“It’s one of the most universal shoes ever,” said Nike’s USA Paralympic triathlete Sarah Reinersten at the GO FlyEase unveiling earlier this year. It could be used by anyone, she said: people living with disabilities, pregnant women and the “lazy husband who wants to walk the dog”. As a result, there was a lot of hype about the new shoe’s potential and the the accessibility it could offer.
Louie Lingard, a 19-year-old artist and comedian who lives with a rare form of arthrogryposis, says the shoe is a “great concept”. He’s worn other versions of FlyEase sneakers before and says Nike is his favorite manufacturer. “They’re comfortable to wear but snug, especially with my orthopedic leg braces I wear, so I can see how they might not be the best for some people with disabilities,” he says of the GO FlyEase.
Lindsay Owens, an amputee who lives in Vermont, agrees with Lingard. She says the Go FlyEases were easy to put on and take off. But in the end, because of the prosthesis she was using, the shoes did not suit her. “I think the shoes might be a benefit for people with disabilities, maybe not my specific disability or my specific prosthesis,” she says. “I will also say that the heel of the shoe is a bit clunky which might be difficult for some.”
Nike has been critical for not using the word ‘disabled’ in its marketing of trainers, despite the accessibility they offer. When the FlyEase GOs went on sale, they were made available for purchase through a limited release, which made them only available to people who signed up to become a Nike member.
This decision is not unusual, but when it comes to sneakers designed around accessibility, it has caused problems for Nike. The limited version saw them be sold for up to $2,000 on resale shoe sites who had caught them. Prices have come down since that initial hype, but the whole process has made it harder for people with disabilities to get a pair.
A critic gave his pair to Lingard following a viral TikTok where he said Nike should have done more to make shoes available for people with disabilities. Meanwhile, Owens says she got a Nike subscription through the company’s app and set up notifications so she could get them as soon as they went on sale. “I don’t know how Nike could have made sure they were rolling out to people with disabilities, but if they had found a way, I can say the disability community would have been ecstatic and made to feel heard and special,” says Owens.
The GO FlyEase are currently not available from Nike. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment on the sneaker’s controversial launch and rollout, but said it will release more later this year. He did not give a date or indicate how many pairs he will make available.
Lingard says he should have done more. “I feel like Nike flattered the shoe a lot for people with disabilities knowing they could benefit from it, but they explicitly avoided using the term disabled,” he says. “It seems like they’re almost afraid to say the word disabled, when all disabled people really want is more inclusiveness.”
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