What Makes a Harvard Doctor Start a Shoe Company?

 

– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 083 Dr. Casey Kerrigan

 

Dr. Casey Kerrigan is co-founder of OESH Shoes. She is a Harvard M.D., an N.I.H. supported biomechanist, and a lifelong runner since her track star days in high school and college. After publishing numerous medical research studies linking traditional women’s shoes to serious long-term health problems and disability, she gave up her coveted position as the first woman tenured professor and chair in the school of medicine at the University of Virginia, to develop truly healthy shoes for women. Shunned by the shoe industry for her research, she built her own factory and company, OESH Shoes, where she develops not only the shoes but also the machinery, processes, and materials to make them.

 

OESH is the only shoe company to be recognized by the National Science Foundation for its sustainable zero-waste 3D printing and 3D knitting processes. Making and selling its first batch of shoes in 2011, OESH has a community of now thousands of women who believe that fashion should be dictated, first and foremost, by health.

 

 

Listen to this informative The MOVEMENT Movement episode with Dr. Casey Kerrigan about what makes a Harvard Doctor start a shoe company.

 

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

  • How many people don’t understand the basic mechanics of walking and running.
  • Why reducing someone’s joint torque reduces arthritic pain.
  • How even the most expensive running shoes increase joint torques.
  • How even the smallest amount of arch support increases joint torques.
  • Why many big shoe companies are so threatened by natural movement.

 

 

Connect with Casey:

Links Mentioned:
oeshshoes.com

Guest Contact Info:
Twitter
@oeshshoes
Instagram
@oeshshoes
Facebook
facebook.com/OESHshoes

 

Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Jointhemovementmovement.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

Steven Sashen:

What happens when you leave the stable life of academia and do the stupidest thing you could possibly think of start a shoe company? Well, we’re going to find out on today’s episode of The Movement Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happiest healthy, strong bodies. Starting feet first, typically because those things are your foundation. We break down the propaganda, mythology, sometimes the outright lies that you’ve been told about what it takes to run or walk or play or do yoga across or whatever it is you’d like to do.

And to do that enjoyably and efficiently. And I mentioned enjoyably, I know I did, but that’s the important part because if you’re not having fun, please do something different until you are. And I’m Steven Sashen from xeroshoes.com, your host. Really quick, if you don’t know what we’re doing here, it’s simple. We’re creating a movement around natural movement. We’re helping people rediscover that natural movement is the obvious, better, healthy choice, the way natural food is. And if you want to find out what that’s all… Oh, and the movement part is about you.

So, you are moving this natural movement thing forward. If you want to find out how you can help, it’s easy, just like and share and give us a thumbs up and hit the bell icon on YouTube. All these different ways you can interact. Basically, if you want to be part of the tribe, please subscribe and also go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. You’ll find previous episodes and all the different ways you can interact with what we’re doing here. So let’s get started. I am thrilled to semi introduce Dr. Casey Kerrigan. I love saying doctor in front of things. I never do that by the way, I had a chance. I grew up in a medical family, so I don’t know why it came out that way. I just talked.

Anyway, here we are, Casey and Bob who’s sitting behind her. And I say semi introduction because I want you to tell the story of what you’re doing and how you got to what you’re doing. And then I will interject by telling you how silly that was.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Okay. Well so way where began, way back when I used to run track in cross country in high school, college, and always was fascinated with gait. And then became a doctor, went to Harvard Medical School and specialized in a field called physical medicine and rehabilitation. Where you like care about the whole body, not just the feet, but the whole body and learning about gait. It’s amazing how little we knew back then, and here I’d have lectures with, we’d study the heart, the lungs, and we knew how those organs were just fine.

But people really didn’t understand the mechanics of basic walking and running. And so I was just excited to research it, to really dive in and learn about it. And so I started doing research in, I guess, 1991 and then built a couple of gait laboratories. First one at Harvard. And then I was recruited down to University of Virginia in 2002 to continue my research and build an even better lab. So we had all this wonderful equipment. I was funded by your friends in Bethesda, the NIH, many, many years.

Steven Sashen:

Literally down on the same street I grew up.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yes. And I probably went by your house, going to the NIH for meetings all the time. So I was funded by the NIH to study gait, to get a better understanding, to help with improving people’s mobility, also to prevent disease and treat disease, prevent disease. And one of the biggest findings that I discovered back in, I think 98 was my first paper published. It was in the land set that a high heel shoes increase the, I should say, it’s the joint torques, but it’s really, you can think about it as the load on the parts of the knee, where we get arthritis.

And it was huge. It was like 26%. And that was significant, at the time, I was like, shoot, this is pretty big because people do surgeries on the knee when someone’s got knee arthritis to change that number. If you see like a 5% change, you think, “Wow, successful surgery. We just reduce that torque by 5%.” Well, we’re saying that shoes were doing 26%. So anyway, I was like, wow, high heels. And then I dug into all footwear. I found out that just wide based heels, also that moderate heels, that any heel, and then I kept doing this research and then really, boring down on what specific parts of the shoe do this? Increase these torques.

And the knee torque, when people think about, “That’s just knee arthritis.” Well, knee arthritis is huge. It causes more disability, physical disability than any other singular disease in the elderly. It is huge. And it just doesn’t get the attention that other diseases do. People live with it.

Steven Sashen:

Well, people think it’s a normal part of aging. It’s like bodies wear out and there, so arthritis that’s just what you get.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Exactly. And then women get it almost twice as much as men. And I’ve always believed the reason for that is because footwear. Women are wearing a higher heels generally than men. But there’s more, it’s not just the heel. There’s other facets of the shoe that are increasing these torques. And so it’s not just the knee. The knee is like the loads that occur in the coronal plane, which is a side to side plane. People think about movement and everything in the going forward plane as a sagittal plane, but really there’s all this stuff that’s going inside the side plane and that’s where things happen.

