You may have heard that Nike last week introduced its first
">“athletic performance shoe” specifically for Native Americans. Called the Air Native N7, its tribal-influenced design promotes physical activity among obesity-prone Native Americans because it’s made to fit the substantial width requirements of their feet, or so Nike says. The shoes – about $40, for the pair! -- are made of sustainable, low-waste materials, and include cultural nods like tongue-heel tabs that (somehow) signify a sunrise-to-sunset-to-sunrise progression, and a feather pattern on the sole. Oh, and the N7? Not a bingo tip. It refers to the Iroquois philosophy that decisions made today should be considered for their impact on the seventh generation to come.
Apparently Nike dedicated two years to researching and developing this shoe, collaborating with podiatrists, Indian Health Services, and volunteer foot models from more than 70 tribes; according to the company, Air Native N7s will only be sold through Native American outlets, and profits will support Nike's “Let Me Play” sports programs on Indian lands across the US. So that's a good thing.
But do all Native Americans – 70 tribes’ worth – have feet similar enough to warrant only one type of shoe? And what kind of response would Nike get if they introduced, say, the Air Mitzvah 18? There are many positive things to be said about Nike’s commitment to addressing Indian health and obesity issues with its highly targeted sneaker … but doesn’t it seem just a little bit odd?