Nike has released the Air Native N7, a running shoe exclusively available for Native Americans. Nike is quite proud of itself for offering this “true Native fitting, performance product” that meets the “specific fit and width requirements for the Native American foot”.
The USA Today article mentions the shoe’s “culturally specific look.” Other than a strip of color that runs along the laces, these are the biggest, whitest, most oblong sneakers I have ever seen. In USA Today’s picture, the sneaker makes the guy’s head look like a peanut. That’s a helluva toe box.
I’m no orthopedist, but I am a cynic. I wonder if ‘regular’ sneakers that suit the feet of every other race were really that inadequate for Native Americans, themselves a diverse population that span a continent. Or is Nike’s market so saturated that they are shamelessly going after a market share of 1% of the population (and the non-profit health foundations that cater to it)?
But ultimately, I suspect that this is a feel-good initiative for the employees of Nike, a company that has $15 billion in revenue a year and is still scrubbing at the tarnish from the controversy in the mid-1990s over its exploitative sweatshop labor in third-world countries. What a bizarre sequence of events in White European/Native American relations. In 500 years, we’ve gone from wiping them out with smallpox and stealing their land to niche-marketing them sneakers.