Medical shoe fitting a big part of what happens at Brainsport

For people with mobility challenges or who have custom orthodics or braces, finding a pair of good-fitting shoes can be daunting. But staff at Brainsport are trained in how to do medical fits for clients who may need some extra attention.

This week, Brainsport floor manager Colin Federow speaks with the Brainsport Times about medical fits.

Q: What is a medical fit?

A: A medical fit typically takes more time and focus than a regular fit. A customer may need a shoe that accommodates their custom orthotics, or a brace/ankle-foot orthotic (AFO). We work with people that have bunions, hammertoes, neuromas, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, arthritis and a multitude of other foot conditions. We also work with people that have multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, diabetes and other diseases, as well as cognitive and physical challenges.

Q: How is a medical fit different from a regular fit?

A: For the most part, our fit process remains the same: We measure a person’s foot for length and width and we watch them walk (when applicable) to see what the person’s feet do while in motion. It starts to differ when we investigate the intended use of the shoes and begin discussing any aliments or conditions that may affect the fit and/or type of shoes required.

Some considerations we take into account include (but not limited to) looking for shoes with a softer upper with extra width for swelling related to diabetes; a stiff fore-foot in the shoe for broken metatarsals or arthritis; deeper toe-boxes for hammertoes or neuromas and added stability through the arch for plantar fasciitis.

Q: What specialists does Brainsport work with?

A: With the multitude of ailments, conditions and diseases that may afflict one’s feet, it is important that we work closely with other professionals in the field. We typically consult with the following on a regular basis:

  • Podiatrists
  • Orthopaedic surgeons
  • Orthotists
  • Pedorthists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Chiropractors
  • Massage therapists
  • Bracing specialists

Q: How do you stay connected with the medical professionals?

A: Building trust and positive relationships takes time.

On occasion, we have representatives from some of our shoe brands in Saskatoon. If they have a new shoe or product that we feel the medical community should be aware of, we will schedule visits with the medical professionals and do a brief presentation at their offices.

We also try to host an event every couple of years at Brainsport called a medical night (very creative name, I know). Unfortunately, we had to cancel the event this year due to COVID-19. This is a private event to which we invite the aforementioned medical professionals to come to the store. We also invite several of our product reps to be in attendance so the medical professionals can interact directly with them. Overall, the evening is an amazing opportunity with open dialogue between Brainsport staff, product representatives and the medical community.

Q: Is there anything else people should know?

A: The main thing is that I hope all of our customers understand that we work incredibly hard to help get the best shoes on everyone’s feet. Sometimes that may be as simple as grabbing the latest version of shoes you love off the shelf and going on your way. Other times staff need to resolve some pretty unique and complex problems. Medical fits require a lot of focus and attention and therefore cannot be rushed. These fits are often quite emotional for our customers and staff alike.

Here are a few examples of fits that we have encountered:

  • Adult children watching their elderly father walk for the first time in a couple of years with the help of stable and supportive shoes
  • A mother tearing up because her son/daughter is finally able to do up his/her own shoes
  • A child with an AFO smiling from ear to ear because he or she has a cool pair of shoes they can put
  • A customer that puts down their cane or crutches and walks unassisted

Colin Federow spent 20 years working in manufacturing and mining before obtaining his Bachelors in Kinesiology in 2017. He has been coaching marathon teams through Brainsport since 2007 and has helped more than 500 athletes reach their marathon-related goals. He is one of Brainsport’s shoe-fitting experts, organizes the store’s Brainsport Running Academy clinics and is the store’s medical liaison.