Athletics - Paralympian Reid takes aim at Nike for inability to buy single shoes


FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - Athletics - Women's Long Jump - T64 Final - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - August 28, 2021. Stef Reid of Britain in action REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Former Paralympian Stef Reid has questioned Nike's commitment to diversity over their refusal to sell single shoes to amputee runners even though they use amputee mannequins and runners in promotions.

Reid, a three-times Paralympic medallist in long jump and 200 metres, said she was unable to purchase a single Vaporfly, Nike's top-of-the-line training shoe that retails for about 240 pounds ($300.91) in Britain.

"It's really expensive and I'm going to buy this (pair) and I'm going to throw half away. This just seems a little bit silly," Reid, who lost her right foot in a boating accident when she was 16, said in an interview with Reuters.

"I would never have gone down this route but when a company is using the image (of amputee runners in promotional material), they're making a statement that they want to be diverse and inclusive."

In a statement to Reuters Nike, who offered her a 15% discount to buy a pair, thanked Reid for sharing her concerns.

"At Nike, we stand for all athletes, and sponsor a number of Para athletes and federations around the world and work with them across all forms of movement," the statement said.

The company added that their American program One Shoe Bank offers a select inventory of single shoes out of their Memphis distribution centre.

"Taking the learnings from the program, we are hoping to expand it to more geographies in the future," Nike said.

The 39-year-old Reid, who competed for Canada before switching to Team GB, has taken up distance running with the ultimate goal of racing in the Boston Marathon.

She would like to honour Boston's groundbreaking decision this year to add several Para categories, with prize money.

ENERGY RETURNS

Reid was keen on the Vaporfly because of the shoe's claims of greater energy returns from its lightweight, carbon-plated design. She believed it would be easiest on her joints.

"I thought, I've got one foot, I really should take care of it," she said.

Several sports manufacturers have since produced similar models of what the running community call "super shoes."

"If you're buying the Vaporfly, you care about your performance," Reid said. "And Nike, they are a performance company, they went out of their way to create the most high-performance shoe possible.

"(But) the issue is not just about me or my need, it's about specificity for people when it comes to buying shoes."

She argues that people should also be able to buy shoes in two sizes, since many have different-sized feet.

"You've done all this amazing research and you missed the final step," she said. "It's actually about changing how we do shoes in general and that companies recognise people are individuals. It isn't a revolutionary idea.

"How I explain it is I wear contacts, I have never bought contacts as a pair because the industry doesn't assume eyes match."

CARBON FIBRE

Reid runs on a carbon fibre blade made by Icelandic company Ossur, which during her track and field career included a spiked plate attachment made by Nike.

"Nike has done some awesome work in the field of disability sports, and did fashion some bespoke plates for the end of blades. And interestingly, sold them as singles," Reid said.

She also reached out to sports equipment company Brooks, who use amputee models in marketing, about their policy on single shoes.

"Brooks has established a working group that has been deep diving on the topic," Brooks replied in a letter, adding the group includes Brian Reynolds, a marathoner and double amputee.

Brooks said they provide credits to retailers such as U.S.-based Nordstrom who sell single and split-sized shoes.

Reid, who lives with her Canadian husband, 11-time Paralympic medallist Brent Lakatos, in Loughborough, England, was a quarter-finalist in "Dancing on Ice" in 2022.

Last month, she became the first amputee athlete to compete in the British adult figure skating championships, and won silver in her age category.

($1 = 0.7976 pounds)

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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