Nike is one of the biggest names in the athletic shoe game for decades. The biggest names from the athletic world that includes superstars Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams among others have all donned specially custom-designed apparels by Nike.
So it was not a surprise that the Flyease, Nike’s newest shoe line, was inspired by a person too.
The person who inspired the new Nike shoe is not quite in line with the LeBrons and the Jordans. He is not a professional athlete. He doesn’t even do recreational basketball, baseball, volleyball, golf, or any other sports.
Who is he? He is just a regular guy who reached out to Nike for some help. He is Matthew Walzer.
Mathew wrote a letter to Nike almost three years ago. He told them that he has cerebral pal, and as a result, he is not able to tie his own shoes.
Here is Matthew’s letter, written when he was 16 years old:
Out of all the challenges I have overcome in my life, there is one that I am still trying to master—tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscles in the body. As a result, 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 every day.
I’ve worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe because I need ankle support to walk. I am currently wearing the Lunar hyper gamer and LeBron Zoom Soldier 6s. At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing.
I know that Nike makes slip-ons, sandals, and other types of shoes. However, I and many other physically challenged people are unable to wear them due to a lack of support. When I think of Nike, I think of one of America’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies. Nike is always pushing the limits, making their shoes lighter, faster, and stronger by using new materials, new designs, and new technologies. This benefits people all around the world. Bill Bowerman said it best, ‘If you have a body, you are an athlete.’ I believe everyone, no matter what their physical, economic, or social circumstances may be, deserves to call themselves an athlete and deserves to have a sense of freedom and independence.”
To Matthew’s surprise, Nike was on board.
The company was very much on board that they designed custom shoes just for him. Tobie Hatfield, a Nike designer, began working with Matthew to make the shoe after he got hold of Matthew’s letter.
The shoe that they designed is capable of being operated by one hand because it uses a revolutionary zipper design.
It is very easy to put on one hand because it works like a slip-on, then it wraps around the back. It was awesome for Matthew.
Tobie and Matthew worked and refined the design together so that people that are facing similar challenges like Matthew could benefit.
When the final version of the Flyease shoes were done, Tobie invited Matthew to go to the Nike headquarters and check out the final version. In the video below, Matthew states that the Flyease is great because it’s a shoe that works well for people like him and those who are limited to using one hand for putting on shoes.
While at the Nike headquarters, Matthew was able to meet one of his heroes: LeBron James. Matthew was over the moon with joy.
It was a major win for both parties—Matthew and Nike.
It is a positive step for inclusive branding even if not everyone can afford them—well, we all know Nikes aren’t cheap. Nike was brave enough to make products for “niche” markets because they are not afraid of losing money. Most companies design products to make money.
With this, Nike made a statement that companies can create and design products for needs of smaller community. The company listened and helped solve a problem that they didn’t know existed. It has a positive outcome for both parties. Nike got a good story, and Mathew got a good pair of shoes.
By learning about each other’s struggles and asking questions like “What can I do to help?” is how we help the world to become a better place. Sometimes, we’ll never know when we will be in a position to make someone’s life a little bit easier.