Dezeen Magazine

Nike announces trainers with "drawbridge" heels as winner of Ease Challenge

A shoe with a flip-down heel has won Nike's inaugural Ease Challenge, which saw designers come up with footwear innovations for disabled athletes.

The challenge called for ideas that would help people of all abilities to put on, secure or remove their trainers. Its winning design was by Brett Drake, an architectural engineer from Wyoming, who modified Nike's Hyperdunk shoe so that it is slid into – not pulled on.

"The idea that I could use my passion, problem-solving and engineering expertise to enable others to enjoy movement and sport like I do became great inspiration for my idea," he said.

His initial inspiration came from snowboard bindings – the part that keeps the feet attached to the snowboard. But it was important to Drake that his design didn't interfere with the shoe's original aesthetic, and that he could instead "enhance it" with an entry and exit system that would make the shoes easier for anyone to use.

"This is where the hinged heel came into play," he said. "By allowing the heel to hinge near the midsole and rotate back, the athlete can then slide their foot into the shoe."

This hinged heel uses powerful but lightweight magnets to create what Blake describes as a "drawbridge" on the back of the shoe.

According to the designer, the magnets are both light and strong enough to forgo any additional weight while securing the athlete inside the shoe once it is on.

Nike's CEO Mark Parker, who was part of the judging panel, predicted that Drake's design would "make all the difference for athletes everywhere".

The Wyoming engineer will now go on to work with Nike in prototyping and testing phases, as well as taking home a $50,000 cash prize.

Nike announced its Ease Challenge in October 2016, inviting anyone from the US to propose footwear designs for athletes of all abilities.

Submissions were judged based on not only their ease of use but potential to be implemented across Nike's various sizes and styles.

"The entries we received were inventive, creative and solution-orientated," said Jeanine Hayes, Nike's chief IP officer.

"It wasn't just about designing a new shoe – we wanted a big idea that would accelerate footwear innovation in a way that makes the seemingly impossible possible for athletes of all abilities."

Nike, which gained a top 10 spot on the inaugural Dezeen Hot List, recently unveiled a single-layer stretchy hijab that could "change the face of sport for Muslim girls", as well as an aerodynamic shoe it hopes will get its athletes to achieve a sub-two-hour marathon.