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Nike Announces Winner of Challenge to Create Sneaker for All Abilities

An architectural engineer from Cheyenne, Wyo. impressed an esteemed panel of Nike judges, winning the $50,000 grand prize of Nike’s Ease Challenge. The competition, which started in October of 2016, enlisted the public’s help in finding an innovative, all-ability update to its FlyEase shoe.

Winner Brett Drake’s design features a hinged heel, allowing the wearer to slide into the shoe from behind, and rotating back using light magnets as a closure on a 2016 Nike Hyperdunk sneaker.

“I wanted to create something that didn’t interfere with the aesthetic and performance achievements of Nike’s original design. My goal was to enhance it with an entry and exit system that would be easy for anyone to use. I’m an athlete and know the passion and enjoyment I have gained from sport,” said Drake. “So, the idea that I could use my passion, problem solving and engineering expertise to enable others to enjoy movement and sport like I do became great inspiration for my idea.”

Submissions came from across the U.S., and were ranked based on easy usage for athletes with all abilities, performance and the possibility to expand through a wide range of sizes and styles.

“The challenge caught the imagination of people with different experiences and backgrounds—from designers, engineers, physicians and orthopedic surgeons,” said Jeanine Hayes, Nike chief IP officer. “It wasn’t just about designing a new shoe, we wanted a big idea that would accelerate footwear innovation in a way that makes the seemingly impossible possible for athletes of all abilities.”

The judging panel included Nike CEO Mark Parker, Tobie Hatfield, inventor of the Nike FlyEase, his muse for the project, Matthew Walzer, Olympians Carl Lewis, Elena Delle Donne and Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medal winner, along with other Nike representatives.