Movement Partner Series: Carol Robbins

Carol Robbins is a 64-year-old Restorative Exercise Specialist based in Toronto. Her business Alignment Rescue is where she offers women in their 50s-70s courses and workshops on how to age dynamically with exercise and movement. We visited Carol at her home studio on a sunny Wednesday morning in March to talk a little bit about her practice, her favourite minimal shoes, and how she discovered her niche in foot health. 

On a trip to San Francisco in 2012, Carol Robbins’ flight was delayed because of a snow storm, which gave her a couple hours to spare. Wandering the streets of SF, she came across her very first minimal shoes, a pair of hot pink Altras she still keeps in the back of her closet today. 

“I decided to look for minimal shoes and there was a running store that sold Altras. They’re a really good transition shoe because they have a wider toe box with zero drop but they still have a lot of cushioning. So that was my first pair, they only had one in stock in my size and they were hot pink so I had to buy them.

I was already a teacher, I was a Pilates teacher to begin with and then I found Nutritious Movement, did the foot course. I was always interested in feet and how my feet didn’t seem to work the same as other peoples’ did.” 


Carol was paying close attention to her own feet, and how they moved compared to those around her. She also had ‘problem feet.’ She decided to do her own research and learn more about how they worked, and about how she could help herself. 

“So once I started being able to do certain skills in my feet that I couldn’t do before and learn about pronation and supination and what bunions are - that became very fascinating for me [...] learning how to restore my foot health.” 

It was empowering to hear how Carol took matters into her own hands when it came to learning more about her body and how to restore it. Something that we took away from it was that in taking control of our own wellbeing and learning about how our bodies work, we can become our own best resource.

This approach really spoke to me as someone who believes in building your own knowledge slowly over time. It's exciting to be guided by your own curiosity in the learning process, something that doesn’t always happen in formal learning environments. Even though navigating the amount of information out there and assessing its quality can be intimidating, Carol's enthusiasm for jumping in was inspiring.

Carol took us on a walk around the neighbourhood including a hill she uses for adding variety to the terrain she navigates, and it was lovely to see the neighbourhood through her eyes. On her daily walks she finds endless opportunities to enrich her life with movement.  It's an intentional choice of movement over convenience, which enables her to practise skills like walking and carrying. But it's also pragmatic: she uses walking as a way to make shopping trips and support local business, creating a sense of connection to her community. 

Paying attention to what was happening with her feet was what led her to uncover more about foot health. This is something that stood out to us about her: Carol is someone who observes intently and pays close attention to detail. For example, she fashioned a metatarsal pad out of an old wool insole, relying on her understanding of foot health and of her own feet to precisely place support for her transverse arch.

A big part of Carol’s practice is teaching others how to prepare their feet for minimal shoes and how to know if their feet are ready for them. As eager as one might be when getting into their first pair of minimal shoes, there are some common pitfalls that people can stumble into that could even result in injury. This is where Carol comes in– she teaches strength training exercises to prepare one’s feet for the shoes.

“If you’ve been wearing a conventional shoe with more arch support, but also a stiffer sole, stiffer sided– it prevents a lot of movement of the foot. So when you free your foot from that restriction and get into a minimal shoe, you’ll be like, ‘this feels great and I just wanna run and leap– my foot is free finally,’ but your foot is actually weak and you can’t just assume that because your feet aren’t feeling discomfort that it’s going to be fine to transition to a minimal shoe– because then a lot of people get an injury and they blame the shoe.” 

Even after working at CEM for a few years now, I learned a lot talking to Carol. It really hit me how the transition phase is more continuous than I thought. I didn't know it was possible for your feet to expand too much– but Carol explained how strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the feet can maintain the integrity of their shape and function.

It inspired me, as a casual wearer of minimal shoes, to actually give my feet a break today and wear a more supportive shoe while planning for a better maintenance program over the long term. It gave me a newfound understanding of why the common transition advice is to switch back and forth between minimal shoes and conventional shoes.

Carol’s move into teaching came naturally from her attempts to learn more about herself, and this process of continuous self-discovery informs a kind of dialogue that builds connections and community while helping to empower others around her. She is open with peers and students about her own foot-health challenges, and how she is still learning as she teaches. In fact, she is currently being mentored by a physiotherapist in Ireland, and this curiosity and constant striving for growth defines her entire story.

“I’m learning a lot, it never ends.” 


To read the full interview, we have the transcript available here.

If you’re interested in working with Carol, you can find her website here. Her newsletter is a great free resource, as is her Instagram. Her brand new course, Transitioning to Minimal Shoes, is now live on her website, so you can be one of the first to try it! It’s priced to be as accessible as possible at $20 CAD.