When you think about all the injuries that occur during running, it’s all in the side to side plane, they’ll all with respect to the torques, the mechanics, not the motion, not what you can visually see, but what you can measure when you combine your ground reaction forces with motion analysis that you can see what the loads are, all the joints. So the knee joint is just like one indicator of that things are abnormal in that plane, but it’s abnormal all up and down the plane.

So, where you get stress fractures, why you get hit pointers, really every single injury you can explain in this coronal plane and with respect to those torques. So it was like, okay, knee arthritis, but it was much bigger than that. And finding-

Steven Sashen:

As you were doing this, how much of this was making you surprised versus just like confirming what seems so screamingly obvious with the barest amount of thought, but it hadn’t been proven or anything?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Some of it like the high heel stuff and women’s dress shoes, a lot of that is like yeah, no brainer and thought, “Yeah, I’m confirming this is ridiculous, of course.” But it was surprising I think, because being a runner, I just thought, “Okay, I’m getting the best pair of Nike shoes. And I think I have the best.” And so when finding out that they’re not, that they’re aspects of the most expensive running shoe that are increasing these torques, I think that was surprising.

Steven Sashen:

That alone is so interesting to me because it occurs to me. The only reason it’s surprising is that we grew up… I’m 58. How old are you?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

I’ll be 60 this year.

Steven Sashen:

Oh, please give me a break. When I turned 50, my dad called me to try and tease me about being 50. I said, “Are you kidding? I’m entering a new age group for racing. I’m going to be the fastest guy in the 50 to 54 group. It’ll be awesome.” We grew up in that era when Nike’s went from being basically just flat, really thin, tiny little bit of toast spring and original waffle trainer. But that was really it. And then, we all bought, drank the Kool-Aid as they kept telling us that they were doing things to improve performance and reduce injury, despite a lack of evidence.

What’d you say about?

Bob Kusyk:

It’s like cars in the 1970s.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah.

Bob Kusyk:

It got added on every year with every new Detroit model.

Steven Sashen:

A friend of mine said something really interesting. He went to Mexico and he said, the billboards look like they’re from the 70s in America, because it’s the same kind of like very simplistic messaging that we no longer fall prey to, we no longer believe that kind of messaging, but the messaging there wasn’t as sophisticated. And it’s a similar thing. It’s like, in the 70s, we believed what people told us on television. We believed and there was no reason not to, at all. It all made intuitive sense, things like, “Oh, well, running is painful. So we need cushioning.”

It’s like, okay, well, a bed, you want cushioning on a bed. You want cushioning on a good sofa. So it’s like, they capitalized on some messaging that made ‘intuitive sense’ but wasn’t real until they said it long enough that everyone just assumed it was real.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Well, it’s funny, in 1977, I wrote a very long letter to Nike, they were a little company and tell them excited the LDV-1000. And I just went through, I said, “I think you need to do this, and you need to do that.” It’s a really funny, it’s hilarious.

Steven Sashen:

I love it.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

And they call me back. So, it was really, yeah. So that’s great.

Steven Sashen:

So on the trajectory from there to, so you got down to UVA with a better lab, and I’m also just thinking about what you’ve seen during this time and the improvements of the equipment that you could use to investigate the things that you were looking into. My God, there’s been just so much change in what’s available for research.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Right. Yeah. So, we could do the 3D motion analysis where you can see the movement of the joints. A lot of times you can’t like just video camera, you might not be able to see what’s happening in the coronal plane versus the sagittal plane. So you can really figure out what the motion is. But more than the motion, it’s just knowing where the joint centers are. So you can figure out where the joint centers are. And then with the joint centers, you’re running over a ground reaction force, I’m sorry, a force plate, the measures of ground reaction force.

And then we had this sophisticated instrumented treadmill that had three different force plates on it. So you can measure the joint locations at the same time that you’re measuring the ground reaction force. And interestingly, so many people, they study gait and it’s very observational, it’s like, “Oh, this is moving. This is…” Like, “Oh, you’re protonating.” But who cares? You need to understand where that ground reaction forces with respect to the joints to really get any kind of meaning out of it.

Steven Sashen:

We see this all the time where people either look at still images and make assessments about how someone’s moving, or even looking at video at like 24 frames a second, which doesn’t really tell you anything or of course when people go into a running shoe store and they’re getting videotaped on a treadmill from the knees down by some 23 year old kid who was trained to identify something that maybe he thinks he can see and then recommend a shoe in relation to that. I was in Bill Sans lab when he was out here in Colorado.

And he said, “I only film at 500 frames a second, because there’s not enough information otherwise.” And the interesting proof of that is my right foot was averting turning out in the last frame just before it hit the ground in 1/500 of a second, my right foot was turning out about 10 degrees. And that pointed to a hamstring issue that I had, that we would have never found in any other way. But people go, “Oh yeah, I went to the shoe store and they put me on a treadmill.”

Actually, wait, you’re going to love this. One of my fantasies is to get like a fake TV film crew saying we’re doing a documentary or doing a story about getting the right shoe and go to different stores and have the same runner get on the treadmill and see how many different shoes that the different stores recommend based on their treadmill analysis. I think it would be hysterical because there’s no way they’re going to come up with the same diagnosis, let alone the same recommendation.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Right, right.

Steven Sashen:

Anyway.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah. So there was doing all this research and finding the specific things in the shoe that can increase these joint torques, but also finding that there’s things that could reduce those joint torques. So that was interesting. Which of course then led to the development of…But some of the features that we showed that increases the joint torques. One of them was just arch support, just like at teeny tiny amount of arch support is like very minimal SpinCo soft cushion arch support-

Steven Sashen:

Shelf, yeah.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Off the shelf. And that, that increased those parameters. And then I guess the last straw was in 2009, I think. Yeah. We finally published paper that just looked at just your traditional running show. And didn’t matter, I forget what brand it was, Brooks maybe. Yeah. Only because… I feel bad, they had donated it all is fair, but we also had Nike, we had Nike frees, we had so Nike free, same thing, no different, but they were increasing the joint torques by upwards of 50%. Now this is during running. So the high heels groups like, “Oh my gosh, it’s more than high heels.” As, okay. Well that was in walking. We increased 26%.

