Teresa Branham, CPed, compares buying cheap, unsupportive shoes to pinching pennies in building the foundation for a house.
Feet bolster the body like a foundation holds up a house, she said.
“You wouldn’t build a house on something that’s going to crumble,” Branham, who practices pedorthics at The Fitted Foot in Seymour, Ind., explained. “So why would you put something on your feet that doesn’t give you support?”
The local connection
Walter G. Warren, DPM, CPed, supports The Fitted Foot, a pedorthic facility which he owns and Branham manages. The Fitted Foot is part of Warren’s Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Center.
“I got interested in pedorthics after I went to work for Dr. Warren in 1998,” Branham said. “We were seeing a lot of people with diabetes. They needed shoes and there was nowhere locally for them to get those shoes.”
She said diabetic footwear was available in Indianapolis and Louisville, both 60 miles away, and Cincinnati, 70 miles distant.
“But a lot of people didn’t want to have to drive that far or they didn’t like driving in big cities,” Branham said.
Thus, Warren, who became a board-certified pedorthist in 2004, opted to offer shoes for people with diabetes in Seymour, population 19,200. He put Branham in charge of fitting the special footwear.
“I started with only a little tiny break room from which to dispense the shoes,” she remembered. “But after a while we realized that it is not just diabetics who need properly fitted shoes — it was also people coming to see the podiatrist.”
The right facility
Warren agreed he needed to add a pedorthics facility.
“It made sense,” Branham said. “When you go to the eye doctor, where do you get your glasses? So where better to get your footwear than from a pedorthist working at a podiatrist’s office?”
Branham earned certification in 2007, when The Fitted Foot opened.
“Learning pedorthics was easier for me because I had been working in podiatry for so long.”
Naming the new pedorthic facility was hard, she confessed with a grin.
“We thought of about eight or nine other names before we decided on ‘The Fitted Foot.’ We wanted to get the point across that we offer professional fitting and that you don’t just walk in and serve yourself like in most shoe stores,” Branham said.
Even so, Warren wanted The Fitted Foot to be a comfort shoe store. It has the requisite row of chairs, soft carpet and attractive displays that include over-the-counter inserts and other accessories. New Step Orthotic labs in Glen Carbon, Ill., makes custom orthotics for Branham.
Clients and patients can enter The Fitted Foot through the front door or from Warren’s office.
“If you go into see Dr. Warren, you walk through the shoe store after checking out,” Branham said. “If you have a prescription, we can fill it here.”
The footwear line has grown to encompass Aetrex, Apex, Brooks, Saucony, Drew, Naot, Finn Comfort, Haflinger, Birkenstock and Dr. Comfort shoes plus Orthoheel flip flops and Carolina and Wolverine work boots.
“We started with only four different brands of shoes and they were pretty much pedorthic or orthopedic,” Branham said. “We wanted to expand into quality retail footwear with running shoes, comfort shoes, dress shoes and boots.”
She said her clientele has expanded beyond Seymour and its environs.
“I never thought for a moment that we could pull people from Indianapolis, but we do.”
Branham said she is happiest when clients and patients return to their homes near or far feeling better than they did when they came to The Fitted Foot.
“The thing I most enjoy about pedorthics is truly making a difference in people’s lives.”
She cited a 12-year-old Seymour boy hobbled by heel pain from Severs Disease.
“He’s a gymnast who wants to go to the Olympics,” Branham, who crafted special orthotics he could wear barefoot so he could keep training, pain-free, said.
“Another time, a lady literally started crying because she couldn’t believe how much difference the right kind of shoes can make,” she said.
For some people, it’s just a matter of putting them in the right size.
“Most shoe stores have gotten away from measuring the foot,” she said. “People have worn the wrong size shoe for so long they don’t know what a good fit is supposed to feel like.”
All who seek shoes at The Fitted Foot get their feet measured. Often, Branham discovers a roomier shoe is needed.
Some clients and patients balk at having to wear a larger shoe.
“It’s definitely more women than men. They consider big feet unfeminine,” she said. “In that case, I try to get them into a shoe without telling them the size. Once they put the shoes on and they feel great, they ask me, ‘Now, what size is that?’ I tell them ‘The correct size.’ Typically, I won’t tell them the actual size until we are at the end of the session.”
Fitting sessions can last up to 30 minutes, Branham said.
“Sometimes, we go an hour, depending on the person’s needs.”
Fitting feet at The Fitted Foot is a five-step process. Foot measurements — weight-bearing and non weight-bearing — are followed by a computerized analysis with a foot scanner.
“The third step is a stance analysis to see pronation, supination, forefoot abduction and so on,” Branham said. “The fourth step is the gait analysis and the fifth is selecting the shoe.”
The choice is still diabetic footwear for many of Branham’s clients and patients.
“People with diabetes are about a third of our clientele,” she said. “We dispense 60 to 70 pairs of diabetic shoes a month.”
She said diabetes patients who have neuropathy often wear shoes that are too small.
“They have lost most of the feeling in their feet, so they want a smaller shoe that feels tight on their feet,” Branham explained. “Sometimes, a smaller shoe can practically cut off the circulation in their feet. I tell them wearing shoes that are too tight can lead to sores and even amputation.”
Branham educates everybody who comes into the store, even customers just wanting a comfortable pair of shoes. But pain brings many people to The Fitted Foot, she added. So she talks up “sensible” shoes and orthotics and how they can vanquish foot woes ranging from neuroma to heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
“I see a lot of plantar fasciitis and many times it comes from ill-fitting shoes,” Branham said. “A lot of people wear shoes that are too short for their feet.”
But properly fitted feet are happy feet, according to Branham.
“Most shoe stores just sell shoes,” she said. “We sell comfort and pride ourselves on fitting shoes properly.”