How Going Barefoot Can Reduce Pain, Increase Performance and Make You Smarter

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Today we’re talking to Steven Sashen, the co-founder and CEO of Xero Shoes. Steven started sprinting at the age of 45 and was constantly getting injured, so he tried doing it barefoot — soon he was running further and faster than ever before. He was inspired to use the feedback he was getting from his bare feet to figure out how to run without getting hurt, which in turn motivated him to make ultra minimalist sandals.

Debunking the Myths of the Running Shoe World

Xero Shoes allow you to be as close to barefoot as possible, while adding in a little protection and style. Steven explains that once you realize you don’t need to buy $100 running shoes, you start to investigate and discover that the running shoe world is built on propaganda and mythology.

Running shoes are made and marketed on the fundamental premise that you need heavily padded, motion control shoes. But Steven argues that this is completely false. What actually happens is that all of that excess padding causes you not to use the muscles and tendons that are designed to absorb shock when running. When you have padding under your heel, you land with a straighter leg, which sends an impact up through your joints and causes more problems. You also land on your heel, which causes you to either pronate or supinate.

This in turn causes you to buy products to correct the problem, contributing even more to the multibillion dollar shoes industry.

Steven even goes so far as to say shoes make you stupid. He points out that there are more nerve endings in the soles of the feet than anywhere else in the body except the fingertips and lips. The brain gets a lot of information from your feet, and when you greatly eliminate the amount of sensation in your feet, you’re essentially dumbing down your brain.

Your feet are designed to be flexible and nimble and to balance you. When you put your feet through their natural micro-movements by going barefoot, it takes pressure off of your joints. That’s why he is committed to making footwear that keeps your body as natural as possible with Xero Shoes.

Benefits of Xero Shoes

Steven emphasizes that, first and foremost, going barefoot, or as close to barefoot as possible, offers a dramatic increase in fun – it just feels good. It also saves you money.

Xero Shoes offers a range of products; one end of the scale is about connection and the other end is about protection, but all products are extremely lightweight and allow the feet to move naturally.


The three levels of products are:

-Highest level of connection with only 4mm of lightweight rubber and some straps.

-Mid-range with 5.5mm of FeelTrue Rubber, which offers a combination of feeling, durability and abrasion resistance.

-Most protective and trail-friendly at 10mm thick, using FeelTrue Rubber on the high-contact points combined with foam to even out the bumps and add a tiny but of cushioning.


Top Tips for Improving Gait and Performance

  1. Steven points out that you have to change your gait when you switch from shoes to barefoot. In short, it’s not about the footwear; it’s about the form, but it’s much easier to correct your form when you take off your shoes.
  2. The easiest way to restore strength to your feet is to simply take off your shoes and walk around outside on uneven surfaces. You can also practice running barefoot, but build that up slowly in small increments, lifting from your hip and experimenting with what feels natural. Most importantly, have fun.
  3. Steven is a huge fan of strength training and isometrics. He has found that building up strength is a great solution to a lot of physical problems, but most people don’t do any strength training.
  4. You can find more videos and articles on gait at in the section “Discover Your Feet.” Remember, though, to listen to your internal coach to figure out what actually feels good and natural for your own body.

Make sure to check out…

Xero Shoes

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