How Nike Shoes Inspired Teens With Cerebral Palsy For People With Special Needs



For most of us, the idea of ​​putting on shoes is second nature. There is no anxiety or permission required. We just take a pair, slip our feet in, tie the laces and continue on our way. As simple and as common as it sounds, this is not the case for everyone.

In 2012, a 16-year-old named Matthew Walzer, born with cerebral palsy, wrote what became the #NikeLetter. He asked CEO Mark Parker if Nike could create a show that he could put on and tie up himself:

My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes to me every day. I have worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoes because I need ankle support to walk. At 16, I am able to dress completely, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenage girl struggling to become fully independent, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing.

The letter went viral. Parker reached out to designer Tobie Hatfield to create a shoe not only for Matthew, but for anyone struggling to put on and tie their shoes.

In the spirit of co-founder Bill Bowerman’s mission statement – “If you’ve got a body, you’re an athlete” – the company introduced the Nike LeBron 8 Flyease. The updated version of the popular basketball sneaker features a wrap-around zipper system in the heel that helps people without fully using their hands to slip into their shoes instead of tying them up.

Designed by Hatfield, the system was already in development for Jeff Johnson, the very first Nike employee to suffer a stroke that limited his mobility on his right side, when Walzer sent his letter. Walzer says he never expected to get a response from Nike, let alone Parker.

“I honestly expected a response from customer service saying, ‘Thank you for your request, but at this point the shoes you want are not available,'” Walzer told ThePostGame.

Soon after the letter went viral, Walzer and Hatfield began the process of creating something unique for those suffering from similar issues. Early prototypes focused more on keeping the shoe locked, but after a few Skype sessions Hatfield learned that the challenges extended to putting the shoe on as well.

Hatfield says the Flyease design process was identical to that used with athletes during his 25 years at Nike. “You just have to get in the game,” he says. “It won’t be perfect, but we’ll learn a lot and keep making improvements.”

Fast forward three years and Nike is ready to release the first official product. Keeping in mind Walzer’s love for LeBron James and sneakers, the first shoe to come out with the tech is the Nike LeBron Soldier 8. Walzer received his official pair of shoes a few weeks ago and – met James.

“Matthew inspired us at Nike to be able to bring something special that will not only be for him but also for the masses,” LeBron said in a statement from Nike. “The shoe and the inspiration it gave us goes way beyond Nike, Matthew and myself. I am very honored and blessed that my shoe is part of the whole process. It’s a story. amazing, and Nike did a great job of being able to create something so amazing and that will last a lifetime. “

Although he created the Flyease for Walzer, Nike knows he can serve a wider audience. The system will allow thousands of people who have difficulty putting on their shoes to do something they never thought would happen.

Remember Walzer’s worry about college? He’s now attending Florida Gulf Coast University, and as any college student will tell you, putting on and tying your shoes is probably the last thing you want to worry about. In most cases, you don’t even have to think about it.

Nike is sending the Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease to two US basketball teams competing in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles (July 25 – August 2).

The LeBron Soldier 8 Flyease will be available July 16 in limited quantities on

Find out more Nike stories on ThePostGame.



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