A Change for the Best

Tim Powell, CPed, now 59 years old, started out
straddling fitting stools at retail shoe stores in his native St. Louis.

“But when they started losing market share to
self-service discounters, I knew I had to make a change,” he said. “I
wanted a career that was more solid than just a shoe salesman. So I went into

The recruit

Powell became a certified pedorthist in 1995. He works
at Laurie’s Shoes, a 60-year-old family-owned, fit-conscious footwear
retail firm where the self-service era has yet to dawn.

  Tim Powell, CPed,
  Tim Powell, CPed, became
certified in 1995 in search of a solid career that went beyond selling
  Images: Craig B, O&P
Business News

“I sometimes joke with customers that if they
don’t let me measure their feet, I’ll get kicked out of the shoe
fitters’ union,” he said, grinning. A pal of Powell’s talked him
into pedorthics. “Mike Lukowski,” he said. “He recruited

Lukowski is a staff pedorthist at Sole Control, one of
several pedorthics facilities in the St. Louis area.


Powell said his experience gave him a leg up on studying
and training to be a pedorthist.

“I knew all about the Laurie’s shoe business,
but I didn’t know that shoes could really help with biomechanical
deficiencies of the feet. When I worked for Kinney’s and Thom McAn, I
sometimes sold fashion shoes to women with bunions the size of golf balls and
didn’t think anything about it,” he said.

He said pedorthics also tied in with one of his
passions: art.

“A lot of people who draw human figures have
trouble with the hands and feet. But I always enjoyed drawing hands and
feet,” Powell said adding that he also enjoyed studying pedorthics under a
pedorthics pioneer, Dennis Janisse, CPed. “I took his basic and advanced
P.W. Minor Xtra Depth University courses in Milwaukee.”


Powell said that Janisse taught him more than how shoes
and orthotics work together to help solve foot problems.

“A good pedorthist is somebody who has compassion
and who really wants to help people,” he said. “Of course, the
personal knowledge you gain from training to be a pedorthist is important. But
compassion goes with it when you evaluate somebody to determine what their
footwear needs are.”

He said it is important to give customers a choice of
footwear they need to help ease their foot woes.

“But they have to be good choices. You want to make
sure all of the choices will work for their foot problems,” he said.
“You want to lead them to make the right choice in a shoe. It might not be
what they want. But hopefully it will be what they need.”

He said more customers are aware of what they need in
footwear. Women especially have gotten wise to high-heeled, pointy-toed
footwear that is long on style and short on comfort and support.

“Some women still wear [fashion shoes], but more
women are wearing shoes that are supportive and are shaped more to their feet.
Also, companies like Drew, P.W. Minor and Aetrex are making orthopedic shoes
that are more fashionable,” he said.

A proper handshake

Powell checks his customers for width and heel-to-toe
and heel-to-ball length with the Brannock device.

“We then back up those measurements with the Aetrex
computer, which also helps us evaluate the foot to see if orthotics are
needed,” he said.

He said the Brannock and the computer are great for the
customer who insists she has worn a size 6 since high school and could not
possibly need a larger size.

“If she measures a 7½ on the Brannock and
the Aetrex machine, that’s my backup,” Powell said with a smile.
“The next time she comes in for shoes, she has confidence in me.”

He said well-fitted shoes should feel like a proper

“You don’t want the shoe to feel too tight or
too loose,” Powell said. “You don’t want shearing inside the
shoe. You want a handshake type of fit.”

Pharmacist for the foot

Powell is strictly a retail pedorthist. He does not don
a lab coat on the job.

“A lab coat kind of intimidates people,”
Powell said. “I’m more comfortable wearing a badge that says I’m
a pedorthist.”

He added that many customers who come in the door are
not sure what a pedorthist is.

“I tell them I am like an orthotist but for the
foot and ankle,” he said. “I say I am a pharmacist for the foot. You
go to a pharmacist for medicine. You go to an orthotist or a pedorthist for
support. We don’t do prescriptions but we do sell over-the-counter

Personal service

Powell works at Laurie’s hub store. The company has
five other stores in St. Louis.

“We’re a destination business. We get a lot of
second and third generation customers,” he said. “The company was
founded in 1951 on service. When you give customers good service and fit them
right, they will keep coming back.”

Powell also said that pedorthics is based on proper shoe
fitting plus “keeping the customer’s best interest at heart.
You’ve got to have integrity. This isn’t about cramming a pair of
shoes on customers and sending them out the door.”

After they come through the door, Powell greets them and
seats them.

“One of the most important things I do after I meet
customers is introduce myself to them and ask them to tell me their
names,” Powell said. “I got that idea from the movie Dances with
Wolves. When Capt. Dunbar is in the tent with the medicine man and the woman,
the medicine man starts firing a bunch of questions at him for the woman to

“Dunbar says, ‘Hold on, let’s introduce
ourselves first.’”

And Powell has had the chance to introduce himself to
some better-known customers from newspapers and television. Joe Buck, the
well-known sports broadcaster, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are
Lauries’ customers.

But all customers get the same personal service, Powell,
who is also bilingual, said.

“Just for the fun of it, I learned to say
‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in several different languages,”
Powell said, smiling. “One time, I had a customer from India, and I said
hello in her language … that was all I knew how to say but she thought it
was pretty cool.”

Clinical Tip

  Tim Powell, CPed, does not let customers watch while he is measuring their feet in order to get an accurate reading.
  Tim Powell, CPed, does not let
customers watch while he is measuring their feet in order to get an accurate

Tim Powell, CPed, does not want customers to peek when he
measures their feet. “I have them look straight ahead because when you
look down, you lift up your toes and that gives me an incorrect
measurement,” Powell said. He said customers naturally want to watch
– say a woman who is standing in her stocking feet with one foot on a
cold, hard metal Brannock Device, with its seemingly mysterious scale lines,
numbers and letters. All the while, Powell is bent over, adjusting the gizmo to
her foot. For all customers, Powell angles the Brannock at about 16°.
“Most people stand naturally at about 16°. You get a more accurate
measurement when you have them stand naturally,” he said. “If you put
the Brannock straight in front of the persons being measured, they have a
tendency to put their heel against the inside of the cup. That can give you an
incorrect measurement, too.”


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