Dr. Gundry's private practice: (760) 323-5553

Speaker 1 (00:00:00):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr. G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.

Steven Gundry (00:00:13):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Well, it’s been decades since the dawn of the heavily padded and expensive running shoe. And if you’re an athlete or just an ordinary person that goes for walks, you may have experienced foot aches and even the unwanted stench that comes with these shoes. That’s because research has shown that your feet alone without all the bells and whistles are actually better for you than any shoe out there. Now, you may be saying, but Dr. G, there’s no way I’m walking around barefoot.

Well, you don’t have to. My guest today says, you can get all the benefits of going barefoot while still staying safe and stylish with his revolutionary shoes. I welcome Steven Sashen, CEO of Xero Shoes, the original Barefoot Wear. He says that these kind of shoes can help you tap into mankind’s original footwear that we are all meant to wear. In fact, I’m wearing a pair right now.

We’ll discuss the shocking and dangerous truth behind modern footwear, how walking barefoot can change your life, like it did mine. And we’ll also debunk everything you thought you knew about your feet. Stay tuned. You don’t want to miss this one. The Dr. Gundry Podcast is brought to you by Progressive.

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Progressive Casualty Insurance company and affiliates, comparison rate’s not available in all states or situations. Prices vary based on how you buy. So, you are a Masters All-American Sprinter. Tell us how you became aware of the dangers of traditional footwear.

Steven Sashen (00:03:01):
Well, so being a Masters All-American Sprinter means for men over 60, which I am now. I’m one of the fastest guys in the country, and that happened in part because of this transition we’re going to talk about. So, 15 years ago is when I got back into sprinting after a 30 year break, and I spent the next two years getting injured pretty much constantly. And I was living in Boulder, Colorado, and one day a friend of mine who’s a world champion runner, which in Boulder means you’re a neighbor because they’re everywhere, said to me, “Why don’t you try running barefoot and see what you learn?” Now, I’m not going to suggest people running barefoot even though it changed my life.

We’ll get to there, so don’t panic. But what I learned is simply this. I had a form problem that I couldn’t feel in a regular shoe because of all the padding, all the cushioning, and there some other issues as well. And when you’re running barefoot, running with bad form hurts and running with good form feels good, and good form is better for your body. So, there was a natural transition from my bad form to the good form because again, doing it wrong felt bad, and that made my injuries go away.

I became faster. I became a Masters All-American Sprinter, and I just wanted that natural movement experience as much as I could have it. And that led me to make some sandals based on a 10,000 year old design idea. And then, that led Xero Shoes, and we’ll get into that.

But more what I discovered once I had the experience of getting out of the shoe that everyone recommended, a big, thick, padded motion, girl shoe weight. I’m going to grab one. Something that looks like this thing.

Steven Gundry (00:04:25):
Oh, yeah.

Steven Sashen (00:04:26):
Heel, pointy, toe box, a whole bunch of cushioning. As I started diving into this more, I found that every feature of the modern athletic shoe, and this is true of casual shoes as well, but especially athletic shoes, every feature that they pitch to you as being beneficial is demonstrably proven to be bad for you. In ways… I know people are going to argue, I know people are going to have an issue with this because they heard it from their doctor or they got it at their shoe store. But everything I’m going to point out at some point during our little chat, people are going to go, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” Because we forget, prior to 1974, there was no such thing as a big padded motion control shoe.

What I can say is that if you look in PubMed, if you look in the research on running related injuries, their cause and their cure, you won’t find any of that info prior to about 1972 because it just wasn’t happening. Because shoes then were made more like what we do. And all we are doing is getting out of the way to let your body do what’s natural.

Steven Gundry (00:05:20):
Yeah. I mean, I remember the original Nike Waffle sole. And-

Steven Sashen (00:05:25):
Well, the original one was very similar to what we do. It was really, it was flat, really thin. I remember I was 12 years old when I put on that shoe for the first time, and the one thing it did, it was technically flat. But it had the cushioning in the front of the shoe kind of disappeared. So, as you lean forward, it kind of put you on your toes.

Because as the sprinter, I vividly remember going, “This is how I run.” It was amazing. And then, wait, I’m going to give you the secret. Bill Bowerman who founded Nike a couple years later, had some new runners coming to him who got Achilles tendonitis. And he was sharing a building with some sports podiatrists, and he said, “You know, what do I do for these guys?”

And the doctors said, “Oh, clearly their Achilles have shortened from wearing higher heeled dress shoes, make a higher heeled running shoe, put a wedge of foam in there.” Cut to the end of this story, 30 years later, one of those doctors was at a track meet with a friend of mine, a guy who worked with Bowerman for decades. And my friend said, “Your idea of the elevated heel, padded motion control shoe has become ubiquitous. That’s what every modern shoe looks like. What do you think about that?”

And these doctors said, “Biggest mistake we ever made.” They said, “This Achilles shortening thing. We had no evidence for that. We were seeing everything is in need of a prosthetic solution. We didn’t realize it would cause all the problems that it’s caused in the last 50 years.

Steven Gundry (00:06:39):
And it’s caused a lot of problems.

Steven Sashen (00:06:41):
Yeah. Shall we jump in?

Steven Gundry (00:06:44):
Yeah. Let’s dive in. As you go along, I’ll share my experiences with problems from these shoes. But you start.

Steven Sashen (00:06:52):
Well, I’m just going to… let’s do a couple things that again, hopefully, will just make sense to people. And if all I do is make you wonder what’s going on, that’s good enough. I’m not trying to convince you to come and buy Xero Shoes. I just want you to really think about something that we haven’t thought about in 50 years. Because look, frankly, the marketing departments from these major shoe companies, they’re brilliant.

They have convinced us of a bunch of things because we don’t know if physics or we don’t… most of us don’t know physics well enough to dispute the misuse of physics they have given us. Sorry, let’s start with the simplest thing. A modern athletic shoe, typically, some people can’t see this has a pointy toe box that squeezes your toes together. A, that’s not comfortable. B, it can lead to bunions.

