Think of how good it feels when you take off your shoes after a long day. Now, imagine if you could enjoy that same feeling wherever you go.
That’s now possible thanks to Xero Shoes, a footwear provider based out of Broomfield, Colorado operating under the philosophy that “feet are your foundation.” As the company explains, one quarter of the bones and joints in your entire body are in your feet; and you have more nerve endings in your soles than anywhere but your fingtertips and lips. Unfortunately, most shoes on the market today fail to provide adequate flexibility and movability. Xero Shoes is working to change this.
How Xero Started
As the story goes, co-founder Steven Sashen tried to get back into sprinting after taking a 30-year break. Sashen was getting hurt constantly, until a friend told him to try running barefoot. This worked wonders for Sashen, who was able to run more easily after ditching his shoes. Doing so also enabled him to detect inconsistencies in his running form, leading to fewer injuries.
Sashen enjoyed the experience so much, he went on to make a pair of minimalist sandals. The idea caught on, and he went on to start Xero Shoes with his wife and co-founder Lena Phoenix.
“Xero Shoes started in a corner on the floor of a spare bedroom selling a do-it-yourself kit to make sandals based on a 10,000 year old design,” Sashen said. “Lena and I thought that it would be a little hobby business that would maybe help make a car payment. But within a few weeks of launching, it was our full-time job and the business and product line has grown dramatically since then.”
“Now, thanks to the demand of our customers, we have a complete line of both casual and performance shoes and sandals that people in 97 countries enjoy for everything from a stroll on the beach to a hike up a mountain to a yoga or CrossFit workout to running ultra-marathons.”
We asked Steven how Xero’s products differ from other products on the market. As he explained, Xero Shoes allow you to use your feet naturally. This in turn improves both comfort and performance.
Xero Shoes enable:
- Natural fit: Wide toe boxes let your toes spread and relax. They also have a non-elevated (zero-drop) heel for proper posture.
- Natural motion: Xero Shoes are super flexible, so that your feet bend and move naturally. They are also low-to-the-ground for added balance and agility.
- Natural feel: Patented FeelTrue soles protect your feet while still giving the ground feedback your brain needs for efficient, natural movement.
They are also affordable enough for the average consumer, and backed with a 5,000 mile sole warranty.
“One way to see the difference is to roll them up,” Sashen said. “Even our DayLite Hiker boot can roll into a ball. Another is to weigh them. Three pairs of our Z-Trail sport sandal weigh less than a traditional sport sandal.”
Xero Shoes had several products on display last week at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Denver.
Three 2019 products, which got a tremendous response, were:
- Mika, a calf-height winter boot for women;
- Denver, a low rise winter boot for men; and
- Alston, a leather Oxford style shoe.
Some of the company’s best sellers in 2018 included:
- TerraFlex, a super lightweight, “grippy” trail running and hiking shoe;
- Prio, their best seller, which is a running/fitness shoe; and
- Vienna, a canvas Chelsea-style women’s boot.
Sashen mentioned that some fun creations are in the works for 2019, including a new sandal designs, an upgraded running shoe, some specialty products for the service industry and a product for kids. On the marketing side, the company is also focusing on getting more people to experience the eye-opening comfort that comes when they slip on a pair of Xero Shoes.
We asked Sashen to elaborate on the opportunity at hand for retailers with Xero Shoes.
“I’ll tell you a story,” he said. “A couple of years ago, a well-known retailer decided to give us a test over Memorial Day weekend. Walking in, we asked, ‘So how well do we have to do in order to get a permanent placement in your stores?’ According to Sashen, the retailer informed him that their best brands sold about five pairs per day. The retailer said that if they could sell 15 over the weekend, Xero would get the deal.
The company sold 79 — and that was before they had their new best-selling products.
“It was simple,” Sashen elaborated. “Customers walked in, saw our products (because they looked unique), and reached out to feel them… at that point, we simply said, ‘Xero Shoes are about letting your feet move and feel natural. They’re super lightweight and the wide toe box is really comfortable. Want to try them?’
Most said yes, he said, and 70 percent of them made purchases. These stores continue to be top performers for Xero.
“Xero Shoes give a retailer’s customers something new, something exciting, something that makes people’s eyes widen with excitement,” Sashen elaborated. “Something that’s easy to sell even though it’s not a household brand name (yet!). We like to say that Xero Shoes are “addictively comfortable” which means you’ll retain your customers longer when they come back for more styles (which are expanding every year).”
The company has something else going for it, too — major media coverage.
“You can get some added attention by highlighting that we were on Shark Tank,” Sashen said. “Customers respond to finding a company that they saw on the show and seeing how we’ve grown.”
“Lastly, we’re very actively supporting our retail partners,” he added. “Our store locator page gets significant traffic, our aggressive online marketing drives customers into local retail, we even run ads and send emails that explicitly promote our retailers, and, of course, we’re happy to give you all the training you need to be successful.”
Ultimately, Xero Shoes is striving to be more than just a footwear provider.
“We’re creating a movement movement,” Sashen said. “We want to help people ‘Live Life Feet First,’ and we’re looking for everyone who wants to join us.”