In poor rural reservations, people often share shoes with family members. That can be dangerous for diabetics. When their shoes are too tight, the ill can suffer ulcers and even amputation. "Sam is the first one who recognized the need for the shoes," said Stapp, a member of the Comanche tribe whose mother also died of diabetes.
He met McCracken a few years ago, just when the doctor was modifying shoes for his patients. Teaming up, they developed a mission: Don't let Indian kids go through the same pain of losing their moms.
McCracken followed up by hitting the pavement. He visited Indian communities in Oregon, Montana and Florida and scanned 200 people's feet at 70 tribes. The data showed that Indians' average toe size is bigger than other Americans', especially with women, who require a toe box four sizes wider than for traditional Nike women's shoes.
After two years of research and lab work, Air Native landed. McCracken is so sure of the sneaker's solidity, he said, "If my mom would have had access to this shoe, or have been encouraged to do physical activities, she might still be here."