzer was surprised by the response from Nike. He had expected to simply receive a letter politely acknowledging his request. He is extremely grateful to Nike for designing the new shoes.
It is encouraging to see Nike take the request of someone with a disability to heart and work to create products that can help others with similar limitations. We hope that more companies will follow suit and create products to improve the lives of people with disabilities.