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Don’t Melt Your Shoes at Home, Kids: The Altra Story (Brian Beckstead)

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  • April 16, 2020

Sometimes you follow your gut for problem solving. And sometimes you follow your … feet?

That, at least, is what Brian Beckstead did when he co-founded the running shoe company Altra. Looking to solve both his own running shoe problems and the problems of clients hitting up a store where he sold running shoes, he worked with a partner to design a shoe that did what they needed.

What can designing a running shoe teach about building a business? And how does staying in touch with the outdoors make a difference? Brian shares his secrets as well as a few tips about shoe design (hint: it involves a toaster oven) in this fascinating episode.

Some of the good stuff:

[1:15] Brian’s favorite outdoor space
[2:54] How Biran came to make Amy’s favorite shoes
[6:25] How do shoes smell in a toaster over?
[10:53] What does “zero drop” mean?
[14:06] Why you shop at local shoe stores
[15:10] Where the name “Altra” comes from
[17:51] How spending time outside helped Brian found Altra
[20:55] How to inspire people to become outdoorsy
[26:45] Brian’s advice for starting a business
[32:55] How spending time outside plays into helping others
[35:18] Some of Brian’s favorite places
[36:20] Biran’s new job at Altra
[37:45] Brian’s favorite outdoor gear
[39:00] Brian’s most essential outdoor gear
[40:40] Brian’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Mentioned in the show:

Altra Shoes
Altra Escalante
Cross country running
Bunions
Neuromas
Hammer toes
Mount Marathon
Laura Vanderkam
Bryce Canyon National Park
Orem, Utah
Fly fishing
Ultra Trail Mount Fuji
New Zealand

Favorite Gear: Altra Lone Peak Shoes & Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System

Most Essential Gear: Positive Attitude

Affiliate links included above.

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Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.  

AB: When it comes to outdoor gear, we know that the most important thing is to find something that works well for you, even if that means hacking it yourself and creating your own thing. But what if the thing you create to solve your own problems also solves the problems faced by a lot of other people? What if you can turn your own problem solving and love for the outdoors into helping other people too? Well, that’s exactly how today’s guest, Brian Beckstead became the co-founder of Altra Shoe Brand. Brian, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

BB: It’s great to be here, Amy.

AB: So we like to start each of these shows imagining that we are with our guests in their favorite outdoor space. So where are we with you today?

BB: Well, you know, I live here in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. I love them. I’m looking at the mountains out my window right now and it’s my home – the mountains here in Utah. It’s where I run. It’s where I fish, hike, rock climb, and just spend time outdoors. So that’s my happy place, right here on the Wasatch Back. I’m on the backside of it, just outside of Park City, Utah, and that’s my happy place. I just absolutely love it up here.

AB: Awesome. So you know how much of a fan I am of your shoes. You totally did not pay me to say that, by the way. 

BB: You’ve probably paid me a lot more at this point!

AB: I think I really have. We might be safer to not really talk about that and quantify it. Just for the sake of my own sanity and for my husband who’s probably going to listen to this later. 

But I’ve been wearing Altras for almost all of my running life since a local shoe store put me in them in 2012. And by the way, I’ve forgiven you all for discontinuing my favorite style. That’s fine. I’ve moved on, just so you know.

BB: Sorry. It’s the Intuition, I remember.

AB: Yeah, when we met up here in Alaska last year, I had not gotten over it. At that point, it was fresh. It was a fresh injury. 

So as I said earlier, you and your fellow co-founders are a perfect example of the saying “necessity is the mother of invention.” So give us some background on how it was. You went from a guy who likes to run to being a guy who created my favorite running shoes.

