Teen with Cerebral Palsy inspires Nike to create Hands-Free sneaker

Most people have the luxury of not having to think about the complex motor skills required to put on and tie their shoes in the morning. But for people with disabilities that impair their hands, including those with cerebral palsy or who have suffered strokes, that task can pose major challenges.

In 2012, Matthew Walzer – a 16-year-old with Cerebral Palsy – contacted Nike, telling them that it was his dream to go to college without worrying about someone having to tie his shoelaces day in and day out. Mr Walzer was born two months premature, with under-developed lungs that led to Cerebral Palsy, according to Nike. While he overcame many physical obstacles, tying his own shoelaces remained a challenge.

The teen’s letter inspired Tobie Hatfield to create a shoe that would address his specific need.

Nike is well-known for its innovative footwear, and now they are taking it one step closer to becoming a more inclusive brand.  They recently released Go FlyEase shoes which is their first-ever hands-free sneaker that is designed to remove the barrier to entry that lacing brings to some athletes with disabilities.

These shoes can be put on and taken off without the use of one’s hands. The formula used is known as bi-stable heel hinge and kickstand heel.

The innovative $120 shoe will be available in limited quantities on February 15 and be made more broadly available later this year, according to Nike.

The story behind the development of this sneaker has won Nike a lot of praise and goodwill on social media. Jimmy Fallon tells the story of when he pitched a hands-free sneaker to Nike only to find out they beat him to the punch.

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