Nike Launches Shoes for People with Disabilities
The Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease is Nike’s zipper-ised shoes that allow people with disabilities put it on and take it off without the challenges of having to tie their shoelaces. The shoe was first designed seven years ago after the company’s first employee, Jeff Johnson, had a stroke.
When Nike CEO Mark Parker received news about Johnson’s stroke, he immediately forwarded it to the company’s Senior Director of Athlete Innovation, Tobie Hatfield. Hatfield started the design based on Johnson’s condition as a way to help him wear the shoes without the difficulty of putting it on. While Johnson’s left was pretty functional, but his right was not.
After the shoe’s production, Johnson expressed how the shoes can benefit more people other than him. This launched Nike to further broaden the scope of the shoes. Coincidentally, a high school student named Matthew Waltzer addressed a letter to Parker stating his condition and a request for help.
Waltzer is a 17-year old high school student with cerebral palsy. When he wrote the letter to Parker back in 2012, he stated his desire to independently put on his shoes without the help of his parents to tie his shoes. He always had his parents tie up his shoe laces. From time to time, he requested classmates to help him out whenever he’s at school. Now that he’s nearing college, he wanted to do this on his own.
Nike was moved with Waltzer’s letter and began contacting him. For three years, Hatfield partnered with him in creating shoes that would allow him to easily put on. When the company sent Waltzer his first shoes from them, the teenager expressed his excitement.
The partnership didn’t stop even after Waltzer received his first shoes. Though miles apart, Hatfield received information from the teen which helped them design a better shoe. He also took note of the teen’s love for basketball, which led him to designing shoes with the zipper at the back. It was also based on Johnson’s own shoe which Hatfield first designed to have a door-like opening at the back which allowed the foot to easily slip in.
After three years, Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease is out. It has always been Nike’s mission to innovate shoes that can help athletes. But just like Bill Bowerman’s quote “If you have a body, you’re an athlete”, Nike believes the term “athlete” goes beyond society’s definition of it. Everybody is an athlete and deserves a game-changing opportunity to enhanced their lives.