Thursday, 30 April 2009
Footwear Fitting 2009: The Anatom Academy
Working in an outdoor shop many years ago I learnt how to fit hiking boots – check there was enough room to slide a finger down the back of the boot when the laces were tightened. If I could do this and the customer didn’t complain too much about pressure points and pinched toes then the boots fitted. Unsurprisingly this crude method – standard practice at the time - often resulted in aching feet and many blisters - for me as well others. Then in the mid 1990s I attended Phil Oren’s Fitsystem courses. These were a revelation. Phil had developed a method that actually resulted in footwear that fitted properly, a complex process involving foot examination, foot measuring, incline boards and, when necessary, stabilising footbeds and boot modification. I was impressed with the method and the attention to detail and delighted that outdoor shop staff were being trained in this way. It made a personal difference too. Once I added stabilising footbeds to my boots and shoes I came back down a size as my feet no longer elongated when I put weight on them. My feet hadn’t “got bigger” with age as I’d thought. Instead they’d become unstable. I also found that my knees no longer ached on long steep rocky descents – and they still don’t after another decade.
Phil retired around four years ago and his Fitsystem courses faded away. However Anatom, the company who organised them in the UK, set up their own Anatom Academy to provide fitting training for shop staff. I’ve just returned from attending one of the Anatom Level 1 courses and I must say I was impressed. The Anatom staff, who are trained pedorthists, have developed Phil’s system and added further topics such as biomechanics and gait analysis. The course is hands-on and attendees practise measuring feet with Brannock Devices and fitting Superfeet footbeds. The amount of information is somewhat overwhelming and I’m sure some people went home still trying to take it all in. There is also a longer Level 2 course for those who’ve taken Level 1 and Anatom do in-store training.
Anyone who has no problem finding boots or shoes that fit comfortably can ignore whether shop staff are trained in footwear fitting or not. The rest of us can greatly reduce the likelihood of sore feet and blisters by finding a shop with staff who’ve taken the Anatom Academy courses and who can fit footwear properly.
The picture shows Andy Blair of Anatom introducing the Level 1 programme to a group of outdoor shop staff.
Posted by Chris Townsend