Nike’s FlyEase technology continues to evolve with the debut of the new LeBron Soldier 10 FlyEase.
While the earliest iterations of FlyEase focused on replacing traditional lacing systems with something more accessible, the already lace-less Soldier 10 model expands the platform to consider another opportunity: improved entry.
“One of the key learnings we’ve had in crafting accessible footwear is the importance of easy entry and exit of the shoe, not just simplifying its fastening system,” says Tobie Hatfield, Nike Senior Director of Athlete Innovation. “Eliminating the intricate hand movement of lace tying is important, but if the athlete cannot get their foot into the shoe, lacing becomes a moot point.”
Working closely with athletes of all abilities, Hatfield and his team reimagined the Soldier 10 as a shoe that opens up from the midfoot, all the way through the heel counter. Once zipped, the shoe’s original Velcro® straps — with the same powerful grade of adhesion used to keep LeBron James’s foot contained — envelope the foot and provide a secure, adjustable lockdown to maximize fit and comfort.
“It looks just like the traditional Soldier 10,” continues Hatfield, “but with a far more generous opening for the foot. Of all the shoes we’ve ever made, this may be the easiest one to get into.”
The LeBron Soldier 10 FlyEase also features an upgrade to the zipper, which lies at a flatter angle than previous FlyEase shoes and allows for an easier pull around the ankle.
Subtle graphic hits, a small asterisk, appear on the heel, heel tabs and on the Velcro® under the ankle strap. These nod to the asterisk that appears next to the word “athlete” in Nike’s mission statement and references Nike’s belief that “if you have a body, you’re an athlete.”
LeBron James has served as a supportive ambassador for FlyEase since its inception. “It’s about us empowering every kid and everybody to understand that we are all athletes,” he says. “For myself and Nike to be able to collaborate on a project like this has been special since the very first time it was brought to the table.”
James invited patients from Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation to the Cleveland Cavaliers practice facility to celebrate the launch of the new Soldier 10 FlyEase. James spent time personally connecting with the kids while showing the advantages of the FlyEase in his shoe, which benefits athletes of all abilities and ages.
Another advocate is Elena Delle Donne, who wore the LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 during the 2016 WNBA All-Star game. “There is a very real need for accessible footwear,” explains Delle Donne. “Nike makes shoes I can perform in on the court, but it’s just as important to me that Nike has shoes my sister Lizzie can put on by herself.”
Nike investment in technologies that help athletes of all abilities goes beyond FlyEase. In October 2016, Nike kicked off the Nike Ease Challenge — an open innovation challenge to a broader community of innovators who share Nike’s commitment to elevate athletes at all levels.
The Nike Ease Challenge builds upon the advancement of Nike innovations, such as the LeBron Soldier 10 FlyEase, that break the conventional mode of lacing and entry systems and allow people to more easily put on, secure and take off their shoes. The Challenge will conclude in April 2017 when three finalists will present their ideas to panel of Nike executives and athletes including Chairman and CEO, Mark Parker.
“The entries we’ve received for the Nike Ease Challenge have been inventive, creative and solution-oriented. The challenge has caught the imagination of people from all kinds of worlds. We’ve had designers, engineers, physicians and orthapeadic surgeons submit entries. We’re going to have a tough job on our hands choosing a winner.” says Hatfield.