And C, if you can’t move your big toe independently, you’re not getting the full strength out of your arch. But the simple thing is, if your foot is not shaped the way this shoe is shaped, that’s a problem. And if it is, and why are you trying to shove your foot into something that’s not foot-shaped? And if your foot is shaped this way, it’s not supposed to be. And it’s for getting in the way of natural function.

Let’s look at another one that’s really easy. There’s an elevated heel on almost all these shoes. When you elevate your heel, that changes your posture, tips you forward just a little bit, but then you have to accommodate that. You need to do something with your ankles, your knees, your hips, your back to accommodate the change of your posture. Well, this is why people end up with knee pain, hip pain, back pain, ankle pain, because those joints aren’t made to handle that kind of force.

So, simply the elevated heel… and most people think about high heels, they know that’s silly. But even just a little bit of elevation changes your posture just enough that it caused problems in all those other joints. All right. Actually, I’ll do one that’s a little less controversial than the one I’m going to end on. So, you have over 200,000 nerves in the soles of each of your foot.

The soles of each of your foot, each of your feet? Let’s do plural. What the hell. Those are there for a reason. It’s to tell your brain and your body, basically your spine first for reflexes in your brain for every other motion to do what you’re stepping on, what you’re stepping in, what the terrain is so that you can move efficiently and effectively and enjoyably.

Well, imagine what happens if you don’t give that information to your brain. It makes it so you can’t balance as well. Your agility isn’t as good. Your mobility isn’t as good. And your brain literally changes its shape to stop paying attention to your feet.

This is not a good thing. Well, when you have a bunch of foam between you and the ground, guess what happens? That feedback loop disappears, or not necessarily disappears, but is highly, highly, highly muted. And more importantly, when your brain is getting this information, the first thing that it wants to do is move your feet to deal with that balance, agility and mobility. You have a quarter of the bones and joints of your entire body in your feet and ankles.

Joints are supposed to move. If the shoe you have has a stiff sole, this one doesn’t even bend in a spot where your foot naturally bends. If your shoe has a stiff sole, you can’t get that balanced agility and mobility, for one. And if you have arch support, this is where things get really controversial because many people think they need our support for whatever reason they do. I understand.

And in fact, I’ll give you a way out of what I’m about to say in a moment. But we know if you support your joints, I’m putting air quotes around support, if you put your arm in a cast, all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around that joint that isn’t being used, get weaker. Well, guess what happens when you do that with your feet with arch support and stiff shoes? Same thing. Research shows that you lose up to 17% of the muscle mass and strengthen your feet in as little as 12 weeks. That doesn’t go to zero, of course, but it gets pretty far down.

Now, if you think for some reason you need arch support, I’m not going to argue with you, but I’ll give you something interesting. If you go and get an or… well, two interesting things. If you go and get a custom-made orthotic and put it in a shoe that already has some arch support, the construction of the shoe is interfering with the orthotic. And as you wear the shoe and that foam breaks down, it interferes with the geometry of the orthotic. So, our shoes are totally flat on the inside, so if you feel like you need to wear an orthotic, this is the best platform to wear it in.

And the number one orthotic researcher in the world was… we were at the International Foot and Ankle Biomechanics Summit, and he came up to another researcher, a woman named Dr. Irene Davis, who does a lot of the research on minimalist footwear. And said, “I love these Xero Shoes, but I’m going to wear my orthotics in them.” And he thought she was going to get all upset. And she goes, “Great in a month, shave them down by 50%.

Then, a month later, shave them down by another 50%. Then, a month later, throw them away.” And he went, “Oh.” Last but not least, here’s one last thing about footwear. Most shoes are heavy.

They weigh enough that it actually changes the way you move and it changes the amount of effort you have to put into walking, running, hiking, or whatever you like to do. So, what we’ve done is we’ve made things super lightweight, also. So, lightweight, we’ve had people literally go to sleep still wearing their shoes because they forgot they had them on.

Maybe they were passed out drunk. I didn’t ask. But suffice it to say lightweight is important as well, especially if you’re doing anything, any sort of hiking or running over distance, the more weight you have on your feet, the harder it is to do that.

Steven Gundry (00:11:59):
What about the argument that if I’m going to be running long distances, I really need super cushioning because I am running really long distances.

Steven Sashen (00:12:11):
Well, I’ll do the simple answer first, then I’ll give the physics answer. The simple answer is that your muscles, ligaments, and tendons work better than any kind of cushioning that’s ever been developed. And every kind of cushioning that’s ever been developed, there’s two things about it. One, it breaks down almost immediately. Two, it doesn’t function the way we think.

When it breaks down, it can change the way your foot cannot touch the ground. It can make you pronate too much or supinate too much, or let you know. It does all these things that actually impact your knee or hip and your back, et cetera. We have hundreds of thousands of people who have discovered that getting out of cushion shoes, first of all, gives you that feedback so you can move better, interact with the ground better, and use your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, the way they’re designed to be used as springs, as shock absorbers and joint protectors. Actually, it just occurs to me to give you this example.

Dr. Irene Sacco in Brazil took a bunch of elderly women, women over the age of 65 and put them in a minimal shoe, no cushioning, no padding, and just said, “Just wear these.” These women all had knee osteoarthritis. And not just complaining of knee pain. They had x-rays and showed that they had osteoarthritis. Within six months for almost all those women, the arthritis was gone, and some of them started running 5Ks in their 70s for the first time ever because they were able to move for the first time.

If you find indigenous tribes, they don’t have padded shoes. They don’t have podiatrists either. And ironically, if you look at the shoes of anybody running on a track meet up to about a mile, their shoes have basically no cushioning either. So, there’s that. But let’s talk about the physics, just because I’m a physics geek.

When you have padding… oh, here’s another thing about padding. Sorry, I just thought about this before we do the physics. Actually, it’s related to physics. All cushioning is essentially designed to handle a particular weight at a particular speed. The speed has to do with how much the foam can uncompress after it compresses.

