For many athletes, or as Nike puts it, "anyone with a body," putting on sneakers before a game is a thoughtless process. For others, particularly people with disabilities, the simple act of lacing up can be a challenge.
Matthew Walzer knows the struggle all too well. The Florida Gulf Coast University student was born premature and later developed cerebral palsy, a condition that effects movement and muscle coordination, especially when putting on shoes. During his junior year of high school, he feared he'd have to depend on others in college to put shoes on, so he reached out to Nike, the world-renowned sneaker company, and asked it to make a sneaker that wouldn't have him rely on others.
After Walzer wrote his letter in 2012, Nike designer Tobie Hatfield responded and, over the next three years, worked with the high school-turned-college student on a shoe to help those with disabilities.
Enter the new Flyease.
Nike explained on its site how it works:
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.
Not only does the shoe have those features, but Hatfield and Walzer took elements from LeBron James' shoe designs to create good ankle support.
“While varying levels of mobility make it difficult to provide a universal solution, we feel this is a significant development for anyone who has ever struggled with independently securing their foot within Nike shoes,” Hatfield said in a press release.
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What started out as a simple ask for help has turned into a whole new shoe and, frankly, even Walzer is shocked at how far they've come in development. According to Fast Company, Hatfield tested the design on 30 different basketball players.
"I knew what I was doing was, in football terms, 'a Hail Mary,' and to be quite honest I had very low expectations. I was expecting a very polite letter back in recognition of my request. There are not enough 'thank yous' in the world to express my undying gratitude," Walzer said.
With more than 4.4 million people with intellectual disabilities involved in the special Olympics alone, this shoe is going to do a lot of good.
By even creating the shoe in the first place, Nike and Walzer have already done some.
"This is going to help so many people," Walzer told "Fast Company." "And it's not just for the disabled community. The great thing about this shoe is whether you’re able body, disabled, have cerebral palsy or Parkinson's, anyone can wear this shoe and do anything with it."
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