One of the most-eminent purposes of design is to solve an issue. And while these issues more often than not can be rather niche in nature—the Slanket comes to mind, the originator behind the more popular sleeved-blanket Snuggie, that allows wearers to have free use of their hands while lounging under a blanket—they could prove to be useful for the society at large.
Nike's latest innovation was intended to better serve adaptive athletes, specifically those who are unable to wear their shoes independently. It's something people without physical disabilities wouldn't typically think of and often take for granted. A hands-free design that requires no physical act of fastening may seem like an unnecessary invention for lazy people, but makes a world of difference for a person whose needs have yet to be met by generalised design solutions.
The Nike Go FlyEase sneaker revolutionises shoe-wearing by referencing an already universally acquired habit. According to Nike's principal innovation engineer Tim Hopkins in a behind-the-concept video, the rather aggressive (and definitely not recommended if you want your shoes to last) act of slipping in and kicking out of a pair of shoes using one's other foot as an anchor inspired the mechanics behind the Go FlyEase. Initial prototypes of the hands-free sneaker included a slashed- up pair of Roshe held together with surgical tubing to facilitate the 'fastening'.
That surgical tubing has now been reconfigured into a midsole tensioner on the Go FlyEase that wraps around the heel to secure the foot while in motion, but is designed to be mobile for easy slipping in and off. Then, there's a patent-pending bistable hinge that's part of the Go FlyEase's outsole. This particular innovation allows the sneaker to essentially split into two at the midsole, opening up the footbed at an angle that's big enough for the foot's entry and exit. Then of course, there's the issue of making the sneaker stable enough to stand on its own at that opened-up angle—solved by a thoughtfully designed geometric outsole element.
The innovative mechanism is part of Nike's FlyEase ethos of 'making shoes easier for everyone'. The primary characteristics of FlyEase include ease in opening and closing, putting on and taking off as well as accommodating different foot shapes. It's not difficult to see that the Nike Go FlyEase sneaker ticks all the boxes, and goes beyond its initial purpose.
Think of the parent who's always got their hands full—be it groceries, kids or other everyday struggles—or a person with full use of their hands but suffers from the occasional tremors. Even the elderly could make full use of the Go FlyEase's functionality that will no doubt help in reducing the back strain from bending over to put on their shoes.
While the design for now is restricted to a pair of sporty sneakers, we reckon that with Nike constantly pushing the boundaries of footwear design and technology, we'd be able to see a more lifestyle range that's just as desirable as its typical sneaker offerings. Imagine a pair of Dunk Low or Air Max that everyone can truly enjoy. Now that's the mark of excellent design.
The Nike Go FlyEase shoes are scheduled for a wide release sometime this year. For more stories like this, subscribe to Esquire Singapore.