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Original Issue

Shoe In

When Matthew Walzer was 16, he still needed help tying his shoes because of his cerebral palsy. So in 2012 he wrote a letter to Nike CEO Mark Parker asking for a sneaker he could manage on his own. Walzer (above, right) never imagined his request would become a reality, but last week the shoe he helped inspire hit stores. Nike had been working on a sneaker for athletes with disabilities after the company's first employee, Jeff Johnson, had a stroke in '04 and lost the use of his right hand. With Walzer's feedback, designer Tobie Hatfield (left) developed the LeBron Zoom Soldier VIII FlyEase, which has a wraparound zipper that opens in the back. "I felt this wave of independence," says Walzer, now a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast. "I never got to experience [that] before."