Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin - Golden Harper

Episode Date: April 24, 2024

Golden Harper is a lifelong runner, biomechanics expert, and the creator & founder of Altra Footwear & P.R. Gear. He ran his first marathon at age 10 (3:08:05) and holds the world’s best for a 12-ye...ar-old in the marathon at 2:45:34. After growing up working in his family’s running store (which he now co-owns), he studied Exercise Science (with a focus on running technique/injuries & foot pathologies) at BYU and BYU-Hawaii, where he was an All-American Cross-Country runner. His life experiences, studies, and research led him to develop the world’s first foot-shaped, cushioned, zero-drop shoes, and now the FloatRun Harness technique training tool. ------ Thank you to the sponsors that fuel our podcast and our team: LMNT Electrolytes https://drinklmnt.com/tetra ------ Squarespace https://squarespace.com/tetra ------ House of Macadamias https://www.houseofmacadamias.com/tetra

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 Tetragrammaton. I always like to tell people you are not running or walking around in walking or running shoes. You're actually running or walking around in horse riding boots. And so this goes back to the Middle Ages, but it syncs with pop culture today. You'll think about it instantly as soon as I say it. So the Middle Ages, we had royalty and military that rode horses, right? So they're like the heroes, right?
Starting point is 00:00:48 They are the pop culture icons of the time. And these guys are riding horses. And they came up with shoes specifically for stirrups. So stirrups had been invented and you want to stay in the stirrup. So you have these shoes that hold you in the stirrups. And so what they did is they made shoes pointy because human feet. Human feet are not pointy.
Starting point is 00:01:08 Human feet are not pointy. They're widest at the end of the toes, not widest at the ball. And then they have that heel. You know, you think of a typical dress shoe and that is there to hold you in that stirrup. So almost all shoes have some version of a heel. 99%.
Starting point is 00:01:22 And the whole reason for the heel originally was to keep your foot in the stirrup. Precisely. That's amazing. I never knew that. So yeah, I love showing a picture of a horse riding boot in a stirrup and just explaining to people like what you're wearing came from this. And it's all about pop culture. People on the streets at the time in the Middle Ages saw their heroes in these boots.
Starting point is 00:01:46 And then they started making boots for themselves or shoes for themselves that mimicked what they saw their heroes wearing, just like we do today. We see people on the big screen or on the music stage wearing whatever, and people want to wear what their pop culture icons wear, basically. Or their sports stars. Or sports. Yeah, it doesn't matter. Any pop culture icons wear, basically. Or their sports stars. Or sports, yeah, doesn't matter. Any aspect of pop culture, basically. And so then that proliferated. And the next thing you know, it's a couple centuries later,
Starting point is 00:02:13 and people are walking around in horse-riding shoes, almost en masse. And what are the negative effects on foot health? It hasn't been until fairly recently that people wore shoes all the time, you know, because this was so uncomfortable previously. And frankly, it still is. People just don't know it. It's not as bad as it was. But the negative effects are unbelievable.
Starting point is 00:02:37 And I actually go and speak to podiatrists and other sports doctors, and we get into this. And if you look at the research, we go to the billion people on the planet that don't wear modern shoes. They're in primitive sandals or barefoot most of the time. Basically zero chronic foot conditions. And it's a really stark contrast to America. According to APMA data, the American Podiatric Medical Association, 73% of American adults report foot pain on a regular basis, on a yearly basis.
Starting point is 00:03:09 So almost three out of four of us are reporting our feet hurting. So that is probably the most base answer to your question. But essentially, one thing we see that is ever present is plantar fasciosis, what we used to call plantar fasciitis, bunions, neuromas, metatarsalgia. You know, any of those chronic foot conditions that are so common in the world today are essentially non-existent in these populations of people that don't wear modern footwear. And we're presented as the footwear is there to protect our feet when in reality it's doing the exact opposite.
Starting point is 00:03:43 Yeah, I think you hit on something key there is a great piece of footwear should protect our feet and nothing more. And the problem that most people don't realize is that 99% of all footwear out there deforms your feet. You get out of bed every morning, barefoot, your toes spread, your heel on the ground, you were born this way, you come this way. This is OEM human, right? And then you put a shoe on and 99% of all shoes deform your foot out of its natural position. They raise the heel, they crowd the toes together, they push up in the arch because when the big toe gets bent in just
Starting point is 00:04:19 a quarter inch and the heel gets raised even just a half inch, that essentially renders your arch much weaker and less stable. And so then your foot starts to collapse and you need this thing called arch support which is new to humanity. You know, we go back a couple hundred years ago and arch support didn't exist and we were fine without it. Now, you know, you would ask almost anybody and you'd be like, oh I need arch support. You know, and it's like,, can you go walk on the beach barefoot without arch support? Oh, yeah, I do that.
Starting point is 00:04:49 Can you go garden in your backyard barefoot? Oh, yeah, yeah, I can do that. How about walk in the grass? Oh, yeah, that's fine. So when do you need arch support? Oh, well, when I have my shoes on, I have to have arch support. And frankly, they're absolutely right
Starting point is 00:05:01 because they put their foot in a shoe that then takes their foot out of its ability to stabilize itself. And you have to have an arch when you have a raised heel and a tapered toe box. You don't have to if your feet are super strong, but it's definitely helpful. So modern shoes weaken and deform the foot.
Starting point is 00:05:18 Deform, destabilize, and weaken, absolutely. And then from the foot, having those issues, what are the upstream issues in the rest of the body if that happens to your feet? Yeah, massive. As a running coach and biomechanics guy, this is where it gets really interesting. Statistically speaking, the number one way
Starting point is 00:05:40 to prevent running injuries is not what anybody would think. It's actually to go through a foot strengthening protocol. And people might think to themselves, well, how is that going to prevent running injuries? And the reality is your feet are your landing gear. And when your feet land right and can stabilize and control at the ground level, that then takes pressure off of everything else. If that's not happening right, when your foot hits the ground
Starting point is 00:06:07 and it's not able to have the right amount of strength, it's not able to control, it's not able to stabilize, then all that, those forces, and we're talking joint impacts, shear forces, joint torques, all this stuff is then translated further up to the kinetic chain until it hits a weak link, basically. And that for everyone is different
Starting point is 00:06:25 But for most people that's gonna be shins, it's gonna be knees It's gonna be hips or it's gonna be lower back and so what the foot can't control at ground level then gets passed on up the chain and It's interesting as we again look at these billion people on the planet that don't wear shoes they have a far lower incidence of joint issues as well. And people say, oh yeah, but these people aren't overweight. And it's like, well, there's a lot of them who are.
Starting point is 00:06:50 We look at people in Polynesian islands who are, I don't know what to call them overweight, but they're giant humans. This is actually how I got on this, by the way. Tell me, tell me about it. Part of it. How did you get on it? So my journey, we opened a shoe store when I was nine.
Starting point is 00:07:04 And by the time I'm 18 heading off to college, I realized that most everybody comes in to buy shoes because something hurts. Were your parents runners as well? Yeah, so my mom's a five time Olympic trials qualifier and one time world record holder in the 8K. And my dad is also an elite marathon runner and held state records for ultra marathon distances as well.
Starting point is 00:07:26 Wow. And both of them came from sedentary non-active families. In fact, we go to a family reunion and people are always like, who are the skinny people? That's us, we just stick out like a sore thumb, right? I have a lot of people say like, oh, you're just genetically like, bred to do this basically.
Starting point is 00:07:43 And my dad was actually a collegiate football player and baseball player drafted to play pro baseball with the angels. So I don't know that there was a lot of distance running prowess in our background. Right. So anyway, I get to heading off to college and I'm like, I want to study this stuff because most everybody comes in because something hurts. I want to fix that. I want to be better at making that better for them. I want to be able to help them. And frankly, half of them are coming in, they've already been to the doctor or several doctors
Starting point is 00:08:11 and they're like, my doctor hasn't been able to help me. They throw their custom orthotics in the garbage can and they're just kind of like, what do you got? You know? And so I wanted to be really good at helping these people. And part of my collegiate journey took me to the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. And I spent two years there studying with this Finnish biomechanics exercise scientist named Joke Kokkonen. And he had actually developed this toe strengthening machine that I had been using at my house since I was a kid because my dad had read studies that one of the biggest difference between the African runners and the American runners was that the
Starting point is 00:08:46 African runners had much greater foot and toe strength. And so I had this weightlifting machine for my toes and I find out this guy you know out in Hawaii you know was one of the creators of it and so I end up going out to study with him. But while I was there I you know I had grown up my whole life being conditioned by the shoe industry. Running shoe employees don't get any training really except from shoe companies. So if you're with me, it's not running, it's propaganda. I would say it's like 3% science, 97% BS.
