On Tuesday, Nike unveiled the Air Native N7—its first shoe specifically designed for Native Americans—with the stated goal of promoting physical fitness among a population with higher-than-average rates of obesity and adult-onset diabetes.
Nike said the design was based on research that involved 224 Native Americans, which concluded that Native Americans had wider and higher feet than the general population. Jeff Piscotta, senior researcher in Nike’s Shoe Research Laboratory, told the Oregonian that company researchers have developed a similar custom fit shoe design for Japanese runners, and as part of the run-up to the 2008 Olympics are researching the feet of Chinese athletes to produce a better fitting product.
But the Air Native N7 also plays on several Indian motifs, including sunrise to sunset to sunrise patterns on the tongue and heel of the shoe. Feather designs adorn the inside and stars are on the sole to represent the night sky.
N7 refers to the seventh generation theory, used by some tribes to look to the three generations preceding them for wisdom and the three generations ahead for their legacy.
Nike said the shoe reflects its long commitment to Native Americans and addresses health problems on tribal lands, where obesity, diabetes and related conditions are near epidemic levels in some tribes.
Nike has launched a sneaker designed specifically for Native Americans. It’s built to fit their feet and in hopes of promoting physical activity within a community that struggles with obesity-related diseases. Melissa Block talks with Sam McCracken, manager of Nike’s Native American Business program.
[Editors Note: You can listen to Melissa Block’s interview with Sam McCracken here.]