Nike’s fresh new sneakers are designed for people with disabilities

Us able-bodied folks might take it for granted, but tying up your shoes in the morning is a complicated task that requires a good deal of hand-eye coordination, muscle control, and dexterity. For those who aren’t fortunate enough to have the free and uninhibited use of both hands, securing shoes onto your feet is easier said than done.

To solve this problem, Nike has created the Zoom Soldier 8 with Flyease technology — a snazzy new sneaker designed specifically for people with disabilities. Unlike traditional lace-up shoes, ZS8’s are secured to the wearer’s foot with the help of Nike’s new Flyease system, which features a unique zipper mechanism that wraps around the heel. This arrangement makes it possible to open or close the shoe with a simple motion that can be accomplished with just a single hand — making life considerably easier for people living with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, or any other disability that impedes motor function.

Of course, designing such a radical new shoe was no easy task. In order to make the the closing mechanism function properly, Nike had to develop a special type of zipper that could work around a curve. On top of that, the rear-mounted strap assembly also needed to tighten laces on the front of the shoe, so lead designer Toby Hatfield took it upon himself to build an innovative new tunneling system that seamlessly connects the two parts.

Nike didn’t arrive at this design overnight, either. Despite having plenty of design talent and R&D money at its disposal, the company has reportedly been working on the new ZS8 sneaker for the past seven years. According to a recent interview with Fast Company, Flyease development started as far back as 2008, after Jeff Johnson — one of Nike’s first employees — had a stroke and lost the ability to articulate his right hand. Tying a shoe was no longer possible for him, so CEO Matt Parker put in a special request for Hatfield to design a sneaker that could be put on single-handedly.

The shoe is due to hit store shelves across the country starting this Thursday, July 16.

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