But running, between running barefoot and running with shoes, it was like between 33, 50%. And again, not just a knee joint torque, not just the coronal knee joint torque, but the sagittal and the hip torques and ankle. So, everything. And then went and started making shoe.

Steven Sashen:

Let’s pause there and I’ll tell this quick story. So seven months after Lane and I started XeroShoes, when we were just selling do it yourself, barefoot running sandaled kit, basically, here’s how you can make a sandal that looks like what they did 10,000 years ago. And we met some guys who had all started at Reebok 35 years earlier, and the footwear industry, as you know, but not everyone does. It’s very incestuous. People just bounce around from company to company. So they’d been all over the place.

And they were sitting in our dining room and said, “We really believe in you guys and we really believe in natural movement and what you’re doing, and we would start this business with you, but we’ve been in footwear so long that we’re not stupid enough to try and start a shoe company.” So, talk to me about that leap from academia and research to the stupid thing of starting a shoe company, Bob Kusyk, you’re leading on that one?

Bob Kusyk:

Oh, no. Yeah. I’ve been released.

Steven Sashen:

I don’t want to be involved in that part of the conversation. So talk to me about that moment of, I say this only half in jest, that moment of stupidity, or what I like to say is, when Lane and I, we uttered the five dangerous entrepreneurial words. How hard could this be? And here we are 11 years later and we know the answer. So what was your, how hard could this be? Moment or what was the thing that really inspired ocean? For people who don’t know, your company is O-E-S-H-O shoes. So talk about that transition.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah. So here I was, I was publishing all this stuff, and you know what? I was like at the top of the academic world. So what? I had I don’t know, whatever you are, tenured full professor at a young age and chair and whatever, and all these awards, whatever, but I wasn’t helping anyone. And especially the issue was with women. Because women, the footwear it’s a lot worse for women than it is for men. And wanting to help women, women’s health. I wasn’t doing enough clinically. And in my research, it wasn’t getting out there. And I was like, and in knee arthritis, I should say my specialty, our clinic, my department, the majority of our patients have knee arthritis.

That’s what I was treating and seeing patients with this debilitating disease and seeing that like we could prevent it. And at least help women who already have it. And so I couldn’t get shoe companies to listen. Ideally I would have just ask, shoot, why don’t you guys look at my research and make your shoes differently? But that wasn’t going to happen. And I had to learn that. It took a number of years to figure that out that my research was really threatening.

Steven Sashen:

You just nailed it. We actually had the CEO too. CEOs of major footwear brands say directly to people that we know this whole natural movement thing is real. We just can’t do it because it would be admitting that everything we’ve said is a lie. So, when you hit them with research, there’s two things that happen. One is they have that, like you said, they were definitely threatened. And the other is, there’s a lot of true believers in those companies and in what they’re doing with padding and our support emotion crawl. And when you give someone data that interferes with their belief, that contradicts what they believe, much to my shock and amazement and horror people don’t go, oh.

They do the exact opposite and they just latch on to what they believe even more strongly. They will find some tiny little thing, like a typo in your paper and say, “Well, she had a typo so clearly, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Right. Exactly. Exactly. And that’s exactly what happened too. It was unbelievable. People not only ignored my research, tried to discredit everything I was doing, and that was actually more harming to OESHI than anything because, the industry just fricking attacked me and not only could I not get a big shoe company to do what I wanted to do, but then when I do go build my company, I’m now which basically. You go on the internet and just, you can Google my name.

And it was like, “Oh my God, she’s…” So that was, and that I had no idea what was coming because I just thought, geez, I’m going to, and that’s what I did. I was a tenured professor, had millions of dollars’ worth of laboratory equipment and traded it all in for millions of dollars’ worth of factory equipment.

Steven Sashen:

Other than the negative response from big shoe companies, what were some of the surprising things that you discovered? Or what happened differently when you started the company, then what you imagined was going to happen when you started the company?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Oh my gosh. So I thought it’d be easier. I thought that people would adopt the research or shoes quickly. But I’d see a lot of the problems were on my end at that point. I wanted to develop this material in the soul. That’s this like super springy. So some of the things that can reduce those torques and eaten out the ground reaction force, reduce those torques. I wanted like a shoe that’s truly compliant. And it couldn’t be ethylene vinyl acetate, ethylene vinyl acetate-

Steven Sashen:

Yes. Let’s pause there to do the science, English translation for people. So if you’re talking about something that’s compliant, I’m basically thinking of like small trampoline is the basic idea. There is going to be, like you said, a little springy, but of course, as soon as the springy, people are thinking, many people are thinking about what they hear from big shoe companies about how they’re using foam. And it’s got quote, energy return and it’s springy, but what you’re doing something very, very different.

And the ethylene vinyl acetate EVA, is the compound that most companies use for the foam in the mid sole of their shoe. And by the way, a quick aside, my favorite back to the point of shoe companies telling us stories that were simple, that aren’t true. My all-time favorite is when Adidas came out with their boost foam, which they demonstrated how great it was by taking like a two pound steel ball and bouncing it off some concrete, and it barely bounced then off quote, the other companies EVA, which no other company’s ever used and bounces like three or four times.

And then off the boost foam that bounces like 10 times and they go, “isn’t this great.” And my response is, well, “No, if you go to the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, which is hands-on museum, they have a display thing you can do where you drop a steel ball through a little plexiglass shelf with a hole in the middle, and it bounces off a steel plate. And instead of bouncing 10 times off the boost foam, It bounces about 260 times bouncing a steel ball off steel plate.”

