The Business of Helping People

Kevin Christel, CPed, has happy memories of the 2006 NFL football season
and not just because that was the year the Indianapolis Colts, his favorite
team, won the Super Bowl. He fondly recalls ca key mid-season game in which
Terrence Wilkins sprinted to a game-changing touchdown.

The wide receiver-punt return specialist scored with Christel-supplied
orthotic inserts in his shoes. But let the pedorthist tell the tale:

“He came to me for orthotics and I fitted a pair in his football
cleats. I was watching the Colts play San Diego on [television]. It was in
October. The Colts were behind 14-0 when all of a sudden he ran a punt back 82
yards. The Colts went on to win,” Christel explained. “When Wilkins
scored, I was jumping up and down on the couch and saying to myself, ‘I
hope he credits Foot Solutions.’”

Change of atmosphere

Christel owns the Foot Solutions franchise in the Colts’ hometown.
But like the team, Christel, a New Jersey native, migrated to the Hoosier State
capital from Back East. The Colts were originally based out of Baltimore.
Christel worked in the Big Apple.

Before entering the field of pedorthics, Kevin Christel knew little about footwear but he is happy he went through the process.
Before entering the field of
pedorthics, Kevin Christel knew little about footwear but he is happy he went
through the process.
Images: Craig B, O&P Business

“I had been an executive in a financial service company in New York
City for 25 years. I wanted to get out of the corporate world. I lived in
northern New Jersey and was getting tired of commuting to Manhattan,”
Christel explained. “Several members of my family had migrated out here
through the years, so I decided to follow them.”

Nonetheless, he did not plan to be a pedorthist in his new environs.

“I wanted to get into something where I was helping people, but I
had never heard of pedorthics,” he said with a chuckle. “I got
involved in Foot Solutions through a franchise broker. I liked the

Educational experience

Christel confessed that before he entered pedorthics he knew nothing
about footwear “except that I wore the same size shoe from when I was in
high school to when I joined Foot Solutions.”

He discovered he was wrong about that too, after he enrolled in
pedorthics pre-certification classes at franchise headquarters in Marietta, Ga.

“I had always worn a 12 B. When I was training to be a pedorthist,
they measured my feet and said I should be wearing a 14 AA. But most Americans
wear shoes that are too short or too narrow,” he said. “We get used
to it. We don’t notice that our feet are expanding as we get older.”

Christel earned certification as a pedorthist in 2004, a few years after
he opened his store. Located in a small shopping center, the facility
specializes in comfort footwear and over-the-counter as well as custom-fit
orthotics, the latter crafted by AMFIT at its lab in Vancouver, Wash.


Christel operates an American Board for Certification in Orthotics,
Prosthetics and Pedorthics Inc.-accredited pedorthics facility.

“Becoming accredited is a very rigorous process. But once you go
through it, you understand why it has to be rigorous,” he said adding that
he is happy he went through the process. “Pedorthics is a great profession
to be in, again, if you want to help people. But my store is also a retail

Welcome to the business

“It’s wonderful when people come back and say my shoes or my
orthotics feel great. But you’ve also got to be prepared to handle
rejection,” Christel said.

Kevin Christel evaluates each client’s gait pattern and measures their feet before trying on footwear.
Kevin Christel evaluates each
client’s gait pattern and measures their feet before trying on footwear.

He cited one unhappy customer who dropped by the store while a Foot
Solutions training officer happened to be in the stock room.

“It was the week I opened. This really lovely blonde woman came in
wearing designer jeans, perfectly coiffed hair and a big diamond ring,” he

Christel greeted and seated her. He slipped off her shoes and grabbed a
shiny purple and silver women’s model Brannock device. He asked her to
stand and proceeded to carefully size up both of her feet with the metal

“After she sat back down, she asked me what size she should
wear,” the pedorthist recalled with a grin. “I said seven-and-a half.
She stood up, put both hands on her hips, looked indignantly in my face and
said ‘I’m not a seven-and-a-half. I’m a 7.’”

