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Nike’s hands-free shoe proves that universal design leads to better products for everyone

The Go FlyEase includes a unique hinged outsole that makes putting them on without using your hands a literal snap.

Nike’s hands-free shoe proves that universal design leads to better products for everyone

For many, shoes are a pain to put on. Our footwear requires some dexterity. And that’s more than just an annoyance for people with disabilities, ranging from arthritis to partial paralysis. Nike’s Go FlyEase is the first sneaker you can slip on without bending over or using your hands at all.

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“It’s improving people’s lives,” says Sarah Reinertsen, the former Paralympian and FlyEase Innovation Team manager.

[Photo: Jarren Vink]
The design relies on a breakthrough bistable hinge that’s built into the shoe’s bouncy outsole. That hinge essentially splits the shoe in two (Nike designers mocked up the first Go prototype by sawing a shoe in half). When the hinge is open, you can slide your foot into the toe box. Then, by pressing your weight down, the shoe snaps shut on your foot like a molded marshmallow. A tensioner band automatically wraps around the entire shoe to help hold it together.

The Go FlyEase is proof that universal design (design built to accommodate disabilities) can actually lead to a product that’s better for everyone. Nike quickly sold out of the Go at launch in February 2021 and faced some criticism from the disabled community as shoe collectors snatched it up, listing it on resale sites for twice the MSRP.

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“We’re not trying to keep this away from people, or make this a hard-to-get shoe,” says Reinertsen. “That’s not at all what we want.”

While Nike never intended artificial scarcity—it supplied tens of thousands of pairs for launch—the company will address shortages with significantly more inventory (and colorways) by this holiday season.

See more from Fast Company’s 2021 Innovation by Design Awards. Our new book, Fast Company Innovation by Design: Creative Ideas That Transform the Way We Live and Work (Abrams, 2021), is on sale now.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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