BB: Sure. My partner is named Golden Harper. And we met the first day of high school, actually. So we go back a really long time. It was at cross country practice the very first day of practice in high school that we met. And so we became friends very quickly and within a year I was working at his dad’s running store. So that was 22 years ago that I’ve been in the running industry and just a complete running dork, shoe nerd in high school and worked at the store and we were very competitive runners both in track and cross country, just totally fell in love with it. And you know, that continued on into college. We both ran in college. He was more successful both in high school and college at that distance, but we just really loved it. I began running trails after tibial stress fractures in both legs, so that’s 4 stress fractures in 12 months that ended my college running career. You know, I’m selling people running shoes every single day, and yet, the running injury rates have not gone down since, you know, modern running shoes were invented 50 years ago. And so that was always something that weighed on my mind because I suffered from a lot of running injuries throughout my career, and it just drove me crazy. Golden and I both went to different universities, but we both started researching a lot of the same things and that was exercise science. I went into a little bit more of an outdoor rec field, he went into a little bit more fitness and wellness field, but both of us were under the heading of exercise science and we started doing research. You know, we worked at a running store so we had tons of shoes. 

And so we started researching the various shoes and we started looking at how people ran barefoot versus in one shoe versus another shoe. We found that it was very different, the way people run in shoes. And our running store was really unique, particularly at the time, where we would actually talk about biomechanics regularly, which in the late 90s and early 2000s, that was not a thing. And so as we started, you know, teaching people running mechanics and then doing research on it, we found that shoes often, well, shoes, inherently modern running shoes inherently encourage poor biomechanics. They encourage a heel strike, and they, you know, encourage you to lean back and not to just slow your cadence down. And so that’s something that really bothered us and so we were always pushing for the running shoe companies to build us lighter weight, more neutral shoes. And at one point in time, Golden decided to put a pair of shoes in the toaster oven and heat up the midsole and then trim it down. And that was the first time that someone had called the shoe “zero drop” and that’s what he called it as he took out the drop of the shoe. So that’s kind of our term. That’s one of our babies is zero drop. And it kind of was like this aha moment and he started calling me and a couple of our other friends and we started hacking up all these shoes and doing experiments on them.

AB: So how does a shoe that’s been melted in the toaster oven smell? What are the health side effects of melting your shoes?

BB: It’s a good question. It’s a really good question. 

So if you do it just right, in a toaster oven specifically, you might fringe the shoe laces just a little bit, but ultimately you’re just trying to soften up the glue and the midsole. Ultimately, there are limitations in the toaster oven. And we very quickly moved on to band saws and belt sanders that were much cleaner and more effective and less detrimental to sniffing glue and all that stuff. So that’s what we started doing. We would actually bandsaw the shoes up to the forefoot, we would belt sand, the heel down and glue the shoe back together. It was a very simple process, but it was very effective. And we started using it ourselves. And it was awesome. And soon we started recommending a few injured runners to use it as well because people would come into the store and they were injured and they had issues. We were like — well, you can always try this thing that we came up with. Soon word started spreading because it worked. People’s shin splints were going away, people’s lower back problems were going away. Their rolled ankles out on the trail, they had less rolled ankles, and all of a sudden it was just booming. And people started coming into the store saying — hey, I want to buy one of your zero drop shoes. And we were like — we don’t have zero drop shoes. And they were like — well, we know that you cut up shoes. 

And so all of a sudden word started spreading and so we started hacking up all sorts of shoes. We started sending out surveys with every one of those pairs of shoes saying — hey, if you bring this back, we’ll give you a $5 off your next purchase. Well, that first year we did nearly 1,000 modifications to shoes. So people were buying brand new pairs of shoes, spending $20 to then have it hacked up and glued back together. And people were just loving it. It was crazy. It was just this weird thing that happened. 

And we didn’t even think about starting a shoe company initially. In fact, what we started doing is giving our research our ideas and our concepts to other brands. So the sales reps would come in and we’d be like — look what we’re doing your shoes. Here’s the research. This is amazing. Please build the shoe.

AB: Right, because what’s way easier than starting your company is getting the company you already use to do the thing you need.

