Nike ACG’s Winter Olympics shoe is the best shoe money can’t buy
Nike debuted the Cortez at the 1972 Munich Olympics and hasn’t stopped making a name for itself at the games since. From classic Jordan colorways to edgy podium jackets, the sport’s greatest stage has long been one of the Swoosh’s signature showcases. Beijing 2022 is no different. Once again responsible for outfitting Team USA on the medal court and during the Games (Ralph Lauren topping the uniforms for Friday’s opening ceremonies), Nike outfitted the American Olympians with a whole array of enviable pieces. However, the most coveted of them remains exclusive to athletes: you have to be an elite winter sports enthusiast to get your hands on a pair.
Team USA athletes, whose hard work takes them to the medal spot this year, will do so in the Nike ACG Gaiadome FlyEase shoe. With souped-up tech and old-school vibes, it’s equal parts functional and stylish—the kind of shoe that would sell out instantly if it even went on sale. A beefy Air Zoom unit anchors the heel of the chunky sole, while the upper features GORE-TEX materials – a great look, sure, but one that can support its Gorpcore vibes with the kind of element resistance winter sports enthusiasts need . What it doesn’t have is traditional lacing: the Gaiadome is the latest Nike release featuring the brand’s FlyEase technology, a revelation in accessible sneaker design.
The entire 2022 medal rack collection is designed for inclusivity. The clothing features magnetic buckles, clasps and oversized zips (which, to be fair, also benefit athletes performing in thick gloves). The Chain of Craters jacket even has side ventilation zips for wheelchair users at the Paralympics. The inclusion of FlyEase in the Gaiadome is an extension of this initiative.
FlyEase is the brainchild of designer Tobie Hatfield, who began working on the technology in 2012 after meeting Matthew Walzer, a high school student whose battle with cerebral palsy had resulted in mobility issues. Welzer approached Hatfield and asked him to design a shoe that would allow him to put his shoes on himself, and from there FlyEase was born. Its launch wasn’t without its hiccups – the FlyEase Go, the first hands-free sneaker to feature the technology, was infamously coveted to the point that it was scalped by sneaker retailers upon its initial release – but its steady implementation across a variety of sneaker Moving from running to basketball is a critical step forward in the practice of inclusion. The Gaiadome’s FlyEase entry takes the form of a zippered rear entry, with a toggle system instead of laces that allow athletes to easily tighten the boot. This attention to detail makes the coolest of Beijing accessible exclusively to Winter Games legend Shaun White, as well as cross-country skier and 10-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters. “I love the thought that goes into designing for the elements and for the place of use,” says Masters. “The clothing is not only well thought out in design, but also in execution.”
The Gaiadome FlyEase has all the makings of a sneaker of the year. Its space-age gorpy vibes are equal parts vintage ACG and retro-future Tom Sachs—and it continues Nike’s long-standing tradition of debuting major innovations on the Olympic stage. It’s a shame that it doesn’t get wide release, but it also only adds to the shoe’s appeal. In the age of sneaker bots and resellers, there’s something about a sneaker you can only get your hands on if you’re one of the best athletes in the world.