In this week’s edition of The A to Z of Allied Health, we step into the shoes of the pedorthist profession. We’ll cover what a pedorthist does, the areas in which they work, their educational requirements, and the regulatory frameworks that govern them.
Many people put on their shoes and socks and get on with their day without really thinking about it. However, pain, injury, illness or disability can make it challenging to get ready in the morning, move around, or do what we want to do. Our feet comprise many bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels. All these moving parts need to work well together for people to stay healthy and active—here’s where pedorthists step in.
What do Pedorthists do?
Pedorthist Custom Makers specialise in foot and lower limb health care through assistive technology. They are experts in using prefabricated and custom-made orthopaedic footwear, lower limb orthotics and braces to apply practical and positive solutions to foot problems and improve people’s quality of life.
Key aspects of pedorthic care include
- Preventing and treating foot pain and deformity
- Improving mobility
- Preventing falls
- Reducing the risk of amputation in people with diabetes.
Pedorthists work with people of all ages and across various health conditions. They provide essential products and services for people living with diabetes, arthritis, pain and other chronic conditions. They frequently work with polio survivors, people with neuromuscular disorders such as Charcot Marie Tooth disease and cerebral palsy, and people who have a lower limb amputation.
A pedorthist is by necessity a problem-solver, employing a range of clinical, technical, and creative skills to ensure their clients have healthy feet and functional footwear.
A day in the life of a pedorthist typically involves seeing clients in-clinic. Appointments may entail comprehensive lower limb assessments, gait analysis, measuring, scanning and casting for orthotics and footwear, plantar pressure mapping (measuring foot pressure distribution while walking or standing) and/or shoe fitting. Time is also spent in the laboratory modifying orthotics, bracing and footwear, as well as designing and manufacturing custom-made orthotics and custom-made orthopaedic footwear.
Where does a pedorthist work?
Pedorthists work around the world and the profession is prominent throughout Europe and in several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and Japan.
In Australia, you’ll find pedorthists in retail and community settings such as orthopaedic, athletic, and general shoe stores, aged care services and orthotics laboratories. Most pedorthists work independently in small clinics, primarily located in metropolitan areas. Some travel from urban centres to hold clinics in rural and regional areas. Pedorthists are often members of multidisciplinary healthcare teams delivering high-risk foot services in community health centres and public hospitals.
What are the professional education and regulatory frameworks for pedorthists?
In Australia, aspiring pedorthists must complete a 3-year Bachelor of Pedorthics, which includes approximately 2000 hours of supervised clinical practice through placements. This is considered the most extensive education and training program for pedorthists in the world.
In the USA, pedorthic students undertake courses on footwear fitting, foot and ankle orthotic design, materials and manufacturing, shoe construction and modification, and patient management. They also undertake 1000 hours of practical experience. They are then eligible and required to take an accreditation examination for the Pedorthic Footcare Association.
In Canada, pedorthic students must hold a bachelor’s degree (e.g., in Human Anatomy and Physiology, Biomechanics/Kinesiology) and then complete a Pedorthic professional curriculum. Once they pass a credentialing examination, they are eligible for registration with the Pedorthic Footcare Association.
Pedorthics is a self-regulated profession in Australia, the USA and Canada. In Australia, Certified Pedorthists are registered with the Pedorthic Association of Australia, the peak national body for pedorthists.
Workforce considerations for Pedorthists
The USA has the largest professional body for pedorthists: The Pedorthic Footcare Association, founded in 1958. Nonetheless, pedorthics is considered one of the smaller allied health professions, with fewer than 35 Certified Pethorthist Custom Makers practising in Australia. The Pedorthic Association of Australia actively raises awareness of the profession nationally and internationally. The Pedorthic Association of Australia is also a member of the international association for Pedorthics, Internationaler Verband Orthopaedieschuhtechnik / International Association for Orthopaedic Shoe Technicians (IVO), which promotes global development and cooperation in the pedorthic profession.
Find out more about Pedorthists
Here are some links to websites and resources for and about pedorthists:
- Pedorthic Association of Australia
- Pedorthic Footcare Association USA
- Pedorthic Association of Canada
- The College of Pedorthics of Canada
- The International Association for Orthopaedic Shoe Technicians (IVO)
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Join us for next week’s instalment of The A to Z of Allied Health as we cover music therapists. See you then!