Fort Myers, Fla. — In 2012, a then-16-year-old Matthew Walzer was just as anxious about putting on his shoes on his own as he was about getting into college.
Matthew has cerebral palsy, and due to this, his physical abilities are limited. He couldn’t put his shoes on without someone helping him, and this made him feel both frustrated and embarrassed.
Because of this, Matthew felt the urge to try and make this problem known to Nike— the company responsible for manufacturing the basketball shoes he’s been wearing all his life. He decided to write them a letter.
In it, he said:
“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.”
Soon enough, his letter was picked up by Nike CEO Mark Parker and before long, Nike designer Tobie Hatfield started working with Matthew on a prototype, which would later on become the Nike LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease— shoes that make it easy for anyone to slip their feet in, and can be secured easily with specialized zippers.
When Nike gave Matthew his very own pair, he said it gave him “the greatest sense of independence [he had] ever felt in [his] life.”
Nike didn’t just give him his dream shoe, he was also given the opportunity to meet LeBron James in the flesh. According to LeBron:
“Matthew inspired us at Nike to be able to bring something special that will not only be for himself for also for the masses.”
Nike’s designer is now working on more designs for Flyease, which they hope will be able to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, while maintaining the comfort that all other Nike shoes give their wearers.
The LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease was available on the Nike web store for a limited time only. The company also sent pairs to the US basketball teams participants for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, to see if they meet the needs of athletes with disabilities.
Source: Mallory Schlossberg: Businessinsider.com.au: Nike invented an amazing shoe for people with disabilities