BB: Yeah, yeah, we were runners, we owned a running store. We were like — look, we’re selling your shoes, but we think we have some really cool ideas that that are going to help people and from our experience, here’s the research and you know, yes, people get a sore calves the first few weeks of using the shoe, but overall their other injury rates are going down and you know, here’s the angle of impact as in slow motion video and all these things that we were showcasing that we really, ultimately built the foundation of our company off of. 

We ended up going to a couple big trade shows that happen around the country and we got meetings with shoe designers and engineers and all these things. And we got laughed at actually. You know some people were very polite, and other brands really were quite rude. Golden’s cousin Jeremy Hallett said, “Why don’t you guys start a shoe company on this?” And you know, there was kind of a hoo hum and, and finally, one thing led to another and Jeremy did a little research on you know, what it would cost and so forth. And next thing we know, we found an advanced prototype company up in Portland, Oregon to give us a quote on what it would cost and next thing we know, we should start searching for a few angel investors and all of a sudden we have a shoe company. And that was all 2009. 

When 2009 started, I had no idea that I would ever start a shoe company. It was not a goal. It was not a plan. And ultimately, I think it just boils down the, you know, we started with the customer experience, we didn’t start out like — hey, let’s start a company. What idea can I come up with to make a bunch of money on a shoe company? You know, instead it was — Look, I’m a runner. At that point, I’d already been doing ultras, I did my first ultra marathon in 2005. And I’ve been doing several, you know, hundred mile races and 50 mile races at the time and I was struggling through some injuries and blisters. And we just felt like there had to be a better way to build a running shoe.

AB: For our non-running listeners, because I know they’re out there. Even though you know, you’re missing out – start running today.Tell us why a zero drop or a foot shaped toe box matters for both not runners and non-runners. Why is that important? What difference does that make from it? 

BB: Yeah, it’s a great question. And we find that more and more people in different sports and pursuits are adopting a lot of our concepts. And just a reminder, for those listeners who haven’t heard a lot about Altra, zero drop is – we’re actually kind of using a different term now a little bit, we’re calling “balanced cushioning.” Okay, it means the same thing, right? But ultimately, we’re taking the heel out of the shoes, you’re flat in our shoes, right? And the philosophy is — look, if nature wanted you with an elevated heel, why weren’t you born that way? Our bodies know best. That’s one of the main concepts. 

The second is our foot-shaped toe box. We feel like other brands really taper your toe box and that causes bunions, neuromas, hammer toes, and our toe box is a little roomier, right, let’s those toes splay and balance. 

Third, we’re gender specific. Unfortunately, most brands, they shrink it and pink, ladies, you’re basically wearing men’s jeans when it comes to footwear, and so we wanted to fix that. So those are the main concepts. 

We were runners and we used it primarily for running, but all of a sudden people were adopting it for lifting weights, you know, for CrossFit and weightlifting. My mom turns 80 here in two months, and it helped her and her bunions and her feet so much, just as a walker. You know, we are the number one footwear brand on the Pacific Coast Trail, the Appalachian Trail, all these long through hikers. 

And what you’re going to get from us, whether you’re running or walking or just standing, is a more natural alignment of your body, from your ankles to your knees to your lower back. We align you naturally so your toes can splay which is going to create balance. It’s going to create shock attenuation and really allow your feet to be in a more natural position and healthier. And so regardless of your athletic pursuit, we feel like your body needs to be aligned naturally and that’s what we do.

AB: Earlier you mentioned that biomechanics weren’t weren’t a big deal when you first started doing this. I wanted to mention for everyone if they are looking for, you know, maybe a shoe or what works better for them, biomechanics are totally a thing now. Any running store you go into will be able – well, that’s really worth being in, right – will have some sort of treadmill and system set up to help you determine what works best for you. And so listeners, if you are looking for a new shoe, no matter what it’s for, head into a running, even if you’re not a runner, and have them do a gait analysis on you and figure out what really works for you and what you need to help you. It’s a tremendous resource, and of course, big proponent here, supporting your local stores and shop small and all that good stuff. So that’s a great way to do that too.

