Former Sergeant, the Army Prepared Him for a Pedorthics Career

Irvin Jenkins, CPed, has not had a straight path toward a pedorthics
career. He grew up in Delaware wanting to be an airplane pilot. He spent more
than a dozen years in the Army and earned sergeant first class stripes.

“I started out in the shoe business after I got out of the army in
1987,” he said. “The military taught me observation and
communications skills and the importance of paying attention to detail. I
learned to accept challenges and to be adaptable. All [of] that has helped me
as a pedorthist.”

Patience is essential

Jenkins is a staff pedorthist at the Baltimore-based Van Dyke and Bacon
shoe company’s branch store in Ellicott City, near the Charm City. He
joined Van Dyke and Bacon in 1999 and became a board certified pedorthist 10
years later. The company specializes in fitting comfort and orthopedic shoes
and orthotics.

“As time went on, I liked the technical aspect of what we do more
and more,” he said. “So I decided to become a CPed.”

He took precertification courses at the Robert M. Palmer, MD, Institute
of Biomechanics in Elwood, Ind.

“It was a great course, very comprehensive,” he said.

Jenkins promises he is not sorry he ended up astride a fitting stool
instead of in a cockpit.

“Becoming a CPed gave me a skill to really help people. Many of our
clients have the same foot problems. But every client is different, an
individual. Pedorthics really challenges you,” Jenkins said.

  Irvin Jenkins, CPed, believes patience in essential in pedorthics.
  Irvin Jenkins, CPed, believes
patience in essential in pedorthics.
  Image: Craig B, O&P Business

While patience may be a mere virtue in other careers, it is essential
for pedorthics, he said.

“In a strictly retail situation, you tend to go a little faster
– get one customer into something and move on to the next customer. In
pedorthics, you have to take your time. There is no way you can rush the
outcome if you want to get it right.”

Jenkins said good pedorthists are good listeners, too.

“You’ve got to talk to the client and find out what’s
going on. You might look at a prescription and start formulating in your mind
what you need to do. But you can’t make your final decision until you have
he shoes blend comfort and style, Jenkins said.

“Client compliance is very important. To get the full benefit, the
client obviously needs to wear the shoes,” he said. “The
manufacturers understand that many women – men, too – don’t want
to wear ugly shoes. So they are making therapeutic shoes that are more
attractive. People are still a lot more responsive to looks and style.”

Clinical Tip

Irvin Jenkins, CPed, says on the busiest days at the shoe
store, he tries to set aside a few minutes of down time between clients.

“Sometimes, when you’ve got clients coming in one
after another, they can blur. So take a little time, maybe when you’re
putting back stock, between your last client and the next one,” he said.
“It helps you to see each client as a separate entity.”


Most people who patronize Jenkins’ store are repeaters. The store
is in a strip shopping center next to busy Baltimore National Pike. Besides
footwear, the store dispenses over-the-counter and custom orthotics. The latter
are fabricated in a central lab at the Baltimore store.

“We are a definitely a destination business. But we do get a fair
amount of walk-ins. We are right next to a busy restaurant, and the shopping
center stays pretty busy, too.”

Specific needs

Many of Jenkins’ clients or customers are middle aged or older

“Typically, women buy more shoes than men,” Jenkins said.
“With men, one or two pairs will do the job. Women need different shoes to
match the different clothes they wear. It’s not just a vanity thing;
it’s driven by necessity, too.”

But vanity also drives some women to wear shoes too small for their
feet. All feet get measured before they go into shoes where Jenkins works.

“But you don’t want to make a huge point that they might
measure a larger size than they’ve been wearing,” he said.

For example, if a woman balks when his Brannock device shows she is an
eight and not the size six she was in high school, he brings out the same style
shoe she wants in a six and an eight. “I try both sizes on her and let her
compare. Almost always, the customer will pick the larger size because it is

For some clients, ill-fitted shoes can be more than uncomfortable; they
can be health hazards. Jenkins specifically calls this out for the diabetes

He spends extra time telling his diabetes clients about the importance
of taking care of their feet. Diabetes often leads to neuropathy, or loss of
sensation in the feet. As a result, a person might not feel a blister,
resulting in infection and even limb loss.

“I always remind them to keep a close check on their feet and
stress that any trauma can lead to amputation, and amputation can lead to
things a lot worse. You don’t want to use scare tactics. You want to
outline the difficulties they can have if they aren’t compliant,” he

He uses the same approach when he talks to young people, especially
women, about how they sabotage their feet when they wear high fashion, low
support shoes.

“You don’t want to scold. You want to show them that wearing
bad shoes can lead to difficulties when they are in their 40s and 50s. You want
them to think it over for themselves.”

At the same time, he said women in their 20s and 30s are becoming more
aware that taking care of their feet is part of their overall wellness.

“It also helps tremendously that casual and comfort footwear is
stylish now,” he said. “Women are wearing comfort shoes instead of
high heels.”

Allied health care

Meanwhile, Jenkins, like other pedorthists, sees himself as an allied
health care professional.

“We have a core of doctors who refer their patients to us.
It’s a collaborative effort. We know shoes and we can spend more time with
the patients explaining to them, for example, about gait and about what causes
plantar fasciitis,” he said. “We also talk to them in a manner they
can understand.”

Several clients ask for Jenkins personally when they come in the store.

“My environment doesn’t say ‘retirement,’” he
added with a chuckle. “I love what I do every day.”

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