Dear Nike: I Can’t Tie My Shoes- Article

This was a great article that came out in December 2012, but thought it was worth sharing!  This article involves a little bit of physical therapy and social media, which I think physical therapists should start trying to use more.

Cindy McCombe tells the story of how Matthew Walzer, a 17-year-old with cerebral palsy, used social media and key influencers to make his message go viral, and how Nike responded by making custom shoes for him.

Picture of the shoes are at the bottom!

I am always searching for new shoes for patients that can maybe help them not wear AFOs (ankle foot orthoses) all the time and help them get ready more quickly and be more independent.  I never thought to encourage  some of my teenage patients to send a request in for custom shoes, but I will now!

Here are highlights from the article, but you can read the full article here:

Matthew Walzer, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is one of a handful of people in the world walking around in a pair of custom-made Nike shoes.

What happened to him began with a draft of a letter on his iPhone and posting it to Instagram; and ended with a custom-made pair of shoes with his name on them. Walzer called this the perfect accident.

Walzer, born two months premature and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, has spent much of his life following sports and dreaming about becoming a sportswriter. As a child and up until just recently, he had never put on his own shoes due to his limited mobility in one of his hands. He uses a variety of aides – forearm crutches, and a wheelchair to get around. His active life includes regular workouts in the gym and walks around his house.

…But the words came to him easily on August 4 after an embarrassing episode on a recent trip. During a trip to visit some friends, Walzer was unable to put on his own shoes after a day of swimming. His friends had to help him put them on. He remembers thinking, “It sucks that I can’t do this myself. Although it was nice of my friends, everyone was staring. I was making a spectacle of myself and I felt really embarrassed.”

Nice Kicks, a website covering shoe news, released a small story about Walzer’s letter on the morning of August 7. It received some attention. Later however, on August 8 Matt HalfhillNice Kicks’ Founder and CEO posted a follow up video on YouTube.

Seeing that #nikeletter was already trending, Halfhill wanted to take things a step further and prodded his network into action. “RT, like, and share this video and we will send a postcard to Nike addressed to the CEO to read Matthew Walzer’s letter signed with your name,” Halfhill wrote.

And then Nike actually did call him about his letter!…

Walzer learned a bit about Nike’s involvement with the special needs market during that call. Nike previously had made one pair of shoes for an 11-year-old disabled child in Oregon. As with many people with special needs, this child needed a shoe to fit over braces. Walzer’s needs were different – and Nike was prepared to respond. He was looking for high-top shoes that would give him ankle support. In order to put the shoes on himself, Walzer wanted to have a modified enclosure system so he wouldn’t have to tie laces.

On August 14, Hatfield called Walzer to discuss Walzer’s cerebral palsy and how it affected his feet. Waltzer told Hatfield the issues he has dealt with in his life, and he felt Hatfield seemed to understand. As it turns out, this phone call was actually for requirements gathering purposes.

Behind the scenes, Hatfield altered a shoe from the basketball division. He had the laces removed, and added a zipper and Velcro enclosure system. During product development, Walzer said his first shoes were shipped back and forth from China and the US three times before they eventually ended up on his doorstep.

And then the shoes finally arrived!

Walzer’s shoes finally arrived on October 28 while he and his family were on vacation. The mailman had tucked the box underneath a bench by the front door. When Walzer arrived home and saw the show box he told me, “I literally started screaming, I was so excited! I opened up the Nike box, and my whole family was in the state of shock. The pull-tab zipper was long and it had my name on it. I pulled out the shoes and for the first time – I put my own shoes on my own feet.”

Certainly Walzer’s persistence will help thousands. Nike should and could distribute this new shoe system for the disabled, elderly and anyone else with problems tying their own shoes. For putting on one’s own shoes should not be a challenge.


Categories: News Articles, Technology

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