People of Siouxland – Portraits of the Extraordinary – Robert Iron Shell
Native American, World-Class Athlete & Entrepreneur

Robert Iron Shell knows what it’s like to live in the fast lane. 

After all, the 27-year-old is one of the fastest Native American sprinters in the country. 

“In track, I get what I put into it,” said Robert. 

Robert, a Rosebud Sioux member, has put in an incredible amount of dedication to the sport. In all sprint running races, every hundredth of a second lost or gained in the race counts. 

“I like having to rely on myself because, in most sports, you have teammates to rely on,” said Robert. 

The Briar Cliff University graduate, who’s sprinted in a great number of races recently, recorded an electronically timed 46-second split in his 500-meter time trial in December. 

“There’s something about running fast that keeps me intrigued. You get that feeling of euphoria, and it’s addicting,” said Robert. 

Additionally, he ran a time of 47.21 and 47.20 seconds in the 400 meter early in the indoor season this January, holding the indoor bests and meet records, placing him 36th nationally. 

Currently, Robert is not only competing independently and traveling to track meets across the country, but he’s also a trainer for himself, following a strict workout schedule. 

“Discipline is paramount in my life, and I think it’s a disservice to yourself to not see what you’re capable of, not just physically but spiritually and mentally as well. So if I inspire anybody to do anything, I hope it’s to see just what they’re capable of accomplishing,” said Robert. 

Within the last year, Robert also discovered what else he is capable of accomplishing. He created his own handcrafted sandal line called The Grounded Athlete, which incorporates the art of grounding. 

“Grounding is the bioelectrical process of being barefoot on the ground, which yields tremendous benefits in terms of metabolism and anti-inflammatory effects. The mission is to teach the physics and chemistry behind it. It’s beautiful when science and spirituality come together,” commented Robert. 

Since he launched the line last summer, he’s had clients from all over the world. 

“It’s back-breaking work, but it’s also really rewarding work. When I first started, it used to take three hours for each sandal; now, it takes one hour,” shared Robert. 

Robert gives utmost thanks to his parents and his roots. 

“My dad and my mom are definitely my biggest role models, and they worked hard to bring us up and raise us in the right environment. Growing up on the reservation, there is a lot of negative influence there. So you have to take it upon yourself to figure out what you need to focus on, and push away the noise because there is a lot of that in reservations across the country,” he advised.

By Jetske Wauran

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