And the weight has to do with how dense the foam is. If you’re not that weight running at that speed, the foam actually gets in the way of proper performance. Same thing with walking, actually. In fact, a company whose name I won’t mention, but it rhymes with Mikey, they claim they have an ad where they say one of their new shoes gives you this sensation of propelling you forward.

Steven Gundry (00:14:25):
Ah, yes.

Steven Sashen (00:14:26):
Well, it gives you that sensation because as your heel is coming off the ground, the foam uncompressed faster than your heels moving off the ground. So, it feels like it’s tapping you in the heel, but it’s not doing anything. It gives you a feeling of something happening. But the feeling is where things get really interesting from the physics side. What cushioning does is it spreads out the pressure that your foot would otherwise feel, but it doesn’t change the amount of force that’s going into your body.

And when your foot can’t feel it, you tend to land with your foot slightly in front of your body, usually on your heel, with your leg pretty much outstretched, which means that force is going past your foot into your ankle, your knee, your hip, and your back. Interestingly, if you want to study knee osteoarthritis with animals, you take a rabbit, you straighten its leg, and you hit its heel, just like what I described humans do with every step in a cushion shoe. Then, it gets arthritis.

Then, when they want to compare some new arthritis drug to the control, what they do is they just stop hitting the heel of the rabbit and it gets better. So, the cushioning, it never existed prior to the early ’70s, and everybody was totally fine. And we just now have a million people who’ve reported the same thing. Actually, last thing about cushioning, you hit a giant can of worms. It can feel really good, admittedly.

Lying on a memory foam mattress feels great. Sitting on a memory foam chair feels great. There’s lots of things that feel great, that taste great, that look great, that are not good for us. And cushioning is one of those things, gets in the way of natural movement, gets in the way of proper sensation that you need for balance, agility, mobility, breaks down, affects everything. It can feel really good when you’re in the shoe store, but feeling good is not the most important thing.

And frankly, I would argue only because we have hundreds of thousand people who told us that getting out of something big and padded, using your muscles, ligaments, and tendons is actually more comfortable than when you’re using something that gets in the way.

Steven Gundry (00:16:26):
All right. Now, you’re preaching to the choir because we are talking off camera that I started using a barefoot shoes 20 years ago because I was a late runner. My wife was a really good marathoner, finished the hundredth running of the Boston Marathon. And she talked me into running because I didn’t want to. I developed, oh, you name it, I had a shin splints.

I developed arthritis in my knees, had to wear braces on my knees, but running was good for me. Right? I was doing 5, 10Ks every weekend and half marathons, and I was swallowing NSAIDs because of my knees, and it was good for me. It’s funny, after I changed my shoes-

Steven Sashen (00:17:25):
Well, wait, pause right there. What was the thing that inspired you to look into your shoes is something to change, to solve what was going on? Because most people just keep trying the same… a variation of a theme year after year after year.

Steven Gundry (00:17:37):
Well, the odd thing is I’m old enough to have worn earth’s shoes.

Steven Sashen (00:17:44):
Hey, stand in line.

Steven Gundry (00:17:46):
Yeah. That’s really old. And it occurred to me that having a heel that was raised was probably the most unnatural thing that I could possibly use. As I was researching arthritis, the idea of a heel strike, which of course you’re taught to do back in the good old days, seemed to be exactly what you were saying, that that just transmitted some rather impressive force upward, whether your knee took it or whether your hip took it, or both took it.

Steven Sashen (00:18:29):
Even up to your neck.

Steven Gundry (00:18:31):
That’s true, right up to the neck. And so, I said, something’s got to give. The other thing, I have, “a wide foot.” And you’re right, all of these shoes cram you into a narrow foot bed. There’s some that are a little better than others, but you’re right. It just seemed unnatural and the things that… so that’s what led me to that.

Steven Sashen (00:18:57):
And so, then, you made the switch, and?

Steven Gundry (00:19:00):
And that’s what I want to get into, it takes to me an adjustment. The first thing that I found happening was I was running on my toes. And that turns out is a very smart thing to do. Even at distance, a sprinter obviously runs on their toes, but even at distance, toe running-

Steven Sashen (00:19:20):
Well, let me address that a little bit. Some people get the mistaken idea that they just need to land on their toes, and they’ll still reach their foot out in front of their body and point their toes, which is the worst thing you could do. And so, it’s really not so much about landing on your toes as much as landing with your foot more underneath your center of mass, underneath your body. And when you do that, it’s impossible to land on your heel. But that doesn’t mean that you keep your heel off the ground.

You’re just getting that… you’re actually engaging your arch, which is the first line of defense, the strongest structure ever discovered is an arch. And no matter whether you have flat feet or high arches, that’s still true. So, that gives you that first line of defense. It gives you that first bit of feedback that sets you up to have a nice, strong spring for when you’re running. But you also can let your heel come down naturally as well. But again, the key is having your foot being underneath you more rather than just pointing your toes and landing on your toes.

Steven Gundry (00:20:11):
So, I started using this street running. And then, I decided… my wife and I do a lot of hiking in Italy. Well, actually around our homes and trail. And I found initially that the barefoot shoes took some getting used to, because I felt everything. I’m not sure I like feeling everything.

But over the years, I’ve noticed that that feeling everything gives me, particularly as I get older, an advantage. Because you’re right, there is feedback that maybe my poor old brain needs now, that if I was 40, I didn’t need that feedback.

Steven Sashen (00:21:03):
No, you always need it but just for slightly different reasons. And it’s interesting talking about you being older and needing the feedback could not be more true. I mean, look, I say this with a… it’s going to sound a little cavalier, or callous, but it’s been eight years and I’m kind of over it. My dad is one of the millions of people who wore big, thick shoes, had bad feedback, bad balance, kind of shuffled, tripped on a little ledge in a store, fell down, broke his hip, and died two weeks later. This is endemic.

And we see this. It blows my mind whenever I see people working with an elderly population and they start putting them in thicker and thicker shoes. And you watch, they start shuffling and shuffling and walking slower. And check this out. There’s a bunch of research started.

