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Don Nikes with one hand? A game changer for some

Nike Flyease
Source: Nike
Nike Flyease

Sports apparel retailer Nike wants everyone to "just do it."

That's why the company is releasing a new, easy-entry footwear system this month that is designed for everyone regardless of ability or age: The Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease.

Part of basketball superstar LeBron James' footwear line, the Flyease was created for people who have difficulty getting in and out of their shoes. The sneaker has a hidden zipper that snakes around the heel allowing wearers to open and close the shoe with one hand. Nike's Tobie Hatfield designed it.

"We do such a great job helping athletes perform better and faster and jump higher and all that kind of stuff, but what about perform better just in the sense of quality of life?" Hatfield said in an announcement video for the new footwear.

Hatfield was inspired to design the kicks after receiving a request from CEO Mark Parker to create a shoe for Jeff Johnson, the first-ever Nike employee, who had suffered a stroke and lost the ability to use his right hand. The first iteration utilized Velcro to secure the flap around the heel, but it lacked the stability that an athlete would require in a shoe.

In 2012, Parker put Hatfield back on the project. Matthew Walzer, a 16-year-old high school student with cerebral palsy, had written an open letter to Parker on social media asking Nike for a pair of shoes that he could tie and untie by himself.

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Walzer wrote, "My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day. I've worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe because I need ankle support to walk."

Walzer never expected for Nike to deliver. The company created a custom design with a zipper that peeled the shoe open for him to step in and out easily.

"I'll never forget that night," Walzer said in a video posted by Nike. "Taking them out of the box and putting them on. I just felt this wave of independence that I never got to experience before."

The Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease will be available on July 16 in limited quantities as part of James' footwear collection on Nike's website. Additionally, the company is sending these shoes to two U.S. basketball teams participating in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Reactions on Twitter have been overwhelmingly positive for Nike's innovative design.