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How a Teen With Cerebral Palsy Became the Inspiration Behind The Nike Flyease Sneaker

August 7th, 2015

While the brand has hundreds of different shoe styles, Nike seemed to be missing a shoe type that could assist those with physical disabilities. Cerebral palsy patient, Matthew Walzer, took a chance on the brand by writing them a letter that would eventually change his way of living.

The 16-year old at the time could do almost everything on his own and was so incredibly close to reaching his peak of independence. The only thing he had trouble doing was tying his own shoes. Walzer’s biggest concern was not only that he wasn’t able to perform the task on his own, but that it would affect his collegiate career.

“My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day,” he included this statement in the letter he wrote to Nike CEO, Mark Parker. 

Walzer also included why patients of Cerebral palsy and other diseases need more accessible footwear.  He wrote, “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.” He continues to say that although he is aware of Nike’s slip on shoe designs, he as well as many other physically challenged people, are unable to wear them as a result of the lack of support they provide. 

Walzer is to thank for the new shoes that Nike has released, called the Nike LeBron Soldier Flyease. Three years after Matthew sent in his letter, the shoe is now available on the market. Walzer worked directly with Tobie Hatfeild, the renowned Nike designer, in order to make the shoe.

Flyease is dressed onto the foot by using a wrap-around zipper that opens the back of the shoe near the heel, making it a simple, single-handed process. The model in which the footwear is based off of was one initially designed by Nike for LeBron James, Walzer’s basketball hero. Waltzer was able to meet LeBron in Miami before a game, and Lebron was beyond excited to be a part of this movement:

"Matthew inspired us at Nike to be able to bring something special that will not only be for himself but also for the masses" said Lebron

“There is a real need for a solution like this and it feels good to be a part of something that is going to help so many people,” says Hatfield. "The shoe has been a huge benefit to those that can now wear shoes that not only give them the support they need, but their independence as well."