Starting point is 00:09:21 And I was already questioning it, don't get me wrong. And I had started wearing the V room five fingers Which you may be aware of the barefoot style shoes They had just hit the market and we were the first running shoe store in the country to carry them and start selling them So this is the place I'm at I head out to Hawaii and I'm surrounded by you know Giant humans who have flat feet which I've been told by every shoe company since I was knee high to a grasshopper is horrible. They pronate like crazy, meaning their feet roll in, which again I've been told by every
Starting point is 00:09:51 shoe company in the world that this is terrible and they have a solution for it. And then most of them weigh quite a bit. And as I'm kind of observing this when I first get there, I'm like, wow, I've been sent to help these people. But as I get to know them closer, I come in and I'm like, wow, I've been sent to help these people, you know. But as I get to know them closer, I come in and I'm like, hey, yeah, so tell me about your feet. Like, and they're just like, bro, about my feet. And I'm like, well, tell me, you know, they hurt, right?
Starting point is 00:10:18 I mean, you're, you're a huge guy. Your feet roll in like crazy. They're flat. You got no arches. You got flat feet. Like, you know, your feet probably hurt. I is what I do. Like, I've been doing this since I was a little kid. I'd love to help you. And they would all just look at me like, brah, my feet don't hurt. You know, and I'm like, oh, come on, like, it's okay. I'm here to help you. My feet don't hurt, brah. Just over and over. And I find this across the board, you know, it's like, it's just the
Starting point is 00:10:43 complete opposite of everything I'd ever been told by every shoe company and every training meeting I'd ever been to. And I had read some of this stuff, I was already kind of into it, and that was just kind of like jump off point where it was like, okay, I gotta get serious about this. Because if I really wanna help people, I can't do it through this lens of just complete garbage
Starting point is 00:11:02 that I have been taught, you know, for my entire life up to this point. And so I eventually after a couple of years in Hawaii, and I ended up running collegiately out there for a couple of years, I would run hour and a half on the beach barefoot. I'd never been healthier in my life. I'd go hammer a mountain, come down, run hard,
Starting point is 00:11:21 run on the beach, and then go soak in the ocean and go surf, and just let that saltwater do its healing thing. And I come back to the shoe store, and all of a sudden it's like, wow, I don't believe in anything we sell. That's a rough place to be. That's kind of how I got into all this. And then what was the first? Did you start making samples of foot healthy shoes? Yeah, so shortly after I got back, you know, I never found that barefoot style shoes like the five fingers were a solution for the average person
Starting point is 00:11:55 for long distance running on hard flat manmade surfaces. The argument is like, hey, humans throughout the eons have run around barefoot, but throughout the eons, we didn't have concrete and asphalt. And so my thought was like, well, we want to simulate running barefoot on a natural surface. So most natural surfaces are softer than concrete. Yes, they are. And it's not even as much the softness, it's the variability too. And I think this is, as we get into like help further up the kinetic chain variability is such a
Starting point is 00:12:29 massive thing that I like to hit on with people like you know people think soft is gonna solve their issues but the reality is tracks and treadmills cause more injuries than any other running surface out there. So you want something that has natural shape? Yeah, natural shape, unevenness. And in my opinion, that is one of the biggest keys to remaining injury-free, whether that's as a runner or just as a human. As part of an exercise science degree,
Starting point is 00:12:56 we do a bunch of anatomy stuff. And when you really look at the muscle structure of the human body, it is built to ambulate over uneven ground. That's how our whole muscle structure is set up. And what happens when we walk on a perfectly consistent, even surface, even if it's soft, is every step is the same, certain muscles get used, and then other muscles don't. And we develop these imbalances that then cause our hips, our low back, our knees, etc.,
Starting point is 00:13:21 to hurt. This is something to really think about in your daily life is spend as much time as possible on uneven ground or just go out of your way to do it. Even if I'm running down the sidewalk, I make a point to step off on the curb so my hips tilt. Anything that makes your hips tilt is doing what your body has been designed to do for eons. And I'll make a point, if I see a tree coming, I don't run around the tree.
Starting point is 00:13:45 I duck under it. You know, I lean one way or the other to go around the tree. Anything like that can make your hips tilt. Anything I see to step up on or step off of, I'm gonna make a point to do that. Walking, running, it doesn't matter. And plus it just makes life more playful. And when life is more playful, life is better.
Starting point is 00:14:00 So you found out that the five fingers were not the solution for everybody. So what did you do next? Yeah, we found this to be like a great solution for foot strengthening and to use in smaller amounts. They're fine for general lifestyle. But let's say you're doing a high impact activity or in my case, I was training for a 50 mile race in the Rocky Mountains over technical terrain with sharp rocks. It's just not going
Starting point is 00:14:25 to fly. In fact, it's dangerous and you'll probably break something. And so what really happened is that at the shop, we started filming people and we do this thing. My dad's story is incredible. He blew his knee out playing football right at the end of his career. And this is why he didn't end up playing pro baseball. And he then got dared by his roommate's dad, dared them both to go do this thing. And he's like huge weightlifter, always been great at anything he had done. And this roommate's dad says to him, like, hey, I'm going to send you a postcard. And this postcard comes in the mail and it says, if you're a real man, you'll do this, you know.
Starting point is 00:15:07 And they kind of look at each other like, all right. They flip the postcard over, Las Vegas Marathon. And it's like in two months. My dad's like 5'9", 240 pounds, just totally jacked, you know. And because he blew his knee out playing football, we're talking unhappy triad, so no meniscus. Bone on bone, just grinding. Doctors told him he'd never run again, he'd never walk normal. That's been true to this day.
Starting point is 00:15:32 My dad walks with a limp. And he's almost an inch shorter on that side as well. And goes out and tries to do this marathon, finishes. You know, he's like the last at the very, very, very back. And it really pissed him off. For the first time in his life, he really sucked at something that he actually put a lot of effort into. And on top of that, just excruciating knee pain.
Starting point is 00:15:53 And just over and over does this. If you know the type of personality, just back at it a few weeks later. Massive failure again, over and over. And he eventually sees a group of African, you know, Kenyan runners running and these guys dominate distance running if you know anything about distance running and he's like, oh my gosh, I crashed down the road. We all crashed down the road. Those guys float.
Starting point is 00:16:17 You know, I now do something called float running and I make this float run harness for this purpose but he's like, those guys float. I'll bet if I taught myself to run like them, my knee wouldn't hurt so bad. And sure enough, that's what he does. And you fast forward seven years later, 110 pounds lighter, and he wins the St. George Marathon in two hours and 22 minutes.
Starting point is 00:16:37 Unbelievable. And gets ranked as high as 17th in the country. I'm two at the time. So pretty cool. So tell me about the float running. What is float running? So float running is my method for making running techniques simple. And the reality is most everybody in any other sport gets all sorts of training and they
Starting point is 00:16:57 spend most of their time on technique. So you just think shooting a shot, you know, passing the ball. There's a certain way you do this. Throwing a football, you know, kicking a soccer ball. There's just technique everywhere, swimming. Running is the only sport where we just tell people, like, hey, good luck out there. And I just like, I like to frame it for people. Imagine if your first day of swim practice
Starting point is 00:17:19 was like your first day of cross country or track practice. And I'll tell you how my first day of cross country practice went. And I had a great coach, don't get me wrong. But it was, hey guys, welcome to class. Let's take roll. Okay, great. You know, housekeeping items.
Starting point is 00:17:31 Okay, let's go for a run. You know, I'll see you in 30 minutes. Okay, now let's do this at the swimming pool. Okay, just jump in, good luck. See you in 30 minutes. Like, dead people, you know, literally dead people. Yeah. This is the only know, literally dead people. This is the only sport where we do this.
Starting point is 00:17:46 And it's absurd. And the problem is there's so much conflicting information out there on running technique. And there's not as much science as we'd like there to be. And what is there is pretty solid, but it's shouted down by the money of the shoe companies. And overwhelmingly, most shoe companies just tell you, oh, just go run however you want.
Starting point is 00:18:09 Just do your thing. It's, you know. As long as you're wearing the shoes, you're protected and you're fine. Yes, wear our shoes, you're fine. Everybody has their own way of running. And don't get me wrong, there's some truth to that to a degree.
Starting point is 00:18:21 But float running is my way of taking it and making it simple. So for basic running technique we're not talking like super in-depth you know stuff but for most people they need the basics and it's every method out there that I know of has been too complicated and so float running is a way of helping people master the basics of running technique very very quickly and the reason I do this this harness here is
Starting point is 00:18:46 it just hooks in underneath the armpits and it keeps your arms and your posture in position. And what people don't, you know, here's another thing that people don't realize about running is that it's largely driven by your posture and your arms. So, and the thing I discovered over and over teaching running technique, you know, night in night out from one-on-one to massive groups of people, you know,
Starting point is 00:19:10 hundreds of people, is that if we can get people to focus on keeping their elbow back and not letting their elbow come forward of their hips, everything just works. And we're talking their cadence improves, their foot lands underneath the bent knee, underneath the backward traveling leg the way we want it to Their posture will be great. Their airway will open. I mean we can almost distill down You know two hours of running technique class into hey get your elbows back Get those chicken wings as I like to say it and if you get your elbow back Your posture is gonna be good your foot's gonna land where it's supposed to,
Starting point is 00:19:45 your cadence is gonna be higher like it needs to be, and everything just is so smooth and nice. And what the float-round harness does is it provides tactile feedback. So you're not just thinking you're doing it right. It's letting you know you know you're doing it right, or, hey, you're not doing it right. I'm giving you a tug that's saying,
Starting point is 00:20:03 you're coming too far across your midline, or your left side is going one way and your right side isn't or you're pumping too far forward with your arms or whatever and you know I would say 90 plus percent of people need that tactile feedback and even me as somebody who's had running technique lessons and you know breakdown since I was age 8 and been using devices along these lines since I was 8, still really helpful. You know I'll get out on a run or along these lines since I was eight, still really helpful. I'll get out on a run or a race and use it and I'm still picking up things that are like, oh, yep, I'm slipping there a little bit.