But no one understands the physics of that. So they don’t get why that boost foam demonstration is completely meaningless ignoring the fact that, you are not a two pound steel ball, or in any pound steel ball. So anyway, you were doing, trying to develop something that actually reduced these impact forces wasn’t using EVA, and that led you to some very interesting places.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, so initially I was making these carbon fiber Springs that were in the shoe. That was great, but not… I could do better. And so finding a material that could have the springiness, but then also allow all the other attributes of the shoe to not reduce these torques. So it’s got to be completely flat. So the sole has to be completely flat, heel to toe, but side to side. And I don’t know if you know, we cut open shoes all the time. We have a water jet side, because they’re fun. I got to just get a bunch of old. We just cut them in half.

And it’s just so surprising all the junk that you see in it. And there’s all these contours that run front to back, but also side to side. So you have the arch support, you’ve got like the equivalent of medial posting. You’ve got the contours that, the toast spring, all of this stuff, that’s just nasty. So yeah.

Bob Kusyk:

Like a canoe.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah. Like a canoe, I like to say.

Steven Sashen:

Well, like canoe, it’s like, if you look at a lot of running shoes, especially sprinting spikes, if you cut them open laterally longitudinally, you see it’s literally, it’s this big curve, this concave thing with the idea that that’ll help you roll your foot, but what it does it squeezes the bones of your foot together and makes it useless. Unbelievable. This is one of these things where I’m just always amazed that somebody… actually I was about to say it’s not true. I was about to say that I’m amazed by some of these ideas, but what it really is, it’s like there’s not a lot of people who can think through the implications of some idea that they have. It’s like the initial ideas like, “Oh, this makes sense.”

We’re going to have something that helps you roll across your foot. That sounds like a great idea. And then people run with it, but no one ever goes, “Wait, wait, hold on. What could that be doing other than just this simple idea?” And people get stuck on something that feels right, and this is what our brains are wired to do. If it feels right, we’re done thinking it’s easy, but going at one layer or two or 10 layers underneath is what most people don’t do.

Bob Kusyk:

I think that’s always been one of our truly an advantage we have is, is obviously it comes from Casey and what it is, is she can think globally about the human body. And I think that’s where all these things get stopped out. It’s exactly the example you just relate and it’s one small issue, but the actual, the real problem is the entire concept of wellness, which is individually arrived at. It’s not one size fits all. And as you can kind of get it’s like this, what’s this thing about, that you’d make an elephant with the little parts. And all the discrete parts.

And that’s really not what we’re doing. We’re not making an elephant. We’re trying to make a shoe that is healthy. And long-term good for you. And all these little tiny things, example, cushioning, which feels so good when you’re in a shoe store. “Oh, that’s what I need. I’ve got XYZ issue, or I have no issue. And it’ll just help me run faster.” The whole gamut of your shoe buyer, but they’re buying a shoe with cushioning and cushioning is awful for your joints, awful. And we go back to the EVA and all the other stuff.

So, to your point, that’s something that’s always really enabled us to be consistent with our messaging from the beginning is we’re about you, we’re about your total wellness, long-term wellness. I think that’s why our customer base is so incredibly loyal because once they get carried onto it, and I know you experienced this at Xero. Once they realize it’s a lot of small victories for that person has made XeroShoes successful I think. Those consumers are so loyal because they know how they feel now versus how they felt half a dozen years ago.

Steven Sashen:

Well, the thing that really sells it, what really sells it, I’m sure you’ve had this experience too, is not just that experience of getting out of a padded motion control, et cetera, shoe. But after they get used to something that allows their foot to move naturally, then putting on one of those shoes again.

Bob Kusyk:

Yes.

Steven Sashen:

Oh, my God.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Oh my God. And that’s crazy I know-

Bob Kusyk:

Casey’s is a foot coffin.

Steven Sashen:

I think I coined that term, but that’s okay.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

There you go.

Steven Sashen:

We’ve done surveys of people who come to our website and ask them questions and the number of them who end up using language that I coined 12 years ago, or something is very high. It’s kind of funny, but before we move on, I just want to do this really quickly. So for people who are just listening you can’t see, but Casey’s husband, Bob is sitting behind her. And so as the man behind the woman, what do you do?

Bob Kusyk:

Are we allowed to cuss on the site?

Steven Sashen:

Absolutely.

Bob Kusyk:

Yeah. So I do all the shit. And I don’t know how, it’s been a great team. And Casey is obviously the thinker, the designer, the person that puts us, how would you say? Casey looks through the cart, she looks through the windshield and my job’s a little bit more of the rear view mirror, making sure that-

Steven Sashen:

Lena, my wife and co-founder and CFO her line is, “Steven gets to do the fun stuff about thinking of all the cool things to do with luck and go. And I have to tell him that we don’t have the money to do it.” And what I say is, “My job is to build a car. Her job is to make sure it has wheels and gas.” So I get it.

Bob Kusyk:

Yeah. I know you do too, every time I talk to you, you have a smile on and-

Steven Sashen:

It’s the drugs, it’s totally…

Bob Kusyk:

I was thinking about, I think we’ve probably this is now our 11th year selling. We’ve probably have more arguments about the way you load the dishwasher than we have had with the company.

Steven Sashen:

Lena and I have basically the same argument every three years where we just get so overtired. I become just short tempered, and she gets a little micromanagy and as soon as we identify that that’s what’s happening then it takes about 20 minutes till, we get over and then I go, “What do you think? Same time, three years from now. Should we just do this again?” I know you guys have the same thing working together has been the most, literally the most satisfying thing in my life is working with my wife.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah.

Bob Kusyk:

Yeah. It’s fun. For me, it has since I can’t paint, I can’t sing, it’s really, businesses to us it begins with an art form to make this we love the David Goliath thing, that’s always fun to root for the underdog, which we, as you know, looked at as well. It’s very, very satisfying to bring health and wellness to people in such, as Casey said, think about that. Your whole growing up to become a doctor to help people, then you decide, “Oh, well of course I’ll do research because that’s the way we help the people the most.” And then getting completely stopped out on that.

