A viral TikTok has revealed what should have seemed inevitable in hindsight.
Nike’s “Go FlyEase,” its first 100-percent hands-free shoe, was marketed in February as a game-changer for people with disabilities. Thanks to a clever hinge system, the sneaker fastens simply by stepping into it and opens up by putting your foot down onto the heel. Its release was a huge step for Nike’s FlyEase line, which has focused on accessibility, but the actual release wasn’t so accessible.
As TikTok user @notlewy pointed out in a clip that has over a million views (and counting), the only place to find the Go FlyEase now, nearly three months after its release, is on the resale market. Sneaker resellers are inherently a lecherous breed, but profiteering comes off as particularly gross when it comes to a shoe intended for a market that’s always been underserved. The asking price has climbed well over $500 on the secondary market, while the poverty rate for people with disabilities is twice that of non-disabled people, according to the National Council of Disability.
“I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say something about how capitalism and how our materialistic ways have affected society,” @NotLewy said to close out the video. “So, umm, yes.”
Gabriel Lewis, a 37-year-old from Akron whose husband has a disability, emailed Input soon after we published the announcement for the Go FlyEase to express concerns about people with disabilities being able to get ahold of the shoe upon release. His prediction ended up being depressingly prescient. This week, he and his husband hopped on the phone to discuss how Nike bungled what was supposed to be a huge help for the disabled community.
“You have people reselling the shoe on different websites for over $500, which I think is absurd.”
Cooper Lewis, now 32, suffered a stroke when he was 30. He now wears an ankle orthotic and doesn’t have use of the right side of his body, so the Go FlyEase was of immediate interest when he first heard about it. Cooper had the opportunity to purchase the sneaker for three days after its release, but the problem is that Nike overlooked the diverse sizing needs of the disabled community.
Many disabled people also wear orthotics, which don’t fit in standard-sized shoes. Cooper was disappointed to find that the FlyEase wasn’t available in an additional wide fit to accommodate his needs in addition to the predatory resale market that’s arisen from Nike’s manufactured scarcity. And because of poverty levels within the disabled community, even the retail price of $120 was too expensive for many people.
“My husband and I are very fortunate that we can afford certain things like a $120 pair of shoes,” Cooper said. “But the majority of Americans with a disability live paycheck to paycheck and below the poverty line. And then you have people reselling the shoe on different websites for over $500, which I think is absurd.”
The obvious solution is for Nike to simply make more of the Go FlyEase. The same practice would help to curb the resale market for hyped sneakers that are already all but impossible to buy at retail, but the urgency to meet demand should be heightened when offering a shoe ostensibly for people with disabilities.
“When I see the word 'accessible,’ it means it’s accessible for me to purchase and use it.”
“The response to Nike Go FlyEase was incredibly positive,” a spokesperson for Nike told Input. “Due to overwhelming demand, we are unable to serve all of our members at this time. More units and additional colorways of the shoe will be available this year. In addition, the latest Nike FlyEase collection is currently available on the Nike App / nike.com.”
It’s due to our platform as a media outlet that we were able to get a response from the company, but the Lewis couple isn’t able to say the same. Calls and emails to Nike to express what the brand could and should do better went unanswered — and even though more pairs of the Go FlyEase have dropped since its launch three months ago, those were limited to select Nike members who have shown interest in FlyEase products before, according to the Swoosh.
Cooper takes issue with the way the Go FlyEase was marketed from the jump. He points to Tommy Hilfiger as a brand that quietly makes adaptive clothing and doesn’t push its offerings to a wider market that doesn’t actually need them. By making such an initial splash with the FlyEase, Nike enticed a wide range of people without disabilities, as well as resellers looking to make a quick buck.
“They could have not used the word ‘accessible’ and just said ‘hands-free shoe,’” Cooper says. “Change the marketing. Me being handicapped, when I see the word 'accessible,’ it means it’s accessible for me to purchase and use it.”
No one is asking Nike to be charitable. The frustration with the Go FlyEase can be summed up through a meme from Futurama. Invoking Fry holding a fist full of cash, Gabriel says with a laugh, “We are dying to give them our money.”