Get ready for a fun and lively conversation about the many benefits of living a barefoot-style lifestyle with Steven Sashen!
Steven is the co-founder and CEO of the fantastic minimalist footwear company, Xero Shoes, which he started with his wife after discovering the comfort, benefits, and fun that comes with natural movement. In this episode, we focus on the wonderful physical changes that come from getting back to basics and truly honoring the ancestral living approach, head to toe! We talk about the marketing forces that have always played a huge role in shaping the shoe industry and Steven shares some great ideas for integrating more barefoot time into your daily life. He also implores us to ask ourselves one question: Do my feet feel better at the end of the day than they did at the beginning? If they don’t, then it’s time to consider getting a pair of Xero shoes so you can feel the difference for yourself.
A Masters All-American sprinter and former All-American gymnast, Steven has spent time working as a stand-up comic and cognitive psychology researcher and has also taught Tai Chi and Zen Archery. Additionally, Steven is the creator of Scriptware, the industry-standard word processor for film and TV writers. Learn more about Xero Shoes here!
Living barefoot style is getting back to basics. [01:11]
Whatever you put on your feet will change your gait. [04:32]
Running barefoot on cement you naturally optimize the impact. [07:38]
When reading about studies and research, it is important to look at the context. Who is sponsoring the study? [09:15]
Powerful marketing forces send a message that the ultimate expression of an athlete is to complete an Ironman or marathon. [13:06]
Studies show that testing people’s time for a mile turned out to be an excellent predictor of longevity and disease risk. [15:36]
Steven got into sprinting and continues into the higher age group. He studies his proper form when running barefoot. [19:51]
Steven explains a perfect running form that he has learned from being barefoot. It is hard for some people to even feel where their feet are landing. [25:54]
Is there a decrease in the incidence of positive tests on the runners today? [34:23]
Take off the padded constrictive heel-elevated shoes and try the barefoot style. [36:56]
It’s not about the footwear. It’s about the form. [39:47]
It seems the heavily padded shoes are coming back. Padding does not reduce impact forces. [46:57]
There are many things about shoes that are misunderstood. [52:08]
Sometimes the shoe can make your gait change without you even realizing it. [54:26]
The way shoes are marketed influences performance because of expectations. [56:33]
When purchasing shoes, it is important to think about how your foot is designed, not just the cushy comfort. [01:02:40]
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Hey listeners, get ready for a fun and lively discussion about the benefits, the wonders of living a barefoot style lifestyle. I’m talking to Steven, Sashen the founder CEO of Xero shoes, X E R O. They make a wonderful line of minimalist footwear. Uh, but the concept, the picture is so much bigger than putting on some fancy shoes that have a lower heel than usual. And Steven really goes off and gets you excited about this shift in mindset and philosophy to kind of get back to basics and honor the ancestral living approach that we talk about. So often with diet and workouts and sleep habits and things like that. And it definitely extends to your choice of footwear and your obligation to reintegrate the foot into your everyday life experience. And it does start with that, just taking off whatever shoes you’re wearing and walking around the house and just getting used to the proprioception, the sense and awareness of where you are in space that we’ve drastically and tragically, uh, constrained by throwing casts basically onto our feet for our entire lifestyle.
So, and Steven talks about some step-by-step ideas for you to integrate a more barefoot time and get back into the groove of allowing your foot to do the job that it was intended to do. And by doing so, taking the stress off of your knees and back and ways that we refer pain when we’re not good at using our feet. He talks about some of the marketing forces and the history of shoe design and the hype and the misinformation that’s out there. A very interesting discussion on these, uh, special Nike vapor fly shoes that everyone is talking about, how they improve performance by a significant percentage. There’s been some quotes that they make the runner 4% faster. And for this reason, all the world records are going down and Steven calls BS on that. So you’re going to love this guy’s style. He’s definitely free flowing.
You’re going to learn a lot about barefoot footwear and just the entire, uh, change in philosophy from relying on crutches and supports and braces, and instead reawakening the human potential for natural movement. Steven Sashen here we go. Steven Sashen I got ya. And a beautiful background. If you’re watching on YouTube, we get to see the incredible display of Xero shoes. I am a, a recent enthusiast. I love these pairs, and it’s just a, um, a wonderful opportunity to talk about, uh, your, your journey into this world and, and the, the great footwear that you make, but also the, the barefoot and the minimalist shoe lifestyle, and how, how things are going along those lines. So here we are with an introduction I’d love to hear, hear your story.
I’m going to back up enough about me. Let’s talk about you. So tell me, I mean, if you’re going to say nice things about my shoes, say more, so we say some stuff to play with and what was your experience?
Well, I’ve been trying to integrate into minimalist shoes for many years and do more and more workouts and more and more serious stuff in them. So I’m here on a, uh, let’s see, it’d be 15 years ago. I got my first pair of Vibram five finger shoes, and I jogged down the street and like a lot of people tell the story of their very first time. You know, I was so excited. I jogged a couple miles and then my cows were sore for several days afterward. And, you know, it was a great awakening to realize that even a fit athletic person, my whole life, that I was, you know, not properly adapted to be able to take off running down the street in bare feet. And it was kind of, you know, rather than complain or blame the shoes or file a lawsuit. I was like, you know what? I have to get good at this. I have to get better at this and realize that, you know, these things have to be brought back into the picture, your bare feet I’m talking about.
Well, what’s so interesting about that. First of all, I like to say calf pain is optional. Many people think it’s wired, but it’s not. And part of what causes it is, it will suffice it to say anything we’re going to talk about. It’s about form, not footwear. It just so happens that footwear informs the form. So I did some research with Dr. Bill Sands, who used to be the head of biomechanics for the us Olympic committee. He, he had a, uh, human performance lab at a university in Western Colorado. And one of the things that he showed in his lab, it was fascinating is he’d put you on a, this giant treadmill, like five feet wide, 10 feet long, and film you at 500 frames a second from the side and from the back. And he’d have you in your favorite shoes, then barefoot, then every other shoe you had and for all, but the most elite athletes, whatever they put on their feet changed their gate.
And they didn’t know it even barefoot runners. There was a guy who we tested, who was, he called himself a barefoot runner, but he spent most of his time in five fingers. And when he was barefoot, he had just impeccable form. And then he put on the five fingers and started over striding and heel striking. And here’s the kicker. You didn’t know he was doing it. And so that’s the part for everyone is like their gait was changing and they were unaware of it. So the, the other part of calf pain is optional. Is that with footwear, that’s basically stiff. You develop certain patterns of movement that are frankly, um, there, if you get rid of the shoe, you end up overusing your calf because you’re doing what the shoe would normally do for you. Like, if it’s got kind of a rocker bottom or toe spring, you’re acting like you still have that same shoe on your foot, but you don’t.
And that can cause, um, uh, some, some calf issues, or if I’ve also seen people do this, where they continue to overstride. So they’re landing with their foot too far in front of their body. And they heard that you’re supposed to land on the ball of your foot. So they point their toes. And that’s what I mean, ecentric load on the calf and extra strain on the, on the, uh, the muscles and tendons of the foot as well, and the bones too. And so that’s another form issue that if you don’t do either of those things, if you don’t, if you basically, if you relax more and get your feet underneath you, calf pain is optional. That was a long detour. Sorry about that.
Um, so, um, if we, um, head out the door and start running barefoot on cement, are we going to naturally optimize because of the severe penalty of, you know, impact trauma with bare feet on a hard surface?