It came out of Duke a number of years ago showing that if you walk really slowly, that’s a high predictor of mortality over the next six months. And the slower you walk, the higher the probability you’re going to die. Now, they didn’t say why, but trip and fall is a big reason for that. And otherwise, just the lack of mobility is a really big deal that people don’t appreciate. But the feedback is also important because some of it’s not going to your brain.

Some of it’s going to the base of your spinal cord for reflexes. So, you step on a B, you don’t have to think about pulling your foot off the ground. You just pull your foot off the ground. It’s a reflex arc. And I have no proof for what I’m about to say, but I’ll say it anyway.

It seems that as I started spending more time barefoot, and then the products we are making, that my reflex are the speed of that improved. Because things that were originally difficult or unpleasant for me to step on. And it seems like you and I have the same mentality. We just did a little too much too soon because what the hell? But things that were originally unpleasant to step on became totally fine.

And it wasn’t because I got callouses or thick skin. It was because A, I was able to step off of something unpleasant more quickly, and B, my feet became more flexible and would just sort of bend around things as necessary. So, there’s definitely a transition period. We can talk about that. But the simple thing I can say about any sort of transition, I’m going to use the arm and a cast analogy again, is when you get your arm out of a cast, you have two choices.

Never use it again or do some strengthening for a little while, and then it’ll serve you the rest of your life. That’s what we’re talking about here too, is what we’re going to talk about. The transition from what you’re doing now to spending a little more time barefoot indoors, or on mildly unpleasant surfaces to kind of wake up your nervous system or going into a shoe that gives you that barefoot like experience. After a little bit of time and it’s different for everyone. Your body will serve you better for the rest of your life. And how is that not worth it?

Steven Gundry (00:23:36):
Good point. Let’s back up for a second. Let’s dispel the myth that shoes have always had heels and that having heels in a shoe or a boot is normal, and this is abnormal. I mean, shoes have always had heels, haven’t they?

Steven Sashen (00:23:59):
Well, that one’s an easy myth to dispel. The answer is no. Okay, moving on.

Steven Gundry (00:24:03):

Steven Sashen (00:24:05):
Now, heels, I mean, there’s a lot of arguments and debates about how heels evolved. Some was because of the people who were having shoes made for them in the early days of getting shoes made were like royalty, and many of them just wanted to be taller. Some of that became a fashion thing. Some people say it was because people were riding horses, they needed something for their stirrups. I mean, there’s lots and lots of reasons for it.

All I can tell you is when it comes to athletic shoes in particular, I already gave you the reason. It was some doctors who just pulled something out of their butt and gave it to the most important shoemaker in the world at the time.

Steven Gundry (00:24:38):
Yeah. You can look at the Egyptian.

Steven Sashen (00:24:42):

Steven Gundry (00:24:42):
You look at the Greeks, the Egyptians there aren’t any heels. Yeah.

Steven Sashen (00:24:48):
I say go to any place that doesn’t have indoor plumbing. You won’t find heels in their shoes.

Steven Gundry (00:24:52):
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You have nothing to lose. All right. So, getting back. So, walking barefoot, particularly indoors is a great idea. I personally have tried barefoot outside. I don’t enjoy it because I don’t have enough callous to take those little things.

Steven Sashen (00:31:35):
Well, It’s not about callouses because… and people think that it’s all about building callouses. But if you find those of us who spend a lot of time barefoot outdoors, we don’t have callous feet. The skin has gotten a little bit thicker, but that’s not it. We’re just a little more responsive and aware of what we’re doing. Again, I’m not suggesting people do it.

I just enjoy it. It’s fun. I like the feeling, I get the feedback. I spend a lot of time barefoot. And frankly, when I’m not barefoot, I wear mismatched colors in my shoes. So, the other day I was in Costco at the line for the pharmacy and the guy behind me says, “Hey, your shoes don’t match.”

And the pharmacist, without looking up or missing a beat says, “He’s wearing shoes?” So, it’s fun if you like it. If not, again, that’s why… look, barefoot is ideal, but the reason that we have a business is for when it’s not the most appropriate thing.

Steven Gundry (00:32:19):
We were talking off camera. But let’s say that there’s popularity in running shoes called zero-drop shoes.

Steven Sashen (00:32:19):

Steven Gundry (00:32:31):
And a lot of these zero-drop shoes nevertheless, have a ton of cushioning.

Steven Sashen (00:32:38):

Steven Gundry (00:32:39):
Explain zero-drop shoes to people who don’t know what that means and go from there.

Steven Sashen (00:32:45):
Well, the simple thing, the drop is the difference between the height of your heel and the height of the ball of your foot when you’re standing. So, a zero-drop shoe means there’s no difference. The ball of your foot is the same height as your heel or the heels at the same height as your ball of your foot, whichever we want to see it. But as you said, you can still have a bunch of cushioning underneath a zero-drop shoe, and that creates all the problems that we just described. You lose the feeling, the shoe becomes stiffer, which inhibits motion and more feedback and balance and agility.

And the higher you get off the ground… this is really simple. Let’s just use stilts as an example. Stilts are hard to balance. Well, it’s true even when your shoe is, it doesn’t have to be very high off the ground. But the higher it gets, the harder it is to balance.

And some of the things they make to improve your balance, they’ll flare the sole out, actually makes it harder to balance because the way your foot lands on that flared sole changes the way your foot contacts the ground and can make it harder to adapt, especially if you’re not getting that feedback. So, it was an idea that it started out and sounded good, but there’s a bunch of reasons why it doesn’t pan out. The feedback being the number one thing. Back to Irene Davis’ research, she refers to shoes in… or minimalist shoes in two categories, minimalist and partial minimalist. And I asked her privately if she wasn’t trying to be politically correct, if she would call them real minimalist and fake minimalist.

And she said, “Yeah, pretty much.” The difference is the shoes that still have that excessive amount of padding, and it doesn’t take very much, again, limits the amount of feedback you’re getting. So, it makes it harder to make those gait changes. Again, this is about form, not footwear. It makes it harder to get that feedback that makes the gait changes, that makes it so that you can use your body more naturally.

