Meet Matthew Walzer, the inspiration behind Nike’s hands-free shoes FlyEase

Matthew Walzer wrote to Nike back in 2012 hoping that the brand “will consider being the forerunner in producing athletic shoes that will make the difference in the quality of so many lives”.
The image shows Tobie Hatfield and Matthew Walzer.(Nike.com)
The image shows Tobie Hatfield and Matthew Walzer.(Nike.com)
Published on Feb 02, 2021 08:43 PM IST
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By Sanya Budhiraja

Matthew Walzer, a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy, is the inspiration behind Nike's collection of hands-free footwear titled FlyEase. Walzer initially got in touch with the athletic apparel brand back in 2012. After reading his letter, Tobie Hatfield, a Nike designer who designs for Paralympians, got in touch with the teen to make shoes that cater to his specific needs. The recently unveiled quick and easy to get into sneakers, the Nike Go FlyEase, have now captured the attention of many. The touching story behind their creation is bound to melt your heart.

In his letter, Walzer stated that he was born two months premature with under-developed lungs, leading to cerebral palsy. "Although doctors from the country’s top hospitals told my parents that I would never walk; and if I ever talked I would have a major lisp, these diagnoses proved to be false, I walk somewhat independently around my home and use crutches when I'm out or at school," wrote Walzer.

He then says that he doesn’t have a speech impediment, is doing great at school and is also thinking about college. Yet the one challenge he is yet to overcome is tying his shoes independently. Walzer declared, "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".

The teen's letter landed in Hatfield's hands, a designer who had been working with Special Olympians on similar challenges. He reached out to Walzer and started creating a prototype that addressed his specific needs.

“I knew what I was doing was, in football terms, ‘a Hail Mary,’ and to be quite honest I had very low expectations. I was expecting a very polite letter back in recognition of my request. There are not enough ‘thank yous’ in the world to express my undying gratitude,” reads a quote by Walzer on Nike's official website.

In 2012, Nike delivered a Hatfield design to Walzer to test out. Now, eight years later, Walzer’s dream of putting on his own shoes has been achieved. Soon many others would be able to get their hands on these unique sneakers as well. You can learn more about the product here.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021