BB: Yeah. And you know, going back to that as well, our store that we started out is still open to this day. It’s a single door in Orem, Utah. It’s called Runner’s Corner. You know, we come from that small mom and pop mindset. And so our brand is really strong and built around customer service, you know? We aren’t in any self service, big box – anywhere you’re going to find Altra, it’s going to be a full sit and fit process. We spent a lot of time on training people. 

And the other thing to look at is a lot of the video analysis that was out back in the day was just looking at purely pronation, which is just a really close up on the back of the heel. And we really want to look at it from a full body perspective. You know, how does that align your hips and then where’s your landing angle, you know, from the side profile? And so for us, it’s really about the full experience, and I think our brands and a really good job of encouraging the retailers and the customers to have that full biomechanical experience in our footwear and in the training process and buying process.

AB: Where does the name Altra come from? What is that?

BB: Yes. Okay. So first of all, just got to put this in perspective. We were three guys in our 20s in a basement with like, almost no business experience. And it was really cool that we were able to just do it differently, right? I think that despite that lack of experience, we were savvy and we were keeping the customer in mind. And we also knew that we had a lot of uphill battle against big companies. And so one of the really simple – this sounds so dumb. But one of the simple things we did was say we want an A name – we want to be top of the list alphabetically. We know we’re going to have to fight our way up there. We know that the industry is cutthroat and very few footwear brands have made it. Recently there’s been a few new ones which have been really fun – Altra and Hoka. And some of these other smaller footwear brands have actually made it, but prior to that, there was nobody, so we knew we had an uphill battle. 

So we start with an A name, right? We wanted an A name. And a bunch of the words that we wrote down, we wrote down 100 different words that we wanted our brand to be that were aspirational, whether they were started with an A or not. And it just happened that a bunch of our words that we used were that we were alternative. We started by altering our shoes. I was an ultra runner. And then we found a word in Latin, it’s called altaira. And one of the translations of it was to change or fix that which is broken. And we really felt that we were changing and fixing an industry that was broken. We felt that we were changing athletes and people alike that were broken, that were hurt. And so that really clicked. And so that’s where Altra really came from, is kind of a conglomeration of, you know, fixing that which is broken, that we’re ultra runners, and that we’re alternative, and that we started by altering shoes and so forth. And that’s kind of the genesis of the name Altra.

AB: So you really started creating these because you were spending so much time outside that you were looking for gear that worked for you, like we said earlier. Spending time outside was the spark for your business. But running a business is really stressful. How did spending time outside help you navigate that? So I mean, asked another way, outdoors was a business lab. But did it also serve a function for you as a person?

BB: Um, great question. So one of the fun things that happened at the time is I had actually moved on from the running store and I was working at a ski shop. And Golden was managing the store still. And so what we would do is we would take Thursdays off work. That was our day off – Saturdays were usually busy days. And so we took Thursdays off and that was our day. And I would drive to the running shop and we would go running every single day, every Thursday, together as a group. And we would talk about the shoes and about our ideas while running and after the run we would go and just sit for hours and hours and hours and hours, talking and brainstorming. 

And on the other Thursdays instead of running, I would get free ski passes and we would ski. A lot of our ideas were formulated on the ski lift or out running and then the follow up from that. I think that being outside just for me, not just from a business standpoint, but also personal it’s so stress relieving that it creates so much creativity and that blood flow and oxygen. It’s just fantastic. I mean, I’ve been doing it my whole life. I kind of have that ants in my pants, that you know, school was always hard, sitting still for me and I just feel like I’m so much healthier and happier when I’m outside. I do a lot of outdoor sports, running obviously is where my business is, but I’m also a big skier in the winters. I am a big fly fisherman. I love fly fishing. And you know, I was just out Sunday, it was freaking cold outside, but I wanted to get out on the river and fish. Being outdoors for me is such a mental health break. But it also stems and brings about so much creativity, even 10 years, 11 years ago, starting Altra and even today, you know, I still go outside every day, almost every day, doing some athletic pursuit. It just is so healthy for me on multiple levels.

