The Pharmacist for the Foot

Matt Herring, CPed, started out to be a minister of the gospel. He ended
up saving soles.

“A pedorthist?” he asked with a grin. “That was probably
the last thing on my career list.”

Herring, a Boca Raton, Fla. native, manages the New Balance concept
store in Durham, N.C.

A different path

“I got into the shoe profession working in a sports store after
high school,” he said.

Between part-time shoe selling and full-time pedorthics, Herring went to
Palm Beach Atlantic University planning on a career in the pulpit.

He worked part-time building houses for construction companies.

After college, he got married, went into construction work full time and
moved with his family to Durham, where he ended up with a building supply firm.

“I went to work part time in the store after I got laid off,”
he said.

Herring had graduated to full-time shoe fitting, when the store owner,
Mark Allard, CPed, suggested he get certified as a pedorthist.

“Mark wanted Herb [Felkl] the Raleigh store manager, and me to
become CPeds so we could become more helpful with the doctor referrals,”
Herring explained.

Herring was certified in 2006. It was a good career move, he said.

While his path did not always point toward a career in pedorthics, looking back, Herring considers it the right career move.
While his path did not always
point toward a career in pedorthics, looking back, Herring considers it the
right career move.
Images: Craig B, O&P Business

“Becoming a pedorthist also helps me better understand the
technologies that are in shoes and also what people go through who have plantar
fasciitis, metatarsalgia, Achilles tendonitis and other foot issues. We
can’t always get rid of pain entirely, but we can help alleviate it,”
he said. “Pedorthics helps me understand what the people are going through
when a doctor sends them to us. Or if a doctor sends me somebody with a
prescription that says they have plantar fasciitis, say, I know what I can do
to help.”

Common ailments

He said plantar fasciitis is the most common foot ailment he sees.

“It is not pleasant,” he said explaining that it is also not
easy for some people to pronounce. “Sometimes they come in and tell us,
‘The doctor says I have ‘plantar fashitis.’’ Other
customers claim their physician said they ‘prorate,’” according
to Herring. “We understand what they mean but don’t correct them.
We’ll use the terms in a sentence like, ‘Oh, you have plantar
fasciitis’ or ‘You pronate.’”

Herring also said practicing pedorthics requires patience.

“You have to be a good listener, too. You have to be sympathetic to
the person while gathering information about what they need in a shoe.”

But he said properly fitting footwear to feet is just as important as
correctly fitting orthotics to shoes. He said many people – especially women –
wear shoes that are too small for their feet.

Traditional measures

Herring measures feet simultaneously on special double-unit Brannock
devices, mounted side by side on a plastic board.

“A lot of shoe stores don’t measure anymore,” he said.
“One time, a little old lady thanked me for measuring her feet. She said
she was a little girl the last time anybody measured her feet and that they
also put her feet in one of those old x-ray machines.”

When he puts a customer’s feet in his double-Brannocks, the devices
often show a need for a larger size, an eight instead of a six, for example.
Herring says humor helps.

“A woman might say, ‘I’ve never been an eight in my
life.’ If she’s got a good sense of humor, I might then ask her age.
If she says ‘Forty,’ I might say, ‘Well, you’ve never been
forty either,’” he said. “I explain that as we all get older,
gravity takes over. Our feet spread out and get larger. But I also tell them
that people usually need a full size larger in a sneaker than in a dress shoe.
That helps make them feel better.”

Importance of knowledge

So do orthotics, Herring said. He often dispenses them with footwear.

“Our orthotics are over-the-counter,” he said. “But they
work fine for most of our customers.”

Many of Herring’s customers are faculty, staff and students from
nearby Duke University.

“A lot of them run or walk quite a bit and are more health
conscious,” he said.

He also said that the bulk of his customers are repeaters. His store is
in a strip mall.

“We’re a destination business,” Herring said.
“People know who we are and where we are. But we get some foot traffic
from the restaurants that are near us.”

He said some newcomers to the store think it includes a podiatric

Practice Tip

Some pedorthists prefer measuring a client’s feet in
weight-bearing mode.

  A double-unit Brannock device allows Herring to measure his patients feet while they are seated and standing.
  A double-unit
Brannock device allows Herring to measure his patients feet while they are
seated and standing.
  Images: Craig B,
O&P Business News

“I get a truer picture of what’s going on with the
foot if I measure them seated and standing,” Herring said.

He uses special double-unit Brannock devices that enable him
to size both feet at the same time.

“Measuring a person seated gives me a better look at
the arch than I would get in weight bearing only. Measuring both ways lets me
see how much the arch is flattening out and helps me decide what kind of
insert, if any, they might need.”


“‘Pedorthist’ and ‘podiatrist’ sound alike. But
I tell people that pedorthists are a pharmacist for the foot,” he said.
“You go to a podiatrist and he writes a prescription. I tell them I’m
the one who fills it.”

Filling prescriptions at a drug store or a pedorthics facility is based
on personal and professional service, he added.

“With the amount of training we go through, pedorthists are allied
health care professionals. We’re not Al Bundy who says, ‘Here’s
a shoe box – see you later.’”

He arrives early at the store.

“I get here at 8 a.m. and we open at 10 a.m. That’s when I go
over the books and take care of the management end of the business.”

He likes both ends of the business.

“But I probably get more frustrated with the managerial side of
things than the pedorthic side of things,” Herring said with a chuckle.

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