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Teen’s letter convinces Nike to design shoes for people with physical challenges

By Cathryn Wellner / August 5, 2015

Matt Walzer trying on his first pair of Nike FLYEASE shoes

Florida-based Matt Walzer is a sports enthusiast, but cerebral palsy keeps him from being actively engaged. The bright, active teen has overcome two major challenges his doctors said he would never master: walking and talking. He is an academic success, but there is one thing he cannot do without help. He cannot tie his own shoes.

So in 2012 he wrote to Nike, saying in part:

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. If Nike would design and produce basketball and running shoes with moderate support and some kind of closure system that could be used by everyone, Nike could create a shoe line that attracts people that face the same physical challenges I did and still do, yet it could still be possible for anyone to wear them.

Walzer’s letter went viral, and 48 hours later the young sports enthusiast received a call from Nike. John Poyner, who made the call, also has cerebral palsy. He connected Walzer with Tobie Hatfield, who worked with him on the specifications that would lead to a sturdy sports shoe with the convenience of a slip-on.

Fast forward to 2015. Nike has a new product, the Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease. As smart looking as anything in the Nike line, the high-performance shoe would be a good fit for any athlete. But it offers special advantages to anyone for whom tying shoes is a challenge.

Thank you, Nike, for turning your energies to a shoe that opens the sports door to millions more people. And thank you, Matthew Walzer, for writing a life-changing letter.


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