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In the beginning I thought that if you fit the foot just right and made a quality boot, the majority of pain or issues many experience with their feet would simply go away. As it turns out, that simply is not the way that it works! (Much of what I do is counter-intuitive.) Over time I came to understand that what the foot is doing inside the shoe or boot is the real issue.

Experience has taught us that nearly always when there is foot/ankle/lower leg pain that is not explained by trauma, the issue is that the weight, force, energy, work, whatever you want to call it, is flowing through the foot in a non-textbook fashion. The soft tissue of the feet and legs are being asked to compensate—to do work they were never engineered to do. Hence, pain and inflammation. Additionally the years of experience have taught us that the less-than-perfect motion of the feet not only effects the lower extremities, but the effect can continue to the hips, gleuts, low back and on up!

Our Specialty
Our job here at Merrell FootLab is to create an effective interface between the foot and the surface it walks on so the energy is flowing more correctly, thus decreasing or alleviating foot pain and inflammation. In reality we are all about foot-structure problems that create foot symptoms, and foot pain—foot problem symptoms!

Our business is very, very interesting. We get a wide variety of challenges, keeping our work interesting. Every client that comes through our door is an opportunity to put our experience to work.

The evolution has been gradual, but the culmination is profound. What started as a “custom boot shop” has become a narrow but exciting specialty: helping people whose feet have or are becoming a limitation in their lives.

The Vision:

Earlier in this site you may have read how in my beginning years I just wanted to make nice boots. One day I had a “paradigm shift” and realized that I really am a Problem Solver of foot-pain-related, foot-structural issues. I had learned to be a great problem solver years ago in the ranch. Now I do it with feet in my Foot Lab.

There are essentially three ways that we accomplish our work:

1) A foot orthotic—an interface between the foot and the shoe/ground. This allows the foot to operate in the position in which it was genetically made rather than the position dictated by the floor or the ground. This minimizes the repetitive stress that is often created. Usually orthotics can accomplish the task of leveling out a leg-length discrepancy. Sometimes the orthotic becomes quite involved as in cases like Charcot Marie Tooth Disease, post-polio syndrome, or partial foot amputation. These may require what is more accurately called a foot appliance for the increased and specific foot support.

2) At times our work is taken to a second level with modifications to the shoe or boot. We can build in more extreme leg-length correction and give a medial or lateral flare for the foot that is pushing the shoe over one way or the other. Frequently we will build into an off-the-shelf shoe what is called a “rocker bottom” to facilitate the motion of the gait. At times we need to make radical alteration to the shoe to make room inside for an appliance as detailed above.

3) Then there are those feet that have no option but custom footwear. Since West Nile Virus came into my life, bootmaking has gone to the back burner, and I have a long waiting list. Hopefully the time has come and hopefully I am in a place in life when I can work in a pair of custom boots from time to time.

We get calls from individuals who have struggled with foot problems for years with little success. Often they have come to the conclusion that the only solution is made-to-measure or custom footwear. As I listen to their stories, often I see that the problem could be solved either with effective orthotics and/or with modification to off-the-shelf footwear. Unfortunately some (many) of these individuals are so frustrated, thinking that they have tried everything else that they hang the phone up with disappointment, not being willling to try another possibility. I assume that they are saying to themselves: I have tried orthotics, and they didn’t work! Well, not all orthotics are created equal, and there have been many, many times I have succeeded with the orthotics that I make when others have failed. Usually when a client trusts enough to come for a consult, we have very good news for them. Very often (nearly always) there is a way to make ready-made footwear work for them at a fraction of the cost of custom. They can then afford to have more than one pair of shoes, and it is not such a crisis when they wear out!

Often we are asked where this whole idea came from, It all started with making custom boots. Having been raised on a horse ranch, I was planning on a career as a veterinarian. After high school I was off to Utah State University, enrolled in the pre-vet program. However, I took two years off to go to Brazil to serve as a missionary for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). While there I became acquainted with a Japanese family in the town of Aracatuba that made boots (from water buffalo leather!). Later I came to know a man named Pedro Barrato in the town of Araraquara who made boots. I watched him cut leather on his kitchen table and learned that boots could be made on a small-time basis—that a factory was not required. That is where it all started.

There are many kinds of gifts and talents: music, art, athletics, etc. Years go I developed and accepted that I had the gift of fitting the foot (even very difficult feet) with near perfection. I also saw that I had the gift of teaching. I am also gifted to tune and repair difficult machines, and I have the gift of seeing possibilities. What I have been slow to accept is that I also have a gift to see and understand what is not working right anatomically/bio-mechanically in a foot and ankle. This gift’s appearance was not instantaneous, but rather something that grew within me over years. For me it has become so “common sense” that I just assumed that most everyone who pursued this craft could learn and see the same thing. As it turns out, a lot of people deal with the bio-mechanics of the foot but only a small percentage really “get it.” It is an even smaller percentage that are bold enough to do their work in an adequately aggressive manner to really affect a fix for the pain of the feet or the structural foot issues that are occurring. Often what I do logically should not work, but usually it does, and my clients are astounded. This reality is making it a challenge to find a replacement for myself. It is not just as easy as finding a Certified Pedorthist, and offering him a job.

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