Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning More About Feet

There's no escaping computer technology if you're a runner. Most notable of pervasive technologies is the iPod where you'll see people listening to their favorite tunes as they run their miles at the Lady Bird Lake Trail. GPS technology, Nike chips inserted into shoes, Times watches that track distance and heart rate monitors that monitor the effort being placed on the body all help the runner perform a little better.

Dr. Scholl's has now brought computer technology for walkers and runners to the neighborhood pharmacy or grocery store with a foot-scanning kiosk. In the past, a person needed someone knowledgeable about feet or running shoes to take a look at how they walked or ran. Even with video analysis and so-called experts, the shoe recommendation was many times inaccurate.

It's very rare that a person's body is perfectly symmetrical. If one foot is a little longer than the other it can change the way a person runs, and thus cause a problem somewhere else in the body, usually the knees or the hips. As one gets older, past injuries, muscle imbalances and plain old aging of the body make selecting proper footwear more difficult.

Nike, Asics, New Balance and other show manufacturers create various types of shoes to account for differences in stride mechanics and type of running surface. You will also see various orthotics, arch supports, heel supports, etc. that'll make your feet feel good or correct foot abnormalities. But up until now it was mostly trial and error with the selection of running shoes and the additional products. For many people it wasn't until after a visit with their podiatrist that they were educated about the nature of their feet and what shoe products they should purchase.

Dr. Scholl's is placing a mobile point-of-purchase foot scanner kiosks at thousands of locations around the country. You remove your shoes and stand on the scanner and allow 2,000 pressure sensors to identify where you place the most weight. There are several scans made and you'll be required to hold the provided handles while you lift the right and left foot individually off the scanner. It also measures foot length and arch type and then recommends a custom fit orthotic. The price of the custom orthotic was $49.99, which is a little steep for my budget, but 1/10th the price of true custom orthotics which can easily cost upwards of $400.

I had always thought I had high arches. I don't recall where I received that analysis nor can I recollect an expert or shoe salesman telling me I had high arches. The Dr. Scholl's scanner indicated I had low arches with high pressure put on the heels, as well as equal pressure between the feet. Given my plantar fasciitis last year and seeing the scan of the feet, I would say this was an accurate read. I'm not sure if I'll purchase a pair of the custom orthotics but I will log the information it gave me in order to make more informed running shoe and shoe product purchases in the future.

By the way, the scanner I used was in the pharmacy section of my neighborhood HEB.

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