Nike has developed a new shoe to help people with disabilities and other physical limitations feel comfortable and confident.
The laceless LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease, designed by Nike’s Tobie Hatfield, offers an easy slip-in way to put on the shoes, while still providing ample ankle support.
The shoe was inspired by Matthew Walzer, a teenager with cerebral palsy who was preparing to enter his junior year of high school in 2012. According to Nike’s extremely touching story, he was scared about going off to college without being able to tie his shoes on his own.
He wrote a letter to Nike:
“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,” the letter read.
Tobie Hatfield read the letter. Fortunately, Hatfield had experience designing shoes for Paralympians. He decided to make a shoe for Walzer.
Hatfield worked with Walzer to create the perfect shoe, using Nike designs as inspiration.
Nike adds that these were two of LeBron James’s shoes.
“I worked with Matthew just as I would with any athlete. He was an absolute pleasure to work with,” Hatfield said in Nike’s story.
Nike sent Walzer a version in 2012, which Walzer said gave him “the greatest sense of independence [he had] ever felt in [his] life.”
Hatfield continued working to make the perfect shoe in conjunction with orthopaedic and prosthetic company Össur, notes the Huffington Post. Three years later, he came out with the LeBron Zoom Solider 8 Flyease shoe, which solved the problem of entering and lacing up high-top basketball shoes.
He described the groundbreaking zipper as a “cutting edge wrap-around zipper system” to Fast Company.
“We used Matthew as a muse, which was awesome because he couldn’t believe that a big company would do something for him,” Hatfield told The Huffington Post.
Walzer, now a sophomore in college, even had the opportunity to meet LeBron James.
James testified to Nike the power of the shoe. “Matthew inspired us at Nike to be able to bring something special that will not only be for himself for also for the masses,” he said.
Now, Hatfield is working on new projects.
The shoe will be available for purchase on July 16, and Nike will also be sending these shoes to two basketball teams in the Special Olympics.
You can watch a video documenting the touching story below.
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