Carole Traner CPed, is a personal trainer. She is also a pedorthist who answers to “foot detective-educator-psychologist,” too.
“When I am fitting people I ask them questions — lots of questions,” she said. “A lot of times they respond with verbiage that I have to translate in my head. But that’s okay. It helps me start thinking about what’s happening with their feet and how I can help.”
Traner is a staff pedorthist at a pair of New Balance concept stores in Raleigh and neighboring Durham, N.C. She says “verbiage” includes what clients tell her caused their foot troubles.
“This lady came in who had a very pronated foot. She said it was because she had broken her leg. I asked her how long it was in a cast. She said it wasn’t, but she was sure her leg was broken.”
Another woman faulted her foot woes on a tumbling tuber. “She said she dropped a heavy sweet potato on her foot,” Traner said with a chuckle.
She grinned when she recalled a man who slid into second base in a softball game, broke his arm and blamed it on his orthotics. “Some people really like to diagnose themselves,” she said.
Even so, Traner said most of her clients leave the diagnoses to doctors and concede she is the expert shoe fitter. “Right away, I explain to them what a pedorthist is and what I do. When I tell them I really want to help them, they see me in a different role than just somebody who wants to sell them a pair of shoes. They trust me.”
Images: Craig B, O&P Business News
Fit all around
She said branching from personal trainer to pedorthist seemed a “natural transition…from helping my clients become fit right into helping people get shoes that fit.”
She started fitting feet to footwear at a Foot Solutions franchise store in Raleigh. “I did it for 6 years, but I got tired of working on weekends,” said Traner, who earned certification in 2008.
So in early 2012, she took a job at the two New Balance stores owned by Mark Allard, CPed. “I’ve been married for 30 years, and now I get to spend a lot more time with my husband,” she said.
The boss, Traner and Herb Felkl are the CPed contingent at the stores. “Most people who come in don’t know what a pedorthist is until I tell them. The few people who do know have been to a pedorthist or they know someone who has. I tell them that I am a ‘foot pharmacist’ and that the doctor told them what they need to do and I use that information to do it.”
Sometimes, clients are not forthcoming with the information she needs to help them. “When they come in and start looking at shoes, I’ll ask them if they are having trouble with their feet. That opens the door to let me in.
“Many times they are surprised that I asked. But a lot of them won’t tell you their feet are hurting unless you ask.”
Service with style
Few, if any, clerks inquire about foot problems at retail shoe stores, she added. “Unfortunately, almost everything is self-service. Many people are surprised when they find out that we offer personal service and that we’re not just here to try to sell them something.”
“Service” where Traner works means getting your feet measured. “Very few stores do that anymore,” she said.
Where clerks do measure, they often size only the right foot and just for length. Allard equipped his stores with custom made, double-unit Brannock devices that measure overall length, arch length and width for both feet at the same time.
“The Brannock is the basis for all of my decisions,” Traner said. “The very first thing I do is measure their feet. I don’t ask if I can measure their feet, I say, ‘Let’s measure your feet.’”
Occasionally, clients object. Women do not want to discover that their feet are bigger than they thought they were, Traner said. “But you’d be surprised at how many men also want to wear smaller size shoes. If somebody objects, I ask them, ‘Why would you not want me to help you?’”
Traner said her help is rewarded with more than a paycheck. “I get thank you cards. One lady brought me a very nice bracelet.
Education is key
“When I was at Foot Solutions, I closed 88% of the time. Education is the key. If I tell you something about your feet or shoes you didn’t know, you will remember that, and you’ll come back, and you’ll tell other people about me. My boss at Foot Solutions told me that the reason people who are alumni of colleges give money to their colleges is because some professor there taught them something. So I also see myself as a teacher.”
Traner educates more than her clients. “We want to show doctors that we are part of the health care team. We get a lot of referrals from podiatrists who trust the New Balance name. When I was with Foot Solutions, we sold a lot of different brands, but many people came in and asked for New Balance. We want to go beyond the brand with good service.”
Traner said that in the past, some podiatrists considered pedorthists as competition.
“I want to earn their trust by keeping in close contact with them and making sure that I do exactly what they want.”
Often, clients do not want the kind of sensible footwear their doctors want for them, Traner said. But now many manufacturers of therapeutic footwear are blending support and fashion in their footwear. “I can show a woman shoes that we carry that look nice and are good for her feet.”
Traner said most of the lines her store carries can accommodate orthotics. “We sell over-the-counter orthotics and do some shoe modifications. I see us as bridging the gap between medical and retail.
“Some medical pedorthists think the only way you can get comfort is with shoes that are not very attractive. But if the person isn’t going to wear the shoes, they won’t do her any good. If I can show a woman that I can fit her in a pair of shoes that look nice and give her the support she needs, she is going to be very happy with me, and I am going to be very happy with myself.”