Nike has launched the GO FlyEase, accessible hands-free shoes that are easy to put on and off by simply slipping the foot in without bending down to do up laces, zips or straps.
The innovative design was inspired by Matthew Walzer, who wrote a letter at aged 16 to Nike asking for an accessible pair of shoes he could put on and off independently because he has cerebral palsy.
Following nine years of researching, engineering and testing, the GO FlyEase hands-free shoe is now launched and will be available to purchase soon.
How does the Nike GO FlyEase hands-free shoes work?
The Nike GO FlyEase hands-free shoes are a sophisticated and accessible way of wearing footwear.
Behind the shoe’s smooth motion is a bi-stable hinge that enables the shoe to be secure in fully open and fully closed states.
This duality allows another signature detail: the Nike GO FlyEase tensioner. The tensioner’s unique flexibility super-charges an action many might take for granted (kicking-off a shoe) and completely reimagines this movement as basis for accessible and empowering design.
Not only will the GO FlyEase shoes be life-changing and gain further independence to disabled people, but the hands-free shoes will also benefit the wider community including professional athletes, pregnant women, parents with their hands full and students late for classes.
Matthew Walzer’s campaign for hands-free shoes
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The creation of the GO FlyEase hands-free shoes was inspired by Matthew Walzer, a young man with cerebral palsy, from Florida, USA.
In 2012, at the age of 16, he wrote a letter to Nike requesting a pair of shoes in which he would not have to tie laces or do up straps due to his dexterity issues.
At the time, Matthew was pursuing university and wanted to be able to put on and off his own shoes when he goes off to live independently.
Matthew was two months premature with underdeveloped lungs, which led to his cerebral palsy diagnosis. Doctors told his parents he would never walk but he had proved them wrong, never developed an expected speech impediment and was a strong student.
He said: “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,”
When sending the letter, Matthew never expected a response from Nike: ““I knew what I was doing was, in football terms, ‘a Hail Mary,’ and to be quite honest I had very low expectations.
I was expecting a very polite letter back in recognition of my request. There are not enough ‘thank yous’ in the world to express my undying gratitude”.
Fortunately, Matthew got to collaborate with Nike designer Tobie Hatfield to create the GO FlyEase and a few months after sending his letter, Matthew got to test the first prototype of the hands-free shoes.
“Your talented team of designers has thoughtfully created a shoe that, for the first time in my life, I can put on myself.
When I put the shoes on every morning, they give the greatest sense of independence and accomplishment I have ever felt in my life,” said Matthew at the time.
Throughout further developments of he shoes, Matthew managed to go to college at Florida Gulf Coast University.
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About a week ago, Matthew was sharing his story on radio station NPR ahead of the GO FlyEase launch, and when he was asked if the shoes were cool, he replied:
“I haven’t tried them yet. I don’t have a pair yet. So, from what I’ve seen online, they are. They do look extremely cool. And I’m very, very excited to try them.”
The benefits of hand-free shoes for Paralympic athletes
Another range of disabled person who will also benefit from the GO FlyEase hands-free shoes is Paralympic athletes, including champion fencer Bebo Vio.
Bebo lost both her arms and legs to meningitis as a child and competes in a wheelchair and walks using prosthetic legs. Putting on her shoes is usually a time-consuming activity.
“With the Nike Go FlyEase, I just need to put my feet in and jump on it. The shoes are a new kind of technology, not only for adaptive athletes but for everyone’s real life,” she says.
How to buy GO FlyEase hands-free shoes
The hands-free shoes are expected to be priced at £104.95 and available in three styles:
- black, Anthracite and Racer Blue
- white, Celestine Blue, and Volt
- black, Dynamic Turquoise, and Hyper Crimson
The Nike GO FlyEase is available initially via invite for select Nike Members on Monday 15th February 2021, with “broader consumer” availability planned for later this year.
If you don’t fancy purchasing a new pair of shoes but have difficulty tying laces because of mobility or dexterity issues, then the Greeper shoelaces maybe your answer.
Sold on the Disability Horizons Shop, the Greeper shoelaces are a modern, accessible alternative to traditional shoelaces – they remain tight and tied no matter what conditions they’re put under.
These innovative shoelaces have been designed to aid those with disabilities to adapt any type of everyday shoe, without having to rely on old-fashioned velcro fastening shoes.
In addition, there is a Greeper Assist, which is an aid that helps tighten Greeper shoe laces with just one hand.
To find out more about Greeper shoelaces plus other adapted clothing available, visit the Disability Horizons Shop.
By Emma Purcell
More on Disability Horizons…
- Adaptive clothing solutions: how my daughter inspired me to start a business
- Being blind doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable
- Rising Phoenix: a documentary about the Paralympic Games movement
- How fashion and beauty brands can be more accessible
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