Nike Has Soul When They Create Flyease For Teenager With Cerebral Palsy

Warning: Get ready to cry (but in a very good way). At some point, it seems all teenage boys want a pair of Nikes, but 16-year-old Matthew Walzer is different. He has cerebral palsy and, though he may have wanted some Nikes, he couldn’t tie them himself. So, a few years ago, he wrote to the company.

Here are some excerpts from his letter:

…I have overcome many challenges in my life. Although doctors from the country’s top hospitals told my parents that I would never walk; and if I ever talked I would have a major lisp, these diagnoses proved to be false, I walk somewhat independently around my home and use crutches when I’m out or at school…

…Out of all the challenges I have overcome in my life, there is one that I am still trying to master, tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscles in the body. As a result I have flexibility in only one of my hands which makes it impossible for me to tie my shoes. 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. I am currently wearing the Lunar hyper gamer and LeBron Zoom Soldier 6’s. 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…

…If Nike would design and produce basketball and running shoes with moderate support and some kind of closure system that could be used by everyone, Nike could create a shoe line that attracts people that face the same physical challenges I did and still do, yet it could still be possible for anyone to wear them. I am always searching the web for any type of shoe brand that makes athletic shoes that provide good support, are self-lacing and are made for everyday wear or for playing sports…

…This letter is not a business proposal. I am simply making you aware that there is a need for this type of athletic shoe, a great need. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. No matter what challenges I’ve faced in my life, I’ve always strived to be independent, independence is for everyone.

Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, gave the letter to Tobie Hatfield, senior director of athlete innovation, and the shoe-designing journey began.

The (laceless) LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease provides an effortless way to put on the shoes and has the support Walzer was concerned about. The wearer of the shoe can use one hand to use the zipper. It may look like a slip-on shoe, but it wraps around the back.