Yet, having the guts in Casey’s instance, she’s the first female department chair at the University of Virginia school of medicine, all this crap, which is wonderful, but-

Steven Sashen:

Awesome crap.

Bob Kusyk:

It’s only for Casey. But her reach and if you know her, it’s about helping people. Letting people have a better life. And to actually now do it, when you look back at all the shoes that we’ve sold and all these customers and how loyal they are, that’s profound. And it really is more than those spectacular academic papers, which she wrote. By the way, none of them have ever been refuted.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I’ve made this comment to a number of people that the problem with the research that backs up what those of us in the natural movement world know to be true is that it’s not presented in a way that’s either a sexy enough or confrontational enough. And none of us have the PR resources the way the big shoe companies do, where we can present this to a stack of reporters who basically just print whatever we say, because they don’t question it. They assume that it’s true. My latest example of this, there’s actually an article that I’m quoted in about the Nike React Infinity Run shoe, which they say reduces injury by 52%.

It’s like, well, okay. Technically, according to that study that hasn’t been published yet, that React Infinity Run, did reduce injury by over 50% compared to their best-selling motion-controlled running shoe. But when you look at the numbers the best-selling shoe, the Zoom Structure, in a 12 week study injured over 30% of the runners and the React Infinity only injured 15%. Now, if you take this into account… Yeah. So here’s where it gets more fun.

So, this is the other thing that we have not done well, is present stories in a way that people grasp intuitively more quickly. So what I say is, so that first number it injured about one and three, and the second number of injured about one and seven. This is kind of like me saying, I’m going to buy you dinner at a restaurant every night this week, which restaurant do you want? The one where you’re likely to get food poisoning twice or only once?

Bob Kusyk:

Absolutely.

Steven Sashen:

And this is the best they could do. Now, of course, when they reprinted the Nike’s press release about this, no one said if that shoe is so good, why are you still selling any of the others? Even more they said the reason they think that the shoe improved reduced injury rates is they reduced some of the protective features that were in the Zoom Structure. And my question is, why didn’t you eliminate them and see what that did? Which is of course what you and I are basically doing.

So no one questions the holy fill in the blank because they just assume that whatever they’re reporting is well-documented, it’s like, dude, every couple of years, whenever there’s an Olympics, there is a news story about how athletes are wearing Nike products, that they’re paid to wear. Why is this news? This is the part that amazes me and is the David and Goliath bid is how do we get the kind of attention to show that we’re the one with the Slingshot and there is no, there on the other end of that rock?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah. And you know what it is, it’s like, I don’t know. I’ve always thought of it maybe because I ran a lot of marathons that this is a marathon race-

Steven Sashen:

Between you and me. I’m a sprinter. I hear a rumor that at the end of the track, there’s things called turns, is that what they’re called? I don’t know.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

No, but it’s having this like patients, I guess, and research is the same way. You study something, but you have to do this study, you’ve got to publish it before you get your next grant. It’s like, things take years. And so I’m used to that pace and being able to grow organically and that we have a thousands of OESH as we call them where our shoes that are just thrilled and that’s sustaining, that keeps us going.

And I just gave up long time ago on the idea that we’d be an overnight sensation. People were like, “Oh my gosh, this is it.” And I got it. Shoes have to be this way and nothing else. But it’s slow. But I see it, every year it gained a little bit more traction. And it’s fun. It’s fun to be on that movement.

Steven Sashen:

We’re able to do something that the major companies aren’t able to do, which is, and Lena says it best. She says, “There’s enough shoe companies in the world. There’s no reason to start another, unless what you’re doing changes people’s lives.” And when our customers yours and ours, talk about how it’s changed their lives, they tell people in a way that no one who buys a pair of Brooks Adrenaline, or whatever says, “Oh my God, you’ve got to buy these shoes.” And so the interesting thing in the evolution of a movement, like what we’re doing is that there will come, assuming that it continues to move the way it is, there will come a point where we hit critical mass, where there’s enough awareness of what we’re doing and the value of it, where everything will accelerate dramatically.

It’s like, this is going to be a weird analogy, but I invented a piece of computer software for film and television writers 30 years ago. And I thought, as soon as people experience this, it’s all over. We’re going to dominate the universe. And it actually took two and a half television seasons. So the first season, the early adopters tried it, the second season, a second group tried it, but they’re anxious because in Hollywood, if you slow down a production by not being able to print out a page of a script, for example, that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and you lose your job.

So, it took like a year and a half, two years, for enough people to be able to say, “This really changed my life.” And there was enough people that everyone else suddenly had confidence that they were taking from the early adopters. They absorbed their confidence and then it took off. But it’s a similar thing here. It’s just there I was dealing with a limited number of human beings who were writing a producing film and television. Now we’re dealing with everybody on the planet who wear shoes. Slightly steeper hill, if you will, or bigger hill. So what else do you want to say about just what you’ve been doing at OESH that is breaking the mold or doing different things? Do you want to talk about, you mentioned 3D printing before, do you want to talk about the fun that happened with that?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

So, it turns out that the material that-

Steven Sashen:

Wait, let me just interrupt. First of all, describe what you mean when you say 3D printing, because it’s not what most people think of.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Right. Right. So one was figuring out this magic material for the sole. And then once I figured that out and at the time, the only way we could make shoes with it was with injection molding in a very specific way of injection molding, which we were doing here in Charlottesville. And by the way along, I was doing everything like you wouldn’t believe, I couldn’t just have somebody make this in China, which is where all shoes are made. I had to figure it out here. And basically with this sort of R&D factory, figure everything out, learn all this stuff. I didn’t even know which way you turn a wrench, and here I’m doing everything.

And it’s so funny. Because when you say Bob, everyone just assumes, Bob’s the one doing all the machine stuff right or something. And he has no idea what goes on in there. No idea. So I’m in there, I’ve got all this like equipment that could 480 volts, just fry me if I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. And so we’re injection molding this stuff. And then it dawned on me that, “Oh my gosh, we could 3D print this.” But not just with like a regular 3D printer, it would have to be this like special 3D printer that didn’t exist, that could print directly from the material from raw pellets and produce it and do it very cost-effectively and all of this good stuff.