AB: People have good ideas all the time. I mean, right? There is plenty of research out there saying exactly what you’re saying – that spending time outside spending time in nature makes you more creative, right? You know, like that feeling you’re describing of being clear minded, better able to think, knock out those cobwebs. I mean, that is, in my experience that is 100% a thing. I’m glad you agree. 

It’s also foundational to what we’re doing here at the Humans Outside Podcast, which is this idea of spending 20 minutes outside every single day can not just make you a healthier person, but just dramatically change what you are able to do and how you’re able to do it with this very simple habit. It’s not rocket science, it’s just building it into your lifestyle. 

What do you think is the difference between someone who built that into their lifestyle and someone who maybe just can’t get started with that? Is it just like you have to make a decision or is there something else going on?

BB: You know, that’s always perplexed me because, to me, the benefits are so apparent. And I think it takes time, you know? I was raised in an environment where we did a lot of athletic pursuits. I played a lot of sports and you know, my family would go camping all the time and so I kind of grew up in that and so I’m a little spoiled. A lot of times I hear — but it’s so hard to get started. And it’s hard for me to fully understand that, but I think there’s got to be a level of just explanation to others. I’ve heard this a lot and I’m guilty of this, I am so guilty of this. Brian, like so hardcore and passionate and do ultras and all this stuff, that we as an industry and as a company and as a person, I’m talking about these huge endeavors that I do, and it kind of scares people away. 

And I think that that’s something that Altra has tried to do the last couple years is make running or trail running or hiking or walking less hardcore and a little bit more approachable for those who maybe weren’t raised in that environment. Because, you know, for a lot of people, that’s just so different for them, you know, and how can we make that more accessible? And I think that education is huge. I think that showing the benefits and sharing those benefits are very helpful in bringing Couch to 5K, I think is something that we’ve really supported that saying — look, you can get off the couch and you can run or even walk three miles. I mean, you can do it and how do we inspire these people who weren’t raised in that scenario? Or who’ve, you know, gained some weight through various things? How can we make it more approachable? I think that’s, that’s that’s a hard task. And I think we just have to chip away at it as an industry, as people, and just as society because the benefits are massive.

AB: Well, I think it’s like any habit, right? I mean, there’s plenty of things that we know are good for us that we don’t do. You know, getting enough sleep at night is a great example. Right? So, okay, I have to make the choice to go to bed and not finish bingeing whatever this TV show is, right? And it’s not hard to get off my couch and go to sleep. It’s literally, I mean, it’s almost the same activity as what I’m doing right now, right? But it’s making that effort and that decision and making that a priority to stop what I’m doing and go to bed to get my, you know, seven to eight hours. 

But going outside is the same thing, right? We think we don’t have time, you think you don’t, you know, have accessibility and we make it too complicated, right? It’s not complicated. I am able to find time because I made it. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, right? So it’s a logistical question instead of a priority question. One of my favorite productivity folks, her name’s Laura Vanderkam, made that point in a podcast I listened to recently. So I want to give credit for that saying.

But it’s a logistic question, right? It’s more like — When am I going to do it? Not if. That means I have to prioritize it around traveling, right? So if I’m in the airport, recently, I decked out of the secure area, I had a little bit of a long layover with my kids, decked out of there and walked on the curb outside by the drop off area at the airport. But guess what, like the sky was still blue. The sun was still on my face. It just happened to be surrounded by cars. Okay, so was that ideal? No, but it was better than nothing. 

I think this is exactly what you’re saying. We make it too hardcore. We make it too unachievable, but it doesn’t have to be, it’s just a habit. It’s just doing it. 

BB: We always joke about this. When I was in my outdoor recreation courses, I saw that birdwatching is apparently the largest sport in America. And we chuckle because, well, is that really a sport? I mean, right? But at the same time, like that’s awesome. I mean literally, go birdwatching, like just go get outside and take a little walk, you know, walk your dog. Like just find ways, and I really like your attitude. I think that’s awesome. It’s not if, it’s when. Like it is going to happen, it’s going to be a priority. And whether it’s just one of those small simple things like that, like walking the dog, or if it is going out and running 10 miles, make it a priority. Find a way and I think most people who’ve made it a priority agreed that it is worth it.

