SPORT - INTERVIEW
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
SPORT - INTERVIEW
by Beren Dere
Comfortable footwear and sandals brand Xero Shoes was founded in 2009 by Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix. Steven inspired from nature and designed according to his needs. He wanted to create a flexible and comfortable footwear for walking, hiking, running or dancing. They started with DIY sandals and to now Xero Shoes reached 100,000+ customers in 94 countries. I asked Steven Sashen, Co-Founder and CEO of Xero Shoes, about innovative footwear and he answered in detailed. Enjoy reading and running.
Steven Sashen, Co-Founder and CEO of Xero Shoes
Before start talking about Xero Shoes, could you tell us about your "Husband and Wife Team"? What are the backgrounds and industry experiences of you and Lena?
Neither Lena nor I had any experience in the footwear industry prior to starting Xero Shoes. We are, however, both life-long entrepreneurs.
What was the inspiration for Xero Shoes? Could you tell us about the Xero Shoes story?
In 2007, I got back into sprinting -- running the 100m -- at the age of 45, after a 30-year break. And for the next two years, I was injured almost constantly.
A friend who's a world champion cross-country runner handed me a copy of Born To Run and suggested I try running barefoot.
I tried it and was so enthralled with the feeling, with experimenting with my gait, in testing different ways to land that, without realizing it, I ran over 5k... I'm a guy who doesn't even take the turns on a track!
But I also got a massive blister on ONE FOOT... the foot at the end of the leg that got injured the most often.
So, a week later for my next barefoot run, I thought, "If I can find a way to run pain-free, that'll probably mean I'm no longer doing the thing that caused the blister in the first place. I'll give myself 10 minutes to figure it out."
9:30 of pain later, I was just about to give up and then, in one stride, something shifted, and I was suddenly running faster, easier, and lighter than ever... pain-free.
It took a few weeks for the new gait pattern to lock in - I stopped overstriding... but I've been basically uninjured ever since and am a Masters All-American sprinter, one of the fastest guys over 55 in the country (I run a 12.5 second 100m).
I wanted more of this barefoot feeling as often as possible. Knowing about the Tarahumara, who make huarache sandals out of tire scraps, I found some rubber and some rope from Home Depot and began making sandals for other barefooters in Boulder, CO.
One day, running coach Michael Sandler said to me, "I'm writing a book about barefoot running. If you took this sandal making hobby seriously and had a website, I'd put you in the book."
I rushed home and pitched this idea to Lena, who told me it was a HORRIBLE idea that wouldn't make any money and it was just an ADHD distraction. "Don't do it," she insisted.
"Fine," I said.
Lena goes to bed around 9. By 10, I had a website built.
It launched in November 2009 as "Invisible Shoes". Within 3 months it was our full-time job. A few months later, we met some former designers from Reebok who helped design our super-durable FeelTrue® soles and for the next 2,5 years, we sold DIY sandal making kits to people all around the world. In January of 2012, we showed their sandals on Shark Tank... and turned down a $400,000 offer from Kevin "Mr. Wonderful" O'Leary.
Soon thereafter, we brought on Dennis Driscoll - the co-founder of Avia Footwear and, most recently, head of global product design for Crocs. Dennis helped create the ready-to-wear product line, still true to what Xero Shoes, and the 100,000+ customers in 94 countries, find most valuable.
Since then, we've expanded to become a complete active lifestyle footwear brand, with casual and performance shoes and sandals.
What are the features and innovations of Xero Shoes?
Imagine taking off your shoes at the end of the day. If you'd be more comfortable once you do that, then you've been wearing the wrong shoes.
Your feet are made to bend, flex, move and FEEL the world. One-quarter of the bones and joints in your ENTIRE body are in your feet and ankles; you have more nerve endings in your soles than anywhere but your fingertips and lips.
Comfort and performance come from using your feet naturally.
That's what Xero Shoes let you do.
- Natural Fit - wide toe boxes let your toes spread and relax. A non-elevated (zero-drop) heel for proper posture.
- Natural Motion - super flexible to let your feet bend and move naturally. Low-to-the-ground for balance and agility.
- Natural Feel - the patented FeelTrue® soles give you just-right protection while still giving the ground feedback your brain needs for efficient, natural movement.
Plus the soles are backed with a 5,000 mile warranty.
What kind of different footwears do you offer to your customers?
Casual and performance shoes and sandals and our original DIY sandal kit.
How often do you change up your footwear collection? Do you have new sketches on the drawing table?
We're adding 4-8 new products per year. We have about 3 years worth of products planned at the moment.
What is Xero Circle?
That's our community of customers, friends, and fans.
How do you use social media for Xero Shoes? How can our readers follow Xero Shoes?
Oy, that could take me days to explain.
You can find @xeroshoes on almost all the social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and youtube)
We use social to engage in the conversation with our customers and soon-to-be customers. We use it to share the message and feeling of our brand. We use it to highlight what people do in our shoes and sandals. We use it to get feedback from our customers. We advertise on it to find more leads and customers. We use it to educate and inform.
How can our readers buy Xero Shoes products? Do you have an international delivery option?
We ship all over the world, and we have stores that carry our products in many countries as well.
You can purchase on our website - www.xeroshoes.com - on Amazon.com, and through one of the stores you can find listed at www.xeroshoes.com/stores/
What is next for you and your wife?
Our mission is simple: In the same way that people think "natural food" is the better, obviously, healthy choice, we want them to think of natural movement the same way... and we want to be the preeminent brand in the natural movement space.
So, what's next is more of the same: developing great products, getting them on people's feet, helping them Live Life Feet First, and spreading the word about Xero Shoes.
Thank you Steven.