On July 13, 2015, Nike introduced its first pair of sneakers with FlyEase, a technology designed to offer easy entry into a shoe through a system that replaced laces with a zipper and Velcro strap. The project was led by Tobie Hatfield (left), Director of Nike's Innovation Kitchen, whose work includes iconic models like the Nike Presto and Nike Free.
Hatfield said the idea for FlyEase, which at the time had been in the works for three years, was to create a product that would help people who couldn’t easily tie and untie their shoes. This interest was prompted after Nike received an email from Matthew Walzer (pictured with Hatfield), a teenager who suffered from Cerebral Palsy and asked the company to make a shoe that could solve his challenge of getting his feet in and out of shoes.
“LeBron’s footwear provided the ankle support Matthew needed, but of course getting into and out of high-top shoes can present its own challenges, so we focused not just on replacing the lacing system but also creating an easier entry system for the foot.”
Tobie Hatfield, Director of Nike's Innovation Kitchen
One of the latest additions to Nike's accessibility-focused line is the AJ1 High FlyEase, a special edition of its legendary Air Jordan 1. It hit stores on November 1, 2019, and sold out within seconds.
The AJ1 is one of Nike's best-selling sneakers of all time, and this FlyEase model shows the brand's commitment to the tech.
E.A.R.L. has evolved into FitAdapt, an auto-lacing technology that can be controlled with a smartphone app. Nike brought this new iteration of its power laces to the Adapt BB basketball sneaker in 2019, followed by the Adapt Huarache, a futuristic, lifestyle take on a design from 1991. Both were priced at over $350 and, like the AJI High FlyEase, sold out instantly when they dropped.
“Our Nike FlyEase platform is aimed at providing greater access to sport for all athletes, and we believe Handsfree’s ‘easy on and off’ technology has the potential to broaden and enhance this effort by removing barriers to play and making sport easier for more people.”
Tom Clarke, Nike President of Innovation, said about the partnership.