With the Launch of Its First Hands-Free Shoe, Nike Is Making Sneakers More Accessible

Photo: W+G Creative
The inspiration for Nike's first FlyEase shoe—which launched in 2015—came from a letter written to the company by a 16-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy. He contacted the company in 2012 to tell them that his dream was to go to college without having to worry about someone coming to tie his shoes every day, and three years later, the brand's first laceless, adaptive shoe was introduced. Over the last half-decade, Nike has added a range of zip-up, step-in, and pull-tight shoes to its range (all of which are designed without the hassle of laces), and today, it announced the most innovative shoe to date.

The Nike Go FlyEase is the brand's first-ever hands-free sneaker, designed to remove the barrier to entry that lacing brings to some athletes with disabilities. Using a bi-stable heel hinge and "kickstand heel," the shoe can be put on and taken off without the use of one's hands. "We know that so many folks use their opposite foot anchor one shoe at the heel and kick it open, so the designers leaned into that," Sarah Reinersten, an American Paralympic athlete and member of Nike's FlyEase innovations team, told a group of editors during a launch event for the shoe. When you step on the kickstand heel at the back of the shoe, the footbed of the shoe pops open so that you can comfortably place your foot inside. Then, when you step down into the shoe, it snaps snugly into place. An underfoot "diving board" helps to maintain continuous comfort and stability, and a tensioner band prevents it from opening and closing when you don't want it to.

In creating the shoe, Reinersten says that Nike listened to the voices of a broad spectrum of athletes, and wanted to deliver something that would meet a variety of needs across the board. "It really is so universal in its application that it can solve for so many different issues [that people have with their shoes]," she said. "We thought not just about athletes with disabilities, but also folks with temporary disabilities, like women in their third trimester of pregnancy who can't bend over as easily, busy moms who have their hands full all the time, dog walkers who want an option to put their shoes on and go, or people who just want to get their shoes on and get out the door."

The shoe is really just the beginning for Nike. "For a long time, we've been just using strings with holes in our shoes to tighten them," says Reinersten. "But we're living in a cordless world now, so it just feels like there should have been a better solution to put our shoes on and take them off, and we knew that we were the company to make it a reality."

The Nike Go FlyEase retails for $120, and will be available in select markets (with more to come in the future) starting February 15.

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