Hatfield had been working on a project for over three years now that utilized an entry-and-closure system for athletes who have trouble getting in and out of shoes. With inspiration and help from Matthew Walzer, a 16-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy, Tobie created the Nike LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 FLYEASE. FLYEASE introduces a wrap-around zipper solution that opens the back of the shoe near the heel-counter, making it easier to slide the foot in and out. At the same time, the system provides sufficient lockdown and eliminates the need to tie traditional laces.
“In talking to Matthew and many other athletes with disabilities, the ease of entry was just as important as the lacing solution,” explains Hatfield. “While varying levels of mobility make it difficult to provide a universal solution, we feel this is a significant development for anyone who has ever struggled with independently securing their foot within Nike shoes.”
Matthew was even able to meet his hero and favorite NBA player LeBron James.
“Matthew inspired us at Nike to be able to bring something special that will not only be for himself but also for the masses,” asserts LeBron. “The shoe and the inspiration he gave us is going to go way beyond Nike, Matthew and myself. I am very honored and blessed that my shoe is part of the whole process. This is an unbelievable story, and Nike has done a great job of being able to create something that’s so incredible and will last a lifetime.”
James notes that this vision that Hatfield brought to life wasn’t intended for just one person, but for lots of people. As a nod to that idea, the LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE carries an asterisk just under the strap on the medial side. Hatfield and team are already working on styles and silhouettes beyond basketball, and future FLYEASE designs will also feature the asterisk.
In late July, Nike is sending the Zoom Soldier 8 FLYEASE to two U.S. basketball teams participating in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, which run from July 25 to August 2.
The LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE will be available July 16 in limited quantities on Nike.com. Do you plan on grabbing a pair?