Each person aims to find one other person whose sole of their shoe is similar to their own.
Allow a few moments for your group to mingle to discern matching attributes.
Continue until every individual has found a partner.
Video Transcript for Sole Mate
presented by Nate Folan
It seems appropriate at this point in the workshop that perhaps it might be the time to find your sole mate, and… different responses to that, right?
So you start scanning your group thinking who did you connect with this morning… No.
Here’s what you’re going to do is you’re going to look at the sole of your shoe, and you’re going to find someone with a similar tread pattern, colour, design.
It helps if you’re so inspired to hop around, but find someone you can connect with in that regard and stand next to them and you’ll get more instruction. Go for it.
(Can I take my shoe off?)
(People start finding their sole mate.)
You can take your shoe off, absolutely.
(people comparing soles to find their Sole Mate…)
How To Play Narrative
Simple ideas are often the best.
Presuming your group is wearing some form of footwear, this exercise is no more complicated than asking your group to form partners based on the sole pattern of their shoes.
You need not provide any further guidance. Individuals may form partnerships based on the colour, tread-pattern, size or even the texture of their shoe soles.
It doesn’t matter – the key is the interaction which ensues, and the (hopeful) diverse and random matching of individuals in your group.
It’s not necessary for people to take their shoes off to complete this simple task, but if it’s easier, there’s no reason not to.
For fun, and if you have time at the end, invite one or more of your newly-found ‘sole-mates’ to describe the matching attribute of their soles.
Practical Leadership Tips
One of the most interesting observations I make when I present this task is the sudden transformation of my group becoming storks standing on one leg, shortly followed by many people hopping from person to person.
Often, there will be one or more people whose shoes are so unique, that no-one can match their style. That’s OK. Pause for a moment to acknowledge their individuality (perhaps offering a little applause,) and then find any unhitched person to partner with them. If you have an odd number, guess what? You’re in.
If you’re still concerned that this technique will not encourage certain cliques to stick together, add the further proviso that their ‘sole-mate’ must be someone they do not know, or spend very little time with.
You could integrate Sole Mate as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a familiar connection with another person.
In a small way, you could argue that the effort required to successfully locate a match may speak to the benefits of taking initiative, but this would not be considered the primary purpose of this quick pairing activity.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Sole Mate could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Wearable Attributes: Ask each person to find one other person who is wearing the same brand of shoes, shoe-lace colour (or fastening mechanism, eg velcro,) jewellery colour (gold, silver, leather, gemstone,) or clothing colour, etc.
Matching Vowels: Create random pairs based on the first vowel of each person’s first name. Take a look at Vowel Orchestra for a team-based version of this technique.
Variety of fun, random ways to appoint a secret person.
Infectious & rhythmic series of collaborative claps.
Fun, quick game to fill a couple of idle minutes.
Useful Framing Ideas
There is a belief held by some people that there is only one true soul mate for every person on this earth. Do you think this is true? No matter, we’re going to spend a few moments now to identify your sole mate, but it’s not the kind you are probably thinking…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun partner-matching exercise:
What were the key criteria to form a match based on the sole of your shoes?
What might your shoe sole say about your personality?
Could you find something to find in common with every other shoe sole in this group?
What might this discussion say about human-connectedness?
The inspiration for this fun and simple partner-making strategy was when I saw Nate Folan use it at a workshop we delivered together in 2016.