Steven Sashen

Steven Sashen, CEO, Xero Shoes
ROI Podcast Episode 227

In CEO Podcast Series by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

Steven Sashen is a serial entrepreneur who has never had a job, a former professional stand up comic and award-winning screenwriter, and a competitive sprinter — one of the fastest men over 55 in the country (maybe the fastest 55+ Jew in the world!). He and his wife, Lena Phoenix, co-founded the footwear company Xero Shoes, creating “a MOVEMENT movement” which has helped hundreds of thousands of people Live Life Feet First with happy, healthy, strong feet in addictively comfortable footwear. Steven and Lena also appeared on Shark Tank, where they turned down a $400,000 offer from Kevin O’Leary.

Steven’s Story

I (Steven Sashen) got into sprinting at the age of 45 after a 30-year break. And for about two years I was getting injured constantly.

A friend suggested I try barefoot running as a cure for my injuries and he handed me a copy of Born To Run, the best-seller by Christopher McDougall (at that time it wasn’t a very popular book).

I poked around online and found the Boulder Barefoot Running Club and saw they were holding a class that weekend!

It was a good class, taught by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee (of On the second class, a week later, I was so fascinated and transfixed by the feelings of having my bare feet on the ground, of experimenting with my gait to see what the effects would be, that I didn’t even notice that we’d run over 5k.

Now that may not sound like a lot to some of you, but I’m a sprinter. I run the 100m. My longest run until then was about a mile… and I didn’t like it.

Now there’s more to this story. See

But the short form is that taking off my shoes did lead to the elimination of my injuries. I wanted to be barefooted all the time. But that wasn’t practical — there are places you can’t get into when you have no shoes and some surfaces that are not amenable to being barefoot.

So, inspired by Born To Run, I decided to make my own huaraches running sandals. I picked up some hi-tech rubber sole material from Vibram (the Cherry that we sell in our Classic kits) and some eye-popping cords and made myself a pair. When the other runners saw my huaraches, they asked for their own… which turned into a huarache-making party on the sidewalk of the University of Colorado (we got a lot of looks, ranging from “What are you doing?” to “Hey! It’s those sandals!”)

After making huaraches for most of the BBRC regulars, Michael Sandler said, “These are great. You should make this your business.”

“Nah,” I (Steven) said.

“Well,” Michael added, “if you had a website, I’d put you in the barefoot running book I’m writing.”

I RUSHED HOME and pitched this idea to Lena.

“Ummm…” she said, “I think that’s a horrible idea. We have a lot of other things going on and this would just be a distraction.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said…

And after she went to bed, I built a website 😉

Two weeks later, Invisible Shoes (our original name) was born. Within three months, this was our full-time job. Three months later, we had the former lead designers from Nike and Reebok sitting at our kitchen table – I mean conference room table! — designing our new FeelTrue® outsoles and laying out a business plan for us. And things have been flying ever since!

Now we have the pleasure of having sold tens of thousands of pairs of our huaraches sandals to people in over 85 countries, from ages 1-91. And we get emails every day from people who tell us how they’ve had the same kinds of wonderful, and sometimes life-changing experiences that we did.

Lena’s story

Actually, the first pair of huaraches that Steven made were for me (Lena).

I must admit, I wasn’t that interested in them. I sort of patted him on the head with a “Thanks, Honey,” and put them away.

But after hearing how much fun Born To Run was, I picked up the book, devoured it. It’s a great read whether you’re a runner or not (I’m a hiker, not a runner).

Inspired by all the science Chris describes in his book, I put on my sandals and went for a walk.

Well, I was stunned!

It was instantly obvious that I was slamming my feet into the ground, heel-striking like crazy, and walking like a high-powered Chicago attorney… as I was strolling down to the Boulder Farmer’s market.

I wore my Xero Shoes for the next few weeks and could feel my gait changing, my stride getting lighter, and my body relaxing more as I walked.

The next time I put on a pair of my “comfort sandals,” my feet really missed feeling the ground.  It felt like I had bricks on my feet, and couldn’t believe I ever thought those shoes were comfortable.

I knew that I wanted to wear my huaraches all the time. But if I were going to do that, I needed to make them look cuter!  Luckily, I had made beaded jewelry in the past. So I grabbed some beads and charms and turned my sandals into something really fun, fashion-forward, and the envy of my friends 😉


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