You totally nailed it. That’s exactly what it is. Basically doing it wrong, hurts doing it wrong, but it feels great. You can spot a barefoot runner on the street from, you know, a hundred yards away. Cause they had this weird look on their face. It’s called um smiling. Uh it’s uh, it’s very, it’s very common. And, and people sometimes say, well, we didn’t evolve to run on concrete. It’s like, you should go to the places where we evolved, uh, aside from the fact that hard-packed mud is as hard as concrete. There’s all these other things in it that are really, really horrible that you would never want to run on. Concrete is dreamy. In fact, the best thing, if you want to talk to a barefoot runner and make them just get wistful, uh, mentioned a freshly painted white line on the side of a road, uh, that thing is awesome. Cause it’s just, it’s still nice and hard and you’re getting the right feedback, but it’s also silky smooth at the same time. It’s just delightful.
Right? And, um, I I’ve seen a Barefoot Ted. You probably know him. He used to do seminars at our, at our weekend retreats. And the first, very first thing he did was I have everyone removed their shoes and start running on a cement path or a street or something around. And people were so reluctant to do it. But what happens is virtually everyone immediately correct the assortment of form errors that they’ve developed from wearing the shoes.
But, um, when I was back to Bill Sands lab, we had the same thing. We would see that if it, once people took off their shoes, 90% of them immediately changed to better form. And by better form, I mean, landing with your foot underneath you using your muscles, ligaments and tendons, the way they’re designed, which acts not only a springs and shock absorbers, but joint protectors. And you’re putting yourself in a better biomechanical position to run more efficiently and, or to run better, let’s say it that way. Um, only because some people will get on my case and say, well, there was a study that said barefoot running is less efficient, which a, um, no barefoot runner actually ever said that running barefoot is more quote efficient, which was measured by VO two max. But the study that they’re referring to is one that, um, uh, I know the guy who did the study, he’s here in Colorado. And I said to him, I know, you know, you said you did this study with barefoot runners. I know all the barefoot runners in town. I’m one of them. And neither I, nor anyone that I know was in your lab. So, uh, I have suspicions about who you studied and they are not habitual barefoot runners, so, oh, and by the way, you’re a Nike and you’re a Nike sponsored lab. Not saying that it’s bad research, but it’s important to disclose that.
Yeah, I mean, and that comes up often in, in research. Uh, we hear about this with the ketogenic diet all the time where a group of subjects were eating ketogenic diet for six weeks and this and that happened. It’s like, um, what about the people that have been adapted for three years and then go put them in the lab and study how their body works. And it’s, it happens so many times in, um, exercise physiology and athletic studies where, Hey, guess what, if you do high intensity every single day, you’re going to improve much better than building a base as an endurance athlete. And we’d always snicker and laugh at these studies coming out because they’re taking a bunch of college kids that are happy to get $60 to go hammer on the, on the treadmill every day for six weeks and to show how, how much their fitness improves. So yeah, taking the context is important.
Start with the simple thing that all of these studies are trying to extrapolate out to all human beings and they, that doesn’t work. I mean, VO two max is a really interesting one because there’s, there are genetic components to many things that we don’t think have genetic components. Um, your VO two max, and your ability to improve your VO two max. So, uh, or even strength training for most people doing strength training makes them somewhat stronger for some people. It makes them not at all stronger. And for some people it makes them weaker because they can’t recover. And so backing up to VO two max, I’m a VO two max non-responder, I’ve done like all these VO, two max training things just for fun. I mean, I’m a sprinter, so I don’t need it, but I’m always curious. I has no impact on me. And there was a guy, a researcher from the UK who identified, I think 11 gene markers, 11 snips that, uh, he says are highly correlated with VO two max responsibility.
And the guy there was a documentary out of the UK and they put this guy sort of VO two max training and he had no re impact. And there’s researcher pulled out an envelope that he sealed before they started the study saying you’re a non-responder. And so, and, but we don’t like to believe that we don’t like to think that we can’t be and become anything we want to be again, I’m a sprinter. I don’t do distance. I can’t do distance. I’m just not built for it. Uh, I’ve had, I’ve had, uh, people who sell our product in store say, Hey, come out for, you know, a couple of, go for a run with us. I go, yeah, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t do that. They go, no, just like two or three miles. I went, okay, here’s the deal. We’ll start on the track. And you run a 12, second hundred with me and then we’ll go run your couple of miles. You know, I, I can’t do that again. Same thing.
That’s, uh, that’s 40 times longer than your competitive distance or whatever, just out of your, out of your zone, man.
Yeah. You know, there’s, you know, the stickers that people have, um, on the back of their cars to say 26.2. Yeah. For sprinters, we have 1.62
Um, I ordered a 2.62, just thinking that was funny. I saw a car drive by and, um, yeah, just to kind of stick it back that, and, and, you know, it’s an interesting, um, side point here. You’re going to get me going on a rant because, uh, we’ve glorified these endurance events, uh, thanks to powerful marketing forces in marketing dollars. And this, you know, this social and cultural message that the ultimate expression of an athlete is to complete an iron man or a marathon. And it’s like, what about really being a great at five kilometers or running a 400 meters, uh, when you’re at whatever age group. You know, it’s vastly more impressive to me, to someone who’s a real athlete who can actually race, whether your race is the hundred or the 400 or the 5k, versus just put a number on and shuffle along and, and survive through these extremely long duration events that are really only competitive events for the elites. And everyone else is just in survival mode.
Well, I think, you know, I think there’s an in-between there because I’ll say almost anyone and I’m going to really emphasize that can run a 10 K or even a marathon. Um, the ultras are a whole different story, but someone did an analysis of the number of runners who’ve done a run, a sub four mile, and the number of runners who’ve run a sub 10, second hundred. And there’s hundreds and hundreds of people who run a sub four mile,
A couple thousand. Yeah. In history,
A handful of guys who’ve run a sub ten 100. Out of the people who run the sub ten 100. I think all of them have test. ed positive for some performers.
There’s an interesting guy. Um, I was injured. I haven’t met him. I met his daughter is a guy. Um, oh my gosh. Um, I’m blanking on Dr. Meriwether’s first name. He was on the cover of sports illustrated 1971. He has the world record in the a hundred yard dash because after he set the world record, they stopped doing a hundred yards and started doing meters. So he ran a nine flat hundred yards in like crappyass shoes on a cinder track in 1971. And he wasn’t even a competitive sprinter. He just liked to sprint while he was in medical school as a way of blowing off steam and he set a world record. And if you extrapolate that guy was faster than Usain Bolt as was Jesse Owens, according to many people. So, you know, the number of people who are that genetically gifted to be that fast is so much smaller than the number of people who have the genetics for say a sub four a mile or a sub three marathon, et cetera.
Yeah. I mean, both of them are pretty impressive. And I guess for the average person or the athletic enthusiast, when we have these wonderful stated goals like longevity and functionality in daily life, uh, now we have to start looking to different competencies than just putting on a pair of shoes and shuffling along for 13 miles or 26 miles. Um, the Cooper Institute in Dallas, they do the aerobics research. They had some great conclusions of this big study that they did with Texas A and M where they tested people’s time in the mile, run at age 50. And it turned out to be an excellent predictor of longevity and disease risk over the ensuing decades. And so, uh, miles, you know, I know that’s longer than, um, your preferred race distance, but it’s a big difference from saying, can you do a marathon, uh, or can you do a mile in, in a decent, they had different time standards, like eight minutes for males, nine minutes for females was outstanding at age 50. And then you had a wonderful disease protection factor because of that competency. And if you were slower than 12 minutes for the male or slower than 13 for the female, then you were in the thumbs down category and you were looking at, um, you know, uh, a bad story. If you didn’t get your butt in shape.,
There’s a woman, a nurse at Duke University who did a similar study just on walking and just how fast you walk. And I don’t have the numbers in my head, but for people, elderly people who walked under a certain miles per hour, their mortality rate was through the roof compared to those who walked faster. And to your point, though, it’s an interesting thing about running a mile and how that correlates to longevity. Um, it’s no, I’m, it’s not lost on me that power athletes, like sprinters don’t tend to live long.
Hmm. Is that so?