Bob Kusyk:

And it’s the configuration of the sole, which for us is one piece, there’s no distinguishing feature between a midsole and the outsole. If you would, it’s the engine of the shoe, it gives us this unique spring.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

It’s got like, it’s all one material, which has basically the insole, the mid-sole, which is just a bunch of Springs. And then the outsole, which cannot be molded, cannot be made with traditional manufacturing. And so you’ve got this like incredible. So in my head, I had this idea right from when I was doing the research, but there was no way I could make it. And then 3D printing is like, Oh my gosh. But I couldn’t 3D print it at the time. This was like 2014. And so, I had to invent and then build 3D printers that could do this.

So, I shifted my funding, the national science foundation funded the development of those 3D printers. And so I was getting these grants to develop that. And that was just, it was pretty cool because now like the technology coming, I could do stuff that I couldn’t imagine. I was making these carbon fiber things so many years ago, and this is like a billion times better. And so that was really fun. The 3D printing. And then combining that with really understanding shoe manufacturing as you understand so many things about how shoes are made, like that side-to-side contour which is ridiculous.

Going back, I believe it’s done for aesthetics. It’s not talk about control, but it’s basically, and especially women, women have wider forefeet, wider toe boxes than men do. We have a very narrow heel, wide forefoot. And so, creating that flat shape, but that’s challenging in some ways for shoe manufacturing, it’s easier to create a shoe that has… so we had to like refigure out a lot of the manufacturing stuff. And so the 3D printing, if you look at our 3D printed sole, it’s pretty neat and that you can really stitch any upper to it.

And then knitting came along, knitting is just tremendous that you can make a comfortable upper that will go well with the sole. And so, we have an industrial knitting machine in the factory and can program it and do all the code and stuff. And it’s just fun to be able to develop in tune with all this developing technologies.

Steven Sashen:

In other parts of your life, do you have an equal fondness for cool toys?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Not really. No. Just anything to make shoes.

Steven Sashen:

I did a Facebook live last night and someone asked me, do you ever get tired about talking about shoes? It’s like, “Nope. I get a little bored talking about how a big shoe companies make crappy shoes.” That’s getting a little old, I wish I didn’t have to do that, but what we’re doing, the basic idea of what we’re doing is endlessly fascinating.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I don’t know, we have a water jet saw that makes at the time we got it. So this thing is cut just with water.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. People can’t even imagine that. The first time you see a water, basically for people who’ve never seen one, it just shoots water in such a thin stream at such high pressure. It just cuts through anything like butter and they are fun.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah. We have to start cutting up some shoes. Well, and we’ll send you the videos, but yeah, we had this to cut the carbon fiber and then it’s like, we have this thing. And so, we build all our own 3D printers and the water jet saws, part of that. And we also have a CNC milling machine. But so I can operate because who knows how to maintain a water jet saw? So, I do everything. I’ve been running a thing. I maintain it. I had to do a major pump rebuild. I was the one doing the pump rebuild because it couldn’t get a technician during COVID.

But I know every single thing about this like complex piece of machinery, but I couldn’t tell you like my car when it breaks. I have no idea. I don’t know why it needs to oil. I don’t know. Yeah. So anything outside of it has to do with making shoes, but it’s okay. It can be, the machines that we use to make the machines that make the shoes that’s okay. As long as it’s like the end is to make a shoe, I’m good.

Steven Sashen:

Simultaneously think about the number of things that we’ve all learned from having to figure it out because we’re doing it differently. Even with us where our manufacturing is, let’s say it’s a bit more traditional when we work in the factory, it takes us at least two years to get them to understand how to make our shoes, because it’s so different than what they’re used to doing. And they just can’t wrap their brain around it. There’s just so many subtle little things that make it work or not work.

Bob Kusyk:

But 99% of all the major made footwear is done a very specific-

Steven Sashen:

Exactly the same way.

Bob Kusyk:

… same way. So, it’s wonderful to be able to be that 1% and have it right. Yeah, it’s-

Steven Sashen:

What’s fun is we started out arguing with people. So we were making our first outsoles we were introduced to an outsole manufacturer in Korea and they couldn’t make them consistently, the weights of the left and the right were different, the larger ones, which should’ve had more material somehow weighed less than the smaller ones which should have had less material. We couldn’t get the quality we needed. And we said, “Can you get us what we need?” And they said, “No”. And then they told every other outsole manufacturer in Korea not to work with us.

And so that was pretty entertaining. So, in the early days, being that fraction of a fraction of 1% was challenging. Now, as we’ve continued to grow and they see that we’re growing significantly every year, they’re paying attention to us, but it’s still to get people over the hump of doing things the way they’ve been doing it to now do it our way, because most of what happens with normal shoes is there’s so many layers that you can hide your mistakes.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, exactly.

Steven Sashen:

Simple like ours, everything’s visible. You can’t-

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, exactly. Yup, yup, yup. And it’s harder to make. And when you’re using more expensive materials and… but it’s funny. I think about, you look at our shoes, well somebody said, “Well, they feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.” If they get all this cushioning and arch support, like that’s why we can never sell on Amazon. Or I think we did for a little bit, but the reviews are like, “How much arch support do you have?” It’s like we have zero.

But yeah, the more junk that’s in that gives value, but it’s very similar. Bob always says, it’s like whole foods, it’s like, you’re going to pay more for food that doesn’t have those preservatives and it’s grown without all this stuff. And so it’s the same thing. Yeah. It is more expensive. It’s more you to make a shoe that doesn’t have all this stuff is actually harder.