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Starting point is 00:22:14 When did you realize that the arms were such a key part? I would say probably 12 years ago, which is almost at the exact same time I started Ultra. When we got into Ultra, there was a lot of focus on barefoot and there was a lot of focus on foot strike. And I would say now, you know, the biggest thing that I tell people is don't focus on foot strike. And back then everything from the media was like, hey, just stop heel striking and everything will get better, you know. And the reality is a lot of people stopped heel striking and they started forefoot striking or doing something different and everything else was still wrong. And so they just got different injuries.
Starting point is 00:22:50 You just took the force off of maybe the knees and you placed it on the feet. And so what we saw were a ton of foot injuries. Tell me the beginning of Altra. When did you realize you were going to start a shoe company as opposed to solving the problem of shoes for you to wear or your friends to wear. It was about a year and a half process of coming to just that realization that you pointed out there because originally Altra was a way to help our customers at our shop.
Starting point is 00:23:22 And so we were taking traditional shoes and we were cutting the heavy elevated heel out of the back of the shoe and we were leveling the shoe out front to back and we were weight balancing it front to back. And we were doing this because of my dad's experience. He attributed all his success as a runner to learning to run like a Kenyan. This better running technique, right? And Kenyans learn to run barefoot. Correct.
Starting point is 00:23:47 Yeah, so they developed great technique from a young age. And once you've really developed that technique and foot strength, then you can kind of put on whatever you want. And it doesn't matter. You can overcome it, right? And this was kind of the place we were coming from, except we were dealing with the opposite problem. Everybody in America grows up wearing shoes,
Starting point is 00:24:02 and they have weak feet. And we have to reverse engineer it, right? We have to go back and re-teach them how to run well. And so when people would come into our shop, we would then teach them a lesson on how to run better. And you know, I had this realization watching on a treadmill. We'd watch people run barefoot or in five fingers and they look great. And then that same person 30 seconds later in the very shoes we were selling them looked like crap. And we just had this thought of like, oh man, and I remember, you know, my dad looks at me,
Starting point is 00:24:30 he's like, I don't know if we're really helping people here. And again, that's a really bad place to be in. Again, this is pretty soon after coming back from Hawaii. And I was just like, yeah, it's pretty rough. So you started by shaving the shoes, like shoes and just modifying them so that they would perform better. Yeah, because I saw on video and by looking at the specs of the shoes and weighing them that every shoe in our store was heel heavy and heel high.
Starting point is 00:24:59 None of these specs were published back then. Now we have a term for it, drop. That was a term I invented, the term zero drop know, one of my terms that everyone uses now. But at the time it was just like, wow, shoes are all heavy in the heel and they're all thick in the heel. And we come to find out basically every shoe is twice as thick in the heels as it is in the forefoot. That's just how they're built. If it's a 12 millimeter forefoot, it's a 24 millimeter heel. If it's a 10 millimeter forefoot, it's a 20 millimeter heel. That's just how the cushioning, you cushioning was built in the shoe.
Starting point is 00:25:27 And what we saw is people's foot swings out in front of their body that causes the heel to drop. And in biomechanics, what we call dorsiflexing. So their toes pop up, their heel drops down. And then because the heel is thicker, the foot catches the ground earlier. So people are literally landing inches more out in front of their body than they were without a shoe on. So we're talking a fundamental movement that humans have done throughout all eons has now been disrupted not by millimeters, not by centimeters, but
Starting point is 00:25:55 by inches. And we wonder why running, which is a non-contact sport, has a 73% injury rate, you know, plus, you plus, depending on the study, 60 to 90% yearly. It's terrible for a sport with no contact. And so, did just what you said, is I got looking at shoes and I was like, well, what if we took a traditional amount of cushioning that still had enough protection to simulate
Starting point is 00:26:19 running barefoot on a natural surface while you're on concrete or grass, or in my case trail running on rocky ground. We have a moderate amount of protection there and what if we get the shoe to weight balance front to back? What will happen? And so that's when I took the first pair of shoes into my toaster oven. You know, little mini oven and I talked to my dad and told him what I was doing. He's like, yeah, that makes sense. Just do it downstairs where mom can't smell it. And I put this pair of shoes in the mini oven.
Starting point is 00:26:48 And my dad was like, he's doing this stuff all the time, always modifying shoes growing up. He was working for Nike when I was born, socking most of my child head. Modifying shoes was just something that happened at our house. And he's like, yeah, 275, wait till the glue bubbles. And I'm like, okay, cool. So so 275 I wait a little bit long melt the laces melt all the TPU on the upper I
Starting point is 00:27:10 mean it's it's as Frankenstein as they come right you know it just looks terrible but I take this shoe out and I've ripped the outsole off the rubber you know just pull the rubber off the shoe pull the foam out I put some slabs of weight balanced flat foam in Spenenco foam, and then glue the rubber back on. And I go for a run. And for the first time in my life, I'm running down the road, but I feel like I'm running barefoot on the grass. Wow. Or barefoot on the beach. You know, just that, that freedom. If you've ever run barefoot
Starting point is 00:27:40 on the beach or barefoot on the grass, you know, this like freedom that comes with it. It's just, it's kind of a glorious, fun thing. And I remember just thinking like, this is amazing, you know, and let's get back and test it. So let's go video it in slow motion. Slow motion video had just become available to like not rich people. And sure enough, the video was pretty clear
Starting point is 00:28:01 that it was doing its job. You know, we get that elevated, heavy heel out of the equation and good things start to happen. How many of those modified pair of shoes did you make? So just a couple that way, and then I took a fleet to a guy that ran rivers on the Grand Canyon with my dad that owned a shoe cobbler shop nearby,
Starting point is 00:28:21 Robert Glazier, a village shoemaker, and I explained to him what I wanted to do, and he's looking at me and he's like, look, he's like a third generation shoemaker, certified pedophist. And he's like, I usually add things to shoes, not take things away. And he's like, why would you want to do this? And I explained the biomechanics of it and how it's going to straight fix your posture and everything else and changes the way you walk, changes the way you run back to a more natural way.
Starting point is 00:28:48 He starts shaking his head and giving me this look and I was like, oh man. And he's like, well, that sure makes a lot of sense. And so he ends up modding the shoes for me and I had brought him these original 1984 Saucony Jazz originals that have two layers of midsole you know they have one slab along the bottom and there's a second slab that runs from the heel to the arch and then drops down to the forefoot and I just simply said hey can you take the second slab out here so they're just level front to back and then we'll see if we can get them to weight balance front to back and he was like yeah I
Starting point is 00:29:20 think we can pull that off and so we did about two dozen pair then. And we tested them on our staff at the store. And 19 out of 20 loved it. So I was like, well, 95%, that's pretty good rate. We don't see that very often. And then somehow a customer ended up in a pair. It might've been me. But this guy comes in, knee problems forever, just had been through
Starting point is 00:29:47 the wringer, tried everything and he's like, what are you wearing? Because I'm wearing Frankenstein shoes. And I was like, well, we tried to get the toes to spread out, we skipped the laces in the front half of the shoe. I'm wearing something that helps me simulate being barefoot on natural surfaces and it seems to improve my running technique as well. And he's like, well, I've tried everything else. Let me try it.
Starting point is 00:30:08 And I was like, OK, fine. So he puts them on, goes for a run. He's gone a while. And I have this like, dude jacked my shoes kind of moment. Because this occasionally happens at the shoe store. And it's a bad idea when you're dealing with us. We were all pretty fast people that worked at this shop. But I was like, he's been gone a long time.
Starting point is 00:30:25 Like dude, Jack, my shoes. And he eventually comes back in and he's like, I'll take them. And I'm just like, man, they're not for sale. These are Frankenstein shoes. And at the time we hadn't even called them Zero Drop shoes. We were calling them modified whatever's and Jazzy Zeroes, modified Jazzy Zeroes. And he's like, well, I need a pair. Can you make me one?
Starting point is 00:30:45 So I make this guy a pair and then swear him to secrecy because we don't want to get sued by the shoe companies. You know, it's like we're taking their shoe and modifying it. And now we're past the statute of limitations so we can talk about it. But it's just like, don't tell anybody. Do you know what happens when you tell people
Starting point is 00:30:58 not to tell people things? Word spreads. Yeah, exactly. So we didn't think about this at the time, but next thing I know, it's like a few weeks later and this guy comes in and he's like, who sold Joe the hacked up shoes? And I'm like over here on the fit stool, like, yeah, that was me. Sorry.