Using your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, the way they’re supposed to be used. And so, she says that those shoes are actually worse for you than a truly barefoot shoe because they’re still letting you over stride, heel strike, put all that force into your body, not feel it, not make those gait changes. And here’s the crazy part, most people doing that, they don’t know they’re doing it. I did some research with Dr. Bill. I was in the lab with Dr. Bill Sands.

He was the former head of biomechanics for the US Olympic Committee. And we took a bunch of people who were even they claimed that they were barefoot runners. But they were usually in the FiveFinger shoes. And there were certain versions of that FiveFinger shoe that still had a bunch of padding. And we watched people when they were in bare feet, had perfect form.

And when they put on even something that most people thought of as a barefoot shoe, those FiveFinger shoes, suddenly they were over striding, heel striking, putting more force through their body. And the kick is they had no idea they were doing it.

Steven Gundry (00:35:26):
You and I have a friend who used to have FiveFinger shoes.

Steven Sashen (00:35:33):
Yeah. I think I know who you’re referring to.

Steven Gundry (00:35:35):
So, what’s wrong with those shoes? And how did you talk our mutual friend out of those shoes? Besides the fact that they stink.

Steven Sashen (00:35:47):
Yeah. Well, in the early days when I started Xero Shoes and I sell people in FiveFingers, I said two questions. When did they rip? And how bad did they smell? And people had answers for both of those. So, I had those things fit my feet, I probably would’ve never started this company. But I have Morton’s toe, which most people think of as meaning your second toe is longer than your first.

It really means your first is too short, so be it. But regardless, they didn’t fit my foot properly. So, that talked me out of it. I have no problem with the way they look because I do a lot of weird things anyway. I don’t have any normal bicycles.

I have a kick scooter and elliptical bicycle and crazy stuff. So, I don’t mind that at all. I mean, I have this hair, clearly I don’t care. But since they didn’t fit my foot, I didn’t have that option. And again, the issue is simply that if there’s enough cushioning, it’s the same as just having a shoe.

The smell issue is an issue. The fit issue is an issue. There was one other thing I was going to say. Some people, they just have an identity built around whatever they’re doing. So, our mutual friend, he referred to them as male birth control shoes.

And I think the only other brand that can claim that is Crocs, but I think that works for both men and women for Crocs. The challenge, it was actually easy for him to switch from those to Xero Shoes. I just had to make them a pair because he’s a size 16, and we only went up to size 15. So, I said, “Let’s give it a shot.” I made a pair, he put them on. And he called and said, “This is all I’m going to wear.”

Steven Gundry (00:37:19):
Very good. Okay. We’ve been kind of talking, you’re a runner.

Steven Sashen (00:37:25):
No, I’m a sprinter.

Steven Gundry (00:37:26):
Yeah. Sorry.

Steven Sashen (00:37:26):
I don’t run.

Steven Gundry (00:37:27):
I apologize. Yeah.

Steven Sashen (00:37:28):
Yeah. I go very fast in a straight line for a very short distance.

Steven Gundry (00:37:32):
That is very smart. You’re correct. Running is really bad for you. And we won’t take today to talk about that.

Steven Sashen (00:37:40):
Running is fine. Look, even on the track, I hear there’s a thing at the end of… each end of the track, what are they called turns? Is that what it is? I mean, I don’t own a GPS watch. How am I supposed to do that?

Steven Gundry (00:37:50):
So, yeah, running a straight line.

Steven Sashen (00:37:53):

Steven Gundry (00:37:55):
Okay. I’m going about my everyday business and I’m in my suit. Why should I have a barefoot shoe just to walk around?

Steven Sashen (00:38:06):
Well, walking, standing, doing anything, again, everything that makes a barefoot shoe. And let me grab one just to describe this. So, first, wider foot-shaped toe box, see your toes and spread into its natural. Low it to the ground for better balance and agility. We don’t elevate the heel.

We don’t have that thing called toe spring, which puts strain on your toes. They’re super, super flexible. So-

Steven Gundry (00:38:21):
Oh, my gosh.

Steven Sashen (00:38:26):
… again, they’re going work, just rolled it in a ball. Again, the tread is there for traction and protection. But also, just FYI, this is a unique thing to us. When we decided to make shoes, most shoe companies say, “You need to replace your shoes every 200 to 500 miles.” And I knew that was just about planned obsolescence.

So, we approached our rubber manufacturer and said, “We want a sole that can last for a long time.” They said, “But that’s not what they do for regular shoes.” We went, “Yeah, I know. That’s why we want to do it.” So, we back our soles with a 5,000 mile sole warranty, which just means they last for a really long time.

Where that came from was our original sandals were inspired by the Tarahumara Indians who were featured in the book Born to Run, who run in sandals made of tire scraps. And so, in the early days, people would say, “How long are these sandals going to last?” And we’d say, “I don’t know. No one’s ever worn out a pair.” So, since we are inspired by tire sandals, we have a tire like warranty for our shoes. So, the benefit is just improved balanced, agility, mobility, and even strength.

So, research from Dr. Sarah Ridge shows that just walking in a minimalist shoe builds foot muscle strength as much as doing an actual foot exercise program. And interestingly, there’s research showing if you do that foot exercise program and you run in regular shoes, your injury rate is reduced by 250% over people who didn’t do the exercise program. Now, there’s not a study yet that shows you can just walk in our shoes and run in whatever you want and have a 250% lower injury rate.

But that thing in the middle of that equation is the same exercise program. So, walking shoes, like Xero Shoes, and they’re, to be totally transparent, the lead researcher said that you should get the same benefits from walking in Xero Shoes as the shoes they used in that study, which she didn’t have ours at the time. So, walking these shoes builds strength, building strength reduces injury risk. You do the math.

Steven Gundry (00:40:16):
For our female viewers, listeners, give me an argument to get them out of their heels.

