Steven Sashen was an All-American gymnast and is now a Masters All-American sprinter. He is also a former professional stand-up comedian and Emmy award-winning TV host. His comedic and educational videos have over four million views.
Almost 11 years ago, at 45, Steven got back into competitive sprinting after a 30 year break. He was getting injured CONSTANTLY for the first 2 years. A friend and world champion cross-country runner, suggested that he ditch his padded, high-heeled, best-selling running shoes and try running barefoot. He thought Steven might learn something.
Well, he was right. First of all, as a sprinter, he’d never run more than a mile. But barefoot, he was so enthralled and entranced by the experience and by experimenting with his gait and with surfaces, he ended up running over 5k! Secondly, he ended up with a giant blister on the ball of his left foot — the side that got injured more often. On his next barefoot run about a week later, he thought that if he could find a way to run that didn’t hurt the gaping hole in the bottom of his foot, he probably wouldn’t be doing the thing that caused the hole in the first place. So he gave himself 10 minutes to figure it out. After 9 minutes and 35 seconds of excruciating pain, Steven was about to give up… when, in one stride, everything changed. His running got faster, easier, lighter and FUN. So he kept going for another 10 minutes.
Cut to a few week later when his injuries had gone away – never to come back – and he wanted that barefoot, natural movement experience whenever he could get it. He knew about the Tarahumara and how they made sandals from used tires, so he did the next best thing, making sandals from some sheets of shoe rubber and cord from Home Depot.
More and more people kept asking him to make sandals for them, or show them how to do it and, one day, a barefoot running coach said to him, “I’ve got a book coming out about barefoot running and if you treated this hobby like a business by having a website, I’d put you in the book.” Steven had been an Internet marketer since 1992 and had built about 1,000 websites. So he rushed home and pitched this idea to his wife, who told him it was a horrible idea and insisted that he not do it. He agreed with her… She went to bed at 9 and by 10 he had a website built.
Between Steven’s SEO and marketing skills, plus the sudden interest in barefoot running (thanks to the book, Born to Run), Xero Shoes (then, Invisible Shoes) took off. Within 6 weeks, this was he and his wife’s full-time job. Seven months later, they were getting consulting help from guys who started at Reebok 35 years earlier.
Happily for Lena, Steven’s wife and co-founder, Xero Shoes is the perfect outlet for their various skills. She’s an amazing organizational businesswoman who wants to build a new kind of egalitarian company; he’s a marketer and product developer who understands biomechanics and communication.
Just a few years after they started, they were on Shark Tank, and after turning down $400,000 from Kevin, teamed up with a footwear designer with 40 years of experience, growing from a company selling DIY sandal kits to a complete aspirational lifestyle brand.
Tune in to hear Steven chat with Steve, Mary, and Richard about why doing what’s NATURAL is best and how we’ve merely been hypnotized by marketing when it comes to feet and footwear.
In This Episode
Came online in 1992
He invented a screenwriter program that is still in use today
The product deserves to live
Do right by the customer
The journey to XeroShoes
The experience of barefoot running
His wife thought it was a bad idea
It started as a DIY Kit
When they turned to manufcaturing
It was a bootstrap startup
He turned down the Shark Tank offer and still made money
What’s next for XeroShoes?