Yeah, uh, I don’t know what it is, but, uh, it’s pretty common. And of course, those who are, who get really, really crazy about it, who are taking a bunch of performance, enhancing drugs, et cetera. They tend to live even less long. I haven’t done any of those because I’m frankly not fast enough to make it seem tempting, but, um, but yeah, it’s not uncommon for, uh, hopefully I take after my mom, her family they’re relatively long lived. Um, but you know, I mean I’m 59. I figured I’ve got a good 25 to 30 years left in me before things might get interesting.
I think showing any measure of fitness, there’s tons of research that, uh, you know, all kinds of different competencies relate really well to longevity. There’s the grip strength, which has been highly researched. Um, there’s the squat test. There’s research from Brazil that your squat competency, there’s a famous firefighter study about pushups and the firefighters, I believe these guys were around age 40. If you couldn’t do five pushups, you were in the highly screwed category and you are not gonna, you know, you were going to have disease coming through in the ensuing decades. And if you could do more than 30 or more than 40, um, you were in the outstanding category. So it doesn’t always have to be, you know, the mile run or, or whatever. It’s just any type of, uh, and preservation of muscle mass is also a big, uh, you know, thumbs up for longevity too. And that can come from, you know, an assortment of different training methods. But, um,
And even that, I mean, people that there’s a big genetic correlation for hypertrophy and some people can build it. And some people can’t, some people lose it faster than others. Some people don’t need as much. I used to train with a guy. He was, he, he was 6′ 5″ weighed, 195 pounds, skinny as a rail. And we’d go to the gym, we’d get on a Nautilus machine. And he would just use the stack on every machine. The guy was just a monster and he just looked like you could, the wind would blow them up.
Right. Just had strong fibers of what fibers that he did have.
Yeah. Have you ever been to a, to a powerlifting meet or a little bit lifting meet? Oh, it’s amazing. The lower weight classes are where it’s incredible where there’s these super, super lightweight men and women who are lifting just extraordinary amounts of weight and you, and if you bumped into the street never in a million years, would you think they could do that? It’s, it’s, uh, it’s so much fun. And also just the adrenaline in there is contagious. I mean, you’re instantly best friends with everyone who’s left and was like, come on Jim. I mean, it’s it’s, oh my God. It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen.
Wow. So I’d love to hear more how you got into sprinting and how you continue to do it even in the higher age groups.
Well, that’s, uh, I’ll tell you, let’s cut to the end of it. Um, I’m now at an age where I’m an inspiration to people in their twenties and thirties, which is really annoying. Um, it’s like, I don’t want to be an inspiration. I want to beat you. So, um, I was a sprinter my whole life. I just didn’t realize it. Like I remember being at a summer camp where there was a big kind of race thing. And at the end of it was like a, maybe a mile and a half race around the camp. And they put me in that race because I was quote the fastest kid at camp because I didn’t know, nor did anyone there know the difference between a sprinter and a distance runner. So I got destroyed. Um, but I, I stopped sprinting when I was 15, 16, um, because I was getting injured repeatedly.
And the coach at my high school didn’t understand sprinters really anyway. And I became an All-American gymnast. So I’d been doing that on the side, if you will, or in parallel. And I decided to focus on gymnastics and I didn’t start sprinting again until I was 45. When a friend of mine came into brunch and said he had just won a 5k. And I went, that sounds cool. But I mean, I was always a fast guy. I never was a distance guy. He goes, well, you know, there’s a whole masters track and field circuit. Right. They do all the events, including the hunter. It’s like what? I had no idea. So I hooked up with a local coach in Boulder, um, and started racing again. And for the first two, and this is when I was 45. So 14 years ago. And for the first two years I was getting injured pretty much constantly.
And then at the two year mark, um, I got diagnosed with having essentially a broken spine, so that put some things in context and changed the way I was training. But I, um, I also, at that time to two things, I got out of my shoes and started training barefoot. And my first, no, my first barefoot run was so fascinating, just experimenting with my gait, feeling different ways I could move my legs and my feet and running faster, running slower, moving my legs faster, slower without running faster or slower that at the end of this run, someone had a GPS watch on. And I said, how, how far was that? She goes as a little over 5k. It’s like, sorry, what? I mean, I could have kept going. It was just weird as a group and decided to stop. And that blew me away. I also ended up with a big blister on the ball of my left foot.
And unlike many people that I’ve discovered who would say, oh, see, this is complete crap. I got a blister. My thought was, how come my right foot’s okay. My right foot doing correctly, that my left foot isn’t doing. And on my second barefoot run where I had this gaping hole in the ball of my foot still, I thought if I can find a way to run that isn’t hurting, that I’m probably not doing the thing that caused it. So I gave myself 10 minutes and that was the goal. Like, let’s just try it for 10 minutes. And if I can’t figure it out, maybe try again later. And after nine minutes and 30 seconds of agony, um, it just changed. And basically what changed is I stopped overstriding and plantar flexing. I put my foot, my feet underneath me. I engaged my core. So I was more like a taught spring.
Then just kind of too relaxed. I had my hips over my feet, my shoulders over my hips, my head over my shoulders, every, I mean, just literally in one stride, it all got better. Um, it became lighter, easier, faster, more fun. And then that stuck with me and my injuries went away, became a masters All-American uh, and that’s the gist of it. And I just want to cut to the Xero shoe story, that natural movement, that barefoot experience was so profound. I wanted it all the time. And I didn’t want to have to argue with people about whether it was legal to get into a restaurant in bare feet, or, you know, get hassled at Whole Foods where they get mad if you’re in bare feet, but it’s okay if you’re breastfeeding your dog. So I, um, so I started making sandals based on this 10,000 year old idea.
And I made some for me and for my wife and for some other barefoot runners. And they told two friends and they told two friends. And then, uh, this guy named Michael Sandler who was coaching barefoot, running said, I got a contract to write a book. And if you treated this sandal making hobby like a business, I could put you in the book, just, you know, build a website or something. So I rushed home, pitched this incredible opportunity to my wife who told me I had my head completely up my butt. And it was a horrible idea. That would be a waste of time. It wouldn’t make any money. And so I promised her I wouldn’t do it. And then after she went to bed, I built a website and that was just shy of 12 years ago. And now here we are with 57 employees and we’ve sold over a million pairs of shoes. And, um, it’s and the whole idea with what we do is to give people as much of that natural movement experience. So we can dive more into that if you like, uh, but still have something that’s giving you the, some protection, some style, and maybe some performance things you need, like a luxury or soul for trails or more installation for the winners, et cetera.
Yeah. I think that’s a nice description where we can all agree that being actually barefoot is the, you know, the gold standard and you’re going to get the most benefits and all that. But of course it’s extremely, um, uh, difficult to facilitate that except for in rare circumstances where you have the perfect situation. And so then you’re going to,
You’d be surprised. I mean, I spent my first nine after I got hip to this, I think the first nine Colorado winters, I was either barefoot or in a super thin sandal. And I spend most of my time in bare feet cause I’m a, it’s fun and comfortable and I’m also lazy. And in fact, I, so I’ve been doing this for a long time. Uh, two days ago I had the best experience ever. I’m leaving a grocery store, bare feet, Xero shoes t-shirt and these two women who I walked by, one of them literally just sort of blurts out loud, not to anyone in particular. She goes, that’s so ironic. He’s wearing a shirt that says shoes and he’s not wearing shoes. Or I was in Costco. And when I do wear shoes, I wear mismatched colors. So people notice and I’m at the line for the pharmacist at Costco and the guy behind me, he says, Hey, your shoes don’t match. And the pharmacist says, he’s wearing shoes?
Oh boy, you’re just turning heads everywhere you go.
Yeah. Something like that.
So if someone’s interested in this whole concept and especially an athletic type who feels like there’s some performance improvement to be, had you described perfect running form so beautifully with all those checkpoints, getting your feet to land under you and having a balanced, stable, and gravity and all these things that are facilitated by getting out of the soft cushiony shoes. Um, what’s kind of a progression to pursue?