Steven Sashen (00:40:25):
I’ll do it in a weird way. Wear your heels whenever you want, except if they’re painful. And more, if you build up foot strength, you’ll be able to tolerate them for those rare situations where you want them. That said, we have some… and we’re making more shoes for women that are attractive. My wife was at an event with one of the CEO of one of the biggest banks in the world and like a whole bunch of super-rich White guys.

She didn’t know why she was there. But she was kind of embarrassed because she was wearing one of our kind of fun, pretty sandals. And she made a comment to the CEO’s assistant, who was the only other woman in the room saying, “I feel it kind of bad cause these sandals.” And the woman says, “Are you kidding? I want a pair of those.”

So, the comfort factor is huge. Building up strength will let you wear heels for those times you need heels. And that kind of covers it. I mean, I’m not going to… here’s the thing, there’s a time and a place for everything. I’m not going to talk people out of doing what they want to do a 100% of the time.

We have lots of people who’ve done that. In fact, over 60% of our customers own more than four pairs of our shoes. And I think the top 10% own over 20. So, they’ve made the complete transition for everything they do, because once you’ve experienced letting your body do what it’s made to do naturally, it’s kind of hard to go back. But there’s times where you do it because you want to look a particular way or there’s a particular thing you need to do, and that’s cool. You want to be able to survive that better.

Steven Gundry (00:41:46):
All right. So, it’s okay for me to wear these with a suit? I don’t look geeky or anything like that?

Steven Sashen (00:41:59):
Dude, do you think I’m going to care if you look geeky?

Steven Gundry (00:42:02):
Oh, yeah. I care. I care.

Steven Sashen (00:42:04):
Well, we have a lot of people who wear a bunch of our things for a bunch of different reasons. All I can say is, let’s see, in the end of February, we are launching a number of new products, including stuff that’ll look even better with a suit. So, the way our product line has grown from just a do-it-yourself sandal kit to now over 30 different styles of shoes, boots and sandals that people wear for everything from taking a walk to running ultra-marathons, to climbing Kilimanjaro, to going out dancing is because customers have told us. “I love the shoe that you made for this, but now I need a shoe for this.”

And one of the big requests we’ve got is, “What can I wear with a suit?” And we have a number of black shoes or white shoes. But we’re making a few more that are a little one with really beautiful full grain leather and some vegan options as well that will look better in those situations.

Steven Gundry (00:42:53):
All right. I’m standing by. I’m standing by.

Steven Sashen (00:42:53):
I know a guy who knows a guy. I’ll hook you up.

Steven Gundry (00:42:54):
All right. Okay. We talked about getting strengthening your ankles and your arches and all that. Are there exercises that are useful for strengthening your ankles and all?

Steven Sashen (00:43:12):
Yeah. There’re many of them. Again, just walking and or running will do more than almost anything else you can do. But once you kind of get into this, you find yourself doing stuff when you’re just sitting around, when you’re doing the dishes, when you’re brushing your teeth. So, rather than going into the giant list O exercises, if you search online for foot strengthening exercises, especially if you search online for foot strengthening exercises, BYU for Brigham Young University, because that’s where they did that foot strengthening study, you’ll find a number of exercises. Some of them are really simple, literally just like squeeze your toes together as hard as you can, spread your toes apart as far as you can.

That’s a good one. For building up ankle strength, stand on one foot on the ball of your foot for as long as you can. Bounce up and down, jumping rope. Really, really good for you, especially if you’re going foot to foot instead of just doing both feet at the same time. There’s an exercise called short foot.

That’s a really good one where you want to imagine the ball of your big toe and your heel. You want to try to pull them together, try to keep your toes as relaxed as you can and try to pull the ball of your big toe closer to your heel. It’s an isometric thing. You’ll get barely any motion, a couple of millimeters worth of motion, and your foot will probably cramp up, which means that you need to build strength. And so, you can do that sitting.

You can do that standing. And so, that short foot exercise, in fact, if you just Google short foot, you’ll find a bunch of people talking about that. That’s also a really, really good one.

Steven Gundry (00:44:38):
Another thing I just brought to mind, a lot of my female patients have bunions, and some of them go through bunionectomy, which is not a pleasant procedure.

Steven Sashen (00:44:53):

Steven Gundry (00:44:54):
Actually, one of my nurse practitioners a few years ago did that, and it is not fun. Is there any evidence that… first of all, there’s a lot of evidence that these things occur because your foot-

Steven Sashen (00:44:54):
Caused that.

Steven Gundry (00:45:06):
… has been crammed like that.

Steven Sashen (00:45:07):
Yeah. Yeah.

Steven Gundry (00:45:08):
Is there any evidence so far, or is there even a thought that getting your foot back in a broad spread will help this?

Steven Sashen (00:45:17):
So, look, we are both scientifically minded people. I will be the first to confess that anecdotes do not equal data until you have a preponderance of anecdotal information, which is a data point. So, what I can say is, I’m not aware of any research yet that shows that just by getting out of constricting shoes and into something that lets your toes spread a little more, or even using toe spreaders, you can find these silicone toe spreaders definitely works or definitely works for everyone. I know there’s a guy named Dr. Ray McClanahan, who’s got a product called Correct Toes.

And he’s got a lot of, again, anecdotal information from his customers. There’s another product from a company called Naboso, N-A-B-O-S-O, which means barefoot in Czech. They have a product similarly. And that company is owned and started by a surgical podiatrist named Dr. Emily Splichal. But I’m not aware of a longitudinal study that shows this.

I can say personally, I didn’t have big bunions, but I definitely had my first toe pushing in a little bit. You could definitely see that joint right there was pushing out a little bit. And I was actually just looking at my feet the other day noticing my big toes are totally straight now, which I didn’t do anything other than just use them. So, again, the anecdotal data could not be more clear. It takes time.

It’s not going to happen overnight. But again, let’s just go to the things that make sense. If squeezing your toes is bad, unsqueezing them can’t be worse.

Steven Gundry (00:46:45):
That’s right.

Steven Sashen (00:46:45):
And it’s probably good. And doing some things to get that extra movement in there with toe spreaders or just doing those exercises to literally try and just spread your toes apart will be helpful. Just the more you’re walking or the more you’re running where you’re allowing your toes to spread, that’s going to probably be the most beneficial thing.

