As part of our Minimalist Linchpin Series, Barefoot Running interviewed Steven Sashen of Invisible Shoes® just prior to the launch of their new FeelTrue lines. What follows if a trip through the mind of Sashen, who loves running and innovation, and who has combined the two into a line of high quality Huarache sandals (stay tuned – reviews coming soon).
BR: When did Invisible Shoes launch?
SS: Our site went live in November 2009. By mid-February, it was a full time job.
BR: What was the inspiration behind Invisible Shoes?
SS: It was a weird confluence of things. I’d bought enough material to make a pair of huarache sandals for myself and a few more people. All of a sudden, it was a few more people and then Michael Sandler encouraged I actually make a business out of it. So I pitched it to my wife. She shot it down initially, but then came around.
BR: What is it in your background that inspired Invisible Shoes?
SS: Only everything. It is a confluence of so many things. One is, of course, my athletic background as a sprinter. Then there’s the entrepreneurial piece. I’ve never had a ‘real’ job. I have a background in Internet marketing.
There is a cognitive/psychology piece – I don’t like lazy thinking. In the shoe business, what is often sold is just lazy thinking. Even doctors and physical therapists end up not looking at actual form when they make their recommendations. Running shoes are so much a business. There is an educational problem with saying that that people can just put on shoes and fix problems. The footwear is not the answer it is a tool to discover the answer – good form and movement.
One of the big shifts in the minimalist category is that a lot of people have taken running as a mindless pursuit. You put on your headphones and tune out the world, but barefoot running is about experiencing things with your body so the benefits are more than health.
The intellectual piece is important. You can use common sense to know that Neanderthals didn’t wear Nikes. A number of barefoot advocates make bad arguments just like advocates of big, built up shoes. This is not an argument to win, it’s a discussion to learn what is best.
BR: What does your free time look like?
SS: My what?
BR: What are some of the features that make the new FeelTrue lines stand out from your past designs?
SS: This is the first outsole specifically for barefoot running. We’ve been using Vibram outsoles because it worked. But there were a number of performance issues that made it slightly less than perfect. With the help of customers, advisors and former lead designers from some of the most respected footwear brands in the world, we created FeelTrue™, which is our own rubber product. It has a number of added benefits. It’s more comfortable, has less waste and is more eco-friendly, and is more protective of the laces.
BR: What’s next for Invisible Shoes?
SS: One of the trickiest things in a new business is to know what to say no to. We’re trying to stay focused, to say no to the tangents. We’re not going to make something that doesn’t have an outsole that allows you to feel the ground. We’re not going to make something that you can pull off the rack.
We’re constantly working to improve our outsoles, ways to have lacing options that remain unique. From the business side, we’re looking at ways to do affiliate marketing, and are moving slowly into retail.
We’re continually looking to make things simpler, more fun. Our product spans the range of people who want to explore barefoot from people who are ultra minimalist to people who want to customize them and wear them as a statement. We’re designing with everything from high performance to lifestyle and everything in between. We’re committed to this business – and we know that there is a big gap between doing it well and doing it right.