Self Empowered Learning

Movement has played a huge role in my life.

During my undergraduate studies, I struggled with mental health. I eventually developed a routine of exercise and movement that helped me cope with the issues I was facing. After graduating from school, I kept the momentum going and decided to become a personal trainer while racing on a competitive dragon boat team. This way I could help others discover the benefits of exercise, and at the same time continue to learn from fellow trainers and dragon boat crewmates.

When the team disbanded, I put my business degree to use and found a job in digital marketing. I continued to seek out physical challenges like obstacle course races and Olympic weightlifting, becoming somewhat of a weekend warrior. After some time, I decided I wanted to dedicate more of my focus and energy towards health and movement— not just outside the office. I began freelancing and sought out clients with a similar mission to empower others towards better health.

This led me to Cool East Market which has a unique role in helping people find the right tools and resources to enable movement rich lifestyles. In addition to making minimal shoes more accessible, we try our best to give guidance on how wearing these shoes impacts your foot health. In this way, I hope that Cool East Market can facilitate the self-empowerment that I experienced myself when pursuing movement in my life.

For customers new to minimal footwear, our knowledgeable staff are happy to introduce you to the world of these shoes and share general advice on how to have the best experience getting started with minimal footwear. For those already familiar with the footwear who just have more questions, we do our best to be a helpful resource for the community.

Whether your questions are on the topic of gait, biomechanics, transitioning to minimal footwear, or wider health topics, we can share our personal experiences and tell you about resources that have been helpful to us. And when we don’t know, we try to guide you towards experts we trust or educate ourselves so that we can better help educate you.

We don’t claim to be health professionals of any kind, and we encourage seeking the advice of professionals you trust. But we also want to share the experience we have and offer new perspectives when suitable. Education is important to us— it’s one of our core values at Cool East Market. And while education is traditionally a one-way street with a teacher and a student, the best learning happens when students create a two or multi-way dialogue to empower themselves. 

We believe these shoes have a great potential for benefiting overall health, but we’re also conscious that the shoes by themselves aren’t a solution, and neither are we. The real change comes after you’ve left the store, and we can’t do that part for you. Transitioning to minimal shoes requires getting attuned to your body and paying attention to its feedback. You become your own best resource when it comes to your health!

The most practical advice we have for learning to pay attention to your body and finding its boundaries is to learn practices that help you notice the feedback your body provides, such as a body scan. As much as mindfulness practices like body scanning have been co-opted by productivity culture, it is still a useful skill to develop in the context of finding the balance between ignoring your body and over-analyzing its feedback.

The skill of noticing when you reach physical limits each day is a big part of learning to respect and value your body and all the hard work it does. It can also help you get more attuned to areas where you feel ready to expand your boundaries, such as when you’ll be able to increase your wear time of minimal shoes or to try a more challenging terrain in them.

This not only helps you with transitioning to minimal shoes or starting to incorporate more variety of movement into daily life, but the skill of being in touch with your body will also serve you well in becoming more empowered as an expert of your own body and an advocate for your own health and wellbeing.

The greatest changes come from within us and that’s where positive changes to our health start. One of the most rewarding parts of our work is when we hear back from customers over time. We’ve had so many people tell us that because of the lifestyle changes they’ve implemented in their own lives gradually (including our shoes), they’ve been able to improve their mobility and thus their independence. With shoes that don’t hurt, they were able to get outside and move around more.

More moving leads to even more moving, and that can translate to an improved social life, mental health, ability to access better nutrition and health care etc. This is another facet of self empowerment that we hope to foster in our community, and it starts with each of those people deciding to make small and realistic shifts to daily life.

We also talk to many people who experience common foot issues that are painful and stressful. In that kind of situation it’s tempting to look for quick and easy solutions from others. These kinds of problems develop over time though, so most plans for working on them usually take time, too. During that time one of the ways you can gain back a bit of control over your wellness is learning. 

Learning about the problem can be empowering. Don’t be afraid to ask for copies of test results or scans, to ask questions, and to look up terms you don’t know the definitions of. When we actively take charge of our own learning, the process of learning becomes more fulfilling and enjoyable.

This goes for people who aren’t experiencing health concerns, too. At the shop, customers sometimes ask us “which shoe is best for me?” While we try our best to narrow down the choices, our answer depends on your needs.

When you understand your needs and have the vocabulary to describe them, we can give you the best recommendation possible. Of course we can ask questions to guide you through different aspects of shoe selection, but the person who knows your needs best will ultimately be you!

Here are a few resources that helped ignite the spark of self empowerment through learning for our team:

Anya’s Reviews:

Anya’s page for understanding your foot type is one of our go-to recommendations. She walks you through learning how to describe your feet in several ways such as width, toe/forefoot shape, overall foot shape, volume, etc. Online shoppers, this resource will be especially useful to you!

Move Your DNA: 

Our favourite resource for people who want to learn about the body and how it works is Katy Bowman’s book Move Your DNA. Katy has a down to earth way of teaching you about how your body works so that you can use that information to make choices about how you want to live your life. She explains the why behind everything so you can internalize your understanding of anatomy and biomechanics (where physics and biology interact), in a way that empowers you with the knowledge you need to work towards your movement goals.

Correct Toes Foot Conditions and Problems List: 

Correct Toes has a collection of basic explanations of common foot issues that is written by health professionals for the public. It’s a great jumping off point for your research.

Alignment REScue Foot Exercises List: 

RES Carol Robbins is a senior teacher of biomechanics-informed movement, certified by Katy Bowman. Here’s her collection of basic foot exercises that people of all ability levels can practice to start restoring the skills and functionality of the feet.

Learning Mindfulness: 

If you’re new to getting in tune with your body, a guided meditation can help you learn the skills involved. Welcome to the Party is a free guided meditation that even skeptics usually have some fun with. For a more beginner friendly option, our team member Hannah recommends the Brightmind app.

On a journey involving many footsteps, we hope the shoes and advice we offer can be a helpful waypoint on your self-empowered path!