Shoe-fitting event gets kids off on right foot

Apr. 19, 2013 @ 06:35 PM

About 60 children got free shoes Friday afternoon in Sanford, and their parents got a free lesson in foot health as well, at Sanford’s Kinetic Institute Physical Therapy.

With dozens of pairs of shoes donated by New Balance and Aetrex, the event was organized by FootCentric and its founder Pat Pande, a physical therapist who has been hosting similar events twice a year across the state for the last two years.

Pande and Mark Allard, the owner of New Balance stores in Raleigh and Durham, said the importance of healthy feet is often overlooked even though issues can lead to medical issues and pain, which can lead further down the road to secondary health problems, obesity and more. And they would know — both are certified pedorthists, which Allard described as a pharmacist for feet.

“We want to get kids while they’re young and before they destroy their feet,” Pande said. “You’d be surprised how many kids have bad feet by 6 or 7 years old.”

Allard noted that the way a foot’s length, width and arch work with the sole of a shoe can go a long way toward improving health and comfort.

“You’d be shocked how many people wear the wrong size shoes,” he said. “Probably the majority of people. They just say, ‘Well, I’ve been wearing this size for 20 years.’ But gravity, Father Time and other things all make your feet change size and shape.”

But one major impediment to good foot health, Pande and Allard acknowledged, is the high price of good shoes. And that, they said, is why they do programs like this. Scott Axner, who started Kinetic Institute Physical Therapy, located at 2010 Carthage St., 18 years ago, agreed. And although many of the people Axner sees at his Sanford practice are older and are having back or shoulder issues, he said, a sister practice in Cary has a younger crowd — and close to half of its patients come in with foot issues. Even problems in the hips, knees and lower back can often, he said, begin from the ground up.

“From our standpoint, it all starts with the feet,” Axner said. And that’s why his office reached out to families through the Department of Social Services, various daycare programs and Floyd L. Knight/The Children’s Center in order to find children around town facing potential medical or financial barriers to good, comfortable shoes.

Casey Cornwell was one mom who jumped at the opportunity, saying that even the small shoes her three kids, ages 4-10, wear can cost $80 or more.

“They’re so expensive,” she said. “I rely on their grandparents to help get them new pairs. ... And they grow out of them so fast.”

So the whole family was giddy when it was their turn to get some shiny new athletic shoes complete with an expert fitting and analysis by Allard, Pande and members of Axner’s staff.

Jack, Cornwell’s 10-year-old son, said his main sport is swimming, so he hasn’t had any problems with his shoes while exercising.

“But we do have a lot of land, and I go all around that a lot,” he said. “So these will be good for that.”

Likewise, 7-year-old Jorja said she was comfy in her new pink shoes, and Cornwell even learned a valuable tidbit about her youngest child, 4-year-old Max.

“He has wide feet,” she said. “Who knew?”