Steven Sashen:

And the point you made about material costs; people don’t understand. They go, “If it’s so lightweight, why does it cost more?” It’s like, “Well, first of all, our shoes don’t cost more. If the shoes that you’re looking they cost less it’s because they’ve been making that exact same shoe for 20 years and just they’ve been able to bring the cost down. And because they make so many of them and they own their own factory, and those materials are cheap.” And I go, “Go look at ultra-light backpacking gear. That stuff costs three times what regular backpacking gear costs, because the ultra-light materials are more high-tech and more expensive.”

The place where I’m so fascinated is in all of this sustainable ‘sustainable stuff’ where a lot of those materials are A, more expensive. B, don’t have… there’s a lot of greenwashing going on. There’s a lot of stuff where the net carbon benefit is negative. In other words, the amount of effort that it takes an energy that it takes to pull water bottles out of the ocean, bring them somewhere recycle and turn them into something, it’s not better for the environment, but the story of the water bottles, people love it.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Fantastic.

Steven Sashen:

So that’s a whole other story.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, it’s like taking hard plastic and putting it right into our water stream. Not good.

Steven Sashen:

That’s right. But to your point, it’s like more stuff equals better. Green, even if it’s not green equals better. All of these, again, it’s all the… speaking as a guy who sells shoes it’s, what’s the word I’m looking for? I can’t think of it anyway. Point being that brilliant, but evil marketers versus brilliant, but good marketers are able to convince people of things that are just patently false, but make them feel good. And when you have billions of dollars to spend to do that, you can build a successful business.

The thing that I’m frankly worried about is, there’s going to be a certain point where what you and I are doing starts to get close to that critical mass level where the shoe companies who already know what we’re doing is legit, but when they’re going to feel really threatened, not just philosophically threatened, I literally can’t imagine what they’re going to do to try and save themselves and hurt us at the same time, because one’s going to… As an individual sport athlete, I realized, well, into my 50s, I realized that I have a psychological problem that I would argue either came from.

Or as consistent with being an individual sport athlete, which is the idea that the best man or best woman or best thing wins. But I’ve learned the hard way that that’s not the way it works in business, especially when you’re about to let go, let loose that rock and the slingshot pointed right at Goliath. And have you given any thought to what might happen if we are successful at what we’re trying to accomplish?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

We’ll be a better place and it will happen. It’s going to happen. It’s just it’s going to take a little more time, but every year we get there. It’s a little bit more, and along the way, I’m just thrilled with like is a doctor. You do the research you do as a doctor. When you see patients, you feel good about just helping some people. You can’t help everybody. And so I feel great about the people that we do help, the people that do buy our shoes, I just feel so great about, there’s so much satisfaction. I feel like I have the patience to get there. Yeah.

Bob Kusyk:

I don’t know, I like the fight.

Steven Sashen:

I say, I’m not competitive. I just want to beat everybody else who’s doing things that are not what I want them to do. My biggest hope is that we live to see the effect of this. And I think it’s possible because things can move faster now than they ever did before. Thanks to the magic of the inner tubes. And this is a long-term play. The reality is this is a multi-generational play, and you and I have, if we live well, we’ve got two more generations in us. And so I’m hoping that we’re around to see the effect of it. I don’t personally care if anyone knows that I had anything to do with it. That’s not my thing. If the big shoe companies started to suddenly do what you and I are doing I will still view that as a success.

And in fact, perhaps an even bigger one than us becoming the next fill in the blank. So, here’s to hoping that we continue to provide… well, we don’t have to hope that we’re going to continue to provide the benefits we’re providing, but that those benefits are profound enough for enough people that things really do hit that critical mass point and accelerate dramatically so that we get to see the effect of that for everyone on the planet, as well as just the personal satisfaction. I don’t know about you, but did you see the movie, the Big Short?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

No, no.

Steven Sashen:

It’s basically about the guys who predicted the crash, the real estate market crash in 2008, which Lena, and I predicted in 2006, but we didn’t know how to capitalize on it. We were involved in real estate in 2006, and suddenly we saw the writing on the wall. It’s like, “This is all going to fall apart.” Everyone who can breathe is getting… if they can breathe, they’re getting a mortgage at crazy rates. This isn’t sustainable, but we didn’t know what to do about it. And when I saw that movie, it hit me that one of my fantasies for my whole life, I hadn’t really thought of it was to be that kind of right. The same kind of right that those guys who said this is going to crash.

But in watching that movie, they were so ahead of the curve that it nearly killed them. Just the stress of it all over the two years between like 2007 to 2009, it nearly killed them because everyone was telling them they were crazy. It wasn’t working the way they thought. And so, I think we’re that kind of right. And I just hope that we don’t go through that kind of crazy.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah. Yeah. I feel like it was crazy like 2009, 10, 11, you know?

Steven Sashen:

Well, that was when they were basically just directly coming out and saying that what we were doing was dangerous. And then by the end of 2010, is when they started selling their own version of what they called minimalist shoes. So now they had a dog in that fight and they couldn’t make that same argument. Ignoring that their ‘minimal shoes’ were worse than anything else that had ever been produced. But they couldn’t argue. And then by like 2013, 2014 is when they realized they couldn’t sell that story, the minimalist story and their maximalist story at the same time. And they pulled out of the minimalist side predominantly.

So, while knowing that it was actually the one thing, they did that was useful. Boy, someday, I hope someone really documents what went down in the last 11 years and beyond, because there are so many stories that we all know that are hiding in the closet somewhere that if people had any idea… my line is it’s too bad. That shoes don’t kill people the way cigarettes did, because then there’d be a congressional-

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Right, right, right. But it’s a slow death, knee arthritis is not good. I know.

Steven Sashen:

Absolutely. But again, people think that’s just what happens when you get old, you lose your balance because you’re old, you can’t move as well because you’re old. And speaking as an aging athlete who hangs out with older athletes, it’s complete nonsense.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

That is right.

