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FN: What percentage of pedorthists work in a clinical versus shoe-store setting?
BL: When I think of clinical [environments], I’m [referring] to all the settings a pedorthist could practice in. That would include stand-alone pedorthic clinics, an [orthotics-and-prosthesis] facility, a hospital setting or a professional sports team. So you’re looking at about 70 percent of practitioners out there. About 25 percent to 28 percent would be established in a retail setting.
FN: What benefits can a pedorthist bring to a comfort shoe store?
BL: When people go to a comfort shoe store versus a regular shoe or self-serve store, they’re going for the whole experience. They don’t just want a pair of shoes. They want a pair of shoes that will make them feel better and are going to be extremely comfortable for a specific activity — maybe walking. Or they may just want quality shoes that will make a difference in their lives. Pedorthists enhance that with their value-added background in shoe fitting and their knowledge of biomechanics.
FN: Is pedorthics an internationally recognized profession?
BL: It’s becoming so more and more. Fifteen years ago, the Pedorthic Association of Canada was established. We work well together on a lot of issues. In fact, in 2010, PFA and PAC will be producing the North American Pedorthic Congress in place of our two separate symposiums.
FN: Is pedorthics recognized outside North America?
BL: The only other established pedorthic organization right now outside North America is the Australian Pedorthic and Medical Grade Footwear Association. PFA, along with PAC and the Australian group, has been active in advancing pedorthics internationally. [But the profession is not] called pedorthics in Europe. It’s more of a master shoe craftsman trade that mirrors what pedorthists do here in North America and Australia. They’re really not organized around that. [Instead], it falls under orthotics and prosthetics.
But in Asia — specifically in Taiwan and mainland China — pedorthics has really taken hold. And it is recognized as pedorthics. There are a lot of pedorthists in China and Taiwan. PFA has a number of members in both countries who are pedorthic practitioners. But again, there’s no pedorthic organization to [represent them]. PFA has been working to establish a foothold in mainland China for the Chinese practitioner population. That’s something we’re striving toward over the next year or so.
FN: Has the footwear industry kept pace in developing therapeutic footwear to meet the needs of today’s population?
BL: Over the last five years, I’ve noticed that companies [such as] P.W. Minor, Aetrex and Pedors have expanded the range of options — as a result of requirements that Comprehensive Pedorthics Accreditation has established, but also in response to the needs of their primary customers. They recognize that you’re serving an at-risk population in terms of diabetics, but also serving a population that might not have chronic footwear problems but are looking for that better-fitting shoe that’s going to take care of some minor foot problems.