What Ever Happened to Invisible Shoes?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Invisible ShoesjpgOne of my first ever shoe reviews on this site was for the ultra-minimal running sandal “Invisible Shoes“. Back in the day, this start-up was trying to change the world, one shoe at a time, by selling DIY sandal kits with incredibly thin soles. What ever happened to these guys?

A Brief History

Back in 2009, sprinter Steven Sashen and his wife Lena had the crazy idea of bringing a high-tech version of the centuries-old running sandal, the huarache, to market. Steven had become a recent barefoot convert, and was looking for a way to help people find out about and begin to enjoy it as well. Having heard about the Tarahumara in Mexico, and their amazing sandals, made of old tyres and rope,  he found a terrific vehicle to do this.

Xero-Shoes - Promo

Not long afterwards, with a lot of R&D, and testing, the Invisible Shoe was born. It featured a simple nylon rope tying system atop a very thin, very flexible, and very durable Vibram sole. They were inexpensive, comfortable, and soon became a favourite within the barefoot running community. One of the big reasons for their popularity was the availability of a DIY kit that let you build your own shoes for a few bucks (you can still get them!)

XeroShoesLogo

Fast-forward a couple years, and Invisible Shoes took a major step forward. Due to the ever-growing popularity of the DIY huaraches, Invisible Shoe as a company decided to expand. They changed their name to Xero Shoes and began to update their existing line and launch new products, such as coloured soles and accessories. This culminated in the February 2013 appearance of Steven and Lena on the television series The Shark Tank.

Though they didn’t get the funding they were after, the exposure from appearing on the show was a turning point for the company. It wasn’t long before they announced a new product, the Sensori Venture, which has turned this small company into an up-and-coming competitor of even the big shoe companies.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

The minimal shoe revolution, which has in many ways boosted the barefoot running revolution, was largely started as a backlash to shoe companies selling us over-engineered, over-priced shoes. The original idea was to go back to basics and wear less shoe, allowing your feet to move as they were designed.

There are some incredible new shoes on the market, and I’ve reviewed many of them, but on average, these shoes are over a hundred dollars a pair, and here in Australia, finding a decent pair for less than $200 is getting harder and harder.

sensori-venture-4-colors

Xero Shoes, in contrast, have always done the right thing by barefooters. Of the truly viable and durable minimal shoes out there, theirs are by far the cheapest, with their priciest shoes coming in at less than $40! I still run in my original 4mm Connects that I paid $20 for 2 years ago.

On top of this, Xero Shoes have always been big supporters of the barefoot running community. This year, they’ll be sponsoring the Barefoot Runners Society’s International Barefoot Running Day (May 4th, 2014).

Full Disclosure

Invisible Shoes/Xero Shoes have been a favourite of Beginning Barefoot since the beginning. Steven was the first prominent barefooter I ever interviewed, and we have collaborated several times in the past with giveaways and contests.

We have been a part of their affiliate program for years, and yes, we do get a small commission on sales referred from this site. Despite this, I still think that Xero Shoes are the perfect first shoe for anyone interested in trying minimal shoes/running sandals out for the first time. Our affiliate status is merely a reflection of this.

More To Come

Xero Shoes is an exciting, young company that is doing great things for barefoot/minimal running. We’ll be reviewing many of their products in detail this year, so if you’re interested in finding out more about Xero Shoes, be sure to click the follow button, or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

The Embarassing State Of Barefoot/Minimal Running

By Barefoot Dawsy

I’ve been running barefoot now for four years, and blogging about it for two. I admit that I started out, alongside many others, after reading the now famous book ‘Born To Run’.

At that time, the barefoot running resurgence was just starting out, amid criticism of the large shoe companies. The majority of this criticism was centred on the question of whether or not they were misleading the public as to the safety that their shoes provided.

There was an interesting study that came out of Newcastle University[1], in Australia, which basically stated that despite a huge and time-consuming search, there was no evidence that the pronation and motion control features of modern running shoes had any benefit at all.

This questioning of a hitherto nearly universally accepted truth was one of the fundamental drivers for the barefoot/minimal revolution, which saw the exponential rise of the minimal shoe, and the unprecedented uptake of barefoot/minimal running.

Here was our chance. There was a vacuum of useful, relevant data and proper studies, which was damning in its absence. The shoe companies were lying to us, and we were all being played for fools.

I, like many others, embraced the new style of running, and waited impatiently for the inevitable mountain of studies and evidence demonstrating the superiority of barefoot running.

It never came.

In fact, just recently a new study did come out[2], and it was woefully reminiscent of the Newcastle study. This one, however, tells the story of a lack of evidence that barefoot running has any benefits at all. It points to the few studies that exist, most (all?) of which are poorly crafted, and even unscientific.

Barefoot had a chance to become something more than a fad, and become the next big thing in running. Instead, its legacy is more overpriced shoes with questionable usefulness in injury prevention.

So, what do we do now? We can’t sit back and hope that somebody, somewhere manages to get the funding together to put together a clever, well-crafted study. Or hope that someone publishes one that proves conclusively, one way or the other, which style is better. 

What we can do is to take responsibility for our own testing and assessment of whichever style of shoe, or lack thereof that, we choose. We need to stop looking to major corporations to hand us the magic pill that will stop us getting injured. We need to take the time to learn how our own bodies want to move, and what style of running feels right, whether shod or unshod.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in running. Each of us has slightly different styles, preferences, pain thresholds, etc, so it’s on us as individuals to intelligently weigh up the options and make the best choice for ourselves.

What brought you to try barefoot running? Have you got any views on how the scientific community or running shoe industry are handling things? Let us know in the comments!


[1] C E Richards, P J Magin and R Callister. 2008. Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?, Br J Sports Med 2009 43: 159-162 originally published online April 18, 2008 (doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.046680)

[2] Hall JP, Barton C, Jones PR, Morrissey D., 2013. The biomechanical differences between barefoot and shod distance running: a systematic review and preliminary meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2013 Dec;43(12):1335-53. (doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0084-3)(Pubmed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23996137)