Opinion: Enthusiasm for Air Native N7 shoe

" It was a relief, therefore, to simply travel across town to attend the National Indian Health Board's 24th annual ''Consumer Conference,'' held in Portland, Ore., from Sept. 24 to 28. The conference theme was ''HOPE for Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Addiction Recovery in Indian Country.''

One of the high points was the presentation by Nike Inc. to unveil the Nike Air Native N7 athletic shoe. After two years of consulting with 70 tribes, IHS offices and podiatrists, this shoe was presented to the NIHB conference attendees with public service announcements, background, and a guest presentation by four-time PGA winner Notah Begay III.

You know you're at an Indian conference when, during the background speech about the N7 shoe, the presenter noted that the shoe was designed specifically for the ''Native foot, which is different.'' I heard a comment. ''Yeah, it's shorter and fat,'' a woman behind me said, eliciting low laughter and smiles all around her. But her comment wasn't too far off when I examined the N7 close up. The design is truly wider and, for lack of a better description, thicker in the laces area, or center, of the shoe.

An information center was set up for people to try on the N7 shoe, to be sized properly, and to examine the difference. An IHS staff person told me that the N7 was an excellent idea ''especially for the diabetic population and people who want to continue walking, the older people, the heavier people, or just the people who have real Indian feet. It's so hard to find the perfect shoe.''

She added, ''We're still seeing amputations on the reservations, quite a few - within the month of September we've probably seen four amputations, and one of those individuals passed away. That's reality, people that either are not aware of how to take care of their own feet or they constantly wear the wrong shoes, and it creates calluses and foot problems.'' It was hard for me to believe that a more strategically designed athletic shoe could make a measurable difference in Indian health, but there was strong enthusiasm for the N7. The shoe will be available starting in November, mainly through IHS offices, and a portion of sales revenue will go into a grant fund for tribal community exercise/sports programs."

Get the Story:
Kristy Alberty: Hope for Indian health: 'Just do it' (Indian Country Today 10/12)

Relevant Links:
Nike - http://www.nike.com

Related Stories:
Editorial: Celebrate the Air Native N7 shoe (10/8)
Column: Put me down for the Air Native N7 shoe (10/4)
Nike's 'Air Native' shoes draw some complaints (10/3)
Nike develops the 'Air Native N7' for Native feet (9/26)