Well, it’s a great, it’s an, a very interesting question because, um, you just demonstrated one of the things about humans is that we like to have simple answers to complex questions, and we want to have an answer and it’s very individual. So some people, you know, this, the simplest thing I say is, uh, take care off your shoes. Find a nice, smooth, hard surface. Go for a very short run, 20 seconds, 30 seconds. And if you’re not having fun, do something different than you are, or if they’re hurts, do something different till you’re having fun. And some people literally can’t tell it, it hurts. They’re neurologically. What happened for many of them is their brain map has differentiated. In other words, because they weren’t feeling things from their feet. The 200,000 nerve endings in the soles of their feet were not sending information to their brain.
So the brain says, oh, you’re not paying attention to those. Well, I won’t either. And the, the structure of your brain literally changes. And so for those people, they need to just spend a little time walking around barefoot, go to the mailbox and back step on some uneven surfaces, nothing, super unpleasant, just something to wake up. Those neuropathways. Again, some people they can tell if it hurts or not, but they don’t have great proprioceptive skills. So, uh, my favorite is someone who emailed me and said, there’s something wrong with the rubber on your shoes. Cause the heel is wearing out. And I said, well, that’s cause you’re overstriding and heel striking. Cause we can’t violate the laws of physics. What you’re showing me is the result of friction and abrasion. And so he goes, yeah, but I don’t do that. I go, well, send me a video.
So he sends me a video and at first the video didn’t play, but I could hear the audio and I could hear that’s all you need land, slap, land, slap, land slap. And finally, we got the video on and it took me 20 minutes of showing him frame by frame drawing lines on the screen that he was overstriding and heel striking. And the next thing he said to me, he was my favorite line ever. He goes again, but I don’t do that. Dude is a video of you made by you who was going to be so deep, fake, they call it. Yeah, that’s what it was. But what it really is pointing to is that most of us don’t have great proprioceptive skills are where our body is in space. We don’t pay a lot of attention to that and we don’t have a great awareness.
I remember being a young gymnast in the compulsory floor exercise routine. We had to do two things where our arms were parallel to the ground and it took us weeks to learn what parallel was, because the way it looked from our perspective and the way it felt isn’t parallel. And we had to learn a new feeling. And it’s the same thing with, uh, with running and learning a new movement pattern. And then the third group of people, uh, they can tell if it hurts or not, they have decent proprioceptive skills. They need some cues to just kind of accelerate the learning process. Like pick up your cadence a little bit. There’s no magic number, like a hundred native steps for a minute, which is what people bandy about, but probably a little faster than what you’re used to, or again, get your feet underneath you or think about lifting your foot off the ground before it even touches the ground, or think about lifting your foot off the ground as if a beast on your, the bottom of your foot.
So instead of pushing off with your foot, which could cause that calf soreness, you’re lifting your foot off the ground. So there’s all these little cues that can be helpful. Um, the fourth group of people they’re naturals and they just take to it right away. And do you need to tell them to chill out because they’re going to have so much fun that they’ll do too much and get tired and revert to one of those previous levels without realizing it. So go out super short run. If it feels, if you feel a little sore the next day, like you did too many bicep curls, then wait until you feel better and try again and relax a little more, try some of those cues when you can do that. And you feel fine the next day and 10 seconds the next time. And if you’re already running six days a week, you know, like do the beginning of your run with the barefoot thing and then put your shoes back on, knock yourself out, have fun.
And so you’re slowly increasing the amount of time you’re spending barefoot and the amount of barefoot barefoot running your do it. You’re integrating into your, whatever your normal schedule is. But again, you’ve got to my favorite thing about this. My wife says our shoes and in particular, some of our sandals aren’t magic. They’re a coach. They’re giving you feedback that you can use to know how to transition properly to yourself. You’re becoming your own best coach, which is way more important than some rigid plan for how to transition that may be appropriate for the guy next to you, but not you.
So yeah, if you just have a sensible approach you’re going to do pretty well where you’re paying more attention to waking up your proprioception. I suppose if you’re, if you’re getting out of the, the cushiony cast like shoes.
Yeah. Well, you know, in video feedback can be helpful often, um, is get someone to film you and just take a look and see, just look at it, frame by frame and see are you landing with your ankle in front of your knee? If you are then you’re overstriding if you’re landing, you know, again, some of these things are really, really simple. In fact, if you even look at just, um, world champion marathoners. Ignore the whole idea of heel striking or fore-foot landing because watching someone on video is not representative of what’s actually going on. If you, if you’re looking at a force plate and how they’re applying force in the ground, that’s one thing, but just looking at a video, it can be very deceptive. It can look like someone’s heel striking when really there’s rolling over their heels so quickly that that’s not really doing anything. So every time people have analyzed the Boston marathon by taking pictures, look how many people heel strike? Well, first of all, it’s hard not to in certain shoes. Secondly, people have gotten used to that from wearing shoes and third, unless you’re looking at force plate data, it really isn’t giving you the information you need. And the other one is they’ll often analyze the elite runners and who cares. You’re if you’re not 105 pound Kenyan, why are you comparing yourself to one who is
Well, they’re setting a good example. Uh,
Yes, there are look, there are common factors and you gotta be careful that your well, you know, here’s another, it’s actually interesting point. You’re making, there are common factors, but the other thing is, um, a lot of people don’t have eyes to see what those common factors are. So my favorite version of this is you go to a high school track meet and listen to the parents. And sometimes amazingly, the coaches yell to the sprinter kids, get your knees up. Knees up is not an active thing that you’re doing. It’s a thing that happens from putting force into the ground at the right angle. That’s what occurs. And your knees stopped going up when you can’t put force into the ground the same way. So you’re that, that queue is too late and
It’s like a symptom rather than telling them to address the cause of that. Yeah. It’s sort of like if you watch Usain Bolt and the rest of the sprinters, they’re basically running, running up and down. They’re not lunging forward toward the finish line. It’s just the momentum is carrying them forward with them
At maximum velocity. You’re primarily bouncing straight up and down. Right. And one of the great examples of this, um, there’s two version of this. One is from Nicholas Romanov who created pose method running as a way of analyzing the common factors of running. And there’s another from a guy named Barry Ross. Who’s a, he was a high school track coach. And, uh, both of them have videos of people running on ice and you can run at full speed on ice without slipping because you’re mostly applying force straight up and down.
It’s all different practice session. I love that.
Well, if you have to, there’s two ways of doing it. Um, the Barry Ross version was fun. They put some carpet on the ice, so the guy could get up to full speed on the carpet and then ran across the ice for a number of steps at full speed and then slid the rest away for the fun of it. Um, the Nick Romanov one, I have this on my website. If you go to Xero shoes.com and search for ice, you’ll find a blog post that shows about these videos. Um, but the other thing that’s interesting about watching Usain Bolt run is when you look and if you search for Usain Bolt, slow motion, what’s really cool is not just watching Bolt run it. It’s amazing. It’s gorgeous, but then watch the other seven guys in the race. They basically have the exact same form. The better you get the, the more of those little idiosyncratic things disappear and the ones that are left, aren’t really making a difference.