Clinical Tip

Christel says it is a good idea to have people walk around
in their stocking feet for about 30 seconds before measuring them with a
Brannock Device.

“Some people’s feet will actually expand after
walking a bit. I found this out in my first week on the job,” he

Before he takes
measurements, Christel asks his clients to walk around for a few minutes to see
if their feet will expand.

He added that “when it comes to foot measurement, the
Brannock Device is a great starting point. However, it is only a guide as final
measurement requires both observation about the patient’s feet –
straight, flared, proportionality between heel and ball, girth, – and
actual fitting, as footwear is constructed on a variety of different lasts.
Also, the Brannock device provides two-dimensional measurements, whereas a
person’s feet are three-dimensional. You can literally have two people
with identical heel-to-toe and arch length measurements, but wear different
sized footwear because of differing instep height. It is important to note that
no two feet are identical.”


She put her shoes back on and walked out the door.

“I’ve never seen her since,” Christel recalled.
“Anyway, the training guy came out laughing so hard he had tears in his
eyes. ‘Welcome to the shoe business,’ he said to me.”

Learn on the job

Christel also recalled the time he measured a woman’s feet that
seemed to grow larger by the minute.

“The first time, she was an eight-and-a-half. I brought out an
eight-and-a-half and it was too short,” Christel explained. “I
measured her again. This time she was a nine. I brought out a nine and it was
too short. Finally, I brought out a nine-and-a-half and it fit. I felt like an
embarrassed rookie. But I learned that a percentage of people have feet that
expand significantly the more they walk around. Their joints really loosen

Loose-jointed or not, each client’s gait is evaluated and all feet
get carefully measured before they go into footwear at Christel’s store.

“That surprises a lot of people. Sometimes, they ask, ‘Why are
you wasting your time doing this?’ I explain to them that this is not a
regular shoe store. It is an allied health facility. We are not doctors, we
don’t diagnose and we don’t treat except by prescription,”
Christel explained. “But our goal is to make people’s feet feel
better through shoes and orthotics. Most people are grateful for that.”

Know the customer

Christel explained that he has been open long enough for people to know
that his store is not a posh fashion footwear salon. Most of his clients are
repeat customers.

“Occasionally, we get casual shoppers who come in, but that’s
part of the retail business,” he said. “We’re always happy to
help them, too, and try to make their feet feel great when they walk out the

Christel said he has observed over time that men and women shop
differently for shoes.

“Most guys have laser vision when it comes to shoes. They see what
they want; they buy it and get out. Most women like to browse. I’m not
being critical. But you’ve got to acclimate yourself to that or
you’ll go crazy,” he said.

In addition, Christel said he has had to get used to the occasional
customer who will blatantly exploit his pedorthic expertise.

“More and more people come into pedorthic facilities, get measured,
try on shoes and then go home and order the same or similar shoes online.
Online shopping is a great business idea but it is hurting the brick and mortar
stores,” he explained.

About more than money

Most people who come to his store appreciate his professionalism and buy
shoes and orthotics from him, according to Christel. Many of them are diabetes

“Diabetes is rampant in the general population around here,”
he said. “That’s why diabetes education is so important.”

To that end, Christel sometimes speaks at city diabetes programs, such
as seminars.

“I tell a true story of two of my former bosses from corporate
life. Both of them had diabetes,” he explained. “One was on vacation
at the Jersey Shore. He went walking barefoot on the boardwalk and got a
splinter in his foot. Gangrene developed. He lost his foot a year later and he
died a year after that. The other man just didn’t take good care of
himself and he died, too.”

Christel said if he sees an untreated diabetes-related foot problem, he
refers the customer to a wound care center or to an endocrinologist.

“I’m not going to risk somebody’s health just to sell
them a pair of shoes or inserts and make a profit,” Christel explained.
“Pedorthics is about helping people.”

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