Pedorthists don’t just make orthotics. Footwear can play a major role in a patients comfort, and modifying them so that they perfectly fit the individual’s foot is an important part of our job.
When we think about orthopaedic shoes, many of us immediately think of the comfortable, frumpy shoes found in Grandma’s closet. Fortunately, this widely held stereotype no longer holds true. There are now many stylish options available for patients, which is great, as many patients simply won’t wear a shoe they don’t like.
One of my patients is a 20-year-old, petite blonde, with a great smile. By looking at her you wouldn’t know she has endured more than 15 surgeries, countless hours of physiotherapy, and is in constant pain – unless you looked at her feet. She was born with club foot deformity, which causes the foot to be twisted inward, and the toes to be pointing down.
Until her visit with me, she had chosen to forgo the relief of an orthopaedic shoe. She first entered my office wearing a pair of flip-flop sandals with a thin rubber sole. I wanted her to understand the relief she could get by wearing an appropriate shoe, and I promised I would be empathetic to her personal style.
The foot deformity of this young woman left her with completely collapsed arches, which made finding a regular off-the-shelf shoe very difficult.  We searched through many catalogues and found a shoe that not only would accommodate her foot deformity, but that could be easily modified, comfortable and stylish.
Together we selected a nice pair of running shoes that were white with bright pink accents, which happened to be her favorite colour. I modified them by inserting wedges and arch supports directly into the shoe. I was also able to widen the sole of the shoe to accommodate the severe collapse in her midfoot. All of the modifications were hidden either internally, or on the base of the shoe.  To the untrained eye, the final shoe looked like it had been purchased at a regular sports store, but in reality, it was jammed packed with orthopaedic goodies!
My patient was thrilled with how her shoes looked and felt. Although she had an adjustment period where we worked out a few ‘kinks’, once everything was adjusted, she had never been more comfortable in any pair of shoes. Her physiotherapist noted an improvement in her effort, and decrease in pain following her exercises. She now trusts me with all of her footwear choices, and we work together to find shoes that I am happy working with, and she is happy wearing.
As Pedorthists, I believe it’s important to help patients understand there may be stereotypical orthopaedic shoes, but Pedorthists can explore outside the orthopaedic bubble to help them meet both their comfort and style goals. Submitted by Erin Kesler, Canadian Certified Pedorthist, Hamilton, ON