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Xero Shoes: Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix

How I Built This with Guy Raz

Mar 13 2023 • 1 hr 24 mins

In 2007, Steven Sashen went on a 5K run in his bare feet, an experience that felt so surprisingly natural that it led him to launch one of the best-known minimalist shoe brands in the world. After reading the best-seller Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and fashioning his own, thin-soled sandals that helped him fully feel the ground, Steven noticed he was running faster and having fewer injuries. His friends began asking him to make sandals for them, and soon enough, he convinced his wife Lena to help him launch a do-it-yourself sandal kit business. As their minimalist shoe line slowly expanded to ready-to-wear sandals and closed-toe shoes, Steven and Lena faced every imaginable obstacle for a small business: manufacturing meltdowns, a mountain of debt, anxious investors, a trade war with China, and an appearance on Shark Tank that resulted in an insulting offer. But more than a decade after launch, Xero Shoes are sold around the world, with nearly $50 million in sales and a near-evangelical following.

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