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Nike ACG’s Winter Olympics Boot Is The Best Shoe Money Can’t Buy

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Nike debuted the Cortez at the 1972 Munich Olympics and hasn’t stopped making its mark at the games since. From classic Jordan colorways to swaggy podium jackets, the grandest stage in sports has long been one of the signature showcases for the Swoosh. Beijing 2022 is no different. Once again in charge of outfitting Team USA on the medal stand and throughout the games (Ralph Lauren is running point on uniforms for Friday’s opening ceremonies), Nike is kitting out America’s Olympians with a full array of enviable pieces. The most covetable of them, however, is staying exclusive to athletes: you’ll need to be an elite winter sportsperson to get your hands on a pair.

Team USA athletes whose hard work takes them to the medal stand this year will be doing so in the Nike ACG Gaiadome FlyEase boot. With souped-up tech and old-school vibes, it’s equal parts functional and fashionable—the sort of shoe that would be an instant sellout if it were up for sale in the first place. A beefy Air Zoom unit anchors the heel of the chunky sole while the upper is fitted with GORE-TEX materials–a great look, sure, but one that can back up its gorpcore vibes with the sort of element-resistance winter athletes need. What it doesn’t have is traditional lacing: the Gaiadome is the latest Nike release to feature the brand’s FlyEase technology, a revelation in accessible sneaker design.

The 2022 Medal Stand collection as a whole is designed with inclusivity in mind. The apparel features magnetic buckles, clasps, and oversized zippers (which, to be fair, also serve as a benefit to athletes performing in thick gloves). The “Chain of Craters” jacket even features side-vent zippers for Paralympians who use wheelchairs. The inclusion of FlyEase in the Gaiadome is an extension of that initiative.

FlyEase is the brainchild of designer Tobie Hatfield, who first started working on the tech in 2012 after meeting Matthew Walzer, a high school student whose struggle with cerebral palsy had led to mobility issues. Welzer reached out to Hatfield asking him to consider designing a shoe that would allow him to put on his shoes on his own, and from there FlyEase was born. Its rollout hasn’t been without hiccups–the FlyEase Go, the first hands-free sneaker to feature the technology, was infamously so desirable that it was scalped by sneaker resellers upon its original release–but its steady implementation across a variety of sneaker styles from running to basketball is a vital step forward in inclusivity practices. The Gaiadome’s FlyEase entry comes in the form of a zippered back entry, with a toggle system in place of laces that allow athletes to easily tighten the boot. This attention to detail makes the coolest Beijing exclusive as accessible to Winter Games legend Shaun White as it does cross-country skier and 10-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters. “I love the thought put into designing for the elements and for where it is going to be used,” Masters says, “Not only is the apparel thoughtful in design, but it is also thoughtful 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–plus it continues Nike’s longtime tradition of debuting important innovations on the Olympic stage. That it isn’t receiving a wide release is a shame, but also only adds to the shoe’s allure. In the age of sneaker bots and resellers, there’s something to be said for a sneaker you can only get ahold of if you’re one of the best athletes in the world.

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