September 27, 2007, - 7:37 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Did you know that American Indians a/k/a Native Americans have feet shaped differently than those of most other Americans? Their feet are apparently bigger, according to Nike. (And you know what they say about big feet. Just kidding.)
Anyway, apparently, Nike not only took notice, but made a new shoe specific to Native Americans’ foot specifications, including a much wider toebox and footbed. The new model, to be sold exclusively to Indian tribes and reservations (and priced in the $40 range), is called the Nike Air Native N7.
According to Nike specifications for the shoe, the Air Native toebox for women is four widths wider than that of a traditional Nike women’s shoe. For men, it is two widths wider. For both sexes, the shape of the shoe is different, to accomodate the different foot shape of American Indians. Other things, like “thicker outsole rubber for added durability,” are not explained, and I’m not sure why Native Americans would need added durability.
That’s interesting and smart niche marketing. Still, you have to wonder about the sales strategy, since many of those of American Indian heritage no longer live on reservations and probably also want such shoes tailored more to their foot shape–even if they are only part Indian and the foot difference isn’t as pronounced).
For example, “Katzimo, Mysterious Mesa“–a book my Dad bought me as a kid and which I read–tells the true story of how an entire Indian tribe in New Mexico (at the Acoma Pueblo) converted to Judaism when the tribal chief’s daughter married an Orthodox Jewish trader in the early 1900s. There were many such Jewish traders in the Old West of the 1800s who intermarried with Indians. And many Native Americans, today, aren’t on tribal rolls, so they wouldn’t have access to that purchasing channel, either.
Clearly, the price is subsidized for Indians unlike other Americans in the Nike customer base, since you’d be hard-pressed to find any shoe by Nike in that relatively-low price range, especially this kind of specially-customized shoe. That might upset other Nike customers who are paying $160-$180–at least four times the Air Native price–for Nike running shoes, etc., which aren’t as customized.
Still, the story and Nike’s entry into the Native American foot market is definitely an interesting piece of Americana.
More from Associated Press on the Nike Air Native N7.
Tags: Associated Press, Debbie Schlussel Did, New Mexico, Nike, thicker outsole rubber, Trader, tribal chief, Tribe, USD