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Lessons from the SOM Footwear Shoemaker’s Dojo*

Thomas Skelly Chairez, Shoemaker Assistant

Regardless of gender, these SOM Footwear shoes represent the seed of potential in each one of us. I like to express the lessons coming from this arcane world of shoemaking in what I call the shoemaker dojo. *A dōjō is a hall or place for immersive learning. This is traditionally in the field of martial arts, but has been seen increasingly in other fields.

Many wouldn’t see themselves as warriors today, by modern standards. But the fight we all have in common would be maintaining a sense of balance in an ever-changing world. One of the tools that a person can utilize in our daily lives is as simple as what’s on your feet.

Shoemaker Dojo Lessons

We were born, and learn to walk, barefoot, toes splayed out to help us keep balanced. So wide toe-box shoes make sense. Earthing was something I was familiar with but only participated in when running barefoot on the lawn. If you ask me, the next best thing to running barefoot are these SOM Footwear zero drop shoes. Most people go out and look for comfortable shoes with heels. We never really think how those heels affect our posture and balance and, like someone once said, “Walking is like falling forward.” I don’t know about you but if I am going to fall forward, I”d better have my balance.

As I watched Olie, the shoemaker and designer of this shoe, I had a sense of awe as a new prototype was carefully constructed, finished and tested. This was my first introduction to body awareness. Being an avid outdoor enthusiast and athlete as he is, the shoemaker would always come back and find the smallest of things to change. Things I wouldn’t have noticed because I didn’t know my feet or my body as much as I thought.

During my first week wearing the SOM shoe, I would find my feet hurting upon getting out of bed in the morning. My feet had to adjust to feeling how I carried my body. Muscles, joints and ligaments send the brain information about how the body moves. And soon, I started to notice that the shoe was no longer just a shoe but an extension of me. The simple act of stepping off the curb onto the pavement gave me a sense of awareness. Body awareness: how you experience your physical presence! I started to think there was a reason boxers, wrestlers and many other athletes had shoes that were light and just an extension of them. Whether on the trail or in the gym, you want to put yourself into the experience of what you’re doing, without worrying about what is on your feet. I can’t have a happy body without having happy feet. And these shoes make me happy.

The second gift these shoes bestowed upon me was one of mindfulness. Learning to be in the here and now. You see, the shoemaker’s workshop is like a dojo. Always learning, and always striving to create your best, whether inside or outside of you.

Discipline is one key factor; putting yourself into the moment and what you're doing. We tend to always look outward; forward into the future; behind us into the past. Fears, regrets - everything that we cannot have control over. Being here and now is easier when your roots to grounding are strong. Control what you can today.

Which brings me to another gift from the shoemaker dojo. Passion: doing what you love. We strive to help our fellow men and our planet, making a difference in the world. There is a commitment to better ourselves and putting that passion into something that makes people happy. I asked Wally Amos, a gourmet cookie maker, how he stayed so positive. He looked down at his shoes, shoes with smiley faces looking back at him. “My happy shoes,'' he told me. “They just make me want to be a kid again.” As a user of SOM Footwear, I think these SOM shoes do that to you too because they make your feet smile. SOM shoes teach you to be a kid again, to want to go out and explore, to seek new paths like we were meant to. Our sights focused on the next few steps. Following the mind of curiosity, yet not absorbed by it. The passion we have is putting a smile on the long path we're all on. The Hero's Journey, quoting Kendra Levin, certified life coach: “To go on that quest for identity and wholeness, to bring about that evolution, you will have to step forward into change.”

Be a Hero; say yes to the SOM adventure.

Say yes to the SOM adventure!

1 comment

  • Great article Thomas. Very thoughtful and insightful. Great work to the Master Shoemaker. You are amazing and to Natalie for keeping it all together.

    Ralph Cox

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