Starting point is 00:31:15 He just looks at me and he's like, sell me a pair too. I've known that guy forever and his knees have always hurt. Now they're feeling good. So I want some. And next thing you know, it's like taking off what like wildfire. We saw a thousand pair Wow, year, just about a thousand pair in a year of these modified shoes where people are literally taking a brand new pair of shoes. They're paying us full price. Then they're paying another 20 to
Starting point is 00:31:37 50 bucks to have the cobbler take them up, take them apart, level them out, weight balance them. And at the same time, we're selling them to people another size bigger and we're skipping the laces in the front half to attempt somehow to get their toes to get in the game a little bit more. So this is the journey and back to your question, when did you know you had to start a shoe company? So at this point, initially, there was no starter shoe company. And we had great contacts with shoe companies.
Starting point is 00:32:04 And we had all this research now. We had all this data because we were actually paying people 10 bucks to bring back a survey after six weeks and tell us what happened. Did it get better? Did it get worse? What hurts more?
Starting point is 00:32:15 What hurts less? What are you using more? What are you using less? Muscular? Where are you getting more sore, et cetera? I mean, you name it, 25 questions. And you were doing this not for commercial reasons but because you wanted to know what worked. Yeah, yeah, no, et cetera. I mean, you name it, 25 questions. And you were doing this not for commercial reasons, but because you wanted to know what worked.
Starting point is 00:32:28 Yeah, yeah, no, I just care. Like, sick of selling people crap. You care. Yeah, I totally care. That was it. Yeah, you weren't doing market research for the market. You were doing market research to understand what actually works. Yeah, well, and keep in mind, this is a more time-consuming process.
Starting point is 00:32:42 So we're actually, you know, net, we're probably losing money on the whole thing because we're spending more time trying to fit people. It's complicating everything But we're all super stoked about it because we can tell it's making a difference and we're fixing people and the results We're getting are off the charts compared to anything we've ever seen and we're seeing like 90 plus percent success rates with your typical running injuries. So and these surveys came back really five areas that were just incredibly successful. Plantar fasciosis, what we used to call plantar fasciitis, typical heel pain that people get, shin splints, runner's knee, IT band, and lower back issues. And two of those issues are not running things.
Starting point is 00:33:24 You know, plantar fasciosis and lower back issues are not, you know, those are, everybody deals with that kind of stuff. And we've got people going in and modifying every pair of shoes they own after a little bit. Wow. They're taking their whole closet in and saying, expand my toe box, you know, get rid of the heel elevation, weight balance issue. And so we've got the data now. And so we start pitching it to our contacts in the shoe industry and basically getting laughed off the street, you know, and ridiculed and, you know, just lots of no's across the board. And I was like, okay, so let me get this straight.
Starting point is 00:33:59 We know people are getting, they're feeling better and they're less injured, you know, and you don't care. You know, I think now I look at it a little bit more compassionately because I understand like stocks and like shareholders and stuff. But the answer I got across the board is like, yeah, we just can't go there, you know. And a lot of it honestly was we have our dedicated fan base who likes the shoes we make now and we don't care that you're making something better we got our people and if you understand innovation theory you know this how is how it works with every innovation in every class out there
Starting point is 00:34:33 basically something new and better comes along and it eventually wipes what was the top dog off the face of the planet because they won't change for that but at the time like I remember just being so distraught and so frustrated that we were doing something that was really helping people. It was incredibly effective. And all these shoe companies that I grew up, darn near worshiping, didn't give a crap.
Starting point is 00:34:58 And that was really hard for me at the time. And so it was during this time, this kind of year long like acceptance, very slow acceptance that like, oh, we might have to do this. But the problem with doing it is up to that point, we'd have the same seven running shoe companies since the beginning of running shoe time. Basically, the quickest way to go homeless was start a shoe company. You know, you start running shoe company, you don't make it. You spend millions, you go homeless. Like that was the pattern, right? And what happened is,
Starting point is 00:35:31 it was on my birthday and my cousin Jeremy comes over to my house and I say to him, like, you know, kind of tell him what I'm doing. And he's like, well, I haven't run in like five years because my knees hurt. Like, prove it. I'm like, okay. So we go for a run and I give him the hacked up modified zero draft shoes and he's blown away. And we get to a turnaround point. I'm like, okay, put regular shoes back on and we run back and now his knee's killing him. And he's like, we have to do this. We got to make these things. And I'm like, yeah, quickest way to go homeless, you know? He's like, I'll do everything. You just design cool shoes and do the biomechanics
Starting point is 00:36:07 and the product and I'll do everything. I'll find the people, I'll find the contacts, the manufacturing, all that. And I'm like, okay, whatever, bro. Is that what happened? I don't even know how you start something like this. Neither did I. So basically what happened is initially
Starting point is 00:36:22 he has me make him a pair, but he comes back and he's like, can you get me a real pair? And I'm like, what do you mean a real pair? He's like, well, you know, not made by you. I'm like, well, they don't exist. And he's like, you mean to tell me there's no running shoes on the market that are shaped like feet and keep your foot in barefoot position. Don't have this elevated heel in them.
Starting point is 00:36:42 And I was like, no. And he's like, that's preposterous. Like, that's absolutely absurd. I don't believe you, you know? And I was like, what would I know? I just managed a shoe store, you know? And I'm like, go do the research, man. And so my cousin Jeremy Halle, he does the research. He comes back and he's like, you're right. They don't exist. It's crazy. And I was like, yeah, it is crazy. And so long story short, he finds these guys that find these guys that then find us and we're talking ex Nike and Adidas development executives and the head of the kitchen at the Nike, at Nike, their advanced concepts team, head of development Adidas, the first
Starting point is 00:37:15 guy to ever do CAD, computer animated design for shoes. These guys had this rapid prototyping group and they were like, hey, we thought about doing what you're doing, but we don't really have a marketing story. And you do, you know, with your running background and all this stuff. So let's get together. So we meet with these guys, you know, next thing we know, we're a million dollars in debt and you know, here I am today and it is what it is. So much of today's life happens on the web. Squarespace is your home base for building your dream presence in an online world.
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Starting point is 00:39:13 Yeah. So, Altra is probably worth, I don't know, between $500 million and a billion dollars today. Started with nothing, essentially. How many years old is it now? When did you start? I started hacking shoes in 2008. We got the first shoes on the market in 2011.
Starting point is 00:39:30 So we're looking at almost 13 years now. And we did like 1.3 million year one. When you started, did you just have one model? Yes. We started with this model called the Instinct. It was just a road running shoe, kind of crossover shoe, moderate cushion. Again, just simulate running barefoot on natural terrain. I think you have a pair of Escalante's now. And the Escalante in the line now is probably the closest thing to what the Instinct was back then.
Starting point is 00:39:56 The Instinct was probably a little more shoe, I would say, just a little bit, but very, very similar. And then we built the Lone Peak which is, you know, has been the number one trail shoe in America repeatedly and is a household name kind of shoe that still exists today. That came out in November so about, you know, six, seven, eight months after the instinct. And we also built a shoe called the Adam and the Eve, the men's and women's version. These were barefoot style shoes, similar to Five Fingers just without the toe pockets. And that was kind of the initial lineup that first year. When you guys started, no one was doing either zero drop or natural wide toe box running shoes.
Starting point is 00:40:34 Not with any cushion. Yeah. Yeah. And, and really it was just five fingers. So you had the, you had the five toe shoes about the same time we launched. Some of the minimalist shoes came on. Those were non-cushioned bare five toe shoes. About the same time we launched, some of the minimalist shoes came on. Those were non-cushioned barefoot style shoes. Most did not have an appropriate toe box, what I'd call foot-shaped toe box, but some
Starting point is 00:40:54 kind of did. After that, originally that first year we're out there pitching at the running shoe stores and everybody's like, well, what's with the barefoot style shoes with cushioning or what's with the running shoes without the heel and with the big clown shaped toe box? We were creating category because it simply didn't exist at all. I'm a big believer in doing this is like you want to create something that people don't even know they need. You want to create a solution that is so good that people are like, wow, I never thought
Starting point is 00:41:22 about that before. So we've always been very anti-trend. I always had this philosophy of, let's create the trend, basically. And now I'm not at Alter anymore. It's a publicly traded company. And that philosophy may or may not exist into the future. Being a publicly traded company, probably not. But that was always kind of the mindset from the get-go.
Starting point is 00:41:44 Yeah. I wanted to talk to you because when I got the shoes, I never felt comfortable shoes with Lee Trade Company, probably not. But that was always kind of the mindset from the get go. Yeah, I wanted to talk to you because when I got the shoes, I never felt comfortable shoes before in my life. And it's just a radical experience to feel something that feels like it belongs on your foot as opposed to all the shoes that don't. Yeah, and I appreciate you saying that. My goal was always like, they should disappear.
Starting point is 00:42:04 Yeah, when did the book Born to Run come out during your story? I appreciate you saying that. My goal was always like, they should disappear. Yeah. When did the book Born to Run come out during your story? So Born to Run came out just as I was like, I think I was in Hawaii when Born to Run hit. So Born to Run had been a thing for a couple of years before I started hacking up shoes. And we had been selling the five fingers at our store for a couple of years. And we knew they were a great tool. We also just knew the average person couldn't handle them. And they weren't practical for hard flat man-made surfaces and they weren't
Starting point is 00:42:28 practical for technical trail. And so that was kind of the frame. But Born to Run definitely built a foundation and helped bring an awareness there. And I still talk to Chris McDougall to this day. We get along. So. I love Born to Run. It's interesting. I don't think I ever read a book. I certainly never read a book about running before, but I don't think I read any book about any sport before just because I'm not interested. A friend of mine said, you got to read this book. I read the book.
