When I graduated from UBC with a Bachelor degree in Human Kinetics in exercise science I was certain of three things: I wanted to work with my hands, I wanted to help people, and I loved sports. One day I watched a Canadian Certified Pedorthist rip open a patient’s Birkenstock sandal, add a few things to it and then watch the patient walk away comfortably. I knew then pedorthics was the career for me and I started a formal apprenticeship shortly after.
Although I enjoy every aspect of being a Pedorthist, modifying shoes continues to be one of my favourite parts of my career. Pedorthists are the only foot experts who have the ability to assess patients in a clinical setting, determine what shoe modifications they need and then head to the lab to make the modifications. It is very rewarding to identify a cause and solution and then achieve exactly what is needed.
The variety of shoe modifications Pedorthists can make are endless. Some of the more popular ones are:
- We can cut out a portion of the top (also called the “upper”) of a patient’s shoe and sew in an elevated, soft bubble patch to eliminate painful friction between the foot and shoe caused by bony prominences, hammer toes or bunions.
- We are able to add extra sole height (also called “lifts”) to the shoe of the shorter leg of patients who have leg length discrepancies to even out their walk and reduce pain in their hips and back.
- We can build a flare to widen and add stability to the back of a shoe or a buttress to reinforce the side of the shoe for patients who are unstable.
As a person who loves sports, I particularly enjoy using my shoe modification skills to help injured athletes get back on their feet. Recently I saw a competitive runner who was suffering from a loss of range of motion in his big toe joint. As most running shoes bend at the ball of the foot, this athlete’s training footwear was causing increased stress and pain at his big toe joint. I was able to add a carbon graphite shank so his shoe no longer bent at the painful joint. With this modification he was able to continue training for an upcoming race.
Modified shoes can transform the life of a patient who requires them. There are so many modifications we can do that some of the modifications don’t even have names but each modification makes a huge difference to the mobility and comfort of the person who wears the shoes.
By Chris Hope, C. Ped Tech (C), C. Ped (C), Vancouver, BC