AB: So if someone is working on a big project or new idea, like you did with Altra, what is your advice?

BB: Well, you know, I think you have to make sure that you believe. We got to a point with Altra where funding was really hard. This was 2009 and early 2010. Trying to get funding post-recession was really hard. And it would have been so easy for us to just say — Well, that was fun. That was nice.

If you’re going to start a big project like, you know, your own company, you are investing in your future. And if you’re going to do it on that scale, you really just have to believe in what you’re doing. We got to a point funding wise where we needed cash. And I went and talked to my dad and just, you know, my dad didn’t have a ton of money, but just said — Hey, do you know of anybody? You’re connected, you have friends. Is there anybody I can approach? And it was a really, really powerful experience for me that he came back with a check and said, “This is your inheritance. If you don’t pay me back, it’s totally fine. You’re not going to get anything when I die.” And it was cool that my dad trusted me, I didn’t ask him for money. And second of all, I was willing to risk my inheritance to start Altra. And to me, that was the level of belief and dedication that I was willing to do to make it successful. You hear all these statistics, 90, whatever percent of businesses don’t make it and I think that a lot of them, it’s just the idea’s maybe not great and a lot of it’s just that they don’t persevere. They’re not willing to take that risk and as an individual, you have to be passionate about that if you’re going to make it.

AB: Yeah, you know, I heard another speaker say at some point like — you don’t get to get tired of this, you know, you don’t have to take a break. You don’t get to quit if you really want this, if you really believe in it. You have to be out there selling your idea, or pursuing it, or supporting it, or doing whatever it is that needs to be done to make it successful every single day.

BB: Yeah. And if you think it’s a clock in clock out nine to five, you are kidding yourself. It is all-consuming. I mean, there was a you know, at this point I’ve been able to step back a little bit and you know, responsibilities have changed. I was president for six years and I just got to the point where it was so hard and so stressful that I was able to recognize that and take a step back. But at the same time, there was, you know, seven or eight years where I would dream in Altra language. I mean, it was 24/7. I was thinking about it, experiencing it, living it. It was all my conversations, it was all my thoughts. And it takes that level of dedication and passion. Because it is not a nine to five, starting your own company. And those of you who have started the company, you know that it is all-consuming. Ultimately there has to be an element of just timing and luck, you know? I mean, Altra came around at the right time, and we got lucky, but we also put our heart and souls into it.

AB: I read something from you that you said, when you were running your company, you wish you had spent more time stepping back to reshare your mission and core values more often than you had. How does that translate to your personal life? Do you have a practice for your person for like maybe a personal mission or core values? Whether that’s something you explicitly have written down or just sort of refocus on that you spend time and maybe rededicating yourself to?

BB: Yeah, you know, um, that’s a great question. In fact, you know, just kind of going on pump up on my last point, Altra did at one point almost become all-consuming and I didn’t balance out my personal mission as much as I should have. You know, for years, it was great. You have to put in some level of dedication and I wish that I would have done a better job of balancing my personal and Altra because Altra was so all-encompassing. I wish I would have maybe balanced that out a little sooner. You know, once Altra was successful, I wish I would have delegated and maybe trusted some of my employees and built that out a little bit better. But now having a little more time to think about this and to look back on my experiences, it’s been more and more important to me to set personal goals. You know, I’ve always been very goal-oriented. 

