People with disabilities, including amputees, and shoppers with unevenly sized feet are now able to buy only one Merrell shoe — or two shoes in different sizes and widths to create a pair — through the brand’s partnership with Zappos.
The shoemaker became the first outdoor and hiking label to join the Zappos’ Adaptive Single and Different Size Shoes program, which launched this summer with participating companies Nike and Converse, as well as New Balance, Billy Footwear, PLAE and Stride Rite. The offerings are available for all customers but are also targeted to adaptive athletes who seek to explore the outdoors — a trend on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic — with appropriate footwear tailored to their own sizes.
According to the Amputee Coalition of America, there are an estimated 185,000 new lower extremity amputations each year within the United States alone, and there is currently a population of roughly two million American amputees. More notably, upwards of 80% of amputees live in the developing world, and only 2% have access to proper prothetics.
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“There are more than one million amputations happening around the world annually — one every 30 seconds,” Merrell director of sales Katie Davis told FN. “Our partnership with Zappos Adaptive is another step in driving meaningful change through creating a welcoming outdoor environment for all.”
The partnership is also part of Merrell’s commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion in the outdoor community: Two years ago, the brand formalized its support for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (or JEDI). As part of the strategic pillar, it established a council comprised of leaders from within and outside the outdoor industry to develop its D&I initiatives around the world, as well as extended unconscious bias training to its employees. It noted at the time that it had also joined forces with The Avarna Group to complete a “culture audit” to assess the current state of D&I within its own company.
“We believe the trail is for everyone — no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, who you love or how you move,” added Merrell global brand president Chris Hufnagel. “[The] Zappos Adaptive Single and Different Size Shoes program truly exemplifies this mission, and we are proud to partner with a like-minded organization driving change to allow everyone to experience the simple power of being outside.”
As for Zappos, the retailer introduced its Adaptive line in April 2017 — three years after a customer, in a phone call with an employee, asked if she could exchange a pair of shoes for her grandson, who had autism and needed help tying the laces on his own. Last month, Zappos Adaptive debuted Ugg Universal, a collection in partnership with Ugg that features functional iterations of two of the sheepskin boot brand’s classic styles: the Classic Short and Neumel.