September 27, 2007, - 7:37 pm

Interesting Americana: New Nike Tailored to Native American Indian Footbed

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.

Nike Air Native N7: Only For Members of the Tribe (Not the Jewish Kind)

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.

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12 Responses

Nike made acquired it’s success designing shoes for a specialty market. My first track shoes were Adidas made for the Tokyo Olympics although many years later when I acquired them. Nike was the first shoe maker that made shoes for high jumpers. I bought a pair with a heal designed to absorb the 700 pounds plus pressure brought to your heal and knee at take-off under the bar, a smaller market than Native Americans.
The shoe isn’t “subsidized” but the profit margin adgusted. Having some Native American heritage myself, I can assure you that any vertical marketing with shoe size is less about genetic differences than a re-connect to the way shoes used to be marketed ie to a variance in human construction. Today a “one size fits all” crap is indicative of where most shoes are imported from (CHina). In the Civil War, the left and right boots were the same, now every shoe is a medium or size “D”. Where are the size EEEs or AAs? There are American Indians that grow up never having been introduced to a recuriter from college footabll or athletic programs yet they dwarf some NFL players! I’ve seen them with my own eyes! So keep putting growth hormones in the beef and triple sizing the crap kids eat and dumping nuclear junk onto the reservations and see what that produces in the years to come. Nike is an athletes’ shoe, the rest are just posers who tag along, so don’t be surprised about their dedication to a a smaller market.

code7 on September 27, 2007 at 11:28 pm

I went to grade school on an Indian reservation and never noticed any wide feet, but maybe I wasn’t looking. There may well be some Indian tribes with wide feet, but there are a lot of very different Indian tribes so to all have wide feet – ridiculous. I also happened to have worked for NIKE for 4 years and would guess that it is just another of their many marketing ploys.

feralcat9 on September 28, 2007 at 2:17 am

“(And you know what they say about big feet. Just kidding.)”
No, that is what they say about long fingers or a long nose!

feralcat9 on September 28, 2007 at 2:19 am

That’s very interesting! I am 1/8 Native American from my father’s side and although I’m small and have small feet, my feet are unusually wide for the size. I have always had to buy shoes that run a bit wider than average, or buy shoes that come in wide. I was a serious ballet student in adolescence and had to special order wide pointe shoes as well! People always used to ask how tiny feet could be so wide. When my mom would get really mad at my dad, she’d say “and you gave all my kids deformed feet!” Hahahhahaaaaaa!!!! I really don’t think my feet look bad at all — it’s more of a fit issue than a visually apparent feature.
I just think this is all so interesting. I never knew this was a result of my NA heritage.

AmericanJewess on September 28, 2007 at 2:22 am

Don’t misunderstand me, Nike is a marketing machine, that is what drives business success. However, if you rent the Prefontaine movie with Donald Sutherland, you’ll see the innovative origin of Nike in the custom waffel souls that Prefontaine’s coach makes for him. Also, watch the vintage blue jerseys that the University of Washington breaks out for their game this weekend. The school had blue jerseys because atheletic apparel companys did not make them in their school colors-purple. Designing shoes to a special atheletic need or getting the best athletes to wear your product is still the most effective marketing. I will be looking for a pair of those wide Nikes now, thank you! If someone knows where I can get special illegal alien trackers, I’ll take a pair of those, too. They need to go right from the desert into a Burger King kitchen without slipping. lol

code7 on September 28, 2007 at 7:43 am

Well, now they’re going into the Native India market. My 1st thought is that, Nike thinks that the poor “Injun” has wider feet because the Indian goes barefoot or in moccasins.
Soon, the foot gear cos.Marketers will be going into the Latino Market for shoes.
How will they handle it? What gimmick? Bright colors – pink with red and neon green?

allat on September 28, 2007 at 1:11 pm

“When my mom would get really mad at my dad, she’d say “and you gave all my kids deformed feet!” Hahahhahaaaaaa!!!! I really don’t think my feet look bad at all — it’s more of a fit issue than a visually apparent feature. ”
As an aside. I’m a Latina in NYC (my grandfather was a Mestizo Campesino from the mountains Central Amer. – so I’m also Indigenous)- and I can say this.
Where has respect for the very vital part of the human body gone? Feet are treated like the lowest of the low. People in Asia (esp. Southeast Asia) consider feet as the lowest part of the body- in all aspects – and disdain them (slippers are not supposed to touch the head).
But feet not only bear the whole weight of the body, and move us around in a facile way, but they also touch the Mother Earth – thereby, absorbing the energy waves from the Earth. It occurs to me that it’s time to look on feet as Sacred.

allat on September 28, 2007 at 1:22 pm

I have a broad foot across the ball of the foot and a relatively narrow ankle. This is a English thing, I believe. Outside of English brands, the bulk of US shoe brands are variants of Italian designs which has a broader ankle.
Its annoying to try on shoes that fit the toe area and take a step and feel my ankle pull right out of the shoe. Anyway, sticking with English based shoe brands generally helps.
Trying to get hiking shoes with proper ankle support leaves me with two options. Build up the boots with padding and inserts or get a pair of custom boots made. I don’t hike often enough to justify the custom thing.
After reading this I have to wonder if I get this from the 1/4 of my English genetics. I have some “French” that’s supposedly been in NA for much more than a couple of centuries.

jpm100 on September 30, 2007 at 7:42 pm

Interesting, I am part Native American (it’s several generations back). But I have very wide feet and shoes never fit me right. I’m size 8.5 double E and with a high instep.

Nike may have thought they were doing a public service but their may actually be an enormous market and a lot of money in this for them if they consider that there are 40 million American who are “part Indian”. We are an enormous population in the USA although not really organized in anyway.

The trick would be finding us/marketing to us.

I am also glad that my full-blooded cousins are finally getting a shoe that fits them. After everything they have been historically put through, they deserve the respect that Nike is showing them. Way to go Nike for stepping up and providing this effort. If you make money along the way, well, you deserve it!

LOH on December 9, 2010 at 12:10 am

P.S. To JPM100, the French background you mentioned is a very common mix with Native American for us “part Indian” folks.

The French mixed a whole lot with Native Americans in three separate regions: 1) Canada and the Northernmost US states, 2) Louisiana in the Bayou country (Cajuns and Creoles) and 3) the coastal Carolinas (North and South Carolina aling the coastline).

LOH on December 9, 2010 at 12:17 am

As a Male having these feet, thank you for the lead as to where to buy some fitting shoes although at over 60 I don’t run very much. You implied curiosity as to the outside reinforcement of the sole. long story, (working theory) is that as the M and N migrations left Africa where legs evolved to form the perfect elliptical path for the foot ,energy wise, and moved North there was the normal Cold Adaptation which happens in most mammals in that the lower leg gets shorter so it has a greater vascular to area density to stay warmer. It’s easer to change the low number of regulator genes to shorten the time the Tib and Fib grow, than it would be to change the numerous genes needed to grow more vascularization. That said , the ratio of when to turn off the Tib/Fib growth has variation between groups this would of course “cock” the foot to one side or the other. Having tracked various men over the decades I have found that Natives tend to apply more pressure to the outside of the foot and Europeans to the inside in relation to the “Norm” of the African , this is of course only indicative of regional decent in a very general way.

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