Right? Right. We also notice if we’re looking at the group of sprinters that, um, all of them are incredibly ripped because their training protocol and the maximum effort that they’re putting out is so much more effective for fat reduction. Then there’s the masses jogging in the marathon, you know,
But there’s another component to it. A lot of these guys came from football and, and part of spring training is in the weight room. So they’re doing a bunch of weight training, which most distance runners don’t do, even though the, the research is very clear that weight training for distance runners is very effective. So it’s a combination of having the right genetics. So you’re gonna end up looking more like that. Um, or more accurately, the people who have those genetics to look like that are more likely to be sprinters is one way of putting it. And they’re doing a bunch of weight training as well. So Bolt hated doing weight training, but it was super, super important. His, his coach said that having him do core training, just strengthening everything from his knees to his nipples was part of what turned him from a 400 meter. Good, very good 400 meter runner into the fastest man in the world. And I’m not suggesting that he may have taken anything when he ran 9 58 in Berlin. I happened to be at the 70 meter mark right off the track watching that. Wow, coincidentally, but let’s just say, you know, he never ran anywhere close to that time, nor has anyone ever since, and everyone who’s run anywhere near that time or the closest to that time, since they’ve all tested positive. I’m not saying he did. I don’t know.
Well, I mean the, the positive tests are few and far between these days. And a lot of these runners never tested positive, including Bolt. But I think what we’re seeing in, in elite level sport is hopefully, and almost certainly a level playing field in every way. So when you look at the Tour de France, people are wondering, gee, it seems like they’ve cleaned up the tour. There’s no more doping scandals, no guys are testing positive. And it’s likely that they’re just getting smarter and doing a different regimen. That’s not that they’re not so easily busted because they are going as fast or faster than the guys who were heavily doped up. So if someone’s doping in the Olympics that we just watched, um, you can, you can bet that lanes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and eight were also doping. And so therefore what we’re seeing is, you know, uh, elite level performance, and it’s, it’s probably not worth scrutinizing or pointing fingers at the great athletes. No.
Well, you know, there was a guy, he, I think he worked for WADA, a world anti-doping and kept all of the samples from, I might be getting some of this, some of the specifics wrong on this, but the point is accurate, kept all the samples from Seoul and 20 years later tested them and started testing them. And after a hundred, he stopped because every one of them tested positive for something they didn’t know existed 20 years earlier.
Oh yeah. That, that, that, that was the heyday where, um, you know, they were just one step ahead of the, the testing protocol.
And one step ahead. Yeah.
Yeah. So that was a little bit of an aside, but, uh, back to the, um, you know, the adapting into more barefoot experience and you talk about taking those off, taking the shoes off, doing these really brief runs, getting the feel of it, figuring out which category you’re in. Uh, but I’m also thinking that, um, the footwear and the whole industry, you can maybe talk about the growth there, because if we can spend more time outside of these crazy, uh, constrictive, heel elevated shoes that cause so many problems and get more trade in for a more minimalist experience. Um, that’s where I think the potential is to, you know, to, to really progress all day long, even though you’re not doing a workout.
Absolutely well research from Dr. Sarah Ridge at BYU showed that just walking in a truly minimal shoe, and I’ll say more about what that means in a second, but just walking in a minimal shoe, built foot muscle strength, as much as doing an actual foot strengthening exercise program, because you’re using your feet. Your feet are designed to bend and flex and move. If you don’t let them do that job, then they get weaker. In fact, research from Protopapa’s shows that if you put our support in the shoes of healthy individuals, their feet got weaker up to 17 or 17% weaker in 12 weeks. And that seems, I mean, I call both those pieces of research, the dumbest research ever done, because do we really need to do research to prove that using something is better than not using it? We really need to prove, use it or lose it because that’s really all it is.
And the losing it in this case, if you support any joint and your feet have like 26 joints, don’t let me do it. I never remember the number, but there’s more there. You have a quarter of the, and joints of your whole body and your feet and ankles. And so not using them makes them weaker, undeniably. And so just walking around is really, really helpful. The, um, there was something else. Oh, so the other thing about your feet, if you don’t let them do their job, which is about balance and agility and mobility, all that function built into all those bones and joints and ligaments and tendons tries unsuccessfully to move up to joints that aren’t wired for that including your knee or hip your back. So think about your knee. You know, your foot is designed to move in pretty much any direction your knee is designed to move in one direction. So if you’re trying to use your knee for balancing laterally, that’s going to be a problem. If you’re trying to use your hip for balancing laterally, that’s going to be a problem, same thing with your spine. So, um, wait, what was your question?
Yeah. I mean, now this is a good, let’s keep, keep going with this point. Cause if you deemphasize the functionality of the foot, by putting it into a cast-like a creation, which we call the shoe, um, then you’re, you’re redistributing that load to things that aren’t adapted for it, especially the knee is a great example. The knees supposed to go straight back and the foot is to be the thing that lands on the side of the hill when the trail gets Rocky and curved and you’re going to recalibrate with every step.
Yeah, no, that’s exactly it. And so, you know, backing up to the point about, about big shoes. There are a couple of things let’s start with something that most people don’t know, and this is really important. Um, why do modern athletic shoes look the way they do? Most people think it came from research and these big companies have done a lot of work to make them, you know, to make them better. Well, if you look at the research on running injuries prior to say 1970, there is none, it wasn’t happening there. Wasn’t enough of it going on to warrant research and back. Oh, so we talked about this before we started, uh, there’s a Facebook group. I don’t remember which one it is. There’s a bunch of them about running shoes. And someone posted a picture of a running shoe from 1970 ish. It was an 86 marathon shoe and it was a minimalist shoe, flat, thin light.
And almost every comment with someone saying, oh my God, I’d get shin splints. If I ran in those shoes, well, how come none of the guys running in those shoes back then got shin splints. It’s not about the footwear. It’s about the form as like we said at the beginning of this thing. So the modern athletic shoes didn’t come from all this research. In fact, the way it happened. Bill Bauman from when he started, Nike was sharing a building with some podiatrists. They might’ve been either orthopedic, podiatrist or sports podiatrist.. I can never remember that. I’m not good for very specifics. I’m good at the big points. Um, and Bauman came to them one day and said, I got these runners who were getting Achilles tendonitis. What do you recommend? And they said, oh, well, clearly their Achilles have shortened from wearing high-heeled dress shoes. So make a higher yield running shoe.
I put a wedge of foam in there to accommodate that. And that idea sold really well. And the footwear industry. Now that I’ve been in it 12 years, I can tell you, it’s just a bunch of copycats. Like if someone starts selling something and it’s going really well within a few years, everyone’s doing it because they’re afraid they’re never going to make any money again. Like when the barefoot thing kicked out, kicked on and kicked in, in 2009, 2010 running shoe companies were putting out all these articles about how, if you ran barefoot, you’re going to step on hypodermic needles. You’re going to get Ebola. Your kids will get into college. You’ll forget how to dial your phone number. I mean, you know, crazy things because they were terrified. No one was ever going to buy a pair of shoes again. Well, cut to 30 years later after this whole idea of the wedge heel came out.
And by the way, uh, one of the best running coaches ever Arthur Lydiard from New Zealand had more world champions and Olympic champions than anywhere else coming from a tiny little country. Lydiard apparently said to, uh, Bauman, those shoes you’re making are going to kill people. Bill Bauman’s answer was we’re selling a ton of them. So these up one of these podiatrists was at a track meet with a friend of mine, a guy who worked directly with Bauman for years. And my friend said, what do you think about the fact that your idea, the padded elevated heel has become ubiquitous. It’s like every modern athletic shoe. What do you think? And the guy said, biggest mistake we ever made. We didn’t have any evidence for this Achilles shortening thing. We had no evidence that adding a heel lift was going to be helpful. And we see that it’s been the opposite.
I mean, to this day, since in the early seventies, when more people started running and it’s not just about numbers, it’s about percentages, 50% of runners and 80% of marathoners get injured every year. And that hasn’t changed despite the fact that there’s a massive incentive for these big companies to make a shoe that could help in that regard. If you could. I said to a guy from Adidas, we at a panel discussion, it was me, a guy from another minimalist and a guy from Brooks and a guy from ADI. I said, if you could make a shoe demonstrably better than the guy sitting next to you, that’s worth billions of dollars a year. And you’re telling me you haven’t done it because it’s really difficult and time consuming and expensive to do that kind of research. It’s ridiculous. But here, check this one out. So Nike put out a study, this came out pre COVID and then they kind of pulled it.
