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The definition of Pedorthics as offered by the Pedorthic Footwear Association and the Board for Certification in Pedorthics is: "The design, manufacture, modification and fit of footwear, including foot orthosis, to alleviate problems caused by disease, congenital conditions, overuse or injury."

I prefer to dissect the word to learn what it means: "Ped" means step (like pedal, which you step on). "Ortho" refers to straight, regular, proper, or correct. "Ist" is a noun suffix which means "one who practices or is occupied with." So, I am occupied with making steps regular, straight, proper or correct.

We would all like to think that our bodies are perfect, or near perfect. Yet go someplace like a mall and watch people walk. You will see large numbers of people limping, gimping or otherwise exhibiting an abnormality in their gait. Statistically at least 85% of Americans have structural anomalies with their feet and/or lower extremities. The "vigor of youth" can over ride much but in time problems start to develop into issues. (Frequently I have "40 something" patients with Plantar Fasciitis or Mortons Neuroma or something painful screaming for attention - and they ask: "How did this happen-I've never had trouble before?" The faulty structure that created the problem was there all along-it's just that the years caught up with them.)

My training in pedorthics started with studying bio-mechanics of the feet at Ball State University during the Orthopedic Shoe Technicians program conducted by Clyde Edwards and Carl Reicken. Later (fall of '96) I sat for and passed the exam administered by the Board for Certification in Pedorthics, and thus became a "Certified Pedorthist." (I later chose to allow my certification to expire.)

As with my experiences in boot-making, it was after the formal training was completed that my real training in pedorthics/bio-mechanics began. Befriended by a couple of veritable geniuses in pedorthics, Gerhard Rill and Peter Morin, I have acted as an intern and observed and assisted as they solved myriad problems and pain with feet, legs, knees, hips and related areas of the body of their many patients. Because their practices are in urban areas, they have a large clientele and are also able to enjoy an excellent information exchange with the medical community.

As a Pedorthist I now consider how the foot is working, or not working, and address the bio-mechanical dysfunction to create a system that will allow the foot to work as correctly as possible.

When you go to a physician for an examination or evaluation, typically he will sit or lay you on his exam table. A pedorthist must do his work differently. He must evaluate the feet and their function on the floor because it is that interaction between the feet and the floor (or the terrain) that must be right. An evaluation of the gait and the motion of the feet is an integral part of a pedorthic evaluation. The feet are the foundation of the body-a mobile foundation, but nonetheless a foundation. In a building if the foundation settles unevenly, the floor slopes, walls crack, floors creak, doors won't close, etc. Often problems with footwear, pain in the feet, ankles, lower legs, knees, even thighs, hips, low back, and the neck-can be traced to malfunctioning feet!

One of the most common structural anomalies is a verus deformity of the foot. Simply explained-a pair of verus feet are more comfortable walking on the peak of a roof (I am exaggerating) than on a flat sidewalk or floor. Nearly every step taken requires the verus foot to function out of balance. In most individuals this situation requires the foot to "over pronate." Pronation is a natural, normal and necessary component of gait. It allows the mid-foot to spring toward the floor with each step creating a biological shock absorber. The problem comes when the pronation is excessive; which is nearly always with a verus foot.

Here are a list of a few symptoms that can result from excessive pronation:

  • Bunnions

  • Plantar Faciitis

  • Hammer Toes

  • Shin Splints

  • Ankle Pain

  • Heel Spurs

  • Leg-length discrepancy

  • Swollen ankles

  • Back pain

  • Posterior tibial tendonitis

  • Pain in the joints of the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia)

  • General foot pain/discomfort
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