Steven Gundry (00:47:02):
All right. You’ve been working at this a while now. I understand you’re working on a new book titled, Change Your Shoes, Change Your Life.

Steven Sashen (00:47:13):
It is true.

Steven Gundry (00:47:14):
Are there any fascinating new studies from that book that you can share with our listeners today?

Steven Sashen (00:47:19):
My favorite studies are the ones that I mentioned that foot strengthening happens just from wearing and walking around in shoes like these. And that foot strengthening can improve or reduce the risk of running injury. Those I absolutely love. But my favorite study is actually not about us. It came from that company, what did I call it, Mikey?

Was that the one? So, a couple years ago they… because here’s the thing, many people will say, “Well, if what you’re doing is so much better, why aren’t the big shoe companies doing it?” And what I can tell you is what people who are CEOs or at the C-level in many of a number of those companies, I can think of three off the top of my head, have said directly to us, “What you’re doing is legit. We just can’t do it. Because it would be admitting that we’ve been lying for 50 years.”

They can’t tell two stories. They can’t tell the story of natural movement and the story of giant, giant padding and have anyone understand what’s going on. But here’s the kicker. They all know. And so, that Mikey study is the proof that they know.

So, the study came out where they were testing their bestselling running shoe against a new shoe they had developed. And the way they publicized the study, which has never been published, but I have a copy of it, is they said, “This new shoe reduces the risk of injury by 52%,” which it did. But then, you have to look at the actual numbers. In their best-selling shoe. In a 12-week study that they designed, over 30% of the people got injured in less than 12 weeks.

In the new shoe, yeah, only 15% got injured. So, let’s call that one out of three versus one out of seven. Imagine you walk into a shoe store and you say, “I’m looking for a good shoe for walking, running, hiking, whatever it is you do.” They go, “Well, here’s our bestseller. FYI, over 30% of the people wearing this are going to get injured in the next 12 weeks.” It’s like, “Oh, no, no, I don’t want that one.”

Steven Gundry (00:49:10):
Sign here.

Steven Sashen (00:49:11):
Yeah. Wait. “Do you have a better one?” “Well, here’s one where only one out of seven people get injured in 12 weeks.” “Do you have one that doesn’t injure me or makes me feel better?” They go, “Yeah, no, that’s not what we do here.” Or imagine going, someone says, “I’m going to buy you dinner every night this week.

You have a choice between two restaurants, one, where you’ll get food poisoning twice. One, where you only get it once. Which one do you want to go to?”

Steven Gundry (00:49:33):
Having gotten food poisoning last month, I choose-

Steven Sashen (00:49:36):
It’s the worst. It’s the worst.

Steven Gundry (00:49:40):
All right. When is this book coming out?

Steven Sashen (00:49:43):
Well, that’s a really good question. I gave it to our lawyers who told me never. That’s what they always say about everything I try to do. And the reason is simply this. We are really… I’m all about integrity and honesty.

It’s one of the things that inspires me every morning is when I know that people, the big shoe companies are lying to their customers to extract money from their wallets. I find that morally reprehensible. And so, I’m always about telling the truth. If I could start all over again, I would’ve called our brand truth footwear. But I didn’t think about that at the time.

So, because of that, and because of how litigious the footwear industry is, we are being hyper, hyper-cautious. We will not say or promote anything where there’s not an explicit medical study using our shoes or endorsed by the people who did that study to talk about what people talk about. In fact, I put out a video just a little while ago that is the opening of it is, this is going to sound crazy.

But it’s literally illegal for me to show you many of the 62,000 plus reviews we’ve gotten because there isn’t a specific medical study using our shoes that backs up the experiences of hundreds of thousands of our customers. I mean, they’re all on our website. But if I showed you the reviews, I’d have to redact them, like top secret documents like this. And then, I show redacted reviews. So, there’s so many things that people have gotten benefits from starting with just comfort alone.

But unless there’s a study, we’re not going to talk about it. And if someone else talks about it, we can’t promote that either, because that looks like we’re saying it. And so, there’s a bunch of things in the book that we’re trying to edit so that our lawyers are a little less worried about some big shoe company deciding to file a frivolous lawsuit. In fact, many people, not many people, some people might remember Vibram, the FiveFingers Company, they got sued a number of years ago. And people think that it was because it was proof that this whole barefoot idea was not beneficial.

It was actually that they did what I just described. They said wearing those shoes would make you stronger, but they didn’t have a specific study that showed that with their shoes. Ironically, the lawsuit settled for pennies on the dollar compared to similar lawsuits because there was research showing that in other shoes that were similar, you built foot strength. And it’s not rocket science, use it or lose it. Don’t use your feet, they get weaker.

Use them and they get stronger. Don’t use your feet, you have worse balance. Use them, you can have better balance. But they got sued. And there are many people who believed that lawsuit was started by one of the big shoe companies to try to shut these guys down. Because when that FiveFinger shoe was getting popular in 2010, the big shoe companies were literally worried they would never sell another running shoe again.

Steven Gundry (00:52:31):
Yeah. I remember those times. And yeah, it’s amazing what big companies will do.

Steven Sashen (00:52:41):
Look, it’s what we all do. When someone threatens us or our livelihood or our family, we’re backed up against the corner. We don’t go, “Oh, my God, you’re right.” And change things. We tend to lash out.

And big companies, they do that with a bunch of lawyers and a lot of money. So, we’re trying to avoid the frivolous lawsuit.

Steven Gundry (00:52:57):
All right. So, we’ll stay tuned and be nice to everybody else. And maybe we’ll get to read your book one of these days.

Steven Sashen (00:53:07):
Look, I got to tell you. The be nice to everyone. That’s long gone when it comes to being in the footwear industry. I was at a big trade show a couple years ago, and literally it went through my head. “I’m not trying to make friends here.

