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Why a Quadruple Amputee’s Endorsing Nike’s Patent-Pending Sneaker Tech

Sixty-one million Americans live with a disability, and Nike isn’t trying to leave money on the table.

That stat from the Centers for Disease Control reflects the growing opportunity for adaptive fashion in the U.S. alone, presenting brands that make clothing and shoes with a market seen lapping $392 billion by 2026, Coherent Insights reported in 2018. Last year, Coresight Research pegged just the American opportunity at $47 billion.

Nike is no stranger to the world of fashion for people of all abilities. Recent adaptive footwear drops include the Adapt BB sneaker in early 2019 followed by a voice-activated, self-lacing entrant later than year in September, and the November launch of the first Nike shoe built from scratch to feature FlyEase technology for the differently abled. But the Oregon-based athletic giant truly signaled its seriousness in the space with the acquisition of Handsfree Labs, Inc., which is “passionate about bringing the comfort and convenience of hands-free shoes to everyone,” Mike Pratt, the startup’s founding CEO, said at the time.

On Monday, Nike unveiled its latest iteration of FlyEase footwear in a trio of colorways including a springy pastel edition, plus a black shoe with cobalt and cherry accents and a version that mixes purple, teal, black, lava, seafoam and navy.

And despite packing the new Go FlyEase with adaptive bells and whistles, Nike insists the sneaker shouldn’t be pigeonholed as fashion for the differently abled, but rather is an item that works for everyone, from the “student racing to class” to the “parent with their hands full.” In a statement on the release, Bebe Vio—a 23-year-old Italian champion who fences from her wheelchair after a severe bout of meningitis left her a quadruple amputee—described the Go FlyEase sneakers as “a new kind of technology, not only for adaptive athletes but for everyone’s real life.”

At its core, the Go FlyEase rethinks the simple act of kicking off a shoe that many people take for granted, but can be less than straightforward for those with different abilities. Unlike most sneakers, the Go FlyEase exists in an open and closed state, thanks to a “patent-pending bi-stable hinge and tensioner” that allows the shoe to bend and flex. That motion, Nike says, gives consumers an easy, no-hands-needed way to step into the “open” shoe, which closes around their foot for a secure, stable fit, similar in some ways to a Venus flytrap.

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The Nike Go FlyEase sneaker accommodates people of varied abilities.
Nike Go FlyEase Courtesy

For now, Nike’s making the Go FlyEase available to a small group of Nike Members, with a general launch expected later this year. Details on price points aren’t currently available.