Nike Partnered With A Disabled Teen To Create An Easy-Entry Shoe, And It’s Incredible!

“If you have a body, you are an athlete,” said the co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman. And for those who have at any time in their life been inspired to be the best versions of themselves, such a statement is not only empowering, its truth. 

For 16-year-old Matthew Walzer, Bowerman’s declaration was inspiration enough to believe that even with cerebral palsy he could – and will continue to be – a great athlete.

In an inspired move, the teenager wrote a letter to the athletic apparel company to develop a shoe for people like him with disabilities. In the video above, Walzer shares the frustration and difficulty that can come from not being able to tie his shoes. Having an easy-entry shoe would liberate him from needing to depend upon his parents in college, an exciting – and necessary – move for the teen.

Credit: YouTube
Credit: YouTube

The letter Matthew wrote to Nike follows:

“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 everyday.

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.

I know that Nike makes slip-ons, sandals and other types of shoes. However, I and many other physically challenged people are unable to wear them due to a lack of support. When I think of Nike, I think of one of America’s most innovative and forward thinking companies. Nike is always pushing the limits, making their shoes lighter, faster and stronger by using new materials, new designs and new technologies. This benefits people all around the world. Bill Bowerman said it best, ‘If you have a body you are an athlete.’ I believe everyone, no matter what their physical, economic, or social circumstances may be, deserves to call themselves an athlete, and deserves to have a sense of freedom and independence.”

To Matthew’s delighted surprise, a 23-year-old Nike product manager responded, saying that he, too, has cerebral palsy and a passion for sports. GNN reported in 2012 that Nike’s designers were inspired by the young man’s letter, and therefore worked with Matthew for the next few years on a lace-free prototype that he – and other disabled individuals – could easily slide on and off.

Credit: Upworthy
Credit: Upworthy

The Zoom Soldier 8 FLYEASE shoes are definitely something to get excited about. The unique footwear features a wrap-around enclosure that opens the back of the shoe for those with limited hand function.

“When I put the shoes on every morning, they give the greatest sense of independence and accomplishment I have ever felt in my life,” Matthew replied to Nike.

Since Nike has worked with well-known athletes such as Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, and Kobe Bryant, the shoe was designed to incorporate similar features. In fact, the new design includes the same ankle support as Lebron James’s line – Matthew’s favorite NBA basketball player.

Credit: YouTube
Credit: YouTube

Later this month, Nike will outfit U.S. basketball teams participating in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games with the new Zoom Soldier 8 FLYEASE shoes.

And as the shoes hit the market mid-July, Matthew will finally have a pair to kick back in – just in time for college.

Share your thoughts on this awesome news below.

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