I’m trying to change the world by doing what’s right for human beings. And if they’re not on board with that, I don’t want to be their friend.” And so, I will say things sometimes more obnoxiously than I maybe should. But everything that I say that is critical of what we’ve all been doing for the last 50 years, I only say it because it’s backed by research, common sense and the experience of millions of people.

Steven Gundry (00:53:41):
I got an idea, maybe we can get around this. Instead of calling your company Xero Shoes, maybe we can call them Kinky Shoes instead of Kinky Boots. Well, we’ll get a Broadway play going and make a movie.

Steven Sashen (00:53:56):
I like it.

Steven Gundry (00:53:56):
Think about it.

Steven Sashen (00:53:57):
Somebody suggested we call them smart shoes because A, if you’re wearing these now, that means you’re smarter than everybody else.

Steven Gundry (00:54:05):
You’re really smart.

Steven Sashen (00:54:06):
And the other is because you’re getting that feedback, you’re getting that experience. It makes it so you’re moving differently and better, and that he would argue that that’s smarter also.

Steven Gundry (00:54:13):
I like Xero Shoes, but-

Steven Sashen (00:54:14):
I do too. But I can see the point for kinky. Maybe we just take one of our shoes and we just build it up around that.

Steven Gundry (00:54:20):
All right. And you put my name on it or something. We both have… the first name is Steven, so we’ll call him Steven’s Kinky Shoes or something.

Steven Sashen (00:54:30):
I think we’re onto something, and I think both of our wives would tell us we’re on drugs.

Steven Gundry (00:54:34):
Oh, yeah, that would not work. All right. Well, can you tell us where can we find your shoes? Where are going to learn about them?

Steven Sashen (00:54:43):
Sure. If you go to Xero Shoes, and that’s X-E-R-O shoes.com. Although, if your computer accidentally changes that to Z-E-R-O shoes.com, it’ll still get to us. And hey, it was magic. If you’re in the EU, we’re at xeroshoes.eu. In a couple of months, we’re going to be xeroshoes.co.uk as well. And of course, we’re on social media at Xero Shoes or slash Xero Shoes wherever you happen to at or slash.

Steven Gundry (00:55:08):
Do you happen to have a promo code you could share with our listeners?

Steven Sashen (00:55:12):
No. We don’t. And I’ll tell you why. A, we’re already less expensive than our minimalist competitors. B, with our 5,000 miles sole warranty, our shoes outlast, whatever else you might be wearing. Even less expensive shoes. There are a couple of cheap, minimal shoes and people say, “Eh, they were only $40, so I just bought a few pairs.”

Yeah, but we’ve got people who’ve been wearing our same shoe for five years. So, what’s the net cost? And last but not least, we’ve been growing so quickly and people have been denying or doubting what we’ve been saying for so long that it’s been hard for us to raise enough money to be able to buy enough inventory for the next year. So, what we do is we have a sale kind of three times a year when we launch new products. Sometime in the spring, sometime in the fall, and if we’re at the end of the year for holidays, we do something.

But otherwise, our shoes are affordable in general. They’re affordable on a net level just because of how long they last. And we need to be able to make enough money to keep doing this and helping more people live life feet first.

Steven Gundry (00:56:14):
Well said. Well said indeed. All right. Thanks for joining us and keep doing what you’re doing. And I’ll keep wearing what I’m wearing and hope to see you again soon.

Steven Sashen (00:56:27):
I look forward to it. Be well.

Drew Pinsky (00:56:31):
Hey, this is Dr. Drew and I’d like to invite all of you to subscribe to the Dr. Drew Podcast. We are very proud of what we’re doing there at that podcast. I am interviewing some of the most interesting, well, people you could ever want to talk to. Just whatever I find fascinating, whether there’s a smart person or an expert in a field that I’m interested in or maybe I’m not even interested in, I’m only interested because I’ve heard them speak and become intrigued.

I think you’ll be intrigued as well. We get deep into topics that are quite important to the current age. Things like cognitive dissonance, cognitive distortions, how does our mind work? We talk about everything at the Dr. Drew Podcast that is of real relevance. We get all the way into deep physics and all sorts of stuff.

But trust me, it’s all very accessible. It’s very interesting. Headaches. If you’re even interested learning about headaches, we get there. We go to the interesting topics of the day. Please join us at the Dr. Drew Podcast.

Speaker 5 (00:57:25):
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Steven Gundry (00:57:57):
All right. Time for the question of the week. This one comes from Alan Morales on YouTube. He says, “Dr. Gundry, is spring water better for you than reverse osmosis water?” Well, it depends really on where that spring is. A lot of people advertise spring water, but that spring water may not necessarily have a lot of good things in it.

So, you have to be careful. There are some ratings of various spring waters that are available. Consumer reports every now and then does some ratings of spring water, and a lot of times you’ll be surprised at what’s in spring water. In general, spring waters are more expensive than reverse osmosis water. The object of the game, as I’ve talked about on my podcast and the YouTube channel is, you got to be really careful what’s in your local tap water.

And you can actually Google what’s in your local tap water and just be careful about what you are drinking. Because a lot of our tap water is not really what you want to put in your mouth. So, I hope that helps with the question. Now, it’s time for the review of the week from James Newing on YouTube who says, “Thank you, Dr. Gundry. I have improved my health dramatically taking your advice.

I have also passed this on to people, my elderly father and another friend who didn’t dismiss it and took it on board. Both have seen miraculous changes. Keep up the great work, sir.” Well, thank you very much, James. Again, this is why I do this.

This is why I show up on your computer or your phone all the time because you write back and tell me what a difference it’s made in your life. I’m going to keep doing this as long as you keep writing in. So, if you like what you’re hearing, if things have changed for you listening to what we’re doing, please drop us a note wherever you get your podcasts. Because I’m going to do this because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you. I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast.

If you did, please share this with family and friends. You never know how one of these health hacks can completely transform someone’s life when you take the time to share it with them. There’s also the Dr. Gundry Podcast YouTube channel, where we have tens of thousands of hours of free health insights that can help you and your loved ones live a long, vital life. Let’s do this together because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.