Steven Sashen:

Sure, he goes slower, but you know, whatever.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Bob Kusyk’s not getting slower. I’m not.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. Because again, you’re not a sprinter. I was at the senior games once and hanging out with, I just turned 50 or 55, whichever one it is, 50, I guess. And I’m hanging out with all these 60-year-old guys. And they’re saying, “When you turn 60 man you start really slowing down.” And a bunch of 80-year-old guys were standing there and said, “You guys have no idea what you’re talking about. Just wait.” And so for sprinting, now here’s the fun part.

There is a significant drop off in speed for sprinters as we cross 60, but what’s really fun is there’s an age graded table based on how old you are, on how much slower you’re going to get, essentially, and you can do the math in reverse to create an age graded 100 meters. In other words, the older you are, the less you have to run. So when I did this a couple of years ago, I think I was running 82 meters instead of 100. My friend who’s a training partner, who’s just turned 70. She was running like 60 meters. But what’s so amazing about the age grading is it’s so good that if you have good runners, it’s a photo finish, no matter who’s in the race.

And so we have eight people from 20 to 80 and it’s a photo finish not to see who won to see every single place because we’re all crossing the line at the same time. It’s super, super cool. So, even though you’re getting slower with something like that, you can have just as much fun racing against 20-year-old Olympians, it’s a blast.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

That’s awesome.

Steven Sashen:

Anything you can think of that we left out? Or anything that you want to debunk about the reality of the footwear world or movement or gait or anything else?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

I don’t know-

Bob Kusyk:

Let’s talk again.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah. We could have a whole thing on ethylene vinyl acetate, and UVA, and how awful it is for mechanics, the body. But I think when we talk about green, EVA has got to be the worst thing for our planet. Anything with vinyl, it doesn’t decompose, it never will. And it’s the vinyl that’s evil. But so EVA, oh my gosh. If you don’t want to just buy, and of course you’ve learned that. I’ve learned how awful shoe manufacturing is. I should say traditional, awful traditional shoe manufacturing is.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. And one of the points about that, it took a while until the shoe companies figured out to make their outsoles, design the outsole. So they wore out at the same time that UVA did. That was a really, again, evil, brilliant move.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, yeah. Awful.

Steven Sashen:

When we approached rubber manufacturer about making our outsoles and we said, “Here’s the characteristics that we’re looking for. We want it to be long lasting, still be flexible.” And gave them all the things that we wanted. They said, “But that’s not how they make outsoles for shoes.” We went, “Yeah, no. That’s why we want to do it this way.”

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

That’s how you got to do it. Yeah. Right.

Steven Sashen:

Well, so tell people who want to find out more about what you’re doing and what’s happening at OESH, how they can find out more and see what you’re doing?

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, go to OESH shoes.

Steven Sashen:

You might want to spell that for humans.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Oh, so it’s O-E-S-H so OESH is the word shoe, we reinvented upside down, inside out. Yep. And so it’s OESH Shoes and it’s educational. You can dig through like all these blog posts that are, I think still out on the internet that were very, controversial.

Bob Kusyk:

The first one.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Yeah, the first one. Oh my gosh. The ones that people just would love to attack me on. So you can still hunt them down, find them.

Bob Kusyk:

There’s even a sub-category at oeshshoes.com. That’s O-E-S-H-S-H-O-E-S.com, but go to our blogs and invest of Casey is a spectacular-

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

It’s all the stuff that I’ve been talking about. I wrote that very early and I don’t really see a need to keep rehashing it. But the last thing I did was in 2019, I had like six videos on where I’m just talking and talking about arch support and the cradle and all that kind of stuff. So it’s all in there if you want to. Yeah. Like four minute videos.

Steven Sashen:

Yes. In fact, I’ve seen, I haven’t seen all of them. Now that I think, because I only remember like two or three off the top of my head, but, of course I’m going to say they’re great because either A and B of course, I agree with you. So how would I say anything otherwise? And again, one of the things that I have a fantasy about is that we can… Tony Post and I were on a panel discussion at the American College of Sports Medicine. The other two people on the panel, one was from Brooks and one was from Adidas.

And I have this fantasy that we can host more of those events at various conferences with more people on our side of the equation, because it’s super, super fun, because they have no evidence for anything they’ve ever said, other than misrepresenting people like Benno and saying things like, “Well, Benno says you have a preferred movement pattern. It’s almost impossible to change.” And I go, “Well, Benno actually says, that’s only if you’re wearing basically the same shoe, which all your shoes are, but that if you switch to something like what you and I are doing, your gait definitely changes. So you’ve misrepresented what he said.”

And they go. But there’s literally no evidence behind it other than misrepresenting studies like when Nike says this shoe makes you 4% faster and the research just showed that it made some people’s VO to max 4% better, but it had no relationship to performance. But anyway, so please do go check out stuff at oeshshoes.com, and see what Casey and Bob are up to. I’m going to include you in that Bob, why not?

Bob Kusyk:

Whatever.

Steven Sashen:

And yeah, we’ll definitely have to have another chat and get deeper into some of the weeds.

Bob Kusyk:

There’s a couple of different neat ways to think about, maybe today we went a little bit backwards just to explain who we are to your audience, but going forward, I’m more excited this year than I’ve ever been about what tomorrow looks like, what 2021 looks like and so on. So we have some pretty fun ideas regarding that. I’m sure you do too. So be fun to share it with your audience.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. Absolutely. Happy to dive into that. So we’ll call this part one and let’s look out in not too distant future and do part two.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan:

Awesome.

Bob Kusyk:

Steven. Thank you.

Steven Sashen:

A, thank you. B, don’t go anywhere yet while I say goodbye to everyone else. For everyone listening, thanks for being part of The Movement Movement podcast. Again, go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com, so you can help what Casey and I, and all the other people who are supporting natural movement are doing, creating this movement about natural movement.

If you have any questions or recommendations, people you think should be on the show or complaints, whatever you want to share, you can also drop me an email move at, jointhemovementmovement.com. But most importantly, go out, have fun and live life feet first.

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