Starting point is 00:42:56 It made me cry. It was beautiful. Amazing book. Amazing book, yeah. And I think I wanted to create that experience that people had reading Born to Run in shoe form. And for me, Alter was like so much more than shoes. Our first investor and my mentor, Joe Morton, he always said to me like, the shoes are great, but the education is like another component of this that's so big.
Starting point is 00:43:27 Actually teaching people how to move properly and teaching people to strengthen their feet. You're providing more than a shoe to people. You're providing people an experience. That was really for me the goal of doing it. That's really what I'm doing with PR Gear now is I'm doing this other stuff that really allows me to focus on that other stuff because there are the teaching yeah there are shoes out there but there's there's some accessories and things people need and education that people need to make this easier you know people's feet are deformed we I'm a huge proponent of correct toes that we sell and correct toes are a way for people
Starting point is 00:43:59 to get their deformed feet back to looking like natural, happy, healthy human feet. Are those like yoga toes? Kind of, except you wear them inside foot-shaped shoes. So you can actually wear them while you're active. And I tell people they're an arch support, they're an ankle brace, and they are a pronation optimizer. And until you've put them on, you just don't understand it. But at my family's shoe store, we have people do a balance test without them on. And most people's feet, again, their big toe is bent in, their toes touch, which natural human feet, your toes really shouldn't be touching. And then we put them in a pair of correct toes and have them do a balance test. So the toes want to look almost like fingers.
Starting point is 00:44:40 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like your toes should be spaced. They should be spread apart. And certainly if they're not, they should be able to do so. The biggest thing we see with people as they age is their feet are not stable and they fall and falls kill lots of elderly people. And there's actually tons of studies supporting this. We get people out of big fat cushy shoes that are stabilizing and deforming their feet. And we get them into barefoot style footwear and we get their toes to spread out and they stop falling over.
Starting point is 00:45:11 And I was referencing the balance test we do at the shop because we'll have people and it can be somebody who's 70 years old that can't balance on one foot. We put a pair of correct toes on them and instantly their balance improves dramatically. And people literally look at me and they're like, okay, what voodoo magic did you just do on me? You know, that's, that's just one example. The other thing we do, we do these bridge soles and they have a met pad in them. And a lot of people don't even know what a met pad is, but a met pad sits as a
Starting point is 00:45:38 cushion back behind your metatarsal heads of your forefoot. And most shoes are concave left to right. So your shoe is higher on the right side and the left side than it is in the middle. And as your shoe wears out, it gets even more so. And so what happens is your foot ends up in this position where your middle met heads or the middle part of your forefoot is down. Like sway back. Yep, exactly.
Starting point is 00:46:01 And so what happens with a met pad is you put a met pad in a shoe and it actually fills that gap and it actually fills that gap and it puts your forefoot back into natural position. And bridge heels are named this way because they're a bridge from traditional footwear to more natural footwear. So a lot of people kind of have a tough time with that transition. Some people it's really easy for, other people just like they don't have the foot strength and if they reduce their cushion too much, which most people do, they have issues.
Starting point is 00:46:27 And so these britches are a bridge from traditional footwear to natural footwear. And they just make that transition nice and seamless for people. And then we give them the education. What are the best foot exercises? So the biggest, if you have to really distill it down, I would say the single best thing people could
Starting point is 00:46:43 and should be doing, the easiest one is just go jog barefoot on the grass or sand. Single best foot exercise you can do. If you can't do that and that's not easy, you probably should do this anyway, is what's called a single leg heel float. And it's simply balancing on one foot and if you can comfortably balance on one foot, then you pull your heel slightly off the ground. We're talking quarter to a half inch max and you sit there and balance and the nice
Starting point is 00:47:07 thing with this exercise you may or may not have picked this up for me I'm a very moderate you know kind of approach guy I hate kind of the extremes because I just people get excited about that stuff but it's not practical and I'm super practical and the nice thing with single leg heel floats you can do it anywhere you can do a single leg heel float waiting in line to pay for your groceries you know just balance on one foot, pull that heel slightly off up off the ground. Once you get decently good at it, no one has to know what's happening. And so that that single leg balancing is a huge foot strength in the exercise. Obviously
Starting point is 00:47:37 going to be more effective done barefoot and even more effective done barefoot with correct toes in. That's the key one. And then I just like to use a little like elastic, you know, band of some sort and walk with an elastic band around the big toes. So it's pulling the big toes away from your feet and towards each other. Anything to help those feet, you know, re-approximate basically, because for decades,
Starting point is 00:48:01 most of us have been in shoes that bend the big toes away from each other. And the more your big toe is bent away from the other big toe, the more problems you tend to have, the less your arch works, et cetera. So zero drop means the heel is level with the front of the foot, correct? Yeah. So the whole idea was like a typical shoe would drop from the heel down to the forefoot. Understood.
Starting point is 00:48:26 And so I should tell you the story of how this came about. So I'm at the shoemaker when I was first doing this and we would actually measure the thickness of the midsole that was left. And I would talk about how it was dropping from the heel to the forefoot. And Robert Glazier, the shoemaker, he'd have these millimeter rulers and he'd sit here and he'd measure how thick it was here and how thick it was here. He'd be like, okay, it's still dropping two millimeters from the heel to the forefoot. I'm like, okay, good, send two more millimeters out. We'd send two more millimeters out and we're calling them hacked up modified shoes, right?
Starting point is 00:49:00 And then he sends two out and we remeasure it. He's like, okay, it's dropping zero millimeters. I'm like, Robert, you're a genius. We don't have to call him hacked up modified shoes anymore. We'll call him zero drop shoes. It sounds cool, you know. And it's what they are. It's great. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:49:16 And I think the great irony of it is the term like caught on long before Altra did. Like I said, we sold $1.3 million worth of Altras the first year. Well, that's nothing compared to the term zero drop went into usage among the born to run community like instantly. Like it was just like everybody was using it. And it was really a term to describe the cushioning of the shoe. The cushioning was no longer dropping from the heel of the forefoot, right? Then all these like minimalist barefoot style shoes came out with no cushioning and they started calling themselves zero drop shoes and I just had to get a chuckle because it actually kind of created an uphill battle for ultra at run specialty because people started associating zero
Starting point is 00:49:55 drop with no cushion and it was really a term to actually describe the cushioning of the shoe originally. Is there a benefit in being as close to the ground as possible in your flat position? It's very situational and I would say it relates to impact and it relates to activity. So for example, I am sitting here talking to you barefoot right now. There's no reason for me to have a shoe on. There's no benefit from having a shoe on. So I want to remove anything possible. Also, if you're familiar with grounding, there's incredible benefits with just letting your body ground with the earth and a lot of people think that's hooky stuff. But just letting your foot connect with the earth, there are studies that show there's a much bigger electron transfer happening there. So you get these ions that are transferring and it's much better. And so a lot of health benefits with grounding.
Starting point is 00:50:45 And I would say for casual usage, yeah, you want to have as little to no cushion as possible. If you're not challenging your feet, if you're not doing something that's difficult for your feet, I don't see any reason. And you're going to be, the closer you are to the ground, the more stable you're going to be, period. Sports cars are low and wide for a reason. I always tell people you want to use the least amount of cushioning that's necessary for what you're doing
Starting point is 00:51:07 and trying to accomplish. So, you know, for me, I go for a one mile run around my neighborhood. I don't really need a shoe on for that, okay? I go for a five mile trail run across rocky terrain with mud. I probably want lugs for grip and I probably want some rock protection
Starting point is 00:51:24 in the form of cushioning or a rock plate to blunt the rocks and make it easier for me to do that safely and quickly. Now I go run a hundred mile race it's really hard to prepare your feet to go a hundred miles at least in the modern world and so having a big fat thick cushy shoe can actually be helpful at the hundred mile distance for a lot of people. There are people that take years and train their feet and get their feet really strong and can do 100 mile race in no cushioning, but they're one in a billion.
Starting point is 00:51:54 How often have you done a 100 mile race over the course of your life? I stop at 50. 50 is your number. Once I get a little bit older and I lose my fast twitch, I'll probably move up to 200s, but I like to run still. And the reality is even the elites are not really running
Starting point is 00:52:11 at the 100 mile distance. They're running the downhills, they're running some of the flats, almost everybody's power hiking the uphills and speed is not as much as, it's all relative I guess, but for me I can run quickly at the end of a 50 mile race. Like I've run a 545 mile at the end of a 50 mile race. Wow.