And it’s always been, I’m going to go run x race. So I’m going to go and achieve this. And sometimes running that 100 mile race in such and such a time, it’s great to get that goal, but that’s ultimately not what’s most important in life. And I think I’ve been able to step back these last two years, on a personal level, and set a lot more of those balance goals that look like — this is who I am. This is what I believe in. This is what I stand for. You know, for me, I’m a family guy. I’ve got three awesome kids, a wonderful wife, and it’s a priority for me to spend more time with them, to give them more of my attention. You know, Altra, you know, our mission statement is, you know, to really unleash human potential and help them help the world move naturally. You know, that’s our goal. We want people to unleash, right? To be able to step up and achieve their goals and to find that balance. And on a personal level, it’s sometimes hard. It’s a hard balance. But for me, I have to be outside every day. I want to be around my family and I have worked really hard in terms of finding that balance in life.

AB: I also read in an interview where you talked about the importance of believing in something that is unique. And I mean, really believing that to that level of dedication that we are just talking about, right? So I noticed that people who spend a lot of time outside or pursuing health in nature have as a core value, wanting to help other people to do the same. Really believing that is why I started a podcast, but of course, it’s just not me. I mean, it’s not just me, right? Do you find that that’s true? And how do you think that outdoor-centric living plays into that and why?

BB: Well, you can go on so many levels in terms of this. You know, for me when I, when I haven’t been exercising as regularly, there’s been times where I’ve taken way too much time off from it and I feel the difference and people who haven’t experienced that, they just don’t know. But for me, there’s so many benefits from mental health to physical health. When we look at a mass population and we look at rising healthcare costs and obesity levels and things like that, and there are ways to help people with their mental health, there are ways to help people physically, there are ways to help society improve. And when you see that and experience it, it’s just this inherent nature that you do want to help others. 

People take it to new levels in certain scenarios, but when you’re outside and you get to experience those benefits – it’s not like, if I experience it, you can’t, right? Anybody and everybody can experience it. So why don’t they? and let’s help them receive those benefits that we have all felt from being outdoors, in motion, and just getting that fresh air and sunlight. It’s just so important. We want to share those positive experiences, we can all win by doing it. My health care costs will go down if more people do it, right? I mean, it’s so beneficial to humans individually and society that we need to do more of it.

AB: Yeah, totally. You’ve done a lot of pretty cool travel with, or rather on behalf of the brand. So including, I think, coming up here to Alaska for Mount Marathon again. Am I right on that?

BB: Yeah, I’ve done that marathon twice. I’m hoping that I can get back in again this year. I’m planning to go to Alaska every summer. Alaska is one of my favorite places in the world.

AB: Okay, so other than Alaska, obviously because it’s great, what are some of your other favorite stops that you’ve made?

BB: I think that the world is just an amazing place. I’ve been so lucky to be able to travel when I was a little bit younger with my dad. And then with Altra, I get to travel all over the world. And I think that you just really appreciate the positives of so many societies and outdoor spaces. For me, one of my favorite experiences, I was able to do Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, which is an ultra that circumnavigates Mount Fuji during cherry blossom season in April. I mean, it was just like, how does this place even exist? It’s just magical. You know, it’s like out of a Disney movie. And you know, New Zealand’s one of my favorite places. I love that you can be on a warm sandy beach in the morning and then you can be on top of a massive peak in the afternoon. And so I just think the world’s an amazing place. I’ve been really lucky to be able to explore a lot of those things and like I started off the conversation, I still to this day, love the Utah mountains. I was born here. I run in them most days. I see them every single day of my life. And it just, I just love it.

AB: What’s next for you in the brand? And how can people follow you?

BB: We got acquired for the second time and the new ownership group said — Hey, you know, we can hire someone to do revenue projections and inventory forecasts and budget reviews. We can’t hire someone to go tell the story like you can. And so my role with Altra is this – doing a lot of these podcasts and speaking engagements, but this last nine months, that’s been my focus. I am out and about trying to share the Altra story with others, the benefits of Altra, the story of Altra, how unique we are, our differentiation on product, the health benefits, and just, you know, share my passion about the brand and the outdoors and how much I love it. So that’s kind of new for me. I’m also working on some of those core values and brand strategy as a brand, but that’s my role. You know, I am, I’m very active on social media, you can find me @brian_altra on Instagram, Brian Beckstead on Facebook, etc. But I’m just out here trying to encourage people to live a healthy life and we believe that Altra can help people do that.

