The other day I was thinking about Kunst Haus Vienna, the art galleries that house many paintings, prints, architectural designs, and other works of the Austrian artist, architect, and ecologist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He thought the effect of paved roads, sidewalks, floors, and the other flat surfaces we live on was to cut off from nature. Everywhere outside of modern civilization, the ground is uneven, and every step we take provides a rich sensory experience of the earth’s surface.
I have a vivid memory of walking on the museum’s uneven floors, purpose-built according to Hunterdertwasser’s design — the way it woke up my feet and made me feel more connected to the ground — during my interview with Steven Sashen, the founder of Xeroshoes. Unfortunately, that to the lingering effects of chemotherapy on my memory, I couldn’t remember Hundertwasser’s name at the time.
“Walking… is how the body measures itself against the earth.”
— Rebecca Sonit
My experience wearing the incredible footwear that Steven created was the inspiration for getting in touch with him. My feet haven’t been happy lately. At one point during chemo, side effects from previous medical treatment, reigniting peripheral neuropathies and flaring up the base of a big toe so severely that I needed a cane to get around.
I’m not ashamed to tell you that Xeroshoes changed my life. Each of these incredibly light shoes provides ample protection, has a wide “toe box” that naturally fits my foot’s shape, and affords full functional flexibility. From the moment I slipped them on, I felt at home. There was no more numbness and pain. In its place, there was newfound flexibility and, even more importantly, pleasure in standing and walking. My feet haven’t felt this alive, this good in a long time.
You can understand why I was interested in talking with Steven.
As I found out, he’s a forthright guy and a deep thinker, someone with a passion for “living life feet first.” Starting with me asking how he got into the shoe business, we dove into a fascinating conversation that covered the biomechanics of locomotion, his experience with Feldenkrais lessons, the nature of habit and habituation, and a lot more. You can watch it here or listen to it here.
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