3 - The Shoe Industry and Foot Health

Preventing Children's Foot Trouble

"Corrective Shoe" Stores - . . . . .

Every child who wears present-day shoes has his feet distorted to some degree. Sensing this, parents are confused about shoes, and pediatricians tell me that they are asked as many questions about children's feet as they are about food. However, awareness of the causes of foot distortion can prevent trouble not only from the usual children's shoe but also from another serious source which I am going to discuss.

"Corrective Shoe" Stores

A professional looking and positive sounding shoe clerk says that your child has fallen arches and needs a corrective shoe. How are you to know this is true?

Most shoe merchants do their sincerest best for their customers considering our limited knowledge of foot health - others heartlessly use our lack of knowledge solely for profit. Characteristically they "find" something wrong with every child's foot . . . which then "needs" the merchants shoes. Increasing numbers of doctors are wary of these merchants. Some practitioners, who have no definite knowledge of shoes, may send a worried mother to them in good faith.

A typical case is that of Susie R. As a toddler, she had a normal low arch and walked slightly flat footed as all toddlers do. Heavy corrective shoes were put on her feet. After wearing the stiff supportive shoes for several months her feet became weak. Then when she wanted to go barefoot her feet were so tender and the muscle so weak that it was painful. She was still able to walk with the supportive shoe, however, since the walking was done without any flexible foot action whatever. Her mother was certain Susie's feet were bad in the first place, so now Susie continues to go to the same merchant and buy the same expensive shoes. Susie will be a foot cripple as long as she lives. A child's foot can never grow properly with an unrelenting rearrangement of its complex mechanisms.

However, Susie's mother is satisfied that she did right in going to this merchant. She recommends him to other parents and thus increases the volume of business in corrective shoes. This type of shoe merchandising has become so profitable that there are few large communities in the United States that do not have them. You can easily identify them because no child is ever fitted in these stores without having at least some "correction" in their shoes.

I spent a day in such a shoe store observing the operation. "How can you sell these corrective shoes," I asked the owner. "You insist on the necessity of 'arch cookies,' 'cuboids,' 'metatarsal supports,' and so on-yet from the continuous complaints of customers, you know that these supports are of no help to the feet. How do you justify this?"

"It's a wonderful living," the owner commented. "Besides, I always instruct them to do certain exercises. They never do them. When they complain too much about their feet, I say, 'Well, did you do the exercises?' That usually shuts them up."

Doctors use shoe stores to carry out their instructions regarding additions to shoes - should clerks, on their own initiative, recommend radical changes in a child's shoe which will have lasting effects on the yet unformed foot? A "corrective line," besides carrying the usual supportive devices, includes shoes which hold the foot rigid or force the foot to grow sharply inward or outward permanently.

Merchants who do not believe in these types of shoes have been forced to carry them in stock to be competitive with other stores. Manufacturers, against their wishes, have had to incorporate "corrective lines" in order not to lose retail accounts. This has ended in wide distribution of these types of children's shoes. As far as I can ascertain, corrective lines are never designed under adequate medical supervision and cause foot disability among millions of Americans. This is particularly,, unfortunate because it is established that babies' feet left to grow naturally will be normal.

Dr. Lee Bivings, a pediatrician from Atlanta, estimates 99% of new born babies have perfectly normal feet - and in his clinic more than 6o% of these same, shoe-wearing babies have acquired foot disabilities at six years of age. An ideal physiological shoe, the equivalent of barefootedness, would keep babies' feet normal until. six years of age!

To develop a physiological shoe and have it widely distributed is not easy, as I found out by personal experience.

. . . . . . . . .

The History of Foot Trouble


Preventing Children's Foot Trouble