AB: Okay, so now it’s time for our leftovers or lightning round. So tell us what is your favorite outdoor gear item? Doesn’t have to be shoes, but it totally could be okay.

BB: I’m going to share two items real fast. I know I have to pick one. First of all, Lone Peak. The Altra Lone Peak is – people say — you know, such and such shoe feels like it’s made for my foot. I’m really lucky that the Altra Lone Peak is literally made for my foot. It has been my shoe on so many races on so many levels. I’ve run more miles in the various models of Lone Peaks that I just love it. I can’t imagine not having that shoe. I think as well as it’s sold, I think a lot of people would feel similar. So that’s my favorite. 

The other thing that I’ve discovered over the last few years is, I’m trying to remember the name now, that Katadyn soft flask bottle. You know, an ultra is an exploration. It’s always hard like — okay, well I’ve got to take all this water with me or I have to bring a water purifying filter. And if you’ve seen this Katadyn filter, you just dip it in any river and you suck right out of it and it just purifies it as you’re sucking through. It has changed my running and my hiking because I don’t have to take as much water with me. I don’t have to stop and filter it over time. It is just an awesome bottle.

AB: Cool. I’ll have to look that one up. So what’s your most essential outdoor gear? Maybe it’s the same, doesn’t have to be.

BB: Okay, I’m going to give a different answer on this one. My most essential outdoor gear in my mind is a positive attitude. A can do attitude. Man, you know, soak in the moments de-stress. Be in that mental state where you’re able to maximize your outdoor experience. That’s what I like.

AB: Man, are you ever right about that though, right? Because if you’re, let’s be honest, being outside is not always great, right? It’s cold, the weather’s bad. You know, maybe things aren’t going the way you want them to. Maybe you don’t feel good, maybe the snacks got left in the car, right? So many things can happen that are not the picture perfect walk in the woods that you were expecting. But man, having a good attitude really puts all that stuff in perspective and makes it so much easier to overcome it.

BB: Yep. I mean, I’ve seen in terms of finishing hundred mile races. You know, when you go down mentally sometimes in those races, it’s going to end your race. I’ve been there where it’s been so painful and you just want to die, but you say — hey look, I can do this. I’m going to focus. The human body’s amazing. That mental fortitude has gotten me to the finish of multiple ultra marathons and frankly, I’ve dropped out of some of them because of bad mental spaces. So enjoy the moment, be present, and focus on the positive.

AB: Man, if that’s not the realest. Alright, your favorite outdoor moment ever. Close your eyes. Think about a time outdoors that gives you joy. Where are you and what are you doing?

BB: You know, I think there was one that really comes to mind that’s been really powerful for me. I was really struggling in this race. I kind of rebounded the last mile – like a 50 mile race, it was so hot and again, kind of a mental fortitude. Like I can do this and I just kind of got through it and I got to the finish. Right before the finish line, my kids see me and they just come screaming towards me, all three of them, and they just caught a lizard and they wanted to show me. They were so happy and so excited and they showed it to me and then I said — hey, I gotta get to the finish line. Can you guys help me? I had two kids on both sides, one kid on each hand, and then my little girl was literally hands on my butt, just pushing me. And we all trotted in together and it was such an awesome, awesome experience that I was able to push through this really difficult race and difficult experience and come out of it with my kids and my wife there to support me. It was just really awesome. 

And I was sitting there, I was ready to puke. And my little boy, he was five at the time, and he came over to me, put his arm around me and didn’t say a word. He just put his cheek on my cheek and he knew I was hurting. It was so awesome to be out in the – it was actually in Bryce Canyon National Park. So here I am in this unbelievable area, I was hurting and just having that. That was just a really powerful experience for me. I just absolutely loved it, having my kids there, and being able to push myself that day. And it was just an awesome, awesome experience.

AB: On that note, thank you so much for talking to us today and for being on the Humans Outside Podcast. We really appreciate it. 

BB: My pleasure.

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