For the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, Nike announced Friday that it’s designed inclusive and accessible gear for Team USA Olympians and Paralympians to wear on the medal stand. That includes the new ACG Gaiadome FlyEase Boot, which can be slipped on and secured one-handed. The only issue is it seems to have inherited the FlyEase’s limited availability as well. While the rest of the ‘fit will be available for purchase, the Gaiadome boot will be an athlete exclusive.
“For the official Team USA Medal Stand look in Beijing, we worked closely with the disability community, including current and former winter and summer Paralympians, in our design and testing process, and used inclusive design principles and methods to create gear that ensures every athlete who competes feels support in style from start to finish,” Nike said in a press release.
Overall, this translates to an outfit that can be easily worn by those with limited dexterity. For example, the jackets include magnetic closures, oversized zipper pulls, and fish-trap pockets. Meanwhile, the ACG Dri-Fit ADV Trail Pants have a quick-release magnetic buckle. For the ACG Gaiadome Boot, the design features a zippered back entry and toggle laces.
The Gaiadome FlyEase Boot has a similar design philosophy to the $120 Go FlyEase, which Nike introduced last year. Those sneakers featured a “bistable hinge” that allowed a person to put on and take off the shoe hands-free. While the FlyEase’s accessible design was widely praised, Nike was heavily criticized over how it handled the launch. Limited stock and hype created a resale market around the shoes resulting in prices shooting upwards of $400. The problem went viral on social media, and some accused Nike of using disability as a marketing scheme without assuring access to those who would most benefit from the sneakers.
It’s curious, then, that Nike has decided to make the Gaiadome FlyEase Boot an athlete exclusive. This isn’t the first time Nike has made accessible footwear for Olympic athletes that then became available for consumers. For the Tokyo Summer Games last year, Nike introduced the Glide FlyEase. Instead of the innovative hinge, they featured a flexible heel that would snap into place once a person stepped into the shoe. Both the Go FlyEase and Glide FlyEase are available for retail. The Verge asked Nike why the Gaiadome FlyEase Boot will be an athlete exclusive but didn’t immediately receive a response.
In an ideal world, accessible design would be the default, as it benefits everyone. Boots are oftentimes difficult for even able-bodied people with full use of their hands. It’s understandable that Nike may be keen to avoid further controversy, but hopefully, we’ll see the Gaiadome FlyEase Boot’s design incorporated on future shoes that are available to the public — and not in limited quantities.