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If you haven’t seen Nike’s new Flyease shoe, it’s worth checking out—and so is the story behind it.
Matthew Walzer, who has cerebral palsy, wrote a letter to the popular running and sport brand explaining that, due to his condition, he could not tie his shoes. An excerpt from the then-16-year-old’s letter explained, “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 everyday.”
The letter made its way to Nike’s CEO, who passed it to the company’s director of innovation, Tobie Hatfield. The two immediately started working with Walzer on a custom shoe that would not require any lacing up. Three years later this July, the Nike Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease was the result. It’s the first shoe of its kind for the brand.
“We used Matthew as a muse, which was awesome because he couldn’t believe that a big company would do something for him,” said Hatfield, according to Huffington Post.
Hatfield had already begun working with paratriathlete Sarah Reinertsen in 2006 to craft footwear for people with disabilities. Between his work with her and Walzer’s letter to the company, Hatfield was inspired to launch the new Flyease shoe, which offers rear entry with zero laces to loosen or tie—but it still offers the same amount of support. A new addition to the Lebron James Zoom Soldier line, the Flyease adds to Walzer’s collection of other Soldier shoes, which he says offer him the ankle support he needs with his condition.
Nike is already working on a running shoe that uses the same Flyease technology.