Nike just made getting in and out of your sneakers infinitely easier with the Nike GO FlyEase. While laceless, slip-on shoes are nothing new, they never felt perfect, as you still needed your hands to get in and out of them properly.
The Nike GO FlyEase is the brand’s very first hands-free sneaker and comes out of the Swoosh’s FlyEase department, which focuses on accessible sneaker innovation. The design is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Indeed, when you look at Nike’s official announcement, which includes an instructional video on how to put on and take off the sneaker, it’s clear the Swoosh is onto something.
The shoe functions by taking advantage of the “kicking” action so many of us use to get in and out of our sneakers. With the help of what Nike calls a bi-stable hinge and a midsole tensioner, sneakerheads can slide into and “kick down” their shoe to put it on, and “kick up” and slide out of it when taking it off — all without their hands.
While the shoe was initially designed to make life easier for people with disabilities, the technology actually helps anyone that wears shoes. “We talked to women who were in their third trimester of pregnancy and bending over is not so easy,” says Nike FlyEase designer and Paralympic triathlete Sarah Reinertsen. “But this innovation makes it easier for her to kick on and kick off her shoes.” That applies to anyone who has ever been on the go, with their hands full and trying to somehow get their feet into their shoes without dropping what they’re carrying.
At first glance, a sneaker that folds across the center of the midsole looks a little unstable and fragile. Questions of durability naturally arise. “This Tensioner Band is made out of something we've used for our outsoles,” explains Reinertsen. “We're applying it in a new way, but we still put it through rigorous wear-testing. We're also doing it on machines, which put it through the ringer more than a human can.”
Nike feels confident in the durability of the GO FlyEase, however, couldn’t give an exact number or distance when asked for clarification as to how long the sneaker is expected to last. Most high-end running shoes are expected to last between 300 and 500 miles before replacing them is recommended. While that can be taken as a benchmark, the GO FlyEase is not a running shoe, so the comparison isn’t ideal.
FlyEase has existed for the better part of five years now, and while the department has continually made improvements with accessibility in mind, the GO FlyEase is the brand’s first totally hands-free shoe, which begs the question: Why didn’t Nike, or any other brand, think of this before? Reinertsen reveals that the technology has been in the works for several years, as the engineering of the hinge, in particular, provided a challenge.
“We have things in our innovation space and in our pipeline that we don't always come out with right away,” explains Reinertsen. “You try one footbed and it might not have held down enough. So we try another one. We tried different types of hinges — we wanted to make sure that you don’t feel the hinge underneath. Suffice to say, it was a journey.”
After much trial and error, the FlyEase team managed to fit all the pieces together so that the hinge only activated upon entry and exit of the shoe. Once you slip into the sneaker, it functions like any other lifestyle shoe does, only that you put it on and take it off without any use of your hands.
The Go FlyEase, if it catches on, can be likened to going cordless with our phones and other tech. “You know when the doors to the grocery store just automatically open? That helps people who are in wheelchairs, but it [also] helps all of us. We don't need to use an old door with a doorknob,” beams Reinertsen. “I feel the same way with shoes. Why hasn't there been another way, a more elegant way, a cordless way of putting on your shoes?”
It's a valid point, as sneaker innovation has generally focused on midsole cushioning and upper materials in a bid to make the fastest running shoes possible. At the same time, while we walk around with super-charged phones in our pockets, we still use a piece of string and holes in our shoes to tighten our sneakers.
So while the Nike GO FlyEase is very much about inclusion, it’s also got the potential to be the start of a new era of sneaker innovation. Time will tell whether the technology will catch on. Nike has a penchant for introducing innovation slowly before implementing it across the board. For now, marvel at the unexpected simplicity of the GO FlyEase, available to select Nike members starting February 15.