We use the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia as an example in early stages of inversion orogen showing still modest values of shortening. The style of deformation recorded in this orogenic chain seems to be strongly influenced by two main factors. The first is the pre-compression geometry of the rift basin, conditioning the strong heterogeneity imparted by a trough filled with Jurassic to Neocomian sediments limited by Precambrian and Palaeozoic high-angle walls. The second factor is the orientation of the stress regime with respect to the main normal faults during the inversion. If the stress field is of pure compression, the normal faults are not extensively inverted and the deformation is accommodated mainly in terms of footwall shortcuts. On the other hand, in transpressive regimes the inversion of the former normal faults is more common and the footwall shortcuts are not dominant structures. No significant lateral variations in tectonic shortening are found in the Eastern Cordillera. Finally we emphasize the role of buckle folds in the internal parts of the inversion orogens and give a cautionary note when interpreting these structures in terms of fault-related folding using the well-documented example of the Soapaga fault area. © The Geological Society of London 2013.