Three years ago, Matthew Walzer, who has cerebral palsy, wrote a letter (that went viral) asking Nike for more accessible footwear. Well, that footwear has finally arrived!
The Lebron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease basketball sneaker employs Nike's new Flyease technology. This means that instead of laces (which can pose problems for people with movement disorders), the shoe has a zipper that extends around the back of the shoe. It peels open making it easier to maneuver with one hand and slide the foot in and out.
Walzer worked with, Tobie Hatfield, Nike's senior director of athlete innovation, on the shoes design.
"It feels great to have this shoe made for everyone and to be the catalyst for such a great project," Walzer, 19, told Mashable
. "Writing my letter three years ago, I honestly wasn't expecting much at all, maybe a polite letter from customer service ... couldn't be more proud that people will be able to have this long, overdue independence.
The shoe has been seven years in the making but it was Walzer's letter that helped really spur the design forward.
In his letter, Walzer explained that he was told he'd never be able to walk but with the help of crutches and Nike basketball shoes (which provide good ankle support) he is able to. He explained that although he could dress himself, his parents still had to tie his shoes. He had plans to head to college and wanted a shoe that would give him some independence.
Hatfield had already been working with Special Olympians and Paralympians on better athletic designs reached out to Walzer and the two began designing prototypes that met his needs.
Walzer is now a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University and wears his Lebron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease sneakers without any assistance.
"Flyease is so easy to use and yet so revolutionary ... This is by far the easiest and most comfortable shoe I have ever worn," he said.
His dream now is to continue working with Nike to create shoes that "could generate more independence for all abilities."
Nike is sending the shoes to two US basketball teams participating in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.
These will be available to consumers in a limited quantity through Nike.com later this week.
Watch the inspirational story!
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All images: NIKE