And then they re-released it just a few months ago. Uh, it was a study they say was independent. They designed it. They paid for it, someone independently did it, whatever I’m okay with that. And the way the study got the results of the study up publicized was new Nike shoe reduces injuries by 52%. It’s amazing. And if you look at the new research, it did, they had like 260 people and they split them up in a half marathon training program. And the half the group was in the Zoom Structure 22, Nike’s best selling motion controlled arch support, elevated heel padded shoe. And the other half were a new shoe The Reactland Kennedy Wieden. And it’s true. The people in the Reactland Kennedy Wieden had 52% fewer injuries. Then you have to look at the numbers. When you look at the actual numbers, that’s when things get interesting. In the Zoom Structure, over 30% got injured in 12 weeks in the Reactland only 15% did. Let’s do the math a little differently. 15% is about one out of seven. And let’s call that 30 ish percent, two out of seven just to make it seem like a week, seven days in a week. So this is like me asking you, which restaurant do you want me to take you to for dinner every night, this week, the one where you get food poisoning twice, or the one where you only get it once?
Right. The assumption that they’re all going to get injured. This is the foundation of the study, which is the end of the third group.
Yeah. That, well, this study should have been called Nike proves their shoes injure people.
I mean, unbelievable. And, and this is how it is like amazing news. Now the question no one ever asked that I saw in any of the, uh, the write-ups about this is, well, if that’s you so much better, why are you still making that other piece of crap? Why haven’t you integrated the features of this new shoe into all your shoes? And the irony is what they said they did in the new shoe was get rid of many of the protective features. So now the interesting thing there is what they made is what Dr. Irene Davis from Harvard would call a partial minimalist shoe ,are probably not even that good. But basically the idea of getting rid of some of those protective features, but not enough of them to engender those, the feedback that you get that leads to the form changes that we’ve talked about for proper running form.
Yeah. It seems like with the Nike free project, which is now probably 10 years old, that they were kind of heading down that path, uh, and, and touting all this research and bringing these shoes to the elite athletes who consulted on the development. Then if you’re not familiar with the Nike free everyone, it’s the really, um, flexible sole. It still had a lot of padding and an elevated heel, but it was, uh, kind of, uh, giving an ode to the minimalist shoes that were also,
Yeah, it was that shoe was developed after they saw all the Stanford running, uh, the people in the, the Stanford running program. They did a lot of barefoot training. So they went, okay, let’s try to see what we can do to, to give people a barefoot like, experience. So the sole is more flexible than anything that existed at the time, not even close to what we do. Um, and I remember getting a pair and being amazed at how that articulated sole, you could feel more things, but then to your point, still elevated heels, still a lot of cushioning, still a big flare in the soul. And that flare changes your biomechanics in ways that are problematic. But it, that was the shoe that actually kind of kicked off the natural footwear movement. Um, but never went anywhere close to far enough,
Right there. We’re just tiptoeing in that direction. And I would assume maybe the, you know, the, the spreadsheet and the revenue from the, the giant padded shoe where people are, consumers are demanding more and more cushiony stuff. Now I’ve seen, I’m not too familiar with them, but you know, these, these super ultra padded shoes are becoming popular kind of the opposite. And maybe you should, um, give a little comment on that. What’s that deal all about. And, and one of these people who were, who were, um, you know, feeling like these are great, what are they experiencing? That’s, that’s making it a right.
Well, you know, I got, I’m going to take a weird tack on this one. If you go to other countries, it’s not the same. You go to Asia, even Hookah, which is, you know, the company that really pioneered the ultra thick shoe. If you go to Asia, the Hookah shoe shoes are more normal.
Like their t-shirts. If you go get an extra large shirt when you’re shopping in Japan, that you’re trying on an American media. No joke.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. So, um, and in Europe, for example, you know, it’s not catching on the same way either because a Europe, they have a longer tradition of understanding the value of natural movement. So, so it’s a whole different game. So this is an American phenomenon. But the simplest answer I can give for why they became popular is it’s a simple story. It’s like, well, cushioning feels good when you sit on a chair or lie on a bed, or even if you put your foot in a shoe and just stand on it, cushioning is good. So why wouldn’t more cushioning be better? It just makes sense. Seemingly logically, except for the fact that A, what you’re saying is now you’re again, eliminating the feedback that you could possibly get from the ground that would help you move efficiently. And the higher you get the tip of your, you get the less, the worse your balance is. So that’s a problem. Um, this is totally anecdotal. I know many, many runners who never had an injury in their life and who have injuries from wearing hot, those big thick shoes, not running injuries trip and fall injuries. Like breaking wrists.
That’s um, that’s not very controversial, Steven. That’s just straight up, man. You’re tripping and falling, you know, no offense to anyone arguing the merits of the different kinds of shoes. But if you fall, you fall, I mean, that’s a bad deal.
Yeah. And so, uh, so, but here’s the, but here’s the part that again, has no impact on people’s thinking usually because it’s called data and research and facts, which don’t really impact people if they believe something, but I’ll say it anyway. Uh, Dr. Christine Pollard and a number of other people have researched the highly padded shoes they researched because they assumed that the padding was good and more padding and better padding would be better. And what they found is that no padding is better. Let me say that differently. There’s no amount of padding. That’s better than some other amount of padding. There’s no type of padding is better than some other type of padding. Whatever the padding is, it does not reduce impact forces and whatever the padding is, does not increase the amount of sensation that you get that allows you to have better form.
So that comfort that you feel when you just get your feet in a shoe, like, look, here’s a simple thing, like a memory foam mattress. Feels great. Do you want to do squat jumps on it? No, because it’s absorbing energy. That’s what happens with any kind of padding. It sucks energy shoe companies were brilliant. They call it energy return and they go, Hey, there’s more energy return to this, but there’s no such thing as energy return. In fact, there’s a video on YouTube from a guy from Adidas. Uh, and by the way I say it that way, because I’m special. Um, it’s actually, because that’s how they say it in Europe. Cause it’s,
that’s the guy’s name. You guys not, but yeah, so,
but it makes me seem pretentious when I say it in America. So, so be it. Um, but anyway, um, there’s a video of an engineer from ADI saying, uh, there’s no such thing as energy return.
I mean, he admits it straight out and there’s not now, here’s, what’s really funny using, using ADI. This is a video about their boost foam, their incredible foam. And one of the ways they demonstrated how good the foam was was they took like a two pound steel ball and they bounce it off of cement and it barely bounces. They bounce it off of some other company’s foam and it bounces a couple of times, but not very much. And they bounced it off the boost foam and it bounces more and it’s true. It does bounce more. But if you go to the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, they have an exhibit where they have a steel ball that you can drop through a plexiglass plate that has a hole in it. And what is bouncing off of is a steel plate with concrete underneath it, the first bounce of the ball, it hits the plexiglass thing.
You just dropped it through and then it bounced 250 bounces, 250 times more it’s because there’s people misunderstand the word elastic from a physics perspective. From a physics perspective, the word elastic is how quickly does something, uh, regain its original shape? How inflexible is it so that it regains its shape after it’s been subjected to force. Steel ball, steel plate is one of the most elastic things you can create. I think probably diamond ball diamond plate would be the only thing better than I can think of. Um, and so if you really want quote, energy return, you want a steel shoe on a steel track being hyperbolic, but you know, you get.
This huge movement in track and field where people are breaking records with. Okay, let’s talk about that. Let’s explain that. All right.