Starting point is 00:52:31 I've run, you know, a 36 minute 10K at the end of a 50 mile race. Wow. Nobody's doing that in a hundred mile. Welcome to the house of macadamias. Macadamias are a delicious superfood, sustainably sourced directly from farmers. Macadamias, a rare source of omega-7, linked to collagen regeneration,
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Starting point is 00:54:05 I always tell people, like, if you want to trail run, you should approach it like hiking. The mindset is hiking. I'm going hiking, I'm just doing it faster. And for most people, it means you are going to, you're going to hike the uphill. You're going to jog the flat and you're going to run the down. And also it's an eating contest. And if you've read Born to Run, you hear him talk about this. But it's almost as much more about who has the awesome stomach as it is about who has the
Starting point is 00:54:31 awesome legs because you have to fuel. You can get through a marathon without fueling extensively, but you go much beyond that and you're a dead person, you know, walking if you can't fuel properly. And so for me, the mindset is like, I'm going to go do this somewhere incredibly beautiful because I want to experience this beauty. I'd love to do it fast. I'm going to eat stuff that I like, and I'm going to have a great time with it. And the mindset is like, for me, survive for 37 miles and then let's get down to business for the last half marathon. For me, that's an hour and a half, and it's like, it's go time now. What do you do for food? So I actually train my stomach. When I first started doing this, I would drink orange juice
Starting point is 00:55:10 right before going, really acidic. And then I'd stop at 7-Eleven along the way and get mini tacos and pizza and burgers and anything else, just horrible foods that I wouldn't normally eat in normal life really. But I did it to train my stomach because I know the stomach is probably the single greatest issue for most people running ultra distances. You get nauseous or what is it? You get nauseous, you have a hard time holding food down, you have a hard time getting enough in. And so I've always been of the mindset like, for example, my first marathon, the mindset was like, well, when I went to run my first marathon, I had
Starting point is 00:55:45 already done things harder than the actual marathon. So the race didn't actually seem that hard. And that was the mindset I really took into, to ultras as well. It was like, okay, let's, you know, this eating situation, let's make it harder than it's going to be on race day. So the race day isn't so tough, basically. And training your stomach is a real thing. You know, it's going to be on race day. So the race day isn't so tough basically. And training your stomach is a, is a real thing. You know, it's, it's a huge thing. I never heard of training your stomach in that way. It's such a big one.
Starting point is 00:56:11 And people don't talk about it enough, but you know, the reality is you're burning two to 400 calories an hour or more, and you've got to replace at least a couple hundred of that to have any chance of performing, you know, optimally. So learn to eat whatever, you know, and ultra aid stations are beautiful things. You know, you just go in and it's like there's something for everybody. For me, I'm usually grabbing, you know, some soda, a handful of peanut M&Ms, beef, turkey, bacon, you know, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwich, quesadillas, you name it. Just grab it, put it in your pockets, roll and then just eat while you're going kind
Starting point is 00:56:49 of thing. So it's just a mobile food party, you know, at the end of the day. What's the first pushback you get from your body? It's like something in me doesn't like doing this. Sometimes it's your stomach. You know, sometimes it's like, I don't want to eat that. I don't feel like drinking more. And you know, I have to do this.
Starting point is 00:57:09 Like if I do not get in this amount of calories, I will not keep going at the same rate. Or if I do not drink, I will dehydrate and cause a problem. That's really only an issue. Dehydration is massively overrated in my opinion, especially shorter races. It's really difficult to dehydrate in under three hours,
Starting point is 00:57:24 for example, which is, I run marathons in about two and a half hours. So dehydration is not something I face at that level. But at the longer levels, you know, that can be a thing. But I would say, you know, in ultra distances, there's these ebbs and flows of just fatigue. And at first, it's probably physical fatigue where you just can't hold the pace you want to hold and your legs are just like, sorry, bro, like it's probably physical fatigue where you just can't hold the pace you want to hold. And your legs are just like, sorry, bro, like, it's not happening today. But then you come out of it. So it's like you just like suck it up for an hour, you know, and the next thing you know, it's like,
Starting point is 00:57:54 we're flying again, you know, and you've been fueling so it happens. Towards the end of the race, it's actually more like your brain is like, what is happening? Like, we are fatigued out here. We're done. We're fried. It doesn't want to believe anymore, you know? And so it's really this roller coaster of, of I would say both physical roller coaster but an emotional roller coaster. And I think that's why people get addicted to it. I don't really promote it. You know, if we're running for health, we should be running 5Ks. Running somewhere between a mile fast and three miles fast and training for that is
Starting point is 00:58:25 the optimal thing to be doing for your health. But there is something about the challenge of running 50 miles in the mountains or 50K or 100 miles or whatever that people love. And part of it is just this emotional roller coaster and this physical roller coaster that happens where you literally think I'm dead, I'm done, I'm quitting, it's over. And an hour later, you're back on top of the world. Amazing.
Starting point is 00:58:51 And then an hour later, you might be dead, done, and quitting for real. But who knows? That's a fun piece of things for sure that I think leads to the addiction of ultra running because it's really not that healthy of an activity in my opinion. But so many of these races are just in jaw-droppingly beautiful places, and this combination of beautiful place with incredible life experience of these roller coasters is powerful. Is there anything about body type for running?
Starting point is 00:59:20 Like some people say if you're over a certain amount to weight, running's not for you. Better to walk. Is any of that true? I mean, maybe at a certain size when you get really, really big, but for the most part, no. It's interesting. You know, I think people have this misunderstanding that if you're tall, you're going to be a better runner.
Starting point is 00:59:38 Well, the average marathon champion is male, is 5'6", and 112 pounds, you know. So tall is actually not an advantage typically. Your marathon and under runners tend to be smaller at the elite levels, but a lot of your elite ultra runners are pretty big. And it's actually helpful to have more muscle mass and fat storage to go off of for these longer distances. And you may not see that as much in the elite of the elite, but everything from good to elite, I would say on average the athletes who are a little bit bigger
Starting point is 01:00:14 tend to do a little bit better in these longer distances, which is kind of an interesting thing. But yeah, for general people running, you know, if we give people the right technique, they tend to be fine. And I find that people that are heavier tend to adopt better technique easier. They haven't learned as bad of habits and their body naturally is like, we got a lot of weight hitting the ground here. We need to spend more mind power and emphasis on protecting ourselves. And they can kind of overcome their bad shoes more than the average person might be able to,
Starting point is 01:00:46 which is an interesting thing for sure. You mentioned grounding earlier. Did you ever consider making the ultras groundable? Yeah, my sister very early on was like, you should put grounding plugs in ultras, you know, and it was like, ah. At the time we were mostly only making running shoes, and it's like, that's at the time we were mostly only making running shoes.
Starting point is 01:01:05 And it's like, that's like half an hour out of the day for most people. And people can ground any other time of the day, you know, they can take their shoes off before or after their run and get the benefits that way. And from an engineering standpoint, it was difficult and a marketing standpoint, very challenging to kind of tell that story. So it didn't get off the ground, but it was definitely considered and didn't quite make it to prototype stage but it was in development stage for sure. If you were to do it how would you do it? So there are shoes today that have grounding plugs in them and they run a
Starting point is 01:01:36 copper interface from the middle of the shoe so the copper touches the ground and it runs to something that then connects with the foot. So the foot is on something that's touching the copper interface, which is then running a line down to the ground. So we're getting pretty extreme on the fringes here, but that's what people do. And I think it's really interesting. So it's not something I've played a whole lot with, but fun to think about at least. So when you started your shoe company, what was the first competition you had in foot-shaped
Starting point is 01:02:08 shoes? You know, even today, there's really only one other brand making cushioned foot-shaped running shoes, which is fascinating and saddening at the same time to me. You know, I would say these days, and even all along, I have not always just been a pure ultra advocate, but I've been an advocate for healthy footwear. This is why I sit on the executive board of the Healthy Feet Alliance and I promote shoes besides ultra. I love ultra, don't get me wrong, but I want people in whatever foot shape, natural, zero
Starting point is 01:02:39 drop shoe is going to be best for them. Yeah, there's just one other brand out there right now, at least with any cushioning. And I wish there were more, frankly. I still remember when this other brand came out and my buddy that helped me start the company as well, Brian Becks did, I remember him just being pissed. He was just like, can't believe those guys just ripped off our Instinct shoe and made their own
Starting point is 01:02:59 and slapped their brand on it. And it's actually the guy that started Five Fingers in the US doing this. And him and I are, you know, we're good friends and we get along. And I remember thinking like, awesome, they just totally legitimized us. Like they just made us look legit, you know.
Starting point is 01:03:16 Yeah, now it's like a real format. Yeah, and I think part of it though is, it's really hard to engineer this because shoe lasts at the factories, these foot forms that the shoe are built around, they all come with heel elevation. I see. They all start tapered. Like when we did this, I had to engineer these lasts from the ground up. We had to literally build an entirely new shape that had never existed before.
Starting point is 01:03:38 A last is a plastic foot. Plastic or metal foot form, yeah. It's like a mannequin foot essentially. Yeah, except like all other shoes. It's super pointy. Yeah. And so we had to go in and make an actual one that looked like a foot in a sock basically. And that's actually how we got the shapes for the first altars is I literally took a
Starting point is 01:03:59 bunch of healthy feet and you know, my mindset was like, okay, people that get injured, I'm not going to use them. I was talking to people that never got injured. I was like, okay, you've never had any foot problems You never get injured Let me trace your feet wear your socks because you wear socks when you wear shoes and we're gonna trace your feet and see what Those shapes look like based on the length of a foot How much difference is there in the width of the front of the foot from person to person a lot really? Yeah, people have massive variability. It's very very difficult to fit everybody front of the foot from person to person. A lot. Really? Yeah.
