Whenever Nike releases a new pair of sneakers, it's kind of a big deal. Most of the time, this is because of the way the sneakers look. However, the athletic apparel company is releasing a new pair of sneakers that is grabbing headlines not because of how it looks but how it can impact the wearer's life.
Nike's new Zoom Soldier 8 shoe will come with Flyease technology, which helps people with disabilities, such as amputees, stroke victims and people with cerebral palsy, put on and take off their shoes with one hand. A zipper wraps around the shoe and opens up near the heel, allowing the wearer to easily slip his or her foot in and out of the sneaker without any need to tie or untie laces, which can obviously be a challenge for those who don't have full use of both of their hands.
Nike Senior Director of Athlete Innovation Tobie Hatfield started to design the shoe seven years ago after CEO Mark Parker requested he help the company's first employee Jeff Johnson when he suffered a stroke and could no longer articulate his right hand, according to Co.DESIGN. However, it wasn't until around the time of the 2012 Summer Olympics that the idea for Flyease really took off after Parker again asked Hatfield to help design footwear for a then-16-year-old Matthew Walzer, who lives with cerebral palsy.
Here's how Flyease works, according to Co.DESIGN: "The zipper isn't any old zipper. It's been built to work around a curve, a challenge that required Hatfield to tap the expertise of Nike's apparel team. The zipper itself connects to a velcro strap that seals the top of the shoe. But you don't need to yank hard on this strap to zip and unzip it. Rather, once the velcro has been undone, you can grab the top of the heel and unpeel it like an orange...Meanwhile, the shoe's upper tightens and loosens in tandem with the zipper system. How? A tunneling system filled with internal cords wraps from the heel all the way around the shoe's upper to sit on top of the instep, where they resemble laces."
Though it took several iterations and testing on 30 different basketball players on Nike's own courts to get this shoe just right, the company says it plans to continue to test and make improvements to Flyease in the future.
The shoe will be available in limited quantities on Nike.com starting July 16.