I’m cracking my knuckles to talk about this one. I love this one. So there are a couple of things. One is, while people were setting records in the new shoe, there was still people setting records in their old shoes. So that that’s thing. One thing, number two, when someone, especially at a highly elite level is if you think someone has a competitive advantage, you’re going to try to eliminate that by getting the same advantage. So as soon as one person sets a record, and this is a common thing in the footwear industry. Somebody wins a race in a shoe. Suddenly that shoe is selling really well. And like Eluid Kipchoge. He set the sub two hour did the sub two hour marathon in a pair of these shoes can show you, it came out like in January of this year, um, kind of angry going it wasn’t the shoes. It was my legs. I’m the guy who did the running. Under by the way, perfect conditions.
Okay. He only ran, um, he ran 4.58 seconds per mile, faster, under perfect conditions than he did when he set the record, his record in the, uh, the Berlin marathon. And you’re telling me that’s the shoes. It seems ridiculous. There’s some other, other things about the shoes that are misunderstood. So Simon Bartold originally was asked about the carbon plate and the shoes. And he said, well, it’s a spring. It’s not a spring. Definitely that a spring, bottom line is not a spring. They’re not going to go into all the physics. I think he then later and other people said, well, it’s acting like a fulcrum or a lever. It’s like, no, it’s like a lever. They said, I said, no, because a lever needs a fulcrum think diving board. It has a fixed point on one end, a flexible point on the other and then appoint in the middle.
That’s the fulcrum. There’s nothing like that in this shoe. Now some people said, oh, well that thing it helps you. It acts like a spring because of how you roll over the shape of the sole. Well, then you watch Kipchoge and the runners that were pacing him in the first, maybe half of that sub two hour marathon, they were all four foot landing. They never touched the back of the shoe. They only touched the back of the shoe and they got tired towards the end. So what’s it doing? Then again, the foam sucks energy, but here’s the part. So there’s one other component. Um, some people will argue and I don’t take this position, but some people will argue that when Roger Banister ran this first sub four marathon sub four mile, what that did was it gave people the understanding that psychologically, this is possible.
And then suddenly everyone’s doing it well, if that’s the case, then suddenly one person running faster than a shoe tells everyone it’s possible to run faster. And they would run faster. Just like that guy, the same way Bannister did. Now, I would argue that that’s misrepresenting reality, that there was a lot of guys who were on the verge of running a sub four mile. And Bannister just happened to be the first one. And the others just did it right afterwards. And they were, they would have done it if he hadn’t, but there is a significant placebo effect in running, especially distance running. Tim Noakes from South Africa talks about the thing he calls the central governor theory, where your brain is basically telling, you know, paying attention to your body, to tell you when to stop doing something, because it thinks it’s going to get you injured.
And part of the thing that elite runners do is learn to ignore the central governor or reframe the information they’re getting, instead of feeling like, oh, I should stop. It’s like, that’s a good thing. I need to push harder. And so I would argue that there’s a placebo effect as well. Wow. Last but not least. There’s a guy named Jay Dr. Jeffrey Gray. He has a footwear research, a PR company called Heelix, H E E L U X E. And he had a really interesting theory that I like, and no one’s tested this and it’d be pretty easy to test. The shoes are really tall. They’re very high. And they’re very light by the way. Wait, I’m going to pause for a sec. I ran in a pair walking around in them. It feels interesting. It feels like there’s a little springy thing going on. Like as your foot is your heel lifts off the ground, you feel something kind of tapping the back of your heel because this shoe responds in a slightly different way, but it’s not doing anything at that point.
It’s not actually providing any impact. Your foot’s already off leaving the ground. All the force is leaving. You look on a force plate. The force is disappearing. That doesn’t do anything. I mean, you could see this. You could see if it was, if it was acting like a spring, you could see that enforced plate data. No one’s ever provided force, plate data showing that’s true. Um, so anyway, Jeffrey has this really cool theory. The shoes are super tall and they’re really, really lightweight. They don’t last very long as a result. They were out in a hundred miles or less sometimes
For 250 bucks, you get a hundred miles. And
So he’s, his theory is very tall, very lightweight, lightweight means they’re not interfering with your gait. In fact, they may let your gait be a little faster because they weigh less than what you were wearing before. So your leg can move faster. So you have this at least the same gait that you would have in a different shoe, but you’ve become artificially taller. So if your, if your gait doesn’t change, if your cadence doesn’t change the number of steps per minute, doesn’t change, but you’re suddenly taller. Your stride length could be maybe an inch longer, two inches longer. And over the course of a marathon, that could be a big difference. So his theory is just the extra height is, and the lack of weight is making people run a little faster. If in fact, that’s, what’s making it happen.
Wow, it’s so interesting how we’ve been indoctrinated by the media and by the athletes. And just by complete assumption that these things are providing a 3% advantage or whatever.
So pause right there. You, you, I love that. You just did that because your, what you just gave is the example of exactly what you were just saying. So it’s a 4% advantage. That’s what Nike advertises, but the question is why do they advertise that? Well, it goes back to the same researcher here at the University of Colorado, who did the thing about barefoot running, being less efficient. What he showed is that people in those shoes had a 4% better VO two max, when they were wearing those shoes, compared to where, when they were wearing their normal shoes. Now, again, Kipchoge demonstrated that that’s not true. He did not run 4% faster when he switched to their shoes. Far from it. But here’s the kicker. It wasn’t his second study was investigating why these shoes were providing the VO two max advantage. Well he didn’t come up and answer.
And at the end of the study or the end of the report on this study, he did concede something that he hadn’t conceded before, which is VO two max does not equate to performance. I mean, there’s a correlation at a certain level, but if it was just about VO two max, we wouldn’t run the race. We’d have everyone a line up the starting line. We test their VO two max and we give out metals. So, but the way that, that VO two max improvement has been translated by the companies making these products, particularly Nike and in the general, in the zeitgeists and the way people think is they make you 4% faster. No research ever said that. Zero, none, but that’s how it got marketed.
And boy, if you’re an elite athlete and we’ve seen how athletes can push each other. The famous women, 400 meter hurdle runners, Mohammed and McLaughlin destroying the world record on account of both of them were out there with potential to break the world record. And it’s been a great, a great show, but you can see how much that psychological impact can can come in here. And the runners probably all believe that they, they need to get their hands on these magical spikes or, or flats. And then they’ll go in and set a new record. And that, that comes true. It’s the manifest.
Well, let’s talk about two things that related to what you just said. Um, one thing I say about sprinters in particular, but it’s true of most runners, no one says personal best or world records in training. Totally in competition. And there’s like a whole different thing going on. And when I say whole different thing, like I can train as hard as I want today. And maybe I’ll be a little sore tomorrow. If I race today, I’m sore for three or four days. And my training volume is 10 times my racing volume. My racing volume. I warm up for 20 minutes. I run for 13 seconds. I’m done. And I am toast. My training volume is I do that 10 times. Yeah. So, but there’s another version. Something you reminded me of. I’m backing up to my gymnast days. We used to do a thing at gymnastics camp called psych tumbling, and everyone would line up and we start with the simplest move.
You can do: Cartwheel. Everyone does a Cartwheel. If you can’t do a move, you’re out. And if you can do the move, you go onto the next thing. So Cartwheel then round off. And if you can’t do it, you’re out. If you stay and what ends up happening for everyone doing psych tumbling is you end up throwing moves that you’ve never even thought of trying before. And you do them because there’s just this thing going on in the room where your brain goes, screw it. I’m in, let’s just give it a whirl. And we’re certainly what’s going to happen. And you end up discovering that you can do all these things that you never thought you could do before. It’s all in your head.
Wow. We should’ve got Simone to play that game in between the days of the Olympics when she started to go south
No, I, I will. I will also, uh, stand up for her as someone who had a couple of instances where I got lost in the middle of a move. And literally the thought I had was crap. This is how I’m going to die. And when you’re in that phase where I had it happen to me, where I was doing twisting backflips and then lost the ability to do it, just like it just was gone. And it is terrifying. People who, people who are criticizing her don’t have any way of appreciating what it’s like when you’re 10 feet in the air and you suddenly realize you could be dead in the next second. I did a move when I was in high school. Um, I asked my coach about it years later. I said, why didn’t you tell me that the year I did that move, there were three guys who died trying it.
And he said, cause I knew you could do it. And, uh, that gave me a little bit of a pause. I mean, he was right, but it’s still, and he was one of the great and still is one of the greatest gymnastics coaches in history. But, um, you know, if I had known that three people had died during that move, I would have never done it. Even if I could have, even if I knew I could be better than them, it would have terrified me too much. And you don’t want to be terrified when you’re competing.
Yeah. You got to get those good to get that hit out of the way and just let it flow and let the intuition it out.
And sometimes, you know, it’s, I don’t care who you are sometimes. I mean, um, golfers talk about having the yips. It’s same idea. It’s like, you know, I don’t care how high you are in your game. Sometimes it just falls apart for reasons that no one’s been able to identify.
They probably need some rest time if nothing else,
Nothing else. Yeah.
Uh, so I guess we better try to wrap up this free flowing discussion. It was so fascinating, but, um, back to the, the shoes, um, it seems to me, one thing kind of stuck with me when you were talking quickly, but you said something about the arch supports and of course they’re gonna make us weaker. Uh, but if we just pause on that for a moment, I think a lot of us, uh, it requires a, a huge change in philosophy to kind of get back to our basics, the ancestral, living, all the things that we promote. But, you know, we’re, we’re stuck in kind of these disparate mentalities where we’re going to reach for a prescription drug to take it to feel better immediately because our, our lower back is sore versus we’re going to do, uh, you know, some unwinding and some digging to discover the cause. And it seems like the same thing when you’re contemplating a shoe purchase and you see this giant padded shoe, you put it on, you run down the street, it feels great and cushy and soft, or you think, gee, how is my foot designed to work? And how can I, you know, more facilitate a true human experience in reaching my athletic potential and not getting injured and all those things,
Which, which is better for you, a bag of Cheetos or a piece of cheese,
I mean, it’s the same analogy it’s like natural movement is the obvious, better, healthy choice. The same way natural suit is the research is unequivocal. I mean, Dr. Isabel Sacco in Brazil took a bunch of elderly women, put them in minimalist shoes. Their knee osteoarthritis went away because they weren’t putting force into the joint by overstriding and heel striking. And, uh, because your body is designed to do like, anyway, we can dive into that. We don’t have time, but suffice it to say it does take, it does take a, let’s call it a bit of intellectual courage to recognize that we have been sold a bill of goods for the last 50 years by companies who are promising instant solutions. And ironically, the instant solution is the one that we had before. They started telling us that story. Uh, you go to places where they don’t have footwear and they don’t have these problems that people are getting treated for.
Again, back to Dr. Irene Davis, from Harvard. She said to me, at one point, if we just got kids wearing minimalist shoes like yours in 20 years, we wouldn’t be treating adults for the billions of dollars of problems. They’re trying to get curious for now, cause they wouldn’t develop these habits. If you want to see something and we’ve all seen this, you go watch little kids run again. They they’re smiling. They have amazing form. They have just the right amount of lean. They put their feet underneath them. They’re having a good time. They stop when they’re tired. They start again a second later when they’re ready to go again. And then you watch what happens when they start putting on big thick shoes. And it all changes.
And sitting around all day in school and playing with video games. I I’ve read where they, um, the, the, you know, the, the ideal natural runner is like five years old and that equates with kindergarten. And then when you get to first grade, um, you start to get more academic and they, they lose it. And they’re, they’re, you know, developing all these kinds of, uh, movement patterns that are leading to dysfunction over the year.
If you, if you, just to your point, I said this at that panel discussion, it was at the American College of Sports Medicine. But I mentioned earlier, I said to the guys from Brookson Adidas, I said, look, the more you understand about feet, the more you look into how feet are supposed to work, what they do, bend, flex, move, and feel, the more you look at the research on natural movement, cause there’s quite a bit of it. It becomes impossible to conclude anything other than the design of the modern athletic shoe is just fundamentally wrong. And,
And next on the panel, let’s hand the mic over to the representative from Brooks to answer Steven’s comment.
So there’s a long pause. And the guy from ADI says, yeah, but not, everyone’s going to switch to your shoes right away was like, wow, that’s the best you’ve got right there. Not because you’ve convinced people that they need your product and they haven’t had the experience of doing something natural. And all I can say is, you know, anecdotes do not equal data. But we’ve had almost 40,000 reviews on our website from people saying, oh my God, these are so comfortable on my God. They changed my life. Oh my God. You know, et cetera. And you don’t see that from Nike and Brooks and Reebok. And you know, we have the number of people who own more than 10 pairs of Xero shoes is very high. You don’t hear that from people who aren’t collectors. You don’t hear that from people who are, you know, who are looking for something to wear all day every day. So it’s just a whole different game. Once you get used to doing what’s natural, you can’t go back. I mean, my wife said, she goes, I hate that we own this company. I said, why? This is years ago. She said, because I’ve been looking for a nice brown leather boot. And I found one that I like, but it’s got a quarter inch heel. And it feels like I’m going to fall on my face when I’m wearing it. And so we made her brown leather boot.
Oh, how nice with, uh, without the quarter inch heel . Take a hacksaw to it. And then there’s your prototype.
Well, you can do that. Or we just built one from scratch. So we couldn’t even do that because it also had a pointy toe and we’re squeezing her toes together. I mean, that look, that’s the simplest thing I say to people when they talked to me about, she was like, oh, look at the shape of your shoe, the toe box, then look at the shape of your foot. And then look back at the shoe, look back of your foot, like back of the shoe and ask, why are you trying to put something foot shaped in something not foot shaped. Or think about babies when they start learning the walk, you can see that they’re working the problem there. You know, we love baby feet and they’re, you know, trying to flex and move their feet and make them, you can tell they’re trying to feel things and make it all work. I mean, you would never, uh, like squeeze their toes together and elevate their heel and mess with their posture or put something stiff underneath their foot. So they couldn’t move or feel. And if you wouldn’t do it to a baby, why would you do it to you?
Well, they, they used to bind the feet up, uh, in Asia. Right? So that’s a great idea. That’s, that’s, you know, the, the ancient, uh, ridiculous notion today, but we’re doing it to kids as soon as they get their first pair of shoes.
Yeah, absolutely. And it just doesn’t. And, and part of the reason that it doesn’t make sense to people is they didn’t have an option for the last 50 years. I mean, it’s the last 45. It’s only since 2009 ish that this became even an option. And again, in Europe, we don’t have an argument about whether this is legit or not in Europe, they’re all on board. There’s brands basically doing this for 250 years. Not as well as we are, I would argue. But the same basic idea of natural movement is part of a European culture is part of Asian culture as well. They just don’t have these arguments there.
Steven Sashen killing it today. So fascinating. I think we’re all we have to be convinced at this point to at least grab a pair of shoes and try them out and integrate them at a rate that you you’re interested in.
Just take off what you’re wearing. Now, walk around barefoot first, see if that’s enjoyable. And if it’s not, if you can’t do it, it’s only because you haven’t let your feet do what’s natural for a while. Give yourself little doses, do a couple little foot exercises, look up foot strengthening on YouTube. And then you take your arm out of a cast. You can’t start throwing baseballs right away. It takes eight weeks. So you have some strength again. So I’m going to do a little strengthening and then if you feel like you want to try it, that’s why we’re here.
Good stuff. How do we connect further? Can we join you on social media website? Any plugs to give right now?
Surprisingly, yes. Um, so a Xero shoes is X, E R O shoes.com. If you type in Xero with a Z by accident, you’ll still get to us. And then we are at Xero shoes or slash Xero shoes everywhere you can add or slash
Fun stuff. Everybody I’m enjoying my pairs. Go check it out. Thank you for taking the time to walk us through all that. Steven
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