Starting point is 01:04:25 People have massive variability. It's very, very difficult to fit everybody. You kind of do the best you can, try and get in the middle of that bell curve as much as possible. But that said, it's better for the foot box to be too big than too small. Yeah. And that's actually a big point as a shoe. When I'm actually selling a shoe or fitting somebody for a shoe, the first thing I'm going to tell
Starting point is 01:04:46 them is, you know, you want your shoe to disappear. That shoe that's best for you is the shoe that feels the least there. And it should feel too big in the toes. And if it doesn't feel too big in the toes, it's too small. And I will just emphasize that over and over. And I like to kind of push it a little bit far with people because most people can't grasp this. Since we have been little kids, our parents have told us to put our shoes on and tie them up tight and make sure they're secure. And that's so bad for blood flow. It's bad for
Starting point is 01:05:14 foot health. And the reality is when your toes learn to spread out and do their thing, they stabilize in the shoe. I don't even lace my shoes anymore. The only time I'll lace them is when I'm running like super technical trail or I'm doing like really my shoes anymore. The only time I'll lace them is when I'm running super technical trail or I'm doing really fast speed work. Even then, if I don't lace my shoes, my foot can go to roll or my shoe can and my foot will be like, nope, I'm good. The toes will spread out and do their thing where the shoe does something you may not want it to do, for example. That's just a cool thing that human body does once you get it back being a human body.
Starting point is 01:05:47 So when you say you don't lace them, do you mean you don't have laces in them at all or you don't tie them? I'll put my foot in the shoe and then I'll pull my foot most of the way out of the shoe. So I'll take it. And before my heel comes all the way out of the shoe, then I'll tie the shoe nice and tight.
Starting point is 01:06:04 And then I'll put my foot back in the shoe at that point in time. And from then on, that shoe is a slip-on. I see. I slide it on, I slide it off. I never tie it, I never untie it until it, you know, just randomly comes untied at some point in time. So it comes on and off like a boot.
Starting point is 01:06:18 Yeah, a boot or a slipper, you know? And I think people like this idea of not having to tie their shoes. For sure. For a lot of people, they have to rewire their brain again, because they've just been taught, my shoes should be tight. And it's uncomfortable to them for their heel to slip up and down a little bit at first. But again, the reality is once you get used to this, it's far more comfortable.
Starting point is 01:06:37 You get better blood flow. It helps everything heal. Your foot stabilizes better. You know, it's just a better way to be doing things. What's your feeling about socks or no socks? Personal, I'll say my feet stink. So if I don't wear Merino wool socks, it's, it's bad for people around me. But the biggest problem with socks is socks deform your feet too.
Starting point is 01:06:55 You know, if you've ever put a nice pair of socks up next to your foot, it's like half the size of your foot. Well, that's going to pull your toes together. And in my opinion, um, you know, socks are almost as responsible for foot deformation as shoes are. And so the biggest thing, you know, if you're going to wear socks and that's your preference, buy them a size bigger than the package says.
Starting point is 01:07:16 And so for example, I'm a size nine foot, I wear a size 10 shoe, I wear socks for a size 13 to 15. Wow. And they fit great. You know, and the thing I always have people do is just like, take your sock and hold it up next to your foot, you know, and my foot, even with the size 13 to 15 sock, my foot is still longer than my sock is, and it's a ridiculous
Starting point is 01:07:38 thing when you really think about it. So, you know, if you don't want to deform your feet and you want your feet to be healthier, you use a sock that's bigger. Tell me more about the first year of Ultra. How did you distribute them? So Brian, Jeremy and I went and knocked on the door of running stores everywhere. We went to trade shows. We cold called.
Starting point is 01:07:59 There's about a thousand running stores in America. I've been in close to 700 of them personally. And the approach was basically we managed shoe stores. Here's what other shoes do. This is why we think we make something that could be an advantage to you and you should carry it. And what percentage of people were interested? I'd say maybe one in three, one in four would pick it up in the first year or so after we met with them. Probably only one in 20 that was like on the spot, yes, let's go. So it was a lot of rejection. But as the years go on, and the science is what it is, and people see it more and get more familiar with it,
Starting point is 01:08:40 then it becomes easier. I still remember some of these guys calling back that may have been really, really harsh to us early on and just totally dismissive and calling back to get an account. Sometimes I'd be like, make them sweat a little bit. Don't improve that account for a few weeks. I'm not vindictive by any means, but I do like to have fun with people. And if you made me sweat for a few years,
Starting point is 01:09:03 I might make you sweat for a couple weeks. sacred geometry tetragrammaton the avant-garde tetragrammaton generative art tetragrammaton the Tarot tetragrammaton out-of-print music tetragrammaton biodynamics tetragrammaton graphic design tetragrammaton mythology and magic tetragrammaton obscure film tetragrammaton beach culture tetragrammaton esoteric lectures tetragrammaton off-the-grid living tetragrammatum beach culture tetragrammatum esoteric lectures tetragrammatum off-the-grid living tetragrammatum alt spirituality tetragrammatum the canon of fine objects tetragrammatum muscle cars tetragrammatum ancient wisdom for a new age
Starting point is 01:10:00 upon entering experience the artwork of the day. Take a breath and see where you are drawn. Was there a moment in time where it felt like it really shifted to being beyond your dream successful? No, still not there. To be honest, I remember being at SGB 40 Under 40. We were nominated and were inducted into the 40 Under 40. That's like these 40 business into the 40 under 40. And that's like, you know, these 40 business leaders under 40 years old.
Starting point is 01:10:47 And it's this big, big deal in the business world, whatever. I don't really care about this stuff. But I remember being asked this question and they're like, so when did Alter become bigger than you thought it would be? And I still remember Brian and Jeremy and I looking at each other and we're like, it's not. Like we thought it'd be bigger. And it wasn't the product.
Starting point is 01:11:05 It was the whole back end side of the business. The accounting, the shipping, the delivery, the customs, the nuts and bolts, the organization of the business that really held us back from being bigger in my opinion. At least that first five, six, seven years, I thought we'd be bigger after four or five years than Altra is now, frankly. Wow. I probably didn't see us being as big as we became in the thru-hiking community.
Starting point is 01:11:32 That one took off really quick, and it was in that first, probably four years, we became the number one shoe on all the long trails. So people hiking Canada, Mexico, hands down, Altras are the highest shoe there. And the ultra-marathoning world that that came really fast too. There's not a lot of those people. I mean, in, in the grand scheme of things, but we did dominate that market pretty
Starting point is 01:11:54 quick and the trail market was about where we had kind of, I think the original vision was like, we ended up being in trail running where we kind of thought we'd be overall and that's still catching up today. Yeah, I imagine it catching up because again, once you wear the shoes, it'd be hard to put on any other shoes. You know, I think where people miss the boat and where that ends up not being true is runners are very beholden to marketing and technology and they're all about fast, you know. And the irony is we've got all these super shoes now
Starting point is 01:12:27 and Altra makes a super shoe called the Vanish Carbonell that's fantastic. But these super shoes for the most part are, they're engineered to make you run faster, but they're also engineered to injure you. And we're seeing an epidemic of runners that are running a lot of miles in these super shoes. And they have these really explosive foams.
Starting point is 01:12:43 They're super bouncy. But the problem is they tend to amplify anything you do wrong as well. So what goes down has to come back up, right? And with these explosive foams, it gets amplified that much more. And so we're seeing this epidemic of injuries. You know, this is where road runners
Starting point is 01:13:00 are just so beholden to this. And the best super shoes are on average making people one to two seconds faster a mile. And for reference, our float run harnesses that we make, our average reviewer is saying they get 30 seconds faster a mile. You pay 12 bucks for a float run harness or spend $300 to $500 on a pair of super shoes. Your choice. One will get you more injured and the one will get you less injured.
Starting point is 01:13:22 And it's the cheaper one that gets you less injured but The thing there is runners are so beholden to that, you know and all the marketing is there all the dollars are spent there and so where we get into a problem is you know people go after that stuff and also Doing this stuff that we're talking about getting your foot back into its natural position, is far more important for all day every day than it is for the 30 minutes a day you run. Average, you know, you have some ultra marathoners that run for an hour plus a day, you know, some elite road runners or higher level road runners that run more than an hour a day,
Starting point is 01:13:58 but for the average person out there, they're running 10 to 30 minutes a day. And you're going to get a lot more benefit having your foot in natural position for all day, every day than you are just for running. And so I always tell people like, at the end of the day, running what you want, you're biomechanically gonna be better and you're gonna be less injured
Starting point is 01:14:17 in a pair of foot shape zero drop cushion shoes. But what you wear all day, every day, getting your foot back into its natural position is going to be a lot more important. So it'd be better to wear ultras or be barefoot during the day than the little bit of time that you're exercising. Absolutely. Yeah, 100%.
Starting point is 01:14:36 And that's where I think people kind of missed the boat in my opinion. And at Altra, we used to do something where we called it the month-long foot-shaped challenge. And we challenged people to wear nothing but foot-shaped shoes for a month. And that included your casual wear as much as your running wear. And when those people did that, it was exactly what you said. Those people that actually took the foot-shaped challenge, very few of them went back to regular shoes at that point in time. But the people that still wore what I would call modern traditional shoes all day and occasionally ran in ultras, it wasn't as hard for them to go back.
Starting point is 01:15:12 Do the great runners tend to be great runners naturally or is it more based on stuff that they've learned? Sprinters are almost completely genetic. You could have the greatest coach in the world, the greatest nutrition, the greatest training and you're either born a great sprinter or you're not. I think the most beautiful thing about distance running is that anybody can be really good. Now, can anybody make it to the Olympics? Probably not. You're kind of born an Olympian or not to a degree but for the most part with distance running, you get in what you put out and this is something my dad has always loved because he came from this non-running background.
Starting point is 01:15:48 He came from being a weightlifter essentially and a really big guy. And you put the work in, you get it out. And it doesn't really matter who you are. It doesn't matter what your genetics are. Like anybody can be respectable. And I love that too, personally. There's not a lot of sports like that, frankly. It's probably the least genetic based sport I can, I can think of.
Starting point is 01:16:11 What's your feeling on heart rate training? I'm a math disciple. Math is Phil Maffetone's method to a degree. So I am basically a believer in training at a really low heart rate for the bulk of my mileage. The number one cause of running injuries is supposedly over training. It's training with the wrong technique. It's straining your body too much. So I guess in that sense it's over training. And the best way to combat over training
Starting point is 01:16:34 and therefore running injuries is just to freaking slow down. It should be enjoyable. And I don't know really always how to explain it to people, but I know that when I tell them to do it, almost everybody comes back to me and is like, well, I have to walk at that heart rate or like that's too slow. Like I don't feel like I'm running. And it's like, yeah, well, that's kind of how it is at first, then your body adapts. Next thing you know, you're running at that same heart rate
Starting point is 01:16:57 a few months later and you're going a lot faster. And for me, I kind of describe it like this. Sometimes my wife will call me on while I'm out on a run. And a few minutes into my run, she'll be like, are you running right now? And that's a good way to describe if you're running at the right heart rate most of the time is somebody could give you a call on the phone
Starting point is 01:17:16 and they might not know you're running for a while. It might take them a while before they're like, oh, you're out running, aren't you? And what people don't understand with this is the way the aerobic engine is built, it doesn't matter whether you're running at the top end of your aerobic zone or the bottom end of your aerobic zone,
Starting point is 01:17:31 you get the same benefit either way. So you might as well run slower and put more volume in, which also does less muscle damage, which means you're more recovered so that when you do wanna go fast or hard, you're more fresh and able to do that. So essentially you get the same benefit. You can put in more volume and you're fresher to hit it harder when you want to hit it harder. And that's why it works.
Starting point is 01:17:53 And I don't hear a lot of people talk about that why of the component and I'm a big why guy. When did you first hear about Phil Maffetone? My mom went to a Maffetone coaching thing when I believe Saqni, who was her sponsor at the time, probably early 90s sometime, probably somewhere around the time I ran my first marathon. And it took a while and I probably didn't fully embrace it all the way until about the time I started Ultra again. And I haven't had a major running injury since that time. So it's been 13 years now and I've never had an IT band
Starting point is 01:18:29 injury or a knee injury or shin splints or, you know, runner's knee or any of this stuff. Tell me about your first marathon. So when I think about it, I feel like I'm talking about somebody else's life. And maybe it's cause when you run long distance, you burn brain cells and I just burned too many brain cells running as a young kid. You know, my parents, they had read that the longer kids crawl the more intelligent they'd be. There were some studies on this.
Starting point is 01:18:55 And so they always pushed me down whenever I stand up to walk. And I just got pushed down all the time as a toddler. And one day they set me outside the car and didn't realize there was a playground there. And I had never walked before, but supposedly I took off running and ran to the playground before I had ever done any extensive walking. I maybe got a step, two, three steps in before I got knocked over.
Starting point is 01:19:17 That was me running before I walked, supposedly. Again, I don't remember this. And I ran at a young age. My parents were race directors, so put races on. So I ended up running races. I just liked it. And when I was eight, I won the World Youth Championships and it was kind of like this was a shorter race, like 3K, I think.
Starting point is 01:19:36 And it was kind of like, what's next? And my next door neighbor was an Olympic trials qualifier as well in the marathon. My mom was a multi-time Olympic trials qualifier. My mom was the state record holder in the marathon. My dad was elite as well, and I remember just thinking, well, the St. George Marathon is like the thing. I mean, they do Boston and stuff too, but really, at least in my circle,
Starting point is 01:20:01 St. George Marathon was the thing everybody keyed in on. And if you're not familiar with this, St. George is down by Las Vegas, Nevada, beautiful red rock scenery. It's basically a road marathon that looks like it should be a trail race. It's just gorgeous start to finish. And I was like, well, everybody else does that. I want to do that. I was like, hey, dad, I want to run the St. George. He's like, you're eight. No, you know. And so that year, I turned nine, and that year at St. George, the youngest runner wins the performance of the day trophy.
Starting point is 01:20:34 Which is the six foot tall trophy. And I'm telling you, to a little sawed off, around four foot tall, nine year old runner, there's nothing more cool than a six foot tall trophy. That is the pinnacle of life at that point in time. And I just remember turning to my dad, I'm watching the awards ceremony. And he ran, this kid was 12, ran four and a half hour marathon,
Starting point is 01:20:55 which is super impressive. And I just remember turning to my dad and just being like, if you would have let me run, I would have got that cool trophy. And I never let it go. Like I just kept pestering him and pestering him. And the next spring, at one point he was just like, fine, fine, just leave me alone. If you run rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, harder than a marathon.
Starting point is 01:21:17 And you run up Mount Timpanogos and back, you know, also harder than a marathon and do these other couple things that are marathon equivalents basically. I'll let you run the marathon. And I really think the thinking at the time was like, he'll realize that this is a horrible idea that this is super painful and it takes a ton of commitment. And you know, he'll try to do one of these things and just like pull the plug and go back to running short stuff or you know, playing basketball. I played a ton of basketball and football as a kid.
Starting point is 01:21:47 And I'm kind of messed up because I liked it. In fact, we went and ran Rim to Rim and this is kind of where it started and ended and I got done the first day and I suffered but like they were doing Havasupai the next day. And if you know about Have a Supai, it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. Kind of same thing. It's at least a marathon level effort to run down into Have a Supai and back out.
Starting point is 01:22:11 And they were gonna do that the next day, my dad and his friends that I was with. And they were like, okay, you've had enough, right? And I was like, no, I'm going to Have a Supai. So I ended up running 50 miles in two days, basically back to back marathons as a nine-year-old unbelievable and that was it you know at that point the writing was on the wall right I was going to do Mount Tipinogos and I was gonna do these other things and it wasn't gonna be a
Starting point is 01:22:34 problem and so he was essentially lost a bet with me was forced to let me run and you know it's not like I was doing all this specific training or anything but I had done things that were harder than the race. Had no expectations. It was just like, I go out and have fun. Three hours, eight minutes, five seconds. Wow.
Starting point is 01:22:51 And this is seven minutes a mile. And- For a marathon. Yeah, for a marathon. State record. Nine year old. I turned 10 right before the race. So I was 10 on race day.
Starting point is 01:23:00 And of course the next couple of years, I ran faster and I'm know, I'm about the same speed as the elite Olympic trials qualifying woman. And they don't like that. You know, that's an ego blow when a four-foot tall sawed-off runt with red hair goes by. Lots of swear words. I learned a lot of new vocabulary at that point in time. It sounds super fun.
Starting point is 01:23:25 It really was. And it still is for me. And I think I think that's like one of the biggest pieces of advice I give to people is like, make it fun. You know, I live in a place now in Golden, Colorado. I've got about 20 trailheads within a 15 minute drive. And for me, any day I want to go, it's just like, what sounds fun today? What do I want to do?
Starting point is 01:23:43 I want to go get my hands dirty and scramble up a cliffside or, you know, do I want to climb up it's just like, what sounds fun today? What do I want to do? Do I want to go get my hands dirty and scramble off a cliffside? Or do I want to climb up a mountain and bomb down this trail? Or do I want to go through the deep, dark, enchanted forest in the snow? Who knows? So I think that's a big piece of things.
Starting point is 01:23:58 You hit it on the head. It should be fun. Is it as much fun for you as it's always been? I think it might even be more fun. That's great. I don't know. I'll tell you this, I'm on break right now. There's this book, Train Hard, Win Easy by Toby Tanzer.
Starting point is 01:24:10 He went and lived with the canyons, right? And he writes in the book that a lot of these world champions don't run three months of the year. They just totally take it off. No workouts at all. And when I read that, I was like, well, I should do that. If the best in the world are doing that, I should try that. And I think that has been one thing
Starting point is 01:24:27 that has always kept it fun for me is, I've always taken two, three months off. I don't run, I do other stuff. It's winter right now, I snowboard, I snowshoe, I play basketball, I do pickleball, you name it. It shouldn't be rote and routine and boring. If that's the way it's happening, find something else to do. Thank you.

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