My guest today is someone that has been working to revolutionize running shoes over the past decade and he’s built a very successful company around that ambition.
The company started with $40 and a dream and currently is doing over $12 million in annual sales globally.
He’s also a runner himself so I am excited to go a few easy miles with Steven Sashen today.
Sprinters Are Born, Not Made
Steven Sashen is a former All-American gymnast turned sprinter.
Once he was no longer physically able to be a gymnast, he began searching for a sport that fit his needs.
It took him till the age of 30 to realize that he was a sprinter.
He finds it fun to be at his top speed and generally focuses on distances ranging from 60 to 100 meters.
USATF has a Master’s division that enables people of all abilities to compete in track events.
Age-graded tables with all-American times are available for anyone to compare how they stack up.
Steven has found that it’s not helpful to compare himself to his past self or others he lines up next to on the track.
His ultimate goal is to stay healthy and continue to compete for as long as possible.
A Change In Plans
Steven and his wife had been successful in the real estate market allowing them to happily retire.
The housing crash altered their plans and in 2009 they were forced to rethink their retirement plans.
It was around that time that Steven had gotten back into sprinting.
He sustained injuries the first few years he was back on the track.
At the suggestion of a friend, he decided to try barefoot running.
The experience proved to be engaging and allowed him to experiment with his gait.
Steven quickly realized that when running barefoot bad form hurt and good form felt great.
His next move was determining what footwear would simulate the feeling of running barefoot.
Steven’s first prototype was in the form of a sandal.
He wore them along with the many friends and family that asked him to make them a pair as well.
His good friend and author of Barefoot Running suggested that he create a business.
Steven took his advice and launched a website.
Much to his surprise, the company took off immediately and growth has continued with each passing year.
Steven never could have imagined the success his company would have, but he is grateful.
Along with all the positive aspects come a negative side.
Owning and running a company does not come without challenges.
Steven quickly found out, through experience, that making shoes is hard.
Humans must be involved in almost every step of the process, which also means that errors (whether intentional or not) happen.
The majority of shoe companies have their shoes made out of factories located in Asia due to the lower cost of production and labor.
The bottom line is often better, but the quality may suffer as a result.
In Asia, it is common practice to slightly alter designs, often without the knowledge of the company itself.
Patent theft is also more readily accepted outside of the United States.
When starting a business, there will always be things that you don’t know you don’t know.
Often it’s only through trial and error that a company becomes more efficient over time.
The Proof Is In The Research
Steven has delved into all the research he could find regarding shoes and cushioning.
Research has shown that all cushioning is bad and more is worse.
Any extra cushioning sucks energy out and will slow you down.
A minimalist shoe will help to strengthen the foot along with the joints and tendons.
Running pain-free is about form not footwear.
Some shoes will make it easier to run with proper form, while others will make it impossible.
Steven is constantly listening to customers, but once he finds what works for a shoe he makes minor changes at best.
Customers can be confident that the overall design of the shoe won’t change from year to year.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- Xero Shoes
- USATF Masters Track & Field
- Barefoot Running By Michael Sandler Book
- Poorly Made In China By Paul Midler Book
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