Feet are the most neglected part of the body, but you ignore them at your peril. Sharon Dale talks to a podiatrist who offers a simple solution to everything from bunions and fallen arches to knee and back pain.
T0 SAY podiatry has changed Rebecca Shepherd's life is no overstatement. For two years Rebecca, from Settle, suffered chronic pains in her knees. Although she excelled at sport, she was unable to play a full game of hockey - the pain was so acute she was often in tears.
She was diagnosed as having chondromalacia patellae - friction behind the kneecap and a common problem in women. Her mother Mary says: "We went to the doctors and were given anti inflammatory drugs and appointments for the physio. They helped a bit, but within weeks she was in agony again.
"Her dad had to help her up the stairs to bed some nights, because she couldn't walk up. It was terrible to see her in that state."
Salvation came when Mary spotted an advert for podiatry in her husand's fell running magazine. After one visit to the Rebound Clinic in Settle, run by podiatrist and biomehanical dysfunction expert Andrew Stanley, Rebecca's knees were pain free. Andrew studied Rebecca's feet and lower limbs and realised her skeleton was out of alignment which causes friction and pressure on joint and bones (that's biomechanical dysfunction). He manipulated the foot into the ideal position, made a plaster cast and from that a pair of orthotic plastic shoe inserts - and the problem cleared up immediately.
To help diagnosis and to prove his point he has a gait laboratory, where clients run on a treadmill while he videos their lower limbs. In slow motion you can plainly see how feet and lower legs splay at awkward angles. He films them again later, running with made-to-measure shoe inserts and the feet and legs are in alignment with the rest of the body
'You could plainly see the problem on the video. Andrew made her a pair of temporary inserts for her shoes there and then and the problem went. The next day she took part in a six-hour hockey tournament with no pain. 'Podiatry has been a miracle for us, but not many people know about it.' says Mary.
Rebecca, a talented discus thrower, who is hoping to compete in the national championships, is thrilled and sees wearing the inserts, which only work in "sensible" shoes, as a small price to pay. She will probably have to wear them for the rest of her life.
Maura Peake, in her 50's, from Ilkley, also reserves her high heels for special occasions. "I wear flat shoes now because I need to wear the inserts, but I don't mind because flatties are quite fashionable now."
Maura had had two bunions surgically removed and was suffering fallen arches plus neck and back pain when she visited Andrew. "I'd tried everything and had been in a lot of pain for years. My feet are quite bad, but he made me some inserts and they are marvellous.
"My body was out of alignment. Now when my foot touches the ground. I feel much more stable. The pain in my back and neck has eased and my posture is much better."
Andrew Stanley reckons that a large percentage of us have skeletal malalignment and women suffer more than men. 'There are two reasons why women suffer more problems than men. Firstly. because their hips are wider, so when the upper limb comes in at the knee, it does so at an angle, rather than running parallel. Secondly. because some women wear high heels, which restrict the ankle.
There are other factors which can combine to cause problems. In elderly women you can't always correct the problems, but you can alleviate the pain.
"But a lot of the problems, especially things like bunions, tend to run in familes - so it is a good idea to take preventative measures and get yourself checked out - before it is too late
Podiatry is a relatively new discipline. It is big news in America and Canada, where a visit to the podiatrist is as common as a visit to the dentist.
Dr Scholl had the right idea when he designed his range of sensible, foot supporting shoes at the turn of the century, but his ideas have been taken further thanks mainly to the jogging boom in the 70's.
Andrew says "People found they were getting a lot of joint problems due to running. Then they decided that running in spongy shoes would be better, but that only increased the number of running injuries. The modern science of podiatry really started advancing from then."
It was discovered that made-to-measure inserts, which realigned the foot, also helped to realign the rest of the body. A whole host of problems can stem from malalignment including hip and lower back pain and Osgood Schlatters Sydrome, a knee condition which affects 15 per cent of adolescent boys.
Andrew, who is also a chiropodist and has a workshop at the clinic where he manufactures his own shoe inserts, says: "We had one boy in who was in a lot of pain and was vey depressed because he had been very sporty. The condition meant he was dropped from his rugby team and unable to play any sport.
We made him some inserts and within two weeks, he was back in the team. That was very rewarding.
Andrew previously practised near St Helens and was about to emigrate to Canada, where podiatrists are in demand. But his wife, Ann, persuaded him to open a clinic in Settle where they had enjoyed holidays. Rebound opened 15 months ago. Opening here was an experiment, but people have travelled from all over to see me. I get a lot of runners and sports people, but word is spreading that podiatry can help everyone
C O M M I T T E D T O K E E P I N G Y O U O N T H E M O V E
Clinical Director - Andrew
Stanley BSc(Hon) PodM, MChS, SRCh.