The name might sound like a lubricant for pants zippers, but Nike’s FLYEASE is a sneaker that’s designed for athletes who have trouble putting on and taking off shoes.
Three years ago, high school student Matthew Walzer wrote a letter to Nike. Walzer has cerebral palsy due to a premature birth, and only has flexibility in one hand. He also wears Nike basketball shoes for their ankle support.
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.
Nike designer Tobie Hatfield, already working on shoes for Paralympians and Special Olympians, got the letter and went to work with Walzer. The result is the FLYEASE, a design that is so simple that the solution seems obvious. The boots have a zipper that runs around the back of the ankle, and the oversized zipper-pull lets the wearer close it with one hand. The zipper-pull then attaches around the front of the ankle, a flat strip across the face of the shoe.
This combination of one-handed zipper and the low-opening heel mean the shoes can slip on and off easily and are simple to secure. The idea is so neat that you probably want a pair even if you have no trouble with regular shoelaces.
Possibly the best part of this, though, is that design for special needs has moved so far from the horrible orthopedic shoes still found in so many stores aimed at old folks and others. Thanks to the FLYEASE, Walzer can dress himself at last. But thanks to Hatfield and Nike, he can still look badass when he does it.