Nike’s Flyease franchise was created by Tobie Hatfield in order to help athletes of all abilities and ages perform better; centered around increasing accessibility for individuals with disabilities affecting mobility and dexterity preventing the use of traditional lacing systems, the initiative was kick-started after Tobie received a letter from Matthew Walzer who suffers from Cerebral Palsy:
“My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day. I’ve worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe, because I need ankle support to walk. 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.”
Tobie Hatfield quickly jumped to action, immediately providing Walzer with a prototype for wear testing. After three years of refinements, Nike’s Flyease technology made its first appearance on the LeBron Soldier 8 Flyease and for 6 years, the initiative has become a big success.
2021 saw Nike launch the $120 Go Flyease. Simply put, the silhouette is the single most revolutionary breakthrough we’ve seen from the programme, with a completely laceless, hinged design one can put on – or take off – without even bending down. Being such an important development from the Velcro and zip-laden products previously released under the Flyease namesake, it’s easy to imagine how much this sneaker could change the lives of millions of people. This isn’t an incremental step forwards for the everyday person with conditions affecting dexterity and mobility, it’s a monumental leap forward.
However, the reception from the disabled community has been nothing but negative. This is because Nike chose to release the Go Flyease in limited quantities, to anyone and everyone. Resellers bought up every pair, in every size, and at the time of writing, the sneaker is being resold through platforms like StockX for over double the retail price. We’ve seen this same trend occur with a spectrum of Nike’s products, but never before on something Nike has marketed to be the “most accessible shoe ever”.
The sneaker has immense potential to change the lives of so many, but Nike ultimately decided to cater to so few – why is this the case? In an official statement, a spokesperson said that Nike was unable to fulfil such “overwhelming demand” and that “more units and additional colorways of the shoe will be available this year”. For a brand with such power in the industry, it’s disappointing to see the lack of awareness here. Let’s hope that the Go Flyease becomes widely available, and that the target market can enjoy the shoe’s incredible design as soon as possible.
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