Feet first

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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  1. Loved this interview. I am sorry it ended so abruptly. You were starting to discuss some ideas that I have been thinking about lately. The discussion of expectations.Would love it if you spoke to him again and started with that discussion.

    1. Hello Ann -
      Thank you for the feedback. I'll let Stephen know you said so.
      And, so you know, I'm with you. I think he's a fascinating guy; I've enjoyed and learned from every conversation we've had.

  2. Hi Larry,
    Glad that your feet are feeling so much better, Larry. I suffer from chronic plantar fasciitis in right foot so I was "all ears" in reading your blog about feet. I read Steven Sashen's info on proper walking and listened to the excellent video that demonstrated it. I am hoping that will make a difference... so far so good! This is the first I have heard about proper walking and I have seen lots of podiatrists and physical therapists!! Thank you so much:)

    1. Hello Carol -
      Yes, there's so much to said for waking up our feet and restoring their natural movability.
      Being a Feldenkrais teacher, I moved to add that what I've learned -- from my personal practice and professional experience -- is that it's vital to address what's going above, to take into account how we stand and move.
      Though the lessons can be a bit challenging, you might be interested in my recently published series The Human Frame. These new ATM lessons are done in the frame of the door; they address the patterns of coordination that underlie walking well. Rather than teach you how to walk, the lessons help you unburden yourself of the habits and compensations